thermometer [ther-mom-i-ter] noun
Tools for measuring temperature. Old-fashioned mercury (or non-mercury/non-digital) versions are still available, but digital styles are usually easier to use. There various styles and types with distinct temperature ranges suited to their specific applications, such as those geared toward chocolate tempering, deep-fat frying, candy making, etc. Here are the most helpful and commonly used thermometers:
Digital Thermometer with Probe: An all-purpose thermometer with a large, easy-to-read digital display housed in a magnetized case that can sit on your stove, hood or countertop. It features a stainless steel probe attached to a long wire that can be inserted into boiling sugar syrup on top of the stove, turkey in the oven or other applications. A typical range goes from 32° to 390°F and there are many functions. A timer is useful, but the most helpful feature is the ability to set the thermometer to your desired finished temperature, and when the probe detects that your food has reached its goal temperature, it signals you with a sound – you don’t have to keep opening the oven to check for doneness. If the probe is attached to something inside the oven, make sure that the wire doesn’t hit any elements or it will blow the mechanism.
Instant-read thermometer: Used when assessing doneness of lemon curds, roasts, turkeys and more. Insert the probe to test doneness, read the temperature immediately, then remove it. These cannot be left in the oven.
Candy/deep-fat-fry thermometer: This style features the proper gauge for candies, marshmallows, caramels and also for deep-frying, all of which need to be cooked to a high temperature.
Chocolate thermometer: Used when tempering chocolate, measured in one-degree increments – usually around 40° to 130°F – which allow you to accurately judge the temperature of the chocolate. This is crucial during this procedure. Many confectioners like non-digital styles for their chocolate thermometer because you can see when your desired temperature is approaching; since you are looking for mere one-degree differences, this advanced notice is quite helpful
Infrared: This tool reads the temperature of food by registering the thermal radiation emitted.
Laser: An expensive infrared thermometer that provides an instant reading using a laser to aim at the surface of your food. Sometimes referred to as non-contact laser thermometers, they don’t have to touch the surface of the food. Their range is typically about -75°F to over 900°F and they have a quick response time, often one second. The downside is that they read the surface of the food and you often need to know the temperature of the middle of what you are cooking.
Oven thermometer: Just because your oven is set to 350°F doesn’t mean it is heating to that temperature. We use this tool to check the accuracy of our ovens every few months. It is not unusual for ovens to be off by 25˚ or even more, which can wreak havoc with your baking results. It is actually easy to learn how to calibrate many home ovens; we are not suggesting you tamper with your oven, just pointing out that it might be something you look into.
Refrigerator and freezer thermometer: Refrigerators and freezers must stay cold which might seem obvious, but especially in commercial bakeries and restaurants where the chilled inventory can be quite expensive, it is vital to know that the temperature is what it should be. We want your cold items to stay safe as well. Consider buying a refrigerator and a freezer thermometer and letting them live in their respective areas. They feature ranges from about -20°F to 80°F. The FDA suggests keeping your refrigerator at 40°F or below and your freezer at 0°F. (We keep the test kitchen fridge at 37°F and the freezer at 0°F.)