Probe Thermometer


After freshly marinading the chef in wine or lager, your next essential is to make sure that you cook all food safely. Handling food with clean utensils, clean hands, having a clean cooking environment and making sure the food doesn’t hang around for too long are basics. To check whether the meat is ready to be served, check the internal temperature.

The only way to accurately do this is to use a probe thermometer. You can pick these up for less than £10. Make sure you keep the probe clean between measurements as you don’t want your attempts at food hygiene to be the thing that spreads the bugs. Use the probe into the middle of the food to be checked and let the thermometer come upto a reading before withdrawing. You will also get hints with well done meats and chicken, when the juices coming out of the probe hole are clear. An infrared thermometer will not do the trick as it measures surface temperature, even though they do look very cool with the laser dot.

Safe temperatures:

Rare 125-130F (52-54C)
Medium rare 130-140F (54-60C)
Medium 140-150F (60-66C)
Medium well 150-160F (66-71C)
Well done 160F (71C)

Medium 140-150F (60-66C)
Medium well 150-160F (66-71C)
Well done 160F (71C)

Steaks 150F (66C)
Chops 150F (66C)
Ribs 190F (88C)

Chicken 165F (74C)

Burgers 160F (71C)
Sausages 160F (71C)
Hot dogs 140F (60C)
Gammon steaks 140F (60C)


We have all witnessed the charred outside of a barbecued sausage and then bitten in to find it’s raw or even frozen. This is all done to rapid and uneven transfer of heat or flames. If you want a sausage that tastes good and is an even temperature all the way through then try these 3 simple steps:

1 Is the barbecue ready to cook on? The flames need to have died down and the charcoal glows white. At that point you can start to cook. It doesn’t matter that the heat may start to go down. This is better than the coals still heating up.

2 Make sure the sausages are ready to cook. Nothing is worse than frozen or raw sausage. The many scare stories of food poisonning at barbecues come down to meat not cooked properly and maybe kept around too long before eating. One quick way to get a sausage up to heat is to simmer them for about 10 minutes in water or stock. Not only does this get them nice and juicy but it gets them to a consistent temperature.

3 Probe. An instant read thermometer should tell you when your food is ready to take off the heat. These are inexpensive, very easy to use and simple to clean. Safe cooking temperatures depend on what you are cooking, so a crib sheet will be coming out next week.


If you have a charcoal barbecue then this is for you. There are two choices usually available, wood charcoal or briquettes. Wood tends to be more expensive than briquettes. The preferred fuel of the traditionalist is wood as it creates less waste, easier to light and holds a much higher heat. Some argue that briquettes burn for longer, but often they lose their heat too quickly so you don’t see the difference.

Wood charcoal burns at a ferocious heat and if you are lighting with something like a Weber chimney starter, you will see a hole in the aluminium foil underneath. Another advantage of charcoal is that it is easier to add more to your barbecue. Once the charcoal is smoke free and white hot, you have a great cooking medium.

With the heat of the wood, it is a good idea to make sure your grill is spotless beforehand and you have pre-oiled it. If not, the intense heat will carbonize any left overs and make it quite painful to clean while cooking. Wood also reacts well to airflow, so opening and closing the vents on your barbecue will give you extra heat or allow you to turn it down when waiting for more food.

One final hint … have fun, that’s the best bit about outdoor cooking.


Weber chimney barbecu starter



We have had that first blast of good weather and within a week barbecues are filling up the shops. There is nothing more satisfying than outside cooking, especially when it’s made a little easier for us. One of the common difficulties of barbecueing with charcoal, is lighting the stuff and keeping it going. How many times have you been to a barbecue and the whole garden reeks of parafin? Lighting fluid, gel and blocks have all been used to get the barbecue going for years. There is nothing wrong with that, but it can be done without the stench of burning fuel.

Old newspaper, charcoal and the gizmo above, will do the job for you. This is a Weber chimney starter and should be available from most places that stock a good range of barbecue accessories. Basically, you put a couple of gently twistied page of newspaper in the bottom part which looks like a wire cone. Then, you turn it over and fill to the brim with charcoal or briquettes. The paper is lit through the holes in the side. Once it is going, then there is probably nothing you need to do for about ten minutes or so. The fire will get into the coals and light them. Flames will build up inside the chimney and then die down to a glow. At this point, when all the coals are glowing, pick the chimney up and gently pour into the barbecue. You might want an oven glove for this as it will be very hot indeed.

The only real decision you may need to make is which sausages to choose …

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