Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oven Thermometer: Your New Best Friend

For those of you who know Chris and I, you probably know we have historically been cursed by the fowl. That is, every time we've ever tried to cook a bird, be it chicken, turkey, or ostrich (ok, we haven't tried ostrich), our best attempts have been in vain. Every time we cooked a bird, it was raw inside and had to cook much much longer than the recipe recommended. Like, an hour and a half longer. For a 4 lb chicken, it really is not supposed to take more than an hour total, but we would reach ridiculous times of 2.5 hours and above. And at that length of time, the skin was beginning to burn so we'd end up having to stick it in a pot with a top, and then you lose the gorgeous brown skin.

Needless to say, we were fowl impaired.

But this week, we were finally successful! And why, you ask? Because of the glory of the oven thermometer. Hearing our bird woes, Chris' mom suggested we get an oven thermometer to see how accurate our oven really is. Turns out, not very. For example, the recipe we used stated to pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees and put it in for 20 min (breast side down) before flipping the bird over, basting, and turning down to 325. However, we found out thanks to our handy little thermometer, that when the oven *beeps* saying "I'm hot enough! I'm at 500!", it's actually a big, fat, stainless-steel liar. This time when we were ready to put the turkey in, we looked at the thermometer and it said 425. That's right, 425, and the oven claimed it was at 500. Granted, we tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, waiting a couple more minutes. It slowly climbed it's way up to 450, finally halting there. We ended up having to turn the oven up to 550 to get it to keep heating up. We continued this game of toying with the temperature on the oven to get it to what it actually needed to be inside throughout the cooking process. 350 when we wanted 325, 550, when we wanted 500. Regardless, thanks to our thermometer, we finally successfully cooked a bird, and it was moist and delicious, just like the recipe said it should be.

So, moral of the story, don't trust your oven. It may be a big fat liar.


  1. Huh! Now I wonder if our oven lies...

  2. What kind of thermometer did you get? I am about to purchase one, but unfortunately I don't have a window on my oven, so I have to get the kind that sits OUTSIDE the oven, with a wire going into the oven. That said, they ALSO make meat thermometers that are the same way. Ideally, I'd love to get a thermometer where I could EITHER just take the temp of the oven, OR plug in the meat thermometer part of it, so that I get two uses with one purchase. You know what I mean?

  3. Hi Ellie,

    We got just a regular hanging thermometer that you read through the glass in the door, which would not work for you unfortunately.

    I know Alton Brown swears by digital thermometers like this one:

    But I'm not sure that it would work to measure the temperature of the oven, since it's made to measure the temperature of the food.

    Good luck!

  4. oh what a lifesaver an oven thermometer can be! we have had some might misbehavin ovens over the years, including one that would shoot up 50 degrees on a whim. the thermometer couldn't save that one. also i love that you just referenced alton brown. i love that man :)