It may seem obvious that a good timer is essential for creating good food. And that is very true about baking, it is a little less so when cooking, say a large roast.
Mom used to bake the daylights out of it, and it was done just out of shear brute force. This is still a hold over from what we delicately call “depression food” when the safety of our food was no where near what it is today. Our parents had the fear of Trichonosis, and today I will happily have a Pork Tenderloin medium rare. Food safety has come a long way since then.
One of the best investments you can make is a solid thermometer. I prefer the a probe style that can stay in the meat being cooked and display it on the outside of the oven for me. The one I use is a Polder Probe Themometer. It is a basic tool that does the job well.
If I want to drool over one, this is next on my list. The iGrill for my iphone.
TIPS ON CHOOSING A THERMOMETER
There are other basic thermometers on the market and I am usually happy with a digital one, as opposed to a dial one. The accuracy of the digital readout is much more consistent than that of the spring-loaded dial type. These need to be calibrated frequently to work properly.
- Always choose one that can be manually calibrated.
- Find one you can read easily in the environment you will be using it (IE: If you are gong to BBQ with it, make sure it can be read in little or no light)
- Pick one that is NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certified
- It is cool enough that you will actually use it!
KNOW WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR
Now that you have this new tool, what do the numbers mean?
We have a basic guide for food safety that we use and we call it the “Final Cooking Temperature.” Foods must be in this zone for 15 seconds to kill any bacteria that is common to that food, in order for it to be safe. You will notice Chicken is at the highest end, and that is because Salmonella is one of the toughest bugs out there.
- 145°F – Fish, seafood, Veal, Lamb, Pork, Pork roasts, Hams, Eggs
- 155°F – Ground Beef, Injected Meats, Ground Fish, Ground Meats, Game Animals
- 165°F – Poultry, Chicken, Wild Game, Stuffed Fish, Stuffed Meat, Stuffed Pasta
Whole beef roasts, pork roasts and ham are safely cooked after reaching the minimum internal temperature for the prescribed amount of time as follows:
- 130°F (54°C) for 121 minutes
- 132°F (56°C) for 77 minutes
- 134°F (57°C) for 47 minutes
- 136°F (58°C) for 23 minutes
- 138°F (59°C) for 19 minutes
- 140°F (60°C) for 12 minutes
- 142°F (61°C) for 8 minutes
- 144°F (62°C) for 5 minutes
- 145°F (63°C) for 3 minutes
The only maintenance on these thermometers is to calibrate them regularly, maybe once a month depending on your usage. You can do this by following the instructions that came with your thermometer, which usually involve putting them in either Ice Water or in Boiling water and calibrating them to 32°F or 212°F respectively.