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Barbecuing with Fluke temperature test tools

Fluke cooks up some tasty ideas for digital recording thermometers

For Joe Huerta, barbecuing is more than a method of cooking. It's a passion. Rubs, sauces, cooking time, wood chips for different flavoring – these are all tools that Huerta carefully selects and blends together to create his culinary masterpieces. So it's no surprise that when he was looking for a way to demonstrate to customers the benefits of a two channel, data logging digital thermometer, Huerta turned to his barbecue. "It's the perfect way to show the value of being able to measure temperature over time," said Huerta, who is a territory sales manager for Fluke. "Everyone's barbecued, or eaten barbecue, so it's a universal experience that people are familiar with."

And anyone who has ever struck a match to charcoal or propane has had bad experiences:  recipes that just didn't work, overdone or underdone food, friends and family members anxiously peering over your shoulder wondering when dinner will be ready.

The Fluke 54II thermometer provides dual-channel logging for precise cooking times.

So when Huerta prepares the coals—a true barbecuing traditionalist—for his famous chops, he hangs his Fluke 54II, Dual Channel Recording Thermometer from his barbecue. He then positions one bare wire thermocouple inside the barbecue and the other—one for each channel—dangling from the thermometer, then triggers the thermometer to begin logging the temperatures from both channels. This provides him constant readings of both the ambient temperature and the temperature inside the barbecue. Tracking ambient temperature allows him to determine how long it will take to cook the chops, while the thermocouple inside the barbecue enables him to maintain a constant temperature between 180 and 210 ° F by adjusting dampers. The combination of time and constant temperature is what gives Joe's chops that smokey, rich taste that leaves you grabbing for more.

Afterwards, Huerta can download the data to a PC and, using FlukeView® Forms software, chart the temperature of both channels over time. (See accompanying charts). The charts show sharp drops in temperature inside the barbecue that coincide with Huerta opening the lid to add wood chips or slather sauce on the meat.

A note from Joe: Here's the chart from my last chop smokin'.  You can see I started logging a little before 7 am. The max temp in the smoker reached about 330 ° F and then I opened the smoker and put the woodchips on the coals. You can see all the dips in the temperature after 12 pm when I had the smoker open for various reasons. This was a pretty good run. T1 is the outside termperature (ambient) and it was pretty hot that day, between 90 and 100 ° F

"When I show these to customers and explain how they can hook up the thermometer, walk away, then come back later, then download and view the data in many formats, they can really see the benefits of data logging temperature," said Huerta. "Heat can really damage equipment. Plotting data over time can reveal trends and help pinpoint problems. With two channels, you can look at corollary relationships between two different pieces of equipment, providing you even more power. And you can always use it to make some really great ribs."