Thursday, June 27, 2013

Grilling Pork Chops: How Hi-Tech Meat Thermometer Ruined My Barbecue

Grilling a pork chop used to be easy. You'd throw it on a grill, char both sides and take it off when it looked done.
Simple, right?
Not any more. The barbecue police now recommend pork be grilled to a temperature of at least 145 degrees to alleviate possible parasites that cause trichinosis. Ewww.
With that in mind, I bought a state-of-the-art meat thermometer. Battery operated, blinking lights, LED screen.
What could possible go wrong?
First up were two boneless pork chops. My wife, Patti, prepared the marinade: lemon juice, garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and oregano. After a daylong soak, the viand was ready.
Hitting the iron grate, the chops emitted the sizzling sear heard only at a barbecue. I monitored time, flare-ups and heat intensity with the focus of a Top Chef. At the seven-minute mark, I turned the meat tenderly.
The next seven minutes passed quickly, as I snapped pictures of the chops for a Facebook post.
With 14 minutes gone by, it was time for a temperature check. I slid the metal tip into the center of the chop. The screen read 56 degrees.
"How do they look?" Patti asked through the kitchen window.
"Great, they need a few more minutes."
After another 5 minutes per side, I inserted the thermometer again … 70 degrees.
Frustration with the new technology began taking hold.
After 5 more minutes, I poked again … 84 degrees.
Turning up the grill to high, I cooked the chops another 10 minutes per side, certain the heat would show them who's boss.
"What's going on out there?" my wife inquired through the screen.
"I think the thermometer is broken. I know they're done, but the temperature only reads 120 degrees."
"That's not possible ... do you have the thermometer set on Fahrenheit?"
Good question. I had no idea. And I certainly had not read the directions. It was a meat thermometer.
Looking closely at the digital display, I squinted, and a "C" showed on the screen. I pushed a button on the handle and the "C" turned to "F."
To my horror, it read 248 degrees Fahrenheit.
"They're done!" I yelled, placing the chops on a platter.
"About time," I heard through the window.
Dinner conversation could have gone better. But she was right. I had never cooked a piece of meat so disgustingly dry and void of flavor.
"Will you be using that fancy meat thermometer again?"
"No," I replied, "Like I've always said, you're better off eyeballing when you grill and save that high-tech stuff for a smart phone."

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