As Edible editor, I’m sometimes asked what kitchen tool I rely on most. (It’s a question we recently asked of our tweeps, too, who swear by everything from a corkscrew to a vitamix.)
Truth is, I’m not so gearhead, preferring a kitchen that feels more Chez Panisse than Sharper Image. Still, I find a few gadgets indispensably handy. My decades-old KitchenAid is a workhorse for everything from fresh pasta to pavlova. The Sodastream let me quit buying seltzer. And my Microplane grater sees so much use, it spends more time in the drying rack than the drawer.
But the tool I swear by—and suggest most often—is probably the cheapest: my digital thermometer. Of course, in an ideal world, I’d know a perfectly roasted chicken by its loosening thigh joint, a just-done turkey by its clear juices, and a medium rare lamb chop by the sound of its sizzle. But the fact is, I don’t. And I’ve learned the hard way how it feels to buy a beautiful cut of raised-right meat from a hard-working farmer, only to ruin it with 5 extra minutes of heat.
I do better by those animals — and my dinner guests — with the use of a little tool that cost about seven bucks and always speaks the truth. Its precision means no guesswork and better eating (not to mention food safety). There’s no reason not to keep one in your cabinet. If it keeps you from overcooking a single steak, or serving one underdone pork belly, that’s money in the bank—which you can save for that immersion circulator you didn’t get for Christmas. Or in my case, better anchovies.