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:
- 350°, 75 mins
- 400°, 80 mins ???
- 450°, 45 mins, burnt
- 425°, 75 mins ???
- 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.