Sunday, June 13, 2010

In which Kate's boyfriend goes off on a tangent. Or Essential Cheap Cooking Equipment

Hi everyone. If you recall, my sweetie (and frequent guinea pig) Ken, was the one who named this blog Knives, Fire and Fun. Last week, I mentioned oven thermometers, and he thought he'd do a guest blog discussing the importance of them. Ten bucks can make all the difference in the world: 

Importance of Oven Thermometers

Why can't appliance manufacturers build ovens with decent temperature controls? In making my baked custards, I've used many, many ovens, both gas-fired and electric, ranging from cheap ones that I might find in low-end apartments, to ones labelled "professional", costing many thousands of dollars.

I've found the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook  provides a really good starting point for custards. However, it is very sensitive to the oven temperature. It has been my experience that the oven thermostat is extremely inconsistent, and a given oven will drift from day to day.

My journals, before I bought my first oven thermometer (the most expensive one the local grocery store carried, probably less than $10 at the time), read something like this:

  1. 350°, 75 mins
  2. 400°, 80 mins ???
  3. 450°, 45 mins, burnt
  4. 425°, 75 mins ???
  5. 400°, 45 mins, really, really good.

At first, I thought I mistimed the custard times, but when I started finding that much inconsistency, I knew I had to do something. On a whim, I purchased the most expensive oven thermometer I could find in my local grocery store, by less than $2. This is, after all, a grocery store.

Immediately, I could see the reason. Not only was the oven not calibrated correctly, but it seemed not calibrated at all. The thermometer showed 100° fluctuations for the same setting. This simple, inexpensive change has made my life a lot easier when trying to perfect my recipe, and has made it more portable -- all I needed to do was to bring my trusty little thermometer.


  1. For the basics, I've always been fond of the BH&G cookbook.

    Now, how do I get you to make me custard? Buy you a creme brulee torch?

  2. Power tools in the kitchen are a good thing! Blow torches are awesome! :)


  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. A crème brûlée torch would be nice, and fancy ovensafe dishes to bake them in are also needed. Oh, and vanilla. Lots and lots of vanilla.