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Smokestack Mac

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  • Location:
    Sterling Heights, MI
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    Smoking food and then eating it. Guitar. Video Games. Books.
  • Grill
    Kamado Joe

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  1. I’ll second the option to use a chimney to get lit quick. Sometimes I really cheat and even put briquettes in the chimney for quick cooks like burgers and hot dogs where I don’t want to blow through lump. A full chimney of briquettes in a classic is almost instant 400+ within 30-60 seconds. Also, don’t be afraid to keep the bottom vent open more than you would expect. Choking down with the top vent and a wide bottom vent will keep your smoke cleaner. I don’t go below 2 fingers even on low and slow. 4 fingers to 1/2 open for 350-400. If you want to see this for yourself, close the bottom vent to a sliver and watch the smoke start pouring out the top.
  2. Big stuff like pork butts, ribs, etc won’t be any trouble to cook for 8+. I bought a 2nd set of stainless racks to double my smoking surface with a full 2 levels in the d and c. I also have the expander grate for a 3rd level. With all that I can do 5 racks flat with no problems. I could probably do 6 or more if I cut them in half. My classic 2 gets a little crowded with direct cooking because I leave a deflector in for a 2 zone fire. So I only use half the surface at a time. I can get 5-6 burgers or pork chops on one side, so 10-12 is doable with no deflector on a classic. it would be pushing it, but you could probably do 2 wire grates on one side high and low and a cast iron grate set low on the other to have 5 burgers searing and 10 indirect. You would just shuffle back and forth to cook evenly. Sear both sides, park on the indirect side. Sear 5 more and fill the 2nd rack. Then finish 5 more directly while the others cook indirect.
  3. A couple different meats come to mind as both difficult to get perfect, but very rewarding when I do something right. Most of these turn out good almost every time, even if things don't go exactly as planned. -Whole Chicken Chicken never turns out bad, but there's plenty of times that it doesn't turn out great. The skin doesn't crisp up or half the bird dries out before the other half is done. I've tried beer can chicken, spatchcocking, quartering, etc. A new method that I just tried that made a good juicy flavorful bird is putting a whole bird in a 12 inch cast iron skillet on my KJ. It was a Costco bird around 4 lbs. Maybe I just got a good bird that time. Maybe the skillet doesn't let it dry out. It was damn good. Just bird+olive oil, salt, pepper, herbes de provence, and some lemon zest+juice. No trimming, no stock/liquid, no brining, no butter. Rub it down and let it go. No smoke other than what lump provided by itself. Probably the best chicken I have ever made on the grill- period. It was essentially a whole chicken Provencal. But the skin still didn't crisp up everywhere... even at 325-375 the whole time. The meat still picked up a lot of flavor even through the skin. We saved the dripping and made a pan gravy for the taters. -Chicken Wings/ any bone-in, skin-on butchered bird I struggled with crispy skin until I tried a no-name BBQ Vortex clone off Amazon for $20 or something. They never turned out bad before. I just knew that they could be better. I was never wowed until the vortex. Kettle+steel cone+full chimney of lit briquettes+smoke wood+cooking spray on the skin=perfect chicken wings every time. -Pork Ribs I giggled a little when I read this. Then I thought back a couple years and realized that they were probably the most temperamental thing I cook somewhat regularly. They usually turn out good, but I can recall several times that they were less than stellar. I recall a couple times they tasted dry. Like fork-tender but still just dry. Or they didn't pick up much smoke. I blamed the meat quality those times. Those were the racks that came from the local grocery store cooler instead of the local market meat counter. Big difference. I know I've pulled them off too soon a few times because everyone was grumbling about dinner not being ready yet. They were cooked and flavorful, but not completely fork-tender. Those were the days that I should have started 2 hours earlier. -Frozen Hamburger Brutally unforgiving, rarely rewarding. Most rewarding- Smoked meatloaf- low effort, high reward Sous vide steaks- almost zero effort for high-end restaurant flavor done perfectly. I get them right more often than my restaurants do. If I'm going to spend $30 a plate, might as well have a couple cuts of filet at home for half the cost. Smoked fresh hamburgers- I don't care that they aren't pink in the middle. Maximum flavor. Pork tenderloin- Ready in 20-30 minutes and tastes great.
  4. I like how you think, Rip. That's some ingenuity. 24x24 brick paver is $9 at home depot and in stock. My base is 15x16 so I could mount it back from the edge and have a nice little ledge to work with. Cinder blocks are $1.20. $9 for some high temp rtv silicone sealant. It'll look great next to my Kamado Joe Honestly the smoker is so light right now that the added weight of a paver would be an improvement if I don't want to find it down the street after a storm.
  5. Hi all, I know this is not exactly a kamado question, but my father-in-law recently dropped off one of those boxy vertical cabinet smokers that he got as a freebie from a guy he does work for regularly. It's a brinkmann 2-door charcoal smoker. I know it's a 2 shelf walmart POS model, but it was free and a style that I have never owned or used before. I would like to save it if I can for $20 or so. Worst case is that I would use it as a storage cabinet outside. Basically the bottom is rusted out to the point that the legs don't have any structural support. It stands, but the holes are so big that the legs are crooked and there is zero air control. Everything else looks ok. If I can get the bottom patched up, I would like to felt the door cracks eventually. It might actually be a decent usable smoker at that point. From what I have read online, it looks like any steel containing zinc is a big no-no for any heat+food applications. The zinc compound fumes get in the food and make people wacky. No galvanized. Apparently some stainless steel has zinc in it too. My thought was to cut out the bottom and create a shallow pan that would sit under and wrap up and around the bottom of the existing smoker and screw into the sides of the box. The legs would then get remounted to the new metal. Or a sheet could be cut to fit the bottom of the smoker and welded over the existing steel, but I'm afraid the metal is too thin to weld without making more holes. I would then seal the edge where new and old metal meets with some high-temp silicone on the outside. Does anyone have any experience with a repair like this? How did it go? Any stainless or other steel sheets that are available at a place like Home Depot or Lowes that are 100% food-safe? Can I use aluminum? The internet is full of conflicting advice and there doesn't seem to be any consensus on what type of metal is safe... or not safe. Other thoughts?
  6. Thanks guys, I appreciate the help! I'll dial the top vent back.
  7. I did a pork butt yesterday and I had a horrible time keeping temperatures in check. First things first, it turned out great. Mission accomplished. But frankly, the phrase "in check" is a stretch. I did what I had to to avoid disaster... I have a Kamado Joe Classic II with a Digiq DX2/Pit Viper fan that I use frequently for low and slow with good results- hours of very stable temps. I am in Michigan and yesterday was a 8 inch snowstorm before, during, and after my cook. Lighting was no problem. The grill heated up normally. I hooked up my pit controller and set the temp for 250 after letting the coal go for a few minutes until the lighter cubes were done. The dome vent was left mostly open, 2.5-3 on the slider. The grill seemed to be at the right temp when the pit controller probe said 250. Meat went on. The dome thermo was barely above 190, yet the pit probe said 250- not the first time I've had a decent spread between them. I checked again an hour later. The pit controller now said 330, but the dome thermo was still barely over 200. I thought my pit probe was shot and grabbed my maverick, which confirmed 330 or so. I choked the top vent to maybe .5 or less, maybe .25 on the slider. When the pit fan kicked on, it was choked down enough that it was blowing smoke back out of the lower vent around the sides of the adapter plate. It took close to another hour to get temps back under control. Then the weird stuff happened. Now the pit probe was reading 160 and the maverick was at 290. These probes were maybe 3 inches apart, in the center of the same deflector an inch from the roast. I moved the probes around again and now the maverick was reading funny stuff like 180 while the pit probe was reading 290. The dome thermo was still at 200-225. I temped the meat at 2 hours in and a 6 pound roast was already at 150, so I think 330 was the correct temp when they were reading 330. After a couple hours of smoke, I ended up wrapping it and finishing it in the oven. Long story to get to the questions... What is your normal top vent setting for a pit controller? I tend to have trouble getting up to temp if it is closed as much as I had to. I think I had the opposite problem yesterday. I think leaving the vent open as much as I did allowed the kamado to draft more and get out of control, even with the pit controller in place. It wasn't overly windy yesterday. Are one or both of my digital thermometers going? Is my Digiq losing it/overstoking the fire? Should I try adjusting the damper on the fan? I've never had a problem like this before. Just random nonsense that happens occasionally?
  8. Yes, I was talking pork tenderloin. They take a couple minutes a side to get some color and grill marks and another 10-15 minutes indirect to finish. A pork loin is a whole different cut of meat for me. In the interest of clarity and enlightenment for anyone who isn't familiar with all the parts of a pig, I found a diagram showing the cuts. Tenderloin and loin come from the same general area, but there's a big difference in texture and cooking options. Pork loin can still be done quickly if you butcher into pork chops.
  9. I have a couple favorites. But time is everything after work and the thing that made my meal prep the quickest was committing recipes to memory and not measuring anything. Use the same bowl every time and get used to what a cup of this or a tablespoon of that looks like in the bowl. Or cheat/work smart and prep in a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup. There are some exceptions like spices that only use 1/8 tsp or similarly small potent amounts. But most of my cooking is educated guesswork combined with adjusting to taste when safe to do so. Just dropping measurements on 90% of my ingredients turned meals into 5 minute preps instead of 20 minutes of digging through drawers and cabinets. It doesn't get much quicker than hamburgers, hot dogs, or steaks. Even frozen hamburgers come alive with a handful of Jack Daniels wood chips on the coals just before the meat hits the grate. Chicken can be very quick and very good. I do almost entirely chicken tenderloins in place of full breast meat. Quickly cooks in 5-7 minutes per side from frozen or maybe 3-4 when thawed. Marinade chicken tenderloins the night before or cook straight out of the freezer and season after cooking with salt pepper olive oil/butter and an herb like tarragon. Or make a sauce like frying some thin sliced shallot in butter, throw in some vermouth and tarragon. Then salt and pepper chicken before tossing in the sauce. Google chicken with tarragon and vermouth sauce for exact measurements. That will taste like a $30 plate at a restaurant. Or pair plain grilled chicken with pasta and alfredo sauce for an easy chicken alfredo. Another favorite of mine if you want more of a bbq taste but quick is pork tenderloin. I treat them like a beef steak as far as seasoning- salt, pepper, Montreal seasoning, etc. Anything salty. No sugary rubs (that was a mistake the one time I tried to cook it like a pork roast). I smoke them at a normal grilling temp 350ish. I just get some grill marks with my cast iron grate, then switch to the other side where I keep a deflector, throw a chunk of apple or some Jack Daniel's chips in, and cook indirect at 300-400 until it hits about 150. Rest in foil for 5-10 minutes while you get everything else done. Nice juicy piggy equivalent of filet mignon cooked medium well in about 20-30 minutes with a great smoke ring. Normally I would call medium well a travesty, but the sight of medium pork at 145 is a mental hurdle I won't be crossing this lifetime. You can smoke a meatloaf at 350 and be eating in about 30 minutes if it is thin enough. Keep it under 2 inches thick and it will cook in no time. Top with bbq sauce instead of the usual ketchup/brown sugar sauce for added flavor. I just got an air fryer for X-mas. That thing is awesome for fluffy baked potatoes with crispy skin in about 30-40 minutes= about the same time it takes me to get the grill going and throw something on it. Just olive oil and salt, then in they go. No need to do anything else other than wash them first. Or cube them into 1 inch pieces, toss in olive oil, air fry for 20-30 minutes, toss with more olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbes de provence and enjoy herb potatoes with your chicken or steak. I totally agree with sous vide-ing anything, but I don't think it's quick enough for an after-work quick meal. If I have the time, sous vide is the only way I make steaks. But I let them go 2 hours in the water for a better breakdown of tough tissue. Obviously I can grill much quicker than that. Getting the grill started as soon as you walk in the door is half the battle. I hope some this is what you are looking for.
  10. My first kamado-style grill was an Akorn Jr. I recall it being tempermental when it came to temperature control. I have since moved on to a Kamado Joe, but I would say the biggest enemy was air leaks, followed by a laughably-oversized vent for the size of the cooker. I phrase it that way because the vent settings for low and slow are barely more than slivers top and bottom. Mine was at 500 degrees at 2.5-3 on both vents. I think part of the problem was that the bottom vent slider on mine was so loose that air came in around the slider no matter what it was set to. Speaking of air leaks, does any smoke come out of the gasket when the lid is down or from around the bottom of the top vent? If you close all vents 100% with a lit fire, does smoke seep out from anywhere? If so, that's the likely culprit location for the runaway kamado syndrome. The hotter that fire gets, the more the chimney design is going to suck the air through any gaps. Rising hot air creates low pressure that pulls in air through any possible way. It's just a vicious cycle at that point. The size of the lighter cube shouldn't matter. Same with amount of unlit coal. Load it up and keep it topped off for each cook. I used to light mine with a chimney by lighting only 1/4 of a chimney of lump coal/5-6 briquettes and not letting them get fully lit. Basically just letting the lighter cube burn out and then dumping it in the cooker volcano-style. If you throw it into a grill with the vents already set roughly where they need to be, the fire will die down to match the air supply almost as soon as the lid closes. Having several decently-lit coals will ensure that you don't stall out the fire or have to wait an hour for the fire to get big enough to reach the target temp.
  11. 70 lbs is a lot of pork! How is it divided? Ballpark guess- 2 batches of 30-40 lbs? 3-5 butts per batch? The most I have done on my KJ II was around 20 lbs (2x10 lb butts). I think the oven idea is great. I've tag-teamed some meals that way. But if that won't work, I agree that cooking, cooling, and reheating one batch is the safe way to do it. Malcom Reed on Youtube rests his pulled pork in a good cooler (Yeti I believe) for 2 hours and it's still too hot to handle without mitts. I don't know how quickly that temp drops off though. Just to be clear, the plan is that batch #1 would be coming off sometime around 10pm and wouldn't be served until 4pm the next day? So batch #2 would go 10pm to 4pm-ish? Call it 15-20 hours per batch? A couple tricks come to mind that might shorten the cooktime enough to get it done in one long and early day. Can we cut the butts in half down the middle of the fat cap so that we're cooking 2 5 pounders instead of a single 10? That should knock almost 50% off that cooktime. Smoke at 275-290 instead of 225 for 3-4 hours or to 150-160 internal and foil wrap the rest of the time. The smaller roasts/more surface area should make up for the shorter smoke time. Sometimes I crank the temp to 310-315 once the foil goes on. I know I've thrown a 5 pounder on at lunch and had it fork-tender and ready to pull by dinner 5-6 hours later this way. Maybe we can find another solution here. How many people are we trying to feed? Pork butts lose about 40% of weight by the time they're done. Figure 8 oz per person and 70 lbs raw will feed over 80 people. Making pulled pork sandwiches and that portion can drop to more like 6 oz. That's more like 110 people. Would these calculations allow us to lower the amount of meat needed? I just realized I was late to this party prep conversation... oh well...
  12. Der Husker had a great answer that touched on everything that came to my mind and more. 8" chef's knife for the single knife win. I have a $50 J.A. Henckels 8" chef's knife from Sur La Table and I love it. I had some ceramic knives before that (still do, but they're collecting dust 24/7 now) that I thought were cool until I learned about how the shape of a kitchen knife works and why a chef's knife is both the size and shape it is. And they weren't the right shape. I went with a stamped flat blade so that I didn't have the bolster at the back of blade. This allows me to cut all the way down the length of the blade and through the food. It also makes sharpening much easier. As far as hardness numbers, I'm not a metallurgist, but my understanding is that higher numbers= better edge retention at the cost of higher chances of chipping. Softer metal needs to be honed more frequently, but won't chip as often or as bad- if at all. Just for clarity- Sharpening=grinding a new edge on a blade and resetting the geometry of the blade. Honing=pulling the edge wire of the blade back into alignment so that the true apex of the blade is doing the work. Nobody has mentioned a honing steel. Do you have one and if so, are you familiar with how it works? The sharpest knife in the world is still duller than it needs to be if it isn't honed properly. Most of the time, a knife simply needs to be honed and not sharpened. I believe I recall Gordon Ramsey saying that a professional chef in his restaurant hones every 2-3 hours of cutting time vs like once a month for sharpening. Basically a pro hones at the start of cooking, after breaks and lunch, and again at the end of shift. They might sharpen once a pay period. The guidelines for home cooks are fractions of this- honing every 10-20 hours and sharpening every year or two. I saw some talk of Japanese knives and a nakiri. My understanding is that a true Japanese blade is either right or left handed. They don't cut straight down. They tend to drift because they are sharpened from one side, whereas a Western-style knife is sharpened from both sides so that it cuts straight. I didn't know this until I started shopping and decided that Western-style was what I wanted. One more tidbit that came to mind is that really good knives may not come with an edge. Some people drop hundreds of dollars on a set only to say they suck and that they don't cut no matter how many times they've been run through a sharpener. Some of the best knives are supposed to be taken to a pro knife sharpener for the initial edge to set the correct geometry. Bad geometry= either dull no matter what or too fine of an edge for the metal type= no cutting or short life due to chipping or cracking. I agree with the comment about avoiding pull-through sharpeners. They are hit and miss. Mostly miss. And the ones that have two slots for sharpening and honing usually suck at honing. I use a pull-through for sharpening only. Get a honing steel if you don't have one already. It takes about 10-20 seconds to keep a good edge on the knife every time you use it. I was able to use a pull-through to turn a $10 cheapo Henckels International paring knife set into razors just by honing after. One of these days I will switch to whetstones.
  13. Clean it with fire. No water ever. Get a good roaring blaze 500+ going and put the stone over the coal, dirty side down. Let it go until it either falls off or burns off. I use 00 flour for my pizzas. Nothing sticks and the flour just brushes right off after.
  14. I agree with a lot of what has been said so far. I'll throw my story out there. I bought a Kamado Joe Classic II about a year ago and couldn't be happier. But first a couple questions and thoughts- Sorry if this post got too long... -What's the budget? Bang for the buck is something I can definitely relate to, but realistically how much do you want to spend vs how much can you spend? Would you consider spending $300 every couple of years on throwaway grills to be a savings over spending $1-2k and getting decades out of it? There's potential benefits to both. Someone could come out with the perfect non-ceramic kamado in a few years that make current offerings look laughable. I would be bummed if I had just dropped a grand only to be lapped by some new technology, whereas someone buying an Akorn might not think twice to put it on the curb and get the new one. I personally don't think that will be the case anytime soon, but you never know. I would rather buy it once and get a long life out of it. My experience with higher end grills has convinced me that certain ones are worth the money. Quick side-story- Growing up, my parents and I went through several gas grills. They were cheaper no-namers ($200-400) and the burners rusted out and the flame got wonky every time. I figured they just didn't last that long. Then one day, my dad mentioned something to one of the guys at work about getting a new grill and that guy said we should get a Weber. Dad looked into it and Mom was horrified by the thought of spending $650 on a grill at the time. It wasn't even the dollar amount specifically. They simply had never spent that much on a grill and didn't understand why they should. Fast forward 10-12 years later- it still looks the same it did after a couple cooks the first summer we had it. I cook on it almost every time I go over to their house for dinner. They have never had a problem. They have not spent a dime on parts other than covers and brushes. AND we can still get parts if we needed them. My parents would not hesitate to buy another Weber at almost any reasonable price if they had to tomorrow. That's one definition of bang for your buck. I would put a $1k-2k kamado in the same place. You will get what you paid for. The same would apply to a $400 Walmart kamado. That $400 cheapie may still be overpriced if it has air leaks or the gasket falls off in a month. At that point, if cost is still the main concern, I would consider shopping used on facebook or craigslist. Paying $500 for a used BGE or KJ would likely be a lot better than what $500 gets you in the new market. No disrespect to anyone, but there's a reason why certain brands are substantially cheaper than others. It's either build quality or cutting corners on features. Less features for less money is an acceptable tradeoff in my book. Poor quality is not. -How often do you grill? I will assume that taking the time to post here and ask about a kamado means that you grill often enough to be interested. But will you get your money's worth out of a $1500 grill? Will it be used regularly or treated as some museum piece because it was so expensive? The only times I've had trouble with my Kamado Joe is when it has sat in the corner. I stopped grilling on it in the fall and let it sit for a couple months while I used other grills for shorter cooks. I ended up with both some mold and mildly rusty grates even with a cover on it. It only took me an afternoon of burning off and reseasoning the cast iron to fix it, but that never happened when it was being used weekly. -What do you cook most often? Kamados take a while to heat up. Even starting coal in a chimney, it's a good half hour minimum to be cooking. In my experience, if you start a fire in the kamado itself, you'll either go through 3X the lighter cubes/tumbleweeds or wait 3X as long for it to heat up after lots of trial and error the first couple weeks of owning it. Hardly worth it for someone doing a couple hot dogs once a month. But if you do low and slows or steaks weekly/monthly, no big deal. -Do you plan on moving anytime soon? Random thought, but ceramic grills weigh a ton, so it may be easier to buy later if you are moving soon. A cheap grill might not even be worth the trouble of moving. -What kind of fuel do you want to run? Kamados perform best on lump charcoal. It's simply of problem of managing the ash production. Lump creates fractions of the ash, but lump is generally more expensive than briquettes. Just for comparison, I decided to see what it was like to run it like a 800 degree pizza oven. I went through almost half a bag of lump in 30-45? minutes. At the same time, two chimneys worth of lump will get me through a 3-4 hour cook in warmer weather. It probably burned 5-6X the amount of coal that it normally does. I load up on lump when it's on sale, so no big deal. But at $15-20 a bag normally, those would have been some expensive homemade pizzas. On the other hand, I don't hesitate to run some cheap briquettes for quick stuff like burgers and hot dogs. The ash doesn't affect performance on a 10-20 minute cook. Home Depot clearances their briquette for $1.92/15 lbs a couple times a year in my area. -My experience After a couple of years cooking on a Weber kettle (after seeing the light and converting from gas), I too started with an Akorn Jr to see if I liked the concept of kamado cooking. Nobody I knew had one. I had never had a problem with my kettle, but I liked the idea of having a grill and a "true" smoker replacement in one (cue a whole side conversation about smoker vs kamado). That little Akorn did a great job, but the factory cast iron grate was a pain to maintain when I mostly used it for high-temp sous vide steak sears. The high temp cooks also took a toll on it. My top vent plastic got sticky from the heat and has seized up several times where I can't shut the grill down. Then I dropped the grate in the grass one day and still managed to crack one side of it, so now I have to be extra careful not to let too much weight torque the remaining side when I handle it or it will snap completely in half. Lots of areas have started to pit, which I think will be the precursor to actual widespread rust. The factory red has faded significantly from both heat and outdoor elements. In the end, I got one decent year out of it followed by several of steadily declining condition. At this point, it's pretty much just my chimney lighting platform. My KJ has replaced several grills and a smoker in one. The last real test was doing ribs last summer. When I could get 4 racks on laying down with a little room to spare, the smoker was no longer necessary for big cooks. -How I measure value based on all this I started shopping with a BGE in mind, then I saw the real price to get what I wanted... I looked at Vision, Primo, and Grilla Kong. In terms of value, the KJ is my favorite for several reasons. A. it was still significantly less than a BGE when adding in all the accessories that come standard with KJ. Sorry BGE, but their business model seems dated. If I can't interact with their brand without going through a stealership, count me out. I'm not convinced that their offerings warrant the price premium anymore. To me, they seem like a mature company that made waves 40 years ago and hasn't had to innovate much until recently. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it's a solid product. I just think the competition has caught up and passed them in some ways. Things like stands and trays should not be add-ons. B. Every other brand is available outside of a dealer network. Every other brand can be ordered from the comfort of your home and delivered to your driveway without stepping foot in a showroom or having to deal with a salesman. I think Kong still came with 12 or 24 month financing. I got my KJ on ebay with 6 or 12 month free financing through paypal. I almost did the Primo Oval 300 until I found a new KJ on ebay. With paypal credit, I didn't care about the price anymore. C. KJ's control tower is better than any daisy wheel I've used. The ash collector is also very nice compared to others. D. KJ's air hinge and latch system. Nuff said. If that doesn't sell you on the price tag once you try it, nothing will. Alright, I think I'm done. I hope this helped.
  15. My recommendation probably won't make the list, but here goes... I had one of those long-lasting erections for a Thermapen for a long time. It was on the Xmas/birthday list. Then my instant read died unexpectedly and I was stuck without a thermometer for a few days unless I bought locally. $10 Expert Grill instant read digital from Walmart is the best thermometer I have had in a while. 2-3 second read time and water resistant. I'll stick with water resistant only because I haven't killed it when washing the probe, unlike a Weber that died the first time the probe touched water.
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