The Biscuit Test
16 January, 2014
While I was working on some modifications to one of the pits, I utilized a trick I’d learned from another BBQ Vet. I thought this was a good one to pass along as it helps solve a critical component to successful cooking.
One of the main battles with producing great BBQ is managing the consistency of your cooking temperature. All cookers “breath” in a unique way, and understanding exactly how your pit handles the fire in it’s belly, is one of the key parts of controlling your cooking environment.
While temperature gauges are a great way to monitor your cooking temperature, they usually only tell part of the story. Gauges are often mounted several inches above the actual location of the meat, and depending on the size of your smoker, they can be feet away from the source of fire. While the gauge location provides a decent reading for that particular location, it makes for some serious guessing as to the temps in other parts of your cooking surface. Unless you are prepared to add gauges every few inches all across the pit, it’s difficult to know how the intensity of the fire is being distributed across the cooking surface. The solution is easy and will only set you back a few bucks.
The biscuit test, as you might guess, involves biscuits. Go figure.
Go to the local grocery store and buy a can of the cheapest biscuits you can find. Build a basic smoking/cooking fire in your pit and spread the biscuits across the cooking surface making sure all areas have representation. (see image below) Now grab a cold beverage and sit back while your pit begins to tell you exactly how it’s performing.
After some time is passed (5 or 10 minutes), you will begin to see the biscuits cook at a variety of speeds. Notice the image below.
The biscuits on the right hand side are already browning on top, while the biscuits on the left hand side are still pearly white. The biscuit in the top row/middle also shows some browning, while the lower biscuit is still very doughy.
This basic information tells us the hot spots and cool spots in our pit, and provides valuable information on where to place our meat depending on the desired temp. For example, if I wanted to cook a bit faster, I might move the chicken thighs to the right side of the cook surface. If my pork loin is ready to serve but I’m a few minutes away from guest arriving, I might push it to the left side for warming. Or, I can use this information to tune my pit so that it responds in a more even fashion. (More on this topic later)
There you have it. Bet you never expected to cook raw biscuits in your smoker. Now that you’ve completed the test, it’s back to the good stuff. Anyone ready for some brisket?