Well, the people at ThermoWorks have done it again…they got me to write another blog post! I have enjoyed my Thermapen so much that I was thrilled with the opportunity to review another product and the TW8060 two-channel thermocouple was another winner.
As I mentioned in my Thermapen review I have been reading some great grilling tips on www.amazingribs.com. A key underlying theme of this grilling blog by Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn is the importance of a fast, reliable meat thermometer and an accurate grill/oven thermometer. The Thermapen proved to be an exceptional meat thermometer, both incredibly fast and accurate to within less than 1 degree F. However, as many uses as the Thermapen has, it is not meant to be used as a grill/oven thermometer or as a leave-in thermometer. But the people at ThermoWorks have these areas covered with the TW8060.
The TW8060 is a 2-channel thermocouple alarm thermometer that works with a large variety of K type probes sold by ThermoWorks. What does this mean exactly? Well the TW8060 isn’t like the Thermapen where the probe, thermometer, and display are combined into one piece. The TW8060 is the thermometer and display (and other functions) and the probes are detachable and interchangeable. ThermoWorks sells hundreds of different types of probes you can choose from depending on the intended use. You can use up to two probes at once and monitor the temperatures of each on the display. As an example, you could use the smokehouse probe as a leave in thermometer to measure the temperature of a thick cut of meat such as a brisket or ham and then use another probe like the crocodile clip probe to measure the temperature of your grill, smoker, or oven. Each of these probes has a thin wire that connects to the TW8060 so you can leave the door shut while monitoring the temperatures. Right now ThermoWorks is offering a bundled deal with these two popular probes that is $30 cheaper than what you’d pay for the TW8060 and the probes separately. Take a look at how many degrees my grill thermometer was off. 121 degrees can make a big difference when grilling! Not only can the grill’s thermometer be off but also that it is at the top of the grill and the meat is much lower. The thermometer probably isn’t really off by that much, it’s a combination of the location and an inferior thermometer.
There are hundreds of probes to choose from so there are hundreds of different uses for the TW8060. I had the smokehouse probe and the crocodile clip probe and found several uses for just these two. The first test for mine was a Boston Butt for some eastern Carolina style pork BBQ. The weather was not cooperative so I used a slow cooker. I only used the smokehouse probe since the slow cooker temperature is fairly stable and there isn’t much I could do about it anyhow. I inserted the probe into the center of the meat, staying away from the bone, covered it, and plugged the probe into the TW8060. I set an alarm for 180F and the alarm went off a little over 8 hours. The leave in probe is great for monitoring the meat as it was cooking but the probe can only measure the temperature in one location so after the alarm sounded I used the Thermapen to check the temperature in other locations to make sure that it was done. Then I shredded the pork and splashed on some sauce and enjoyed!
Next up was something you might not expect would utilize a tool like this, thick ribeyes. I like to use Meathead’s technique for cooking thick steaks that he calls a “reverse sear”. As the name implies, it is backward of how steaks are probably most often prepared in back yards. Check out the link for the details and great information in general but the general gist is you start the steaks off on indirect low heat and then when it is up to 110F-115F or so (depending how done you want it) you move it over to high heat to sear at the end. It really makes some unbelievably good steaks but it does rely on temperatures.
The smokehouse probe isn’t really the best for this as it is designed more for large cuts of meat and the width of the probe was a bit much for the ribeye probably (this isn’t a criticism, I was using a probe for something it wasn’t really intended) but it worked just fine.
I took it out for the searing but it gave me a pretty good idea of when to move through the different steps without having to open the lid. I did check with the Thermapen to confirm these temps and used only the Thermapen during the searing stage. I would say that both probes worked great. I will also say Meathead knows his stuff! Great steaks–try it!
I’ve been really into sourdough breads lately. I bought some sourdough starters from www.sourdo.com and it has been a really fun hobby. I’d recommend trying it out for some delicious breads and pizzas that use naturally fermented yeasts. It is a bit of work though activating your culture for use and it is another area of cooking in which almost every step involves temperature. Once again, the TW8060 came through. The first step is to activate your yeast and the flavorings and amounts of leavening are dependent on time and temperature.
I built a proofing box [pictured above] designed and described by Dr. Ed Wood in his book, Classic Sourdoughs (I’d recommend the book highly if you want to get into baking with sourdough). The box is basically just a styrofoam cooler with a 25 watt bulb on the inside and a dimmer switch connected to it. I added the TW8060 to this design to make it even better! Now I can not only see the temperature inside the box without lifting it up, I can even set alarms to alert me when the temperature inside goes out of range so I don’t have to keep checking it. It was really a helpful addition to Dr. Wood’s design. The Thermapen was useful for checking the temperature of the water that I added to the yeast when feeding it and then the TW8060 plays another role in the actual baking, monitoring the temperature of the oven.
The only thing I didn’t really use it for was for pizza baking. I bake pizzas on a quarter inch thick sheet of steel to simulate the science going on in a wood fire oven (a cool tip I found from Modernist Cuisine). I can use the TW8060 to measure the temperature in the oven but I’d really need an infrared thermometer to check the temperature of the steel sheet. Of course, ThermoWorks sells those too! I haven’t tried one yet but I’m loving this company and have no doubt that they work well and are of high quality.
The last use I had was one that certainly wasn’t planned for. While playing around with it after I first got it for this review I noticed my oven wasn’t getting above 250F even when it was cranked up. I thought something must be wrong with my TW8060 but after I tried to bake some rolls later that day I found that the problem was my oven! My bake element had died on me. I was able to fix it though and test the accuracy of my oven with the new element. And, repaired oven or not, this is a great use for the TW8060–oven calibration. Our oven does not have digital oven temperature control so for us it’s not really even an issue of calibration, it’s more essential since eyeballing the temperature dial is pretty hard to do very accurately. We pretty much use it every time we use our oven.
All in all, I am very happy with the TW8060. I’m also quite happy with this company. I have called them anonymously and they have been incredibly friendly and helpful. And they just make good, quality products. If I had one complaint, it would be the relatively short battery life of 10 hours. And that isn’t really a complaint that I had an issue with since I have yet to change my batteries since I got it, and I have used it a lot to test it out for this review in the past couple of weeks. I think it would only be an issue if you were doing overnight smoking or something but for day-to-day use, it has been my experience that 10 hours is more than it sounds like. If you were going to use it for smoking I would recommend getting some rechargeable batteries and having 2 sets to rotate in and out. The other thing I would add to the wish list would be an alarm for both channels but at this point I’m really just getting spoiled! I’m incredibly excited to have this and my Thermapen and I am already super pumped to use them both on my Easter ham…and bring on those holiday turkeys next season! OK, back to Ashley again…I only write about awesome thermometers!