Thursday, February 28, 2008

Taking Your Temperature

I had a post about fried chicken ready to go that someone requested, and then I realized a fundamental flaw in what I was writing. I explained my love for cast iron (see below), but one other component that has become instrumental in my cooking is the use of a thermometer. That's right; I rarely trust myself to test the doneness of my meat and dishes. Maybe if I worked in a restaurant for twenty years or had spent countless hours in a kitchen poking and prodding meat. At this moment in time, I tend to let things cook a wee bit long.

Meat temperatures are usually listed as a recommendation for not killing yourself or making your loved ones sick. Good idea if you ask me, but by that time your dish is overdone. This is more apparent with meats such as chicken and pork. Chicken cooked to 165 is wonderful, moist, and tender. You are afforded a few degrees of fudge room with a whole chicken, but something like a boneless breast is a whole other story. If you hit about 180 with the conventional roasting method, you might as well go outside and eat a tire off of your car. Seriously.

Which brings me back to monitoring the temperature. I use a thermometer. In fact, I use three. Three? Excessive? Heck no. They all have different purposes and are useful in certain situations. I heartedly recommend purchasing one, they are relatively inexpensive, last a very long time, and take a lot of the opening the oven or pan and prodding your poor dish out of cooking.

Good Old Fashion Instant Read Thermometer
I like these for testing temperatures of meat I grill, pan fry, or anything small. Its fast and mostly accurate. I had an analog one (big long spear with the head on the end), but unless you want to spend a lot of money for a good one, these are relatively useless after about a month. So I bought a digital one, which is calibrated by some cool method and stays that way for a long time. Most them are compact and have different options. Stay away from the big grill fork thermometers though, unless you strictly grill at all times. Spearing a small piece of fish with one of these will give you nothing but trouble.

Probe Cooking Thermometers
This is quite possibly the most used item in my kitchen other than my spoons (I don't know why, but I never have enough spoons). Most of these are under $20 unless you opt for the wireless model. Being that I live in an apartment and I can hear mine beeping, I do not find it necessary to purchase a model which allows me to clip a huge pager-like device to my hip just so I can walk into the next room and look cool. But that's off topic. These little beauties have a thin wire attached to a metal probe (hence the name) that fits into a section of a roast, whole chicken, etc ... that you want to monitor while it is in the oven or on the grill. The reader sits nicely outside the oven and tells you the temperature without opening the oven and losing all of the residual heat. Generally, it will have an alarm letting you know when your food has reached a specific temperature. This little bugger has single-handedly saved Thanksgiving for me.

Fry Thermometer
My latest addition to the party, this analog thermometer sits vertical and clasps itself to the side of whatever I happen to be frying in. Great for deep frying (duh) and candy making, this is not a huge necessity, but they are pretty cheap and allow me to make French fries relatively painlessly.

One last note is carry over temperature. People preach it on TV all the time. For bigger pieces of meat such as whole chickens, turkeys, and legs o' beast, you will see a 5-10 degree increase after you remove said food from the heat source. For smaller bits you will only see about a 2-3 degree increase, but it is important nonetheless. Just remember if you pull your chicken at 168, it might be getting close to tire quality, so just be mindful.

Okay, now that my techno babble is done, I can move on to fried chicken.....later this week. Enjoy.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP