Market basket: Thermometers are the unsung kitchen hero

Even though we are just getting into the fall season, I know plenty who have begun at least thinking about holiday gifts. If you have aspiring cooks or soon-to-be-on-their-own loved ones, I have the perfect stuffers for stockings or for tucking into other culinary surprises.

Keep thermometers handy around the kitchen.
Keep thermometers handy around the kitchen.

Thermometers are as handy as buttons on a shirt and as necessary in the kitchen as a good knife and saucepan. They are inexpensive and frequently one of those items you don’t think about replacing until you are in a bind.

The word comes from the Greek term for heat and it is simply a tool used to measure temperatures, whether it is in food, cooking ingredients like oil or appliances.

Let’s start with oven. If you’ve ever had an oven that didn’t heat correctly, you know the importance of this. An oven that isn’t calibrated correctly can cause disaster on many levels. Oven thermometers are designed to take the heat as well as the guesswork out of the temperature.

Refrigerator and freezer thermometers are just as vital and you need both to make sure the proper temperature is maintained. Leave them in there and place so you can easily glance and see where the dial is hovering. In the freezer, you want it to be right at zero and in the refrigerator, you want it below 40 degrees.

Candy/oil thermometers are dual purpose and have a clip so it can be attached to the cooking vessel. These should register from 100 to 400 degrees.

Meat thermometers can be instant-read or leave-in and I have both. A dial leave-in is perfect when roasting large meats and is positioned to be seen through the oven window. Instant-read is what I use at the grill. These have thinner probes that leave smaller holes for juices to escape.

You asked for it

Donna Nash of Atlanta writes, “I see a wide variance in prices for cheesecloth and am wondering if the extra cost of some is worth it.”


No it isn’t especially since this fine, lightweight cloth is not reused. It is most commonly used to line a sieve for draining sauces, but is also used to tie up spice and herb bundles to drop in cooking liquid.

Tammy Algood is the author of five cookbooks and can be seen on “Volunteer Gardener” on PBS stations in Tennessee. Follow her at

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Market basket: Thermometers are the unsung kitchen hero