I don’t know how to gauge the temperature of a boneless skinless crispy miso chicken thigh any more than I know how to understand a man’s greatest sorrow or ultimate ambition by looking at him in the eye. It’s a leap of faith and a fanciful application of science, trusting a simple gadget — in this case, the meat thermometer — to understand the invisible. A $22.95 piece of metal can determine the heat of flesh, sight unseen? Well, that makes one believe in god’s infinite mystery, don’t it?
I’ve heard of thermometers, sure. I guess I had heard of meat thermometers, too, but I had never heard about them enough to own one. Until an incident in which I had left the interior machinations of a piece of meat to providence and bit into a well-marinated but underdone ration of slick, stringy chicken. That was on me. I take too many chances in the kitchen. I decided to purchase the OXO Good Grips Chef's Precision Digital Instant Read Thermometer, which is the ultimate collabo between divine creator, Father Time, the inner child of each and every commenter on recipes in the New York Times cooking app, and the 17th-century Italian named Santorio Santorio, who is generally credited with inventing the first thermometer. Not to sound like a simp for Big Appliance, but this thing seems like magic, even if it’s really just the minor miracle of heat conduction that makes it work.
What I like about this pokey little stick is that it honors its ancestors by not being too complicated or highfalutin. Some meat thermometers these days are getting out of hand. I don’t need wirelessness or a little icon of a cow that moos when it’s ready — I’m a simple girl who came up serving friends and family slightly raw chicken around a crowded table, not a tech exec.
My new thermometer’s metal pin can probe a piece of meat and reveal on its digital monitor the correct time to take that chicken out of its cast-iron resting place. It can tell me if the internal temperature of my bird is safely at 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, if I’m making a fresh ham steak, if the temp is at a solid 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, if I’m making ground beef (just in a bowl, with no toppings or seasonings), if it’s at a cool 150 degrees Fahrenheit. My days of heightened Salmonella risk are over, at least from home-cooked meat. I’m still eating raw eggs because I’m trying to become a hard body, but whatever.
Where the god of chicken abandons us, this meat thermometer prevails.