posted by Joe Anaya on July 14th, 2014

In Southern California, we grill outside a lot. Once I over cooked some barbeque chicken and now every time I’m outside manning the grill my wife tosses out, “Don’t over cook it like last time.”

A decade ago, my wife got me a digital thermometer/meat fork. It seemed like a great idea. If I could stick a fork into a thick piece of meat to tell if it was “rare,” “medium” or “well” without cutting a gouge into it, that would be awesome. Except the damn thing didn’t work at all. Well, really just enough to screw me for the rest of my married life.

When I got the gift, I was happily grilling some chicken breasts and excited to use my new toy. I poked the plumping chicken, read the digital display and it said “rare.” So far, so good.

Seven minutes later, there are nice grill marks on one side, “Rare.” I turn the chicken over. Still good.

Seven more minutes, both sides have nice grill marks. The fork says, “Rare.” So, I shift the breasts to give it a little cross-hatch grilling. A few minutes on this side, I give it a flip to cross-hatch the other side. Still “Rare.”

My wife walks by and asks, “Are they ready?”

“It says they’re still rare,” I announce confidently.

A few minutes more, the rest of the food is ready. But the chicken is still “Rare.” “Hmm,” I think, but not thinking too hard. “A few more minutes,” I tell my impatient wife.

Now, I’m considering why. Maybe it’s because the breasts are so large, they’re still rare deep in the middle. Maybe the middles didn’t completely thaw before grilling. While I’m contemplating the physics of chicken breasts, I’m shuffling the meat around the grill so they don’t get burned, but keep cooking inside.

“Now, is it done?” asks my wife in a way that is structured like a question but is really an accusation.

“It still says ‘Rare,” I sheepishly allow. But even I’m thinking this can’t be right. I turn the thing on and off. It goes through it’s progress indicating it’s working. I stick the tines directly on a flame and it immediately displays “Well.” So, that seems to work.

I guess I have to be patient. But this is really taking longer than I would have ever left a piece of meat on a grill. So long in fact, I’ll accept “Med Rare” and hope that resting the meat will cook it the remainder of the way.

“It has to be done now,” comes angrily from the dining table.

The cursed smart fork still says, “Rare.” I cave in to common sense and an unruly mob at the dining table and pull a chicken breast off the flame. I cut into it and reveal that it’s beyond well-done and dry as a bone. “Mother F*&%er!”

All through the dinner, I hear how ridiculous it was to over cook the food. How silly it was to trust the gadget that she got me. How blah, blah, blah.

Now 10 years and 100 perfectly grilled chicken breasts later, every time I barbeque, I still get, “Don’t over cook the meat like last time.”

In my head I yell, “Last time’ was 10 years ago. Let it go, woman.” But outwardly, through gritted teeth, it’s just, “Okay.”

File Under Jack of all Trades, Mr. Cool