Category Archives: Question of the Week: Tools
Deb writes: “Do you have any suggestions for a good candy thermometer? What do you think of the instant read thermometer?”
There are many types of food thermometers on the market. In my opinion, every home kitchen should have both a meat thermometer (for safety) and a candy/oil thermometer (for accuracy). Here, I’ll just review 3 of the most common types of thermometers.
Instant Read – This type of thermometer has a 1″ dial on top of a probe. It sometimes needs to be callibrated (make sure temp is set correctly) before use by using either ice water or boiling water. There are both digital and analog types of Instant Read Thermometers. Cost is approx. $10.
The problem with this type of thermometer is: Since it is meant to just probe the food (stick it into the food). It is not practical (let alone safe) for holding over a pot of hot liquid to gauge temperatures, such as when making candy.
Analog Thermometer – This type of thermometer is calibrated to gauge the wide range of heat required for working with sugar and oil. It clips on the side of the pan so you can continually monitor the rising temperature. Cost is approx. $16.00
This is good for: use it for oil or candy to be able to carefully watching the temperature.
The problem with this type of thermometer is: Temperatures on oil and candy rise quickly initially, but then very slowly as it gets to the right temperature. This means you have to actually stand at the stove watching the thermometer so you don’t over-heat. Some also find the analog difficult to read.
Digital Oil and Candy thermometer – Use this type of thermometer for professional results. It beeps & flashes when the perfect temperature is reached and it has 14 preset temperatures for all candy & deep frying needs. It clips on the side of the pan. Cost is approx $35.00
This is good for: All types of candies as well as oil. Since it beeps when the preset temperature is achieved, it allows you to walk away from the stove. It is also the most accurate.
The problem with this type of thermometer is: You should remove the battery from it each time you use.
I have all of these types (and more) in my kitchen, but I always use the digital thermometer for accuracy and convenience.
I am often asked “What’s the difference between measuring cups and why does it make a difference which type I use?”
To answer this I’ll give you a very basic way to remember which is which:
LIQUID measuring “cups” are typically clear/see-through and most have a spout for pouring. These are clear because liquids should be measured at eye level. They are marked with ounces and cups on the side (usually metric on the other side). An example of LIQUID is any ingredient which is “pourable” such as milk, melted butter, honey and oil.
DRY/SOLID measuring “cups” are typically solid, not see-through. There is a different “cup” for each measurement: 1, 1/2, 1/3 and 1/4 “cups”. Some sets come with even more increments. These “cups” are used to measure DRY/SOLID ingredients such as flour, sugar, oatmeal, chips and fruit. To measure dry ingredients, simply scoop into the ingredient container and level the “cup” off with the back of a knife or a spatula. (DRY measuring “cups” are also used to measure semi-solids such as sour cream or yogurt.)
MEASURING SPOONS – These are incremental spoon shaped vessels used to measure small amounts of ingredients, such as baking powder and baking soda and salt (the chemical ingredients).
Since baking is a science involving chemical reactions, it is important to use the proper measuring tools for accuracy.