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Buy This Thing: Patrick Feges’ Javelin Meat Thermometer

Patrick Feges is a renowned Texas barbecue expert and pitmaster at Feges BBQ, operating out of a pair of locations in Houston. He runs the smoker while his wife and co-owner Erin Smith — a chef and Chopped champion — oversees the rest of the menu, as well as the business side of things. Feges’ barbecue has been lauded by Texas Monthly, Garden & Gun, and Thrillist, and more. A decorated combat veteran, Feges serves Friday free meals to other vets from his Greenway Plaza spot.

When SPY asked Feges about the one tool he uses every day that doesn’t break the bank, his answer was clear: the Lavatools Javelin meat thermometer.

What do you use this product for in your work?

With barbecue, we use thermometers to help us develop a timeline. I’ll temp the brisket, and when it’s at 180 degrees, that means I’m pretty close and I need to start checking on it a little more frequently. 

A generation of at-home cooks were seduced by the Thermapen thermometer, which is much more expensive. As someone who works with meat all the time, why do you prefer a budget-friendly thermometer? 

Well, I also used to own a Thermapen. That’s what I bought when I first started cooking barbecue. It just didn’t last that long. (It’s barbecue, so our tools get abused pretty heavily.)

Then I bought a couple Javelin thermometers. Those things lasted like five years. They still get knocked off or dropped when we leave them hanging on the smoker, since they’re magnetic, so we have to wash them every day because they get covered in barbecue grease. Constantly washing them erodes the seals eventually, but they’re cheap enough that I can buy three or four at a time. I keep a stash for whenever one gets lost or broken.

Obsessive cooking engineering types make a big deal about the Thermapens giving you a faster temperature reading. Does that matter to you? 

I mean, if the Thermapen is one second faster, does that really make a difference? I still have one of the little ThermoPop thermometers I got in a swag bag from a festival or class. I’ll use that occasionally. It might be a split second faster, but at the end of the day, how much time are you really saving with one second?

Everyone over-thinks this sort of thing. When I first got into barbeque, I was just like anybody else getting started. Like, “I don’t want that smoker door [to stay] open very long, so I’m going to get the fastest, most accurate thermometer, so I can shave a second off my time!” But this isn’t NASCAR. If I’m worrying about saving a second when I’m trying to cook a thousand briskets a day, I’m worried about the wrong stuff.

You want to worry about the meat, not the tools.

Barbecue is all feel. I could cook 10 briskets tomorrow, and those 10 briskets could come off at five different temperatures. The meat’s ready when the meat’s ready. Fork tender is what we’re going for. If it’s off by a couple degrees, it’s not that big of a deal. 

Overall, I think the Javelin is basically the same as the Thermapen — it’s  just cheaper and tougher and with less effective PR. I’d still rather not have to spend a hundred bucks every year to get a new one.

Courtesy of Amazon