Turkey Tracker Post-Vivum

Our Thanksgiving was wonderful. All the food was delicious, the turkey smoked for eight hours and was succulent and smokey and the table was packed tight with friends and family. Turkey Tracker turned out better than any of us expected. My hope was that we would peak at 150 viewers, and maybe see 3-500 people over the course of the day. When the dust settled, it turned out we had about 170 viewers at our peak, and a total of 15,585 unique viewers over the course of the day. Much of this can be attributed to Ustream.tv deciding to feature us on their front page many times over the day. We can’t thank them enough. TurkeyTracker.com had 997 visitors, according to Google Analytics, while Ustream brought in the additional 14,588.

A particular highlight was an early evening surge in Canadian viewers, pointed to the site by a great piece on the CBC’s As it Happens, which I’m told is akin to All Things Considered on NPR. Even though they enjoyed their turkey dinners over a month ago, a bunch of our Northern neighbors decided to get into the fun, last Thursday.

Here are links to the pieces about us, in the order they appeared:


Mental Floss

PDX Pipeline

The New York Times Blog

The CBC’s As it Happens (Audio file, we’re the last 3 minutes or so)

We also want to thank all the folks who mentioned us on Twitter and shared the link with their friends and readers, and especially the folks at Ustream for finding us and reaching out to give us a big push. Next year I promise we’ll call you first.

We’re certainly looking forward to next year’s Turkey Tracker, and we plan to add some things to make it bigger and better. Among the possibilities:

– A better smoker. Honestly, we’ve been a touch disappointed with the one we have now, and a bigger, better unit may be in order.

– A call-in portion. Setting up a VoIP number and doing a talk-show bit would be fun. We could schedule a couple turkey chats over the course of the day. We tried to get people in front of the camera (and our lovely dog Petra) and we did a nice parade of appetizers and sides, but this was pretty much all put together on the fly as folks requested it. Now that we know what you want to see, we can better plan it out and show it to you.

– Charity Sponsors. This one really excites me. I’d like to get one or more companies (or individuals) to sponsor the feed by pledging to donate $1 to a food bank for every viewer we have. Anyone who’d like to do this should not hesitate to get in touch with us.

If you have other ideas for what would make Turkey Tracker more fun, please contact us and let us know.

Published in: on December 2, 2008 at 4:02 am  Comments (1)  

Rock and Roll

I just got done baking two huge batches of cheddar-pepper braided cheese rolls (I switched yam duty for roll duty) and am now on my way out the door to join the live TurkeyTracker action.

I’ve been watching the guys with the smoker all morning, and my family has been calling saying “when are you going to go over there and wave hi to us?”

Oh yes, and I almost forgot my other duty: to bring THIS GAME. Get ready for us to make total fools out of ourselves…

Finished Rolls Cheese! Rock n' Roll. Cheesy Bread Dough Pink Pepper. Fancy. Do The Twist.


Published in: on November 27, 2008 at 11:55 pm  Comments (1)  

The Bird is in the Brine

This morning I placed our bird, along with two extra drumsticks into a very large pot, and filled it with water, 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of whiskey, 1 bunch of radishes, 1 yellow onion, 1 white onion, 3 sliced carrots and 3 chopped celery stalks. The pot is now covered in the garage and packed in ice. Here’s a picture of the whole thing before I took it out back to sit til tomorrow morning.


The Turkey Tracker turkey brining for 20 hours.

The Turkey Tracker turkey brining for 20 hours.

Published in: on November 27, 2008 at 1:48 am  Leave a Comment  

Cranberry Sauce Ready!

Hi there! We’ve just had some friends over for Taco Tuesday and made some cranberry sauce in parallel; the new batch for this year has loads of ginger and citrus with pear and clove hints. It’s in the canning pot right now sterilizing! We have three cans from last year we might try in a vertical tasting.

Note from Robin: One of the first things I learned about Chris when I met him was the story of his famous cranberry sauce making skillz. This year I documented his annual ritual in photos:

Cranberries Into The Pot! So Many! One Pear For Each Jar Of Sauce Pouring The Cranberries Pouring More Cranberries Stirring The Sauce

Published in: on November 26, 2008 at 6:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Learn More About Turkey Tracker

Our FAQ probably answers most of your questions about the why and how of Turkey Tracker, but I wanted to share a bit about our temperature tracking system. From the FAQ:

Our ambient and smoker temperature sensors are bolt-on thermocouples with glass-insulated wire rated to 480degC (900degF). The probe for the turkey itself is a custom ordered probe that has a advanced ceramic insulation made by 3M that’s rated to 1200degC (2200degF). The thermocouples generate a current proportional to the temperature, which we amplify with an Analog Devices AD595 chip. The AD595 is then connected to an Arduino microcontroller board that is programmed to output the temperature, in Celsius, over USB. We have a ruby script that collects the data on the serial line and converts it to Fahrenheit. For graphing, we use RRDTool. The data is polled every minute. The steps you see in the graph also depict minute intervals.

Here’s a picture of the finished product:

Completed Wirebird 2.0 Rig

Completed Wirebird 2.0 Rig

Last year, we didn’t have the high temperature wires, and we lost our sensors when they touched the shell of the smoker. We track the bird temperature (looking for 160° in the breast), the air in the smoker (we want to keep it between 200° and 225°) and the ambient temperature (we can expect about 50° to 55°). We will probably move the bird to the oven for finishing, so that we can eat at a reasonable hour, when it hits about 140°.

In addition to graphing the temperature, the data collection script also sends updates for major events and warnings if one of the temperatures veers outside the norm so that we can quickly address the situation. Standing in 50° weather with smoke billowing out into your face is tough to keep up, even when it’s sunny out.

Published in: on November 20, 2008 at 7:05 pm  Comments (15)  

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The leaves have really turned here, and they are dumping off the trees. Any high-traffic entry is strewn with red and yellow folliage that came in on the soles of our shoes. Now that Halloween has officially come and gone, we can start talking about Thanksgiving and Turkey Tracker in earnest. Forget Christmas, November is really the most wonderful time of the year.

This year is looking to be an excellent event. We’re expecting 12 people for dinner, with the possibility of a couple more showing up for dessert or appetizers earlier or later in the day. We’re going to be getting the menu together soon too, so we know what everyone is up to, and we’ll share that with you all.

We’ve got the hardware figured out, and the website is ready to go. Next I need to get the camera location planned and ensure that we have everything set for a stable network connection for the laptops that drive the show. This year, I’m hoping to setup a second camera directly above the smoker, that we can cut to when we lift the lid for action shots of the bird.

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

It’s November!

Thanksgiving is mere weeks away. We just started this blog so I’m going to post a few belated updates about what we’ve already done in prep for the big day:

  • Included in the invitation, an FAQ in case anyone is curious how – and why –  we do this crazy thing.
  • Chris made a brand new Turkey Tracking device, with temperature probes that will – hopefully – not burn up if there is a “thermal malfunction” in the smoker this year.
  • Also, the device now Twitters! (In addition to updating the online temperature graph.) Note: Yes, it twittered a lot on the test run. Chris has adjusted it since so it’s not quite so chatty.
  • Mid-October we tested the thing with a chicken. It seemed to work. I’ll let Chris give you technical details.

And me? Um, I took some photos. And started up this blog. My responsibilities are pretty much: moral support, spreading the word, and cooking some sort of dish with yams.

You_re Invited — Thanksgiving 2008 — Nov. 28th soldering closer up working on Turkey Trackin' electronics Testing Turkey Tracker Technology soldering close up Turkey Tracker 2008

Published in: on November 3, 2008 at 5:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Hello world!

We’re counting down to T-Day at TurkeyTracker.com. We’ll be posting updates here as we prep for the big day!

Published in: on October 30, 2008 at 9:05 pm  Leave a Comment