Gadget Must: Food Thermometer

Don’t have a thermometer for food?  You are DEFINITELY missing out – here are a few reasons why you should get a food thermometer.

Why buy a food thermometer?

  1. Jamming!  Making jam is so much fun and it’s even more fun with the help of a thermometer.  While I love surprises, jam isn’t exactly supposed to be a runny mess or hard as a brick.  Temperature does matter with jam and even though I can “see” when a jam is finished, the thermometer has proven me wrong on more than one occasion.
  2. Farenheight or Celcius?  Doesn’t matter, just flip the switch.  I like to make not only jams, but syrups, confits, dulche de leche and more – the recipes aren’t always from American sites.  With the one little click, my thermometer has gone metric.  Be sure yours has the same feature before you buy.
  3. Check your oven temperature!  We couldn’t figure out why nothing was cooking until we bought an oven safe thermometer – BINGO!  Our oven was lying to us!  So instead of getting a new oven, we keep the oven safe thermometer in the oven and rely on it for an accurate temperature reading.  An accurate temperature is a must for baked goods.
  4. Tricky to cook meat.  Since we don’t buy factory farmed meat, our chickens don’t come symmetrical and our turkeys don’t come with a pop out timer.  After drying out many a bird trying to cut into it and see if it’s done, I now use a thermometer.  I also use it when I think my husband is undercooking meat:)  There is no arguing with the thermometer!  Check out this convenient chart for done temperatures or indicators.
Category Food Temperature (°F)  Rest Time 
Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb 160 None
Turkey, Chicken 165 None
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb Steaks, roasts, chops 145 3 minutes
Poultry Chicken & Turkey, whole 165 None
Poultry breasts, roasts 165 None
Poultry thighs, legs, wings 165 None
Duck & Goose 165 None
Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) 165 None
Pork and Ham Fresh pork 145 3 minutes
Fresh ham (raw) 145 3 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat) 140 None
Eggs & Egg Dishes Eggs Cook until yolk and white are firm None
Egg dishes 160 None
Leftovers & Casseroles Leftovers 165 None
Casseroles 165 None
Seafood Fin Fish 145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork. None
Shrimp, lobster, and crabs Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque. None
Clams, oysters, and mussels Cook until shells open during cooking. None
Scallops Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm. None

So now that you’re going to get a food thermometer, which one should you get?  There is a really great guide to food thermometers that can help.  We have two in our house, a digital instant read and a dial oven safe.  You can probably find one that fits all of your needs, we only have two because our oven’s temperature gage does not match the actual temperature.

Thermometer TIP: You can also check the temperature of your refrigerator.  We found out that our 20 year old beast of a fridge actually does not get as cold as it’s supposed to.  This is why our well planned and seemingly well executed attempts to work with pastry dough failed!  While it’s cold enough for most stuff, delicate and sensitive items can easily ruin.

Low Sugar Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

There’s nothing I enjoy more than learning how to make my own something, and then triumphantly claiming “I’ll never buy that again!”  Once you make your own jam or preserves you will never spend another penny on store bought.  Not only that, you can buy local and eat seasonally without eating only what’s in season.  These strawberries are in pretty bad condition – we bought them at closing time from a farmer’s market for almost nothing.

Warning: This recipe uses 1/2 the sugar of most recipes and might not set depending on the ripeness of the strawberries.  If it doesn’t set, no problem, the thickness of the rhubarb still makes it thick enough to spread.  I do not believe in using sugar substitutes!

Keeping the rhubarb smaller helps equalize the cooking time of the quick cooking strawberry versus the slow going rhubarb.

Low Sugar Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Ingredients:

1 lb Strawberries, Hulled & Halved

1 lb Rhubarb, Cut into 2″ pieces

1 lb Sugar (Double the sugar for a more traditional jam)

1tsp Pectin (Can omit if using very under ripe strawberries)

2 tsp Lemon Juice

1 Tbsp Butter

Instructions:

Start cooking your rhubarb over medium heat in the same pot you will use to make the jam until it softens just a little.  Add the strawberries, pectin, lemon juice and butter then stir.  Keep on medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Switch to a low heat boil.  Stir occasionally and skim off any foam.  Using a thermometer (every home canner needs one) check your jam and turn off the heat when it reaches 222 degrees Fahrenheit (or 105 Celcius).  Using pre-sterilized jars, pour the jam into the jars.  Close the jars and turn upside down to cool.

Tips on Jam Making: Copper pots rule!  I know they’re expensive, but investing in one copper pot can give you great cooking results.  When I switched from regular pots to copper pots, I noticed a marked decrease in unintentional burned food.  Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems like jam making is easier in the copper pot because the heat is more steady.

Tips on Jars: Use a funnel to pour into jars.  If you’re reusing jars, check and make sure there are absolutely no signs of wear and tear in the lids whatsoever.  In fact, I recommend purchasing new lids often – you can get them separate from the jars.

Tips on Pasteurization: This jam is NOT pasteurized – it must be used in about a month or two if refrigerated and should be frozen if you don’t think you will use it.  If you want to pasteurize it, do it.  Maybe when I’m a mommy I’ll pasteurize, but for right now I’m happy not pasteurizing.

Tips on What to do with Jam: If you’re like me, you have a glut of jam.  Aside from giving it away, here is one cute thing we did with ours.  We made Spelt Strawberry Rhubarb Jam Cookies.

Notes: While not necessarily inspired by this recipe, I did get the idea of adding butter in jam from this All Recipes Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.  I was happy with the results.