Excellent. One last question: am I supposed to check the OG before the boil, ie take a sample of wort, try to cool it down quickly, and then check the OG? I read a couple articles saying that should be a step before boiling, with an OG target of 1.008
I dont check it until it comes out after the boil. I think checking it before is more of a way to track proper extraction, I think a refractometer would be helpful for this. I just check it after it is done, so I know what I am dealing with.
If you don't care if your beer is under/over hopped or your ABV is 5.5/6.0% then yes, skip the preboil gravity. You'll never get control of your process and you'll struggle to clone commercial beer recipes or make the same recipe twice. 2010 North American two-row is all over the board in terms of extract potential and your LHBS has better things to do than tell you what they are selling you.
If you want a repeatable process where you control the outcome not the dude at the LHBS, the maltser, or the farmer in Canada, then always take a preboil gravity. Your brewing software should tell you what it should be given your efficiency once you get that established for your grist, grist to water ratio, mash Ph, etc.. If you're higher than the recipe calls for you can add water until you get down to the target preboil while adjusting the hops for the higher volume of wort. If you're under the target preboil gravity, either boil until you get to the target preboil and adjust the hops for the lower volume of wort or add DME/LME until you get your target gravity. Don't be a victim.
Okay? Got that DME and a way to chill a wort sample?