The Best $10 I Spent on My Kitchen

I recently visited a friend in D.C. and couldn’t stop marveling at the size of her kitchen. She laughed as my jaw dropped, but there was just So. Much. Space. Four of us could fit in there at once! We made pizzas! Since my total counter space equals the size of two cutting boards, I’ve had to pare down what lives in my kitchen. But there’s one tool I’ll never part with…

My meat thermometer is the unsung hero in my home.

When I started cooking chicken and meat on my own, I would hover over the stovetop and poke and prod with trepidation. Grilled chicken would end up the consistency of cardboard, and steak was to be gnawed at, not chewed.

But then I took an evening cooking class, and the instructor had a big takeaway for us. “The one thing you actually need in your kitchen is a meat thermometer. If you remember anything from tonight, let it be that,” said chef John.

If you eat meat, cooking is infinitely easier with a thermometer. It’s tiny and relatively inexpensive (I’ve read many praises of this $99 option, but the one I bought from Target works just fine!). It erases the need to guess when your meal is done, and since you don’t need to nervously cut into the center of the meat, all the juicy flavors are preserved. I’m a more adventurous cook now that I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’m under- or over-cooking my food. A thermometer is foolproof, and your meal will taste great, every time. What more could a home cook want?

If it’s helpful, here are the temperature guidelines I follow, per chef John’s advice…

Red meat — Rare: 115F; Medium-rare: 130-135F; Medium: 140F

Pork — Medium: 145F; Well done: 160F

Chicken breasts — 165F

Thoughts? What’s your desert island kitchen tool?

P.S. 10 ingredients to always have on hand and what to make for dinner when you’re pressed for time.

(Top photo by Gaby Dakin.)