Today I want to chat about tracking your temperature in the kitchen… the temperature of your fridge, oven, and all your baked items. This is the number one easy tip for improving the consistency and easy of your cooking, because cooking and baking are all about changing temperatures, and how food reacts when being heated and chilled, so it’s important to know exactly where you’re at by Taking Your Temp.
The first two temperatures that are the most important are the temperature in your oven and the temperature in your fridge & freezer. Thermometers for each location can cost in the $10 or less category, but give you invaluable peace of mind. Knowing, for instance that the reason the fish went rancid was that you left it alone too long, and not a failing compressor can avoid endless arguments with your loved one (trust me, been there, done that!) and a very stinky situation.
An oven thermometer is particularly useful when baking, because that little *ding!* that goes off telling you that the oven is preheated is 9 times out of 10 (at least in my experience) a dirty lie…. And it’s actually 50 degrees or more below, as my oven has a tendency to run cold, so I have to leave it alone for another 10 minutes before sliding some bread into the oven.
Now, there are some quick little tests that will help, should you decide not to invest in the equipment for a thermometer. The freezer is pretty obvious… If nothing is frozen, then it’s not working, However the fridge can be harder to tell should it be having a slow decline instead of an total immediate failure. The easiest test I know as to whether it is cold enough to be effective, is to test the butter. A stick of butter when prodded with your finger should remain firm and not show any indentation, however if it acts like you’ve left it out on the counter when in fact it’s been in the fridge all day, then you know you have a problem. As for the oven, you can test a dusting of flour on some parchment paper to see how fast it browns to tell you what temperature you are near. If the flour turns brown in about 1 minute, then it’s the perfect temperature for baking: about 325-350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Finally, avoid ever under or over cooking your breads, meats, or soufflés with a probe thermometer that will tell you when to take it out of the oven… It’s really the only way to ever be really confident.