Two Front Teeth, and a Couple Other Things: An Instant Read Thermometer

While I’m in a kitchen kind of mood, I would like to recommend one more critical piece of kitchen equipment for this Christmas season.

Though I like cooking and baking, my repertoire of kitchen creations is rather limited. More often than not I will be grilling something or baking rolls. And before I discovered the wonders of the Thermapen instant read thermometer, my burgers would be burnt, my chicken pink, and my rolls fallen. All was not good. But the Thermapen has rescued me from all that.Thermapen

This gadget is a slick piece of design which can measure the internal temperature of meat, breads, and even, because we’ve tried, swimming pools. It is accurate and very, very fast. Within seconds, you can have an accurate read on your food’s internal temperature and know whether to shove it back in the oven or get it off the grill.

The usefulness of this thermometer is pretty obvious when it comes to meats. The ability to measure the internal temperature of a piece of chicken quickly on a hot grill keeps me from over and under cooking chicken, which I did frequently before. An undercooked turkey can be a frustration on Thanksgiving or Christmas, as some may have recently discovered.

But the real value of the Thermapen for me has been in baking. Breads are not necessarily done when the outside is brown. The rapidity of browning varies based upon the moisture content of the bread and the proximity of the heating elements. Bread is only done when its internal temperature is in the 180-210°F range, depending upon the bread. The ability to test this quickly without losing oven heat is so, so helpful to impatient types like me. A tray of rolls whose center temperature is only 160°F may look fine in the oven. But when pulled out and allowed to cool, the center will sag and underneath the beautiful brown crust will be a gooey mess of undercooked dough. Ugh.

The Thermapen is pricey. It can be purchased from the manufacturer’s web site for $89.00. I suppose one would want to rescue a whole lot of rolls for that price. And I have. We’ve used ours for a few years now and should this one break, which it shouldn’t, I’d buy a replacement without hesitation.

So would, apparently, a host of reviewers more celebrated than I, including, according to the Thermapen web site, Alton Brown. But, hey, why trust anecdotal preferences when you can turn to the guys over at Cooking for Engineers dot com (yes, that is a real site) to run a series of tests on it? The Thermapen won the day there, and has persuaded me here. Perhaps there are less expensive options out there, but I can’t see trusting my rolls to another.

Two Front Teeth, and a Couple Other Things: A Kitchen Scale

Black Friday had come and gone, and so perhaps many of you already have your Christmas shopping complete. For those of you who don’t, let me recommend an item for those who love to hang out in the kitchen. In my thinking, right up there with ‘oven’ and ‘refrigerator’ in the pantheon of indispensable kitchen things is the digital kitchen scale.


First, accuracy. It is notoriously difficult to measure flour with consistent accuracy. Various methods are used, but only one is consistent: weighing the flour. One cup of flour weighs 120 grams. If you try to scoop the flour, you compress it. If the flour has been sifted, it is fluffy and full of air. One cup of compressed flour does not equal one cup of fluffy flour. But 120 grams is always 120 grams. With a scale, there is no guesswork.

Secondly, it is so much easier and cleaner to measure ingredients by weight. We make our own sloppy joes. The sauce is composed of a cup of this and three tablespoons of that. When done, the counter is littered with a variety of measuring tools all of which need to be cleaned. With the scale, I put a bowl on the scale, and proceed to add the ketchup, the mustard, the vinegar, the sugar, and so on, by weight to the single bowl. I need not dirty a single measuring tool. When all the ingredients are added, I mix them in the bowl and add them to the fried hamburger. Simple and made so much simpler by the scale.

Third, for the borderline OCD like myself, I love knowing that ALL my hamburger patties are within a fraction of a precise 5 ounces. It’s a beautiful thing.

And finally, conversion. I have my own pancake recipe which the family is fond of. I mix the dry ingredients ahead of time and store them so that when we want pancakes, all I need to do is to mix the liquid ingredients, drop in the right amount of dry ingredients, mix, and fry. One day I was preparing to make a batch of the dry mix only to discover that instead of the necessary 960 grams of flour (i.e. 8 cups) I only had 690 grams. That is, I only had 72% of what I needed.

Now, if one was measuring in cups and tablespoons, how quickly could you calculate and then measure 72% of the necessary 6 teaspoons of baking soda? With a scale, all it takes is a calculator. 35 grams instead of 48 grams. Piece of (pan)cake.

We’ve had a couple scales over the years, but the one which has served us well is the Escali. Accurate, easy to use, durable, and cheap. And the pink one made my daughter-in-law especially happy.

So, I’m happy here to pass your way a very good and very special pancake recipe. But, alas, as you will see, there is a catch.


Flour – 135g
Baking Soda – 7g
Sugar – 29g
Salt – 2g
Egg 1
Oil (or butter) – 28g
Buttermilk – 240g

Makes about 8 decent sized pancakes.