It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of instant-read thermometers here at the Test Kitchen, as many of our recipes call for precise temperatures as crucial cooking indicators. Whether you’re checking the doneness of a roast or making homemade marshmallows, this is an indispensable kitchen tool.
1. IT TAKES THE GUESSWORK OUT OF COOKING: With an instant-read thermometer, you can be sure about the timing of every step and the doneness of every piece of meat you cook. Our all-time favorite instant-read thermometer is the Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen (you can buy it online here), but we also can recommend a selection of less expensive thermometers that we thoroughly tested.
2. YOU’LL LOVE LEARNING HOW TO USE IT: A thermometer should help you, not hinder you. How do you take the temperature of a burger without the patty falling apart? Where exactly should you stick the probe in a roasted bird for the most accurate reading? How best should you poke a loaf of baked bread with a thermometer without marring the crust? Our handy guide from our Online Cooking School explains best practices on how to take the temperature of meat, poultry, and bread to know when food is done cooking.
3. YOU CAN CALIBRATE IT CORRECTLY: Your instant-read thermometer is no good if it isn’t calibrated correctly. Be sure yours is accurate with this handy calibration tip from our Online Cooking School.
4. TESTING LOBSTERS: Our recipe for boiled lobster calls for cooking the crustaceans for 12 minutes in a pot. Be sure your meat is ready to go by testing the thickest part of the tail. When the tail meat reads 175 degrees, it’s done.
5. BAKING CHEESECAKE: The worst thing you can do to a cheesecake is under- or over-bake it. To be sure yours stays in the sweet spot, check the cake after 90 minutes. Cook until the center of the cheesecake hits 150 degrees—by then it should be perfectly baked, with a nut-brown surface and a soft and creamy center.
6. KNOWING IF PORK IS SAFE TO EAT: The most juicy, tender pork is slightly pink—cooked to a safe temperature but not treading into grey, leathery, overcooked territory. Use your thermometer (and this helpful video) to find out when cooked pork is safe to eat. When the rested meat reads 145-150 degrees, you’re in the clear.
7. MAKING MARSHMALLOWS: Our DIY recipe for marshmallows is not only free of the additives that come with the store-bought kind, but are also fun to make. And guess what? A thermometer is a key part of knowing how long to cook the sugar, guaranteeing you’ll produce a soft, sticky, marshmallow-y texture at the end.
8. ROASTING A TURKEY: Cooking with confidence during the holidays—need we say more? To tell if the bird is done, a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees, and the thickest part of thigh registers 175 degrees (after about three hours of roasting, of course).
9. MAKING SALTED CARAMELS: Satisfy your sweet tooth (and enjoy a little bit of salt) with these delicious DIY caramels. And yup, you guessed it: You’ll need an instant-read thermometer to make them to ensure their final texture is just as chewy-addictive as intended.
10. STAYING SAFE: Reheat food without any doubt about whether it’s safe to eat or not. From casseroles to soups, you don’t have to second-guess yourself when you’ve got an instant-read thermometer to avoid the bacterial “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees. Learn more on our Online Cooking School.
All content linked from this list is free through June 10th, 2013.