Temperature and Thermometers

Temperature and Thermometers

There are four basic types of thermometers for use in the kitchen - meat thermometers, candy or deep-fat frying thermometers, oven thermometers and refrigerator or freezer thermometers. Each one is an essential kitchen equipment. Thermometers eliminate guesswork by accurately measuring the doneness of foods and ensuring that ovens, refrigerators and freezers are working properly.

  • Choosing a meat thermometer - you have two choices here, a regular meat thermometer or an instant-read thermometer. A regular meat thermometer is inserted into the meat at the beginning of cooking time and left there during cooking. An instant-read thermometer is inserted during cooking and they are inexpensive and easy to use. Moreover they perform accurately for several years. Whichever type you choose, make sure that it has a reader-friendly scale that clearly shows the temperatures at which different meats are cooked. Look for one with a thin probe, which will make a narrower hole in the meat and allow fewer juices to escape.

  • To use a thermometer - both regular and instant-read thermometers should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat, preferably near the center, without touching bone or gristle. For a regular meat thermometer, insert about half of the probe into the meat and leave it there throughout cooking. For an instant-read thermometer, insert about 2" of the probe into the meat and let it stand for at least 20 seconds. Instant-read type can also be used to test the internal temperature of foods such as lasagna. For the most accurate reading, measure the food in several spots. Rotate the food if it is not cooking evenly.

  • Using an instant-read thermometer to estimate total cooking time - Check the internal temperature of the food before you cook it. A roast that is 55oF will cook a lot faster than one that is only 35oF.

  • Choosing a candy or deep-fat frying thermometer - most of these thermometers are in the shape of a clear glass tube with a bulb at the end. Look for one with a clear readout and an adjustable clip so that it can be attached to the side of the pan.

  • Using candy or deep-fat frying thermometer - Stand it upright in the candy syrup or fat so that the bulb is completely immersed in the liquid but not touching the bottom of the pan. Clip the thermometer to the side of the pan.

  • To check the accuracy of a meat or candy thermometer - insert it into boiling water for 20 seconds (for an instant-read thermometer) or 3 minutes (for regular meat thermometer or a candy thermometer). It should read 212oF, the temperature at which water boils. If it doesn't, you can adjust an instant-read thermometer. Grip the hexagonal nut beneath the dial face with a pair of pliers or a small wrench and twist the face of the dial until it registers 212oF. For a regular meat thermometer or candy thermometer, if you get a reading other than 212oF, calculate the difference and adjust recipes accordingly. For instance, if your thermometer reads 207oF in boiling water, it is 5oF too low, when using it with a recipe that specifies cooking to 245oF, cook until your thermometer reads 240oF.

  • To choose an oven thermometer - there are two basic types. Mercury-style glass tubes and spring-operated dial thermometers. The glass tubes are more expensive but more accurate.

  • To use an oven thermometer - Position the oven rack in the middle position and place the thermometer on it. Preheat the oven to 350oF for 15 minutes, after which time the thermometer should read 350oF. If it doesn't calculate the difference and adjust recipes accordingly.

  • To use a refrigerator or freezer thermometer - proper refrigerator and freezer temperatures are crucial for preserving the quality of foods and for food safety. Test your appliances by placing a thermometer near the tip and front of the refrigerator or freezer. Let it sit for 6 hours or overnight. Refrigerators should read 40oF, and freezers should read 0oF or below. If the temperature is off, adjust your appliance's temperature regulator and test again.

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