Taking a Reading on Tech
I would like to talk about technology in barbecue. It is something I am very passionate about as a former software developer. Right now, you are imagining me standing over my pits with wires going everywhere, Wi-Fi signals sending temps to the cloud, electric fans controlling airflow, and magic wands that promise to light charcoal in seconds. Nope – I am jaded by tech. I got to the end of a 20-year career in computers and found myself in more and more office boardrooms telling business owners with fat chequebooks that a pen and paper could be just as efficient as a 200k software system. Technology and consumerism have a symbiotic and sometimes toxic relationship.
Consumerism pushed computers to be faster and faster for many years (look up Moore’s Law), but in recent years computers have become faster than we need. 5G anybody? Nope – 4G is fine. So now instead of a drive for faster and faster tech we have a drive sidewards to bring tech into as many parts of our lives as possible. For so many years I have scorned at the stupid prediction that someday our fridge would order the milk by itself (and for some reason have a TV on the door). That idea doesn’t really wash, but we have talking doorbells, self-parking cars, smart joggers, Ray Bans that take photos [of your boobs probably], and an array of gadgets to help us apply heat to food.
Think about that last one. When you are cooking, all you are really doing is taking a cold or raw food and applying heat to it. I heard John Torode (of Masterchef fame) say once that the only kitchen implements any student needs are a wok and a knife. He is spot on. You can fry, boil, stew, simmer, or deep fry on a wok. You can make perfect steak, scrambled eggs, curry, rhubarb and custard, or pot noodles. A wok is 2000 years old. The fire as a cooker is 2,000,000 years old. A wok is new tech compared to throwing your raw mammoth steak onto the hot coals – or barbecue as we call it nowadays. So, what tech do you need to heat up food? Arguably none.
Except I am going to argue for one piece of tech. The only one I use. If cooking is the process of applying heat to food, then there are only two variables – the food being heated, and the heat itself. We can see touch and smell the food – our bodies have all the tech we need to know what food is and how to turn it into a meal. What our bodies can’t do is look inside the food to see when it is cooked the way we would like. Your granny had (and many modern chefs have) a simple solution to this – cut it open and peek.
But your granny and most chefs cooked the same thing every day (no offence granny), so after a while they get to know how long a recipe takes and how their stove operates. How many chefs have you seen on TV advise you that you can tell how cooked a steak is by touching your nose? It’s absolute crap. The reason a chef can tell that is because they cook 35 of the same steak from the same fridge cut to the same size and cooked on the same pan every evening. Give them a larger steak from a different breed of cattle that has been held at a different temperature and ask them to cook it over charcoal whilst drinking rum and flirting with the neighbour and I bet they will not be able to find their nose – never mind testing how firm it is compared to a perfectly medium-rare tomahawk.
The only way to tell if a chicken is at the perfect temp (that temp being the subject of a later newsletter as I have strong opinions) is by sticking a probe into it. The only way to tell if a steak is medium or rare is by sticking a probe into it. The only way to tell if you are cooking low and slow or hot and fast is by sticking a probe into your barbecue. The only way to tell if the chicken that has been in your cool box all day is still safe to eat is by sticking a probe into it. According to Wikipedia cooking is the art, science, and craft of using heat to prepare food for consumption.
So, I personally only use one piece of technology when I am creating barbecue and that is a Thermapen ONE Thermometer. We don’t sell it because we can’t compete on price. Nor do we sell any of the 1000 Chinese knockoffs of it as they are all rubbish. The Thermapen ONE is simply the only must have piece of equipment that every person who cooks should own. It gives you a reading in under 1 second, it is waterproof, and it is made in the UK. If you don’t have one, then buy one right now.
So, what about Meater Wifi Probes, Inkbird 4 Wire Bluetooth, etc? They are not for me to be honest. All I want is to know the temperature. Anything else is just 5G.