A couple of weeks ago, while I was waiting for my Big Green Egg to fall from heaven, I spent a bit of money tooling up for barbecue life. One of the spendier purchases I made was a wireless Meater probe.
I’d already picked up a Thermapen from eBay, and had been very happy with it's performance. (I'd also dropped about a hundred bucks on another wireless probe, and it was garbage - consistently off by about 25 degrees Celsius.)
So, you could say, JB, you really didn't need another digital thermometer.
But you would be wrong, so very, very wrong.
I took the Meater out for a spin on Friday afternoon, roasting up a rolled loin of pork to cut for sandwiches later that evening. We had some finishing work to do on the painting out on the front deck, and I figured a couple of smoky pork rolls with a cold, cold beer might make the painting less tiresome. (It’s been nine weeks, so far. It’s fkn heaps tiresome). I'm also looking to do a couple of porchetta on Christmas Day, so Friday was a good practise run for them, too.
I've cooked a metric fucktonne of pork loins over the years, on all manner of barbecues, in ovens, at home and away. I'm familiar with it and the way it reacts to heat over time. So inserting the Meater and letting it rule the cook was no big deal. It was like trialing a GPS nav system for a route you take every day.
The Meater is an elegant bit of kit. It comes in a small blonde wood box that performs double duty as a Wi-Fi extender, pushing the signal from the probe an extra couple of metres out to whichever device you're using to monitor the cook.
There is an app with a ton of pre-loaded cooks. You tell it which animal you killed and you’re on your way.
You can take the data directly from the probe, or you can send it to the cloud which allows you to access the information from anywhere on the planet, I guess. But more likely from your bedroom during a long slow smoke that runs overnight.
I didn't have time to sit down and read all the documentation to figure out how to set up the cloud service, so I just used a direct link from the probe to my iPhone.
If you’d like a full briefing, this friendly Canadian has a good one for you…
For me, it was kind of revolutionary. No more guesswork. For something I’ve cooked hundreds of times, like a rolled pork loin or a leg of lamb, I'm comfortable with guesswork. But I'm still getting used to the Egg and its nuances, and there are plenty of recipes I'm neither familiar nor comfortable with. Everything from brisket to last night’s coral trout. For them, having accurate, real-time data is a game changer. As you can see from the image below, the Meater probe provides plenty; the internal temperature of the protein, but also the ambient temperature under the dome, and the estimated time until the end of the cook. (Not seen here is the Resting Time screen, in which your protein keeps cooking in its own heat. A super useful tweak.)
That ambient temperature readout sort of did my head in at first. I became a tiny bit obsessed with micromanaging my vent settings to get the temp settled just where I wanted it. The fact that I could check in from the other end of the house while I was writing my Friday column wasn't necessarily a good thing. I mean, yes, a technological marvel. But probably not the best for an obsessive barbecue fiend.
I suppose a domestic electric oven probably meanders through a temperature range and either fires up or calms down depending on what its thermostat is telling it. There may well be a setting which would allow me to nominate a temperature band within which I’m comfortable not being alerted, and I know there are even spendier gizmos which will actually control the air feed onto your charcoal to keep the temp exactly where you want it. I think Coriolis Dave was lobbying for one here a while back.
But I dunno. I really enjoy messing with those vents. I guess if I was smoking a pork butt for 12 hours or doing an overnight brisket I'd be happy to leave it all to a robot butler, but I don't feel the need over just a couple of hours.
Long story short, was the money I dropped on the Meater worth it?
Yes, yes it was. I might even back up and buy a second one. There is an option in the US to buy something called the Meater Block which comes with four probes, but I wasn't able to track any down for Oz. I dunno whether that's a global supply chain thing, or just a geographic thing.
And the pork loin? It was so good I made myself sick eating too much of it.
But for me the revelation was the coral trout. Sorry, no pictures. We ate it too quickly. That was the first time I have ever successfully barbecued a whole fish. I've done plenty of them before, but they've always been slightly disappointing for one reason or another, mostly to do with over or undercooking. This thing was pretty close to perfect. I feel like doing another one just so I can take a picture to prove to myself that it happened.
Yup, big fan of the Smartfire, which pairs well to the meater probe (for when you decide to expand your bbq ecosystem).
I’ve also found this mob to be a great source of proper smoking woods and charcoal - https://www.ironwoodbarbecue.com.au/. Much better quality than the overpriced shite you get from Bunnings.
A SHORT CONVERSATION WITH MY WIFE
ME: Hey, honey - look what JB just bought. I think we need one.
LORI: [after reading post] Probing has never been easier.
I hadn't given a thought as to what woods you use down there until I read through the comment thread. Mango? (Shakes head). If it works, it works. Maybe for next year I should send down a bag of hickory or oak chunks, just to switch things up.
I got the Meater+ for the extra range. Love it. The ambient seems to take a while to match up with what I see on my usual wired probes but it does get there eventually. Have to really clean the bejeezus out of the end cap post-cook to keep it accurate though.
I had a Big Green Egg….never seemed to be consistent…got rid of it. It seems I needed a wireless meat probe…too late!
Sounds made up to me. Personally, I won't believe you until I see a picture of a perfectly BBQ'd coral trout.
Good looking pork, though, mate.