Barbecuing has always given us a very special feeling: freedom, camaraderie, joie de vivre and leisure. Barbecuing does not symbolise control mania and fixations on technology. Nevertheless lots of meat fans swear by using a helper that combines precisely these characteristics – the core temperature gauge. How is it that this small barbecue gadget is becoming increasingly popular even with hobby barbecue fans? And is it actually that important to use it to get a perfect result? We dared to take a survey.
Core temperature gauge – what even is it?
A core temperature gauge is essentially nothing more than a thermometer that comes in the shape of a thick needle that can be pushed into a piece of meat and measure the temperature inside the meat. Analogue core temperature gauges show the temperature on a built-in scale at the end of the measuring bar and modern, digital core temperature gauges have a display that is connected to the thermometer by means of a heat-resistant cable.
Special features of core temperature gauges
On good core temperature gauges you can’t just read the temperature, you can also set an alarm to tell you when the maximum temperature has been reached. Modern devices also offer functions such as Bluetooth pairing with your mobile phone to track the temperature remotely and measure the temperature at different points. So for example the temperature of the meat and the temperature of the oven or interior of the barbecue can be measured at the same time. If all of the information can be tracked via your mobile phone then long cooking processes like those required for brisket or pulled pork go smoothly without any stress. If you work without any technical aids you will quickly lose the sense of what is currently happening on the barbecue or you have to stand watch over your barbecue day and night.
Technology beats a gut feeling
The better (and more expensive) the meat is that you put on the barbecue the greater the pressure to deliver a perfect result. This means: a perfect cooking temperature, just the way you want it or the way the guests have asked you to cook it. If you barbecue meat every day you will develop a sense for how perfectly cooked steaks feel – an external pressure test tells an experienced finger whether it is time to take the meat off the grill. Yet to get to this point you need to have barbecued hundreds of steaks – a number that most amateur barbecuers will probably never reach. The only way of being almost 100% certain about the cooking temperature of your own meat is to monitor the temperature using a core temperature gauge. Let’s be honest: Despite all the high spirits and joie de vivre at the barbecue – an overcooked steak can ruin someone’s entire evening.
Control means freedom
If you look at the issue from this perspective, control also means more relaxation. You always know how long the steak still has to stay on the barbecue and you can be sure that later all of the guests will enthuse about the perfect cooking temperature. This means you can also chat away at the same time as the alarm on the core temperature gauge will remind you when to pay attention to the barbecue food again. After all that effort, it would be such a shame to ruin the good meat. The essence of barbecuing is enjoying the food and the occasion. The core temperature gauge enables you to have moment after moment of delight. It ensures you have fun and can relax while you are barbecuing and enjoy what you are eating.
Why is the temperature so important?
So, why is temperature monitoring so essentially important when cooking meat? The denaturing of the proteins in meat always follows the same pattern and starts from 40 degrees. The temperature range for a perfectly cooked steak ranges between approximately 48 and 58 degrees. Within these parameters the steak transforms from rare to well done – so from almost raw to well done. The meat can progress through this temperature range – depending on the temperature in the barbecue – within just a few minutes. So, if you don’t use a core temperature gauge and aren’t experienced with the cooking level of steaks you will find yourself flying blind and will only perfectly cook steaks on rare occasions.
Important: the desired temperature is not the same as the final temperature
What you absolutely should know when using a core temperature gauge: the temperature of the grilled food continues to increase by approximately three degrees even after you have taken the meat off the barbecue. This is because so much heat is stored in the surface layers that the steak continues to be heated just through this residual heat. So if you are aiming for a core temperature of 55 degrees you should take the meat off the barbecue when it reaches 52 degrees and take into account the increase in temperature while the meat is resting. With this information and armed with a functioning core temperature gauge there is definitely nothing else that can get in the way of you cooking the perfect steak on the barbecue.