Buy One Thing: A Meat Thermometer

Never live in fear of salmonella ever again.

The first time I made Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey was overdone. It came out of the oven a dark burgundy husk, burnt rather than burnished and desert-dry. Upon dressing the turkey before its untimely demise, I removed the plastic thing that pops up when the turkey is done, only because of a pet theory that those timers are actually engineered to make a turkey that is overdone, as to avoid lawsuits.

I followed the recipe as closely as I could, but probably stopped paying attention after a wine or three. The turkey was edible, the rest of the food more so, and as I shoved dirty plates and serving trays into the oven to deal with them in the morning, I muttered out loud to an empty kitchen, “Next year, I will buy a meat thermometer.”

While a meat thermometer is helpful for Thanksgiving, it’s also a nice thing to have in the house. Cooking meat is stressful, even if you’ve been doing it for a while; it requires a precision that I rarely have the patience for. A meat thermometer solves everything. Is the chicken raw? I don’t know, but the meat thermometer tells me. Can you serve this pork roast without food poisoning? No clue; let’s ask the meat thermometer. Sticking a giant poky thing into a hunk of meat and watching the temperature rise is a small pleasure, but one that can be yours for not a lot of money.

The Sweethome’s recommendation costs $30. At last count, I now own three — two of which work perfectly and one that is permanently stuck on 110 degees that I keep meaning to throw out. For a few years at Thanksgiving, I’d forget that we had one, and would run out to the grocery store the night before for an emergency purchase of chips, more potatoes and a spare, just in case. I’m going to throw some out this year, because I certainly don’t need three — just one that works properly and insures that the food I serve isn’t undercooked, raw, or disgusting.

Kitchen gadgets are probably a waste of money — the avocado saver I have that is shaped like an avocado and meant to house a single uneaten half is used primarily as a butter dish and was an entirely unnecessary purchase — but not all of them are. A meat thermometer eliminates the self-doubt that accompanies say, cooking a steak and testing the doneness of said steak by poking the fleshy part of your palm and then the steak to ascertain its doneness. Get a meat thermometer. Impress guests. Show them that you know your shit.