While I’m in a kitchen kind of mood, I would like to recommend one more critical piece of kitchen equipment for this Christmas season.

Though I like cooking and baking, my repertoire of kitchen creations is rather limited. More often than not I will be grilling something or baking rolls. And before I discovered the wonders of the Thermapen instant read thermometer, my burgers would be burnt, my chicken pink, and my rolls fallen. All was not good. But the Thermapen has rescued me from all that.Thermapen

This gadget is a slick piece of design which can measure the internal temperature of meat, breads, and even, because we’ve tried, swimming pools. It is accurate and very, very fast. Within seconds, you can have an accurate read on your food’s internal temperature and know whether to shove it back in the oven or get it off the grill.

The usefulness of this thermometer is pretty obvious when it comes to meats. The ability to measure the internal temperature of a piece of chicken quickly on a hot grill keeps me from over and under cooking chicken, which I did frequently before. An undercooked turkey can be a frustration on Thanksgiving or Christmas, as some may have recently discovered.

But the real value of the Thermapen for me has been in baking. Breads are not necessarily done when the outside is brown. The rapidity of browning varies based upon the moisture content of the bread and the proximity of the heating elements. Bread is only done when its internal temperature is in the 180-210°F range, depending upon the bread. The ability to test this quickly without losing oven heat is so, so helpful to impatient types like me. A tray of rolls whose center temperature is only 160°F may look fine in the oven. But when pulled out and allowed to cool, the center will sag and underneath the beautiful brown crust will be a gooey mess of undercooked dough. Ugh.

The Thermapen is pricey. It can be purchased from the manufacturer’s web site for $89.00. I suppose one would want to rescue a whole lot of rolls for that price. And I have. We’ve used ours for a few years now and should this one break, which it shouldn’t, I’d buy a replacement without hesitation.

So would, apparently, a host of reviewers more celebrated than I, including, according to the Thermapen web site, Alton Brown. But, hey, why trust anecdotal preferences when you can turn to the guys over at Cooking for Engineers dot com (yes, that is a real site) to run a series of tests on it? The Thermapen won the day there, and has persuaded me here. Perhaps there are less expensive options out there, but I can’t see trusting my rolls to another.