Draper’s BBQ Contest

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As the world well knows companies can live or die with social media.  We at Draper’s have been solid at social media when we really push at it and frankly terrible at it when we do not.  Case in point, we have over 2500 Twitter followers but only 850 likes on our Facebook page.  You can probably guess from those numbers were we spent our time over the past couple of years.

Given that Mike and I sat down and pitched a few ideas back and forth on how we can convert our Twitter followers into Facebook likes.  We quickly settled on the idea of giving something away as a membership drive of sorts for Facebook.  Everyone likes a good giveaway and honestly we like giving stuff away making people happy.

So from there we came up with a few things that might fit the bill.  I kept thinking back to the question I get asked via email the most “what is the best bbq/smoker on the market for a new team or for my backyard?”  With that in mind Mike and I thought it would be great to give away some sort of “pitmaster in a box” kit where the winner would get essentially everything they needed to either start competition barbecue or at least have a heck of a leg up to starting a team.

The hunt was short for what bbq/smoker/grill would fit the bill.  We naturally went with the one we recommend to 90% of the people who send us that email.  We turned to Pit Barrel Cooker Co and their Pit Barrel Cooker for this contest and new pitmasters.  And here’s why:  First it rings in around $300 which is a solid value given that most complete pieces of bunk from Lowe’s will cost you that much.  Second it has a good cooking capacity.  Third while it is simple to use it does introduce the budding pitmaster to fire and air flow management.  Fourth it helps the cook to learn the valuable trait of trusting time, fire and smoke to do the job without messing with the meat too much.  Fifth, its made in America and I can’t think of another complete functioning pit at this price point that is also made here.

Many people would recommend a pellet pit for a first pit but I just don’t think pellet pits or any device that controls the airflow and fuel for you helps make you a pitmaster.  That’s not to say you can’t create great food on them, but there is no way to learn the essentials of being a pitmaster if you are not actively managing that fire in my opinion.  I know I will get hate mail over that statement, but remember I come from a family who did barbecue for many, many years without the use of a thermometer or fans and burned down wood into coals.  The only tools my grandfather needed to be an amazing pitmaster was his trusty shovel and his old cinder block pit.  Never once saw him use anything else.  His lack of tools (read crutches) helped him develop those instincts that are so crucial to a pitmaster.  That my friends is being a pitmaster to me.

Don’t get me wrong, the PBC is dead easy to use.  Essentially you light the fire and walk away,  but it at least gets the pitmaster introduced to good old charcoal as a fuel and forces them to not rely on a temp gauge or digital control.  PBC will run at 275 degrees for 7hrs on a basket of charcoal without much fuss at all and turns out a fantastic product.

I could go on and on about the PBC and why I recommend it, but I think Meathead Goldwynn over at Amazing Ribs.com does a pretty comprehensive job at covering it:  http://amazingribs.com/bbq_equipment_reviews_ratings/smoker-pizza-oven/pit-barrel-cooker  and John Dawson with Patio Daddio also has wrote extensively about the PBC: http://www.patiodaddiobbq.com/2012/07/competition-bbq-pit-barrel-style.html

With that we called up Noah and Amber at PBC and placed the order.  They graciously decided to sponsor part of the contest with us.  The ordering process was dead easy and Noah and Amber are great people to work with.

Next to be a pitmaster in training you need a good temperature reading device.  I love my Thermapen even though my grandfather would have quickly laughed at how much I paid.  I now have learned to cook more by feel, but I always check my competition meats with a high accuracy thermometer.  So given that, the fine folks at Thermoworks gave us approval to give away one of their top of the line Chef Alarm units.

I won’t completely steal Mike’s thunder as he is doing a review of the unit as we speak.  But I will tell you this, no tricks were missed in the development of this beauty.  It’s a professional piece of gear all the way and all a budding pitmaster needs to help him dial in that time and temp aspect of cooking.  For $60 its a great value and worth the investment.

After some more discussion Mike and decided we should give away this awesome kit live at the Kentucky State Barbecue Festival in Danville, Ky on September 7th.  This is the last day of the event and we figured it would be fantastic to do the announcement on stage there since it is one of our favorite events each year.  This is our favorite event because we get to feed about 50,000 of our closest friends, fans, family and cook right along side the likes of Brad Simmons, Carey Bringle, Craig Kimmel, Mike Mills, Moe Cason and Shelly Fritch.  All superstars in their own right and we are humbled each year to cook with them.

This planted the next seed of what we should include.  The Danville area is home to one of my favorite snacks, Pap’s Beef Sticks and Pap’s CEO Rick Waldon.  So I called up Rick and asked him if he wanted in.  He was quick to pull the trigger and offered up a bevy of beef snacks to keep any pitmaster satisfied on those long cooks.  Go check out the Meat Maniac on the Pap’s site.  Seriously if you have not tried Pap’s, go order some or go tell your favorite store to carry some.  It’s seriously the best beef jerky around.  My personal favorite is the Pitmasters Barbecue, it is a awesome mix of smoky, sweet and heat.  Not to mention Pap’s ensures only the highest quality US beef is used.  Pap’s is legit and if you win this prize pack you will know why.

By now you have to be asking, well that is all fine and good but what does Draper’s BBQ bring to the table in this contest.  Well, we figure you have the pit to cook on, the thermometer to tell when it is done and even snacks to keep you happy while you cook.  So we are there to fill in the remaining gaps.  You will need some great rubs for your meat, so you get 1lb of our A.P. Rub and 1lb of our Moo’d Enhancer.  You need sauce to top that meat with, so you get a gallon of our Smokin’ Sauce.  But you also need something to keep the sun out of your eyes while you cook, so you also get one of our team caps.  These hats are nice adjustable flex fit hats with our logo embroidered on them so you can be apart of the DBQ crew.  We also toss in enough charcoal for your first several cooks on the PBC.

If you have been keeping up with the prices, this is a prize pack worth over $550 delivered to your door.  If you are within a reasonable driving distance we will deliver the prize pack personally.  All you need now is some meat, some free time, a frosty beverage of your choosing and a lighter and you are ready to start your trek towards pitmaster enlightenment.

So now you have to be wondering how do I enter?  Well, stay tuned.  July 25th at 5pm Central time the contest will go live on the Draper’s BBQ FB page and Mike will post the rules on our blog.  All you have to do to enter is Like our Facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/DrapersBBQ  That’s it, we have made it simple.  Because it is so simple we would greatly appreciate it if you shared our page to your friends after you like it.  If you are one of the 830 people who have already liked our page you are already entered but again we would greatly, greatly appreciate you sharing our page as often as you can to help us out.

If this contest successfully generates the results we are looking for we want to do something like this once a quarter.  Mostly because we just like giving stuff away and making people happy, but also because we have LOTS of things coming up including a new video series that Mike and I are ironing out that we want everyone to see.  Draper’s is being reborn and we want to share everything with as many people as possible, so stay tuned!

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Thermoworks TW8060 Review

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I was recently given the opportunity to review a couple of products by Thermoworks.  Being a near-religious user of their Thermapen I quickly agreed.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I cherish my orange Thermapen.  I have stopped using any other thermometer.  I became such a big fan of this device this summer.  I put off paying the money for a Thermapen for the past couple of years, trying my best to ignore the posts on different forums saying just how amazing these units are. I finally broke down and bought myself one and I am glad I did.  I often equate the Thermapen to Tivo.  No, it’s not required to watch TV, but once you have it you really can’t imagine NOT having it.  That is exactly how I feel about my Thermapen.  It’s not that I can’t cook without it, it’s that I won’t.  I can check a whole pit of chicken halves (around 50) in the time it would take me to accurately check about 10 with any other so called “quick read” device.  The Thermapen is literally the only thermometer that I believe earns the moniker of quick read.  To say I have high expectations of everything from Thermoworks is fair and accurate. So, as you can imagine, I was anxious to test the TW8060!

The kit I was sent was the special kit that included the Smokehouse Probe (item 113-177) and the High Temp Alligator Clip Probe  (8468-22).  

What Thermoworks Has To Say

Let’s start the review with what Thermoworks has to say about the TW8060:  “Our new TW8060 is a simple-to-use 2-channel thermocouple alarm thermometer with convenient backlit display. An ideal cooking thermometer, the TW8060 can monitor your food item and the oven temperature simultaneously and alert you when it’s done. Also records Max and Min temperatures of both channels so you’ll know what limits were reached during your process. A handy tool in a small, compact package. Uses type K thermocouples so high temperatures are not a problem. Choose from hundreds of probes.

Great tool for BBQing. Insert one probe into meat and the other can be used to monitor the grill temp, or smoker. As featured on Alton Brown’s Good Eats recent BBQ special “Right on Q” (click here to read more about it on our blog).” 

Sounds like a great unit and hey if it’s good enough for a near cult legend like Alton Brown who is known for his kitchen gadgetry then it probably is going to meet or exceed the average Joe’s needs and expectations.

First impressions of the TW8060  

The first thing you will notice when you unbox this unit is that it’s not like most other thermometer-probe units.  This one feels a bit more like an instrument.  What do I mean by that?  The TW8060 gives you the impression it was once used for something much more complex and strenuous than just reading the current temp of your Big Green Egg and your brisket at the same time.  The screen of the TW8060 is initially protected by a clear sticker that proclaims “Environmental Instrument.”  You can tell this unit was likely adapted from commercial, industrial or business use and, if you cook as much as I do, that is a very good thing.    

The unit itself isn’t overly large or heavy.  It fits the hand nicely and has a very nice easy to read screen.  There are 6 buttons which appear very self explanatory.  Overall, a smart design that looks  fairly easy to use.  The unit also has as dust cover that goes on top of it to keep debris out of the ports where the probes connect.

The next thing I noticed were the probes. They are awesome and deserve their own section breaking down just how great they are.  Fortunately, the next section does just that.


Probing The Issue

It is fair to say there is as much money in the probes of the test unit I was sent as the device itself.  You can tell.  These probes are awesome and easily the nicest I’ve ever seen.  The gauge of wire used is much thicker than that of other probes. The protective shielding is stronger and they use a two prong positive / negative connector which I have never seen.  Typically probes use a 3.5mm headphone jack style connector.  

The two prong connectors intrigued me enough that I actually requested to be put in touch with a engineer at Thermoworks so I could “probe deeper into the issue” (say it like Dr. Evil and that’s mildly funny).  The response I got back was:

“The connectors are different because the TW8060 uses “Standard” industry Mini Thermocouple probes rather than Thermistors. Most other oven Thermometers use Thermistors, just like the TW362B with the stereo plug jack.

We decided to use Thermocouples due to the temperature use range, durability, more water resistant, and larger selection of uses, etc. (The 362XX probe thermistor sensor – for example – will fail if heavy steam seeps into the sensor. A Thermocouple would not be affected in the same environment.)”

The next thing I noticed concerned the pit temp probe.  This is the first probe I’ve ever seen (I understand there may be others) with an integrated clip that is intended to hold the probe exactly where you want it.  In fact the thermocouple itself is located at the very tip of the alligator clip.  I can’t tell you how many times I needed something like this.  Putting a pit probe in your bbq contraption is one thing but putting it EXACTLY where you want it and knowing it will stay there is a huge advantage.

Because of how precise the placement of the pit probe could be, I decided to do a test cook on our Ole Hickory CTO.  I did so only because I have always wondered what the temp variance was between the 4 racks and also from front to back on each rack.  This is the first device that allowed me to accurately measure this difference.  Now, armed with this information, I have a much better idea where and where to place different cuts of meat for different results.  This is a big deal for pit masters, especially those of us who are starting to move to the “hot and fast” cooking method.

The next thing to note about the probes is the length.  This has long been my biggest complaint about most units.  The probes are usually just long enough be awkward.  It’s safe to say that Thermoworks has decided to err on the side of making sure there is enough length on the probes.  The meat probe is right at 6ft long which is plenty for most any pit.  The pit temp probe I was sent is 8ft which is awesome.  So many times, especially on larger pits, I have actually run a completely different thermometer if I needed to read something on the opposite side of the pit.  I don’t foresee that being a problem here.  

As you can see from the pic above I have the probes inside the pit with the doors closed and then I extended the connector, backing away from the pit until the wire was taught before taking the picture.   To give you an idea of scale the CTO is right at 5ft tall.  So yeah the probes are pretty darned long.

One last thing to note is the thickness of the meat probe they sent.  Holy cow this thing is built to last.  I have personally bent a couple of probes while cooking whole hog and hams.  This is something I can honestly say I don’t think could ever happen with this unit.  Notice the probe in relation to the brisket in the pic below.  This is a smaller brisket but you can get the idea.  

Wanna See My Unit

I know I mentioned in passing earlier about how nice and big the display is on this unit.  It really does deserve to be highlighted.  You can see in the pic below just how easy the display is on the eyes.  Also the display has a back light for low light conditions.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get a pic to turn out quite right, but the light is very good and does work very well.  The only way I could imagine the back light being better is if it used some sort of Indiglo like Timex uses.  It’s not needed though, the light really does the job well.

Also note in the pic the 6 buttons of the device. Being a stubborn guy (“guy” being the operative word) I was able to use the device without referring to the manual.  I did go back and do a quick read through of the manual after I finished testing, though.  Thermoworks did an absolutely outstanding manual for the Thermapen.  This manual isn’t as educational, but is very easy to understand and use.

I think it is important to highlight the speed in the readings on this unit as well.  Immediate response is a very accurate description.  I wish I had a video to show just how quick the thermocouples used in the TW8060 respond to changes in temp and how fast that is displayed.  Had I thought more about it I would have staged a race between my orange Thermapen and the TW8060.  I have to say I think the TW8060 might just have an edge in the speed department.  So what color is the fastest Thermapen?  Grey and Yellow :).  I know its an unfair comparison as the Thermapen is a compact unit and the TW8060 isn’t.  I just wanted everyone to understand just how fast this unit is.  Thermoworks hit another home run in this department.

Function, Function What’s Your Function

Ok, so by now you know I like this unit, how well it is built and some of the features, but none of that really covers how it works.  Here is where I won’t belabor any points.  If you have a bbq pit or have ever cooked a Thanksgiving turkey you know how these units typically work.  You jab the beast with a probe, set the temp you want to get an alarm at and go grab a beer on your way back to watching the football game.  At least that is what I do.  This unit functions as it should and it is easy to set up.  

There are a few things that should be noted that might be missed by the average user.  First I really like that it has a high and low temp alarm as most units don’t.  Second is the temp range of this unit, it can read from -328 to 2372°F (-200 to 1300°C).  Can I get a WOW on that one?  Third is the accuracy of the reading.  This unit has no more than a +/- of .02% rate of error at any degree and most of its range it is within a .01%.  Again AMAZING and it makes you wonder why more companies don’t use thermocouples.  Next this unit includes a Max/Min function. While the unit is powered on, it will continuously record the maximum and minimum recorded temperature. The Max/Min temperatures will be stored until they are cleared by the user, even if the power is shut off.  I’m not 100% sure how I will use this handy power, but I am sure it will be useful and it is not included on any of my other units.  Finally, some kudos should be given to Thermoworks for using industry standard probes and offering a good mix of them to the end user on their website.  This allows the end user to configure the TW8060 exactly the way they want it and even have spare or different probes available as their needs change.  It’s a small thing but a good thing.

There are only two places I would have to ding this unit.  First is that it does not have a 2 channel alarm and it should, especially considering the cost of entry on the unit.  The alarm only covers channel 1, so note that before buying.  I think this is something that could be easily remedied in future revisions of the product and, given the product cost, Thermoworks should address it.  Next, it should ship with some sort of stand that keeps the unit upright.  There is a great one that is available as an add-on, but again, for the money it should be included, in my humblest of opinions.  

What I Liked

– Speed, this thing is fast and a performer.

– Design, well made near industrial quality that is still easy to use.

– The probes, easily the best I have ever seen.  Cannot say enough about how excellent these probes are compared to any other’s I have used.

– Screen, easily readable even in low light due to back light feature.

– Dust / debris cover for the top of the unit for when it is not in use.

– Functionality that I’ve never seen in any other unit, Max/Min feature is an excellent idea.

– Range of readings is nothing short of exceptional.

– Good list of accessories,  including different probes that allow the end user to set up this unit just the way they want, an awesome case and a very cool stand.

What Could Be Improved

It’s fair to admit that I am not often easily impressed, nor do I review any product without mentioning places for improvement, so understand some of these improvements could be considered a little “nit picky” by some.  That said, here are my suggested improvements:

1 – Alarm on both channels.  Why?  To be such a high end unit it just seems logical to have an alarm on both channels

2 – Positive lock for the yellow probe connectors.  While this isn’t completely necessary I think it would be nice to have.  Maybe the dust cover could be altered in a way where it could stay on the unit while the probes are inserted.  This unit is expensive and I would hate to see it accidentally picked up by the probe wires and the unit disconnect and fall to the ground.

3 – Magnet on the back of the unit.  Why?  Because most bbq pits are metal and it would make sense to be able to stick the unit on the side of your smoker out of the way until you need it.  At least use the attachment point on the back of unit and develop a magnet that could be sold as an accessory.

4 – Ship from factory with a stand.  Again this is an expensive unit and for the price it would be nice to have.  There is an awesome stand available as an accessory that I will be purchasing.  

I don’t want to end the review of this unit on anything less than a positive note.  I am a believer in the TW8060 and pretty much anything that Thermoworks decides to produce.  In fact I believe in Thermoworks products so much I have literally bought a Thermapen for everyone who cooks with me.  Yes, that is a lot of money, but when you cook for the public at large events serving something that’s raw can cost you even more.  We as a company trust Thermoworks.  The bottom line on the TW8060 is that it is what I expect from Thermoworks:  A fine product that does the job.  No it’s not the cheapest product, but it is one of the best in many categories.  Go check out the TW8060. Oh, and tell the folks at Thermoworks that I sent you.

 

 

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