Ask an Engineer: Ways to Use Your Thermocouple Thermometer Beyond Steak and Chicken
Words Amalia Safran
When it comes to cooking meat, temperature is key–it’s how you avoid risking getting sick on one end and eating an overdone, tough steak on the other. But other recipes and techniques require the same level of temperature precision to yield the best results. We sat down with Matt, the OXO Engineer behind all thermometers, including our new Thermocouple Oven Thermometer (his personal favorite), to find out what else needs temperature precision and why it’s so important.
Matt explains that phase transitions in cooking (meaning when heat is added and when change in the food occurs — think egg yolks changing from runny to set) can benefit from temperature monitoring to accurately determine where the food is in the transition process and when it’s complete.
Bread recipes can take a long time – some of the loaves Matt makes take up to 3 days, and as he said, “It would really be a bummer if you messed a recipe up after spending so much time on it.” That’s why Matt always uses his thermocouple throughout the process – from checking water temperatures for pitching yeast, to the final mixing temperature before fermentation, and monitoring the internal temperature during baking – tracking the exact temperature helps to control the bread-making process and yield the best results. Without knowing the precise temperature, the loaf could be dry or not fully baked through.
Homemade Mozzarella Cheese
Making mozzarella cheese from scratch isn’t as daunting as it sounds, but there are a few points during the process while the whole milk warms up that need accurate, instant temperature reads. As the whole milk starts to form curds, it needs to stay within a precise temperature range in order to get the right consistency at the end. What consistency is that you ask? Fresh mozzarella cheese should be soft with a slightly creamy inside when you slice it.
Beer and Wine Tasting
Beer and wine connoisseurs know that certain varieties have a specific serving temperature. Matt says that different flavors can come out at different temperatures – even just a few degrees makes a difference – and this changes how you taste the drink. For example, a lighter, hoppier beer like a Pale Ale is best enjoyed at a lower temperature than a stout, which has more nuanced malt flavors at elevated temperatures. He likes using this Homebrewers Association’s key as his go-to temperature resource.
Tempering chocolate, whether using the double boiler method or microwave, can be finicky – there’s a very small range that you’re aiming for – so you’ll want to know what temperature the chocolate is at quickly to prevent it from burning. And if you’ve ever tempered chocolate before, the smell and texture of burnt chocolate is impossible to come back from and who wants to ruin chocolate if you’ve got big plans (truffles, anyone?).
Fish and Seafood
Fish and seafood are even more sensitive to heat than meat is; they lose moisture quicker than red meat – which means they’ll dry up in a matter of seconds in the oven, grill or stovetop. To guarantee flavorful, tender pieces of fish or seafood, you need a precise temperature read, especially since it’s difficult to tell if you’re cooking white fish or seafood like halibut, cod or scallops.