BBQ Cooking Times - How do You Know When it’s Ready?

One of the most common questions we hear is ‘How long will my meat take to cook?’

It’s a hard question to answer. We can give vague estimates of the length of time you might need to set aside for cooking anything from a steak to a large brisket but ultimately we can’t give you a straight and clear answer because how long BBQ meat takes to smoke, spit roast or grill isn’t set in stone.

Meat being safe and ideally cooked but still tender and juicy is a question of temperature and texture - not time. You could easily go to the butcher and choose two pieces of meat that look identical, take them home and put them right next to each other on your smoker, spit or grill and have them take different amounts of time to cook to the same level of doneness. It’s all part of the wonder, mystery and art of cooking meat perfectly every time. Well, most times.

So what do we recommend you do to get the cooking time right? The answer isn’t poking the meat and then the palm of your hand near your thumb. The answer is to watch the temperature instead of the clock. Combine doing that with buying good quality meat and getting the temperature of your smoker, spit or grill right and you’ve got all of the ingredients together for cooking great BBQ food.

So, the best way to know all about temperatures during your cook?

For indirect cooking (smoking and roasting) you want to know the ambient temperature inside your BBQ and the temperature inside the meat - usually in the middle of the thickest bit because that will likely take the longest to get up to ideal temperature.

To have this knowledge, the temperature gauge that came with your BBQ and an instant-read thermometer are minimum requirements. An instant-read thermometer is used by inserting the probe into the meat and checking the temperature, then taking the thermometer out and continuing your cook. A more complete solution is a remote thermometer with probes that are left in the meat and the BBQ to monitor all the temperatures at once.

For direct cooking (grilling on grill racks or a plate directly over the heat source) an infrared thermometer for checking the temperature of the grill surface (so you know your steak will sizzle and not slowly turn grey) and an instant-read thermometer get the job done.

The common item above is the instant-read thermometer and it’s the best place to start because you’ll always get plenty of use out of it. I use mine for just about everything from large roasts to sausages.

If you’re not used to cooking this way, getting the temperature right can make a huge difference to the results you’ve been getting. Grab a thermometer or two and eliminate the ‘undercook/microwave’ and ‘left on too long to make sure it’s done’ techniques from your repertoire!






by: Mat Holbrook