A cook’s best friend-Feb 17th 2022

A digital thermometer

No kidding. This little device has transformed my cooking. I spoke of it in yesterday’s piece about the steamer and so I thought I had better follow that up today.

I bought my first digital thermometer when I was in the throes of learning to make Sourdough Bread. What a mania THAT was! It truly is a dark art that can take over your life during the learning curve. One of my biggest challenges when I started was knowing FOR SURE when it was done in the middle. They say to tap on the bottom to tell but I found that tapping still gave variable results. There is nothing more disappointing in this life than cutting into a new loaf to find that the centre is still just a bit soggy.

I read that a digital thermometer was a good thing to invest in as it gave precise measurements in seconds. The first one I bought really was an investment at around £30 as they weren’t so widely used as they are becoming now. A few months ago I picked one up for £5.00 in Lidl’s.  Inside was a little chart for usage and it showed how many different things the device could be used for with cooking.

That was when the penny dropped.

For YEARS I had been desperately overcooking all my meat and fish, terrified that food poisoning would stalk and finish us off if I didn’t cook things REALLY WELL. Any sort of meat, fowl or fish does need to be cooked properly but there is quite a wide sliding scale between not done and food that can be used as a substitute for a hocky puck or door stop.

So, the little chart inside showed exactly what internal temperature food needs to be to be guaranteed “safe”- the usual magic number being 71 degrees Celsius or about 160 degrees F if that is what you use where you live. The thermometer has a switch to read C or F. The probe is opened up to be straight in line with the handle folding away nicely to avoid being skewered by the thing when you are rummaging for some other lost bit of kit in “that drawer”. It is then inserted into the middle of whatever you are testing. Instant results. As with all things, you need to work with it a bit to get the hang of it and learn about the different types of food you are cooking. I am very happy for it to get into the 80s when I am roasting a chicken.  “You can’t be too careful with chicken” to quote a dear friend. Ground mince (hamburger meat)-cook it well unless you have seared it well all around on the outside to kill off bacteria and then ground it yourself- no, I didn’t think so. Me neither. Cook it to 71-well done. Steak is different. Because we are cooking it well on the outside in the browning stage, we can eat it less well done (please?) on the inside and as soon as my little probe hits around 50 degrees C I take it off the heat to rest as we both like it medium rare. And I would say our steak eating days are pretty rare now as well. Never mind. I would rather have a really great piece of meat twice a year than really not great piece of meat more often.

They say 71 degrees for fish but I find that too much and if I am confident with the fish I buy (and I am thanks to Nick the Fish who delivers it to my front door) I will test it with the probe but use my judgement by looking to see if the fish is flaking apart and no longer translucent.

So, there you have it. I have been suckered into buying all manner of gadgets over the years, especially for the kitchen, but this one is a keeper.

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