Let's be honest; you may love your old grill thermometer
, but these products can often be inaccurate and difficult to use properly. If you have been noticing problems with your grilled meat, whether it's coming out over or undercooked, it may be time to upgrade your most important grilling tool. This article will run down everything you need to know about digital grill thermometers, and hopefully help you buy one that perfectly suits your needs.
How They Work
Whereas traditional 'bimetal' grill thermometers rely on the principle of thermal expansion to provide a temperature reading, modern digital thermometers use a device known as a 'thermistor.' The thermistor is a temperature sensitive resistor; its conductivity rises as temperature rises, and lowers as temperature lowers. A microcomputer within the thermometer housing tracks the conductivity of the thermistor and translates this information into a temperature reading. This temperature reading is then instantly transmitted to a liquid crystal display, giving you a timely and accurate temperature reading.
Because the thermistor is reliant on relatively high temperatures to change its conductivity, these thermometers don't usually work below about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, making them fairly unreliable when tracking the temperature of cold meat or other products (such as ice cream).
Advantages Over Traditional Grill Thermometers
Digital thermometers have several advantages over their less advanced counterparts.
For starters, the thermistor is a very sensitive instrument, allowing for extremely accurate and timely temperature readings. In fact, digital thermometers have been shown to be, on average, accurate to within a fraction of a degree Fahrenheit. In contrast, depending on how well they are used, traditional thermometer styles can be off by up to ten degrees Fahrenheit. Furthermore, these thermometers react to temperature changes much more quickly than bimetal thermometers. This allows you to see instant temperature reading to accurately track changes in temperature, giving you the ability to constantly monitor your meat and remove it from the grill when it hits the ideal temperature.
Types of Digital Grill Thermometers
The increasing popularity and affordability of this technology has led to a flood of unreliable and gimmicky products on the market. From tongs with built-in digital thermometers to iPhone thermometer apps, many consumers are confused by the bevy of choices available, and need some guidance to figure out which type of digital thermometer best suits their needs.
Let's start simply. There are two main types of digital thermometer: those with the probe directly attached to the handle and readout display and those with a long wire or cable which puts some distance between the probe and display. The first kind tend to be highly reliable and simple to use, but require you to open the grill and manually reinsert the probe every time you want to check the temperature. The latter kind vary widely in quality and reliability and tend to be more expensive, but allow you to leave the probe in while grilling and keep constant track of the meat's temperature.
Buying A Digital Grill Thermometer
There are too many considerations when buying a new grill thermometer to list here, but you can keep a few simple rules in mind to ensure success when you're in the market for a new grill thermometer.
There are two primary concerns to keep in mind when buying a grill thermometer: accuracy and reliability. Most grill thermometers are quite accurate, but you can ensure this buy narrowing your search to established brands and avoiding the lower end of the market. The technology is quite cheap, but buying the cheapest thermometer you can find may result in trouble.
Reliability is a bit more difficult to gauge. Always be sure to read product reviews before making a purchase; other peoples' experiences can give you a good idea of how reliable a certain thermometer is. Beyond this, you should check a few other areas: is the thermometer housing made of high quality, heat-resistant materials like silicone? Is the probe long enough to ensure sufficient clearance between the heat source and the housing? Does it look or feel cheap?
Switching to a digital grill thermometer can make quite a bit of difference in the quality of your grilling! Now that you know how they work, why they are effective and how to buy them, you're set to open up a whole new world of flavor and tenderness in your meat.
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