Food Preparation: How To Use Meat And Candy Thermometers

This article discusses the different kinds of meat and candy thermometers, how each is used, and what a cook can expect to pay for them.

Cooks often use thermometers to assist them in making the perfect recipe. Two of the most commonly used thermometers are those for meat and those for candy. They may both be thermometers, but they are not interchangeable. However, they are vital in ensuring a delicious finished product.

Meat thermometers, obviously, measure the internal temperatures of cooked meats. They can be used for any kind of meat that goes from raw to cooked. There are several types of meat thermometers, but they all work basically the same way.

Dial thermometers have a round face and a needle that indicates the meat's temperature. Glass thermometers look like a mercury thermometer, but have another substance that measures the temperature, but is not toxic if the thermometer should break. These generally have a guide which tells the cook what temperatures are appropriate for which meats.

A thermometer/timer has a probe that is inserted into the meat. A cable is attached to the probe and terminates in a digital display unit. The probe and cable go into the oven. The display unit attaches to the outside of the oven with a magnet, and the cook sets the unit to beep when the probe indicates the desired temperature has been reached. The digital unit also doubles as a kitchen timer. The great advantage of this kind of meat thermometer is that there is no guesswork involved. The cook doesn't even have to open the oven, relying instead on the meat thermometer to let her know when the roast is done.

With all meat thermometers, the end should be placed in the thickest part of the meat, making sure the tip does not touch any bones. For dial and glass thermometers, the cook will need to wait a minute or two to see the temperature. It takes a moment for these thermometers to accurately register the meat's internal temperature. With digital thermometers, the readout is almost instantaneous.

Candy thermometers also come in the same kinds as meat thermometers: dial, glass and digital. Most have clamps that attach the thermometer to the side of the pan. Candy thermometers can also usually be used for deep-frying, since they register a high temperature. This is why candy and meat thermometers are not interchangeable. Meat thermometers do not register at the high temperatures necessary for candy making.

Professional candy makers often use the dial varieties, although the digital kinds are becoming more popular. However, the dial thermometers can be difficult to read. Many home cooks use the glass thermometers. These tend to last for many, many years and are usually accurate. They can be tested for accuracy by setting them in boiling water and seeing if they register a true 212 degrees. Some will be higher or lower. The best glass candy thermometers have their bulbs backed by a metal plate, so they do not touch the bottom of the pan. A bulb touching the bottom of a hot metal pan may shatter, or will not register accurately.

Digital thermometers work by putting the thin metal probe into the candy mixture. Like their meat counterparts, they will beep when the desired candy temperature is reached. They are also extremely accurate and their digital displays are easy to read.

Candy thermometers should be clamped to the side of the pan, or with the metal-backed glass variety, should have the metal base resting on the bottom of the pan. Most glass or dial candy thermometers will have a guide for cooks cooking their candy syrup (soft-ball stage, hard-ball stage, etc.) The same rules of thumb apply when using the thermometer to measure the temperature of fat for frying.

Meat thermometers vary in price, from about $5-$35, depending on their features. Candy thermometers are a little higher, since accuracy is so crucial in candy making. A good candy thermometer will be at least $10, and some run as high as $40, for a good digital.

Since public awareness has been raised about cooking temperatures for meat, a meat thermometer is essential for large meats, such as a turkey. The temperature for poultry, incidentally, should be measured in the thickest part of the drumstick or thigh, with the tip not touching bone. Candy thermometers are indispensable for making candy that turns out as it is supposed to.

These kitchen utensils are not expensive, but they will assist a cook in having a better outcome, especially with new or difficult recipes.

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