This past weekend thermometers both failed me and came through for me. My instant-read thermometer met its maker in a melt-down accident when the poor guy was left in a gorgeous cut of tenderloin on the grill—with the grill lid down. Couldn’t stand the heat. But the tenderloin still came out great, even if we pulled it off a couple of times to my brother’s chagrin before we reached medium-rare.

My candy thermometer, however, came through like a champ when we put her to use for the treat of all treats, which is coming up later this week. This is a digital thermometer that clips to the side of your pan and gives you a read on liquids like milk when you’re heating it for yogurt (to just below boiling at 210 degrees, then back down to 115 degrees to add the starter) or oil for frying (360 degrees) or chocolate for candy making (up to 110 degrees, cooled down to 84 degrees, then back up to 89 degrees).

I hope my teacher and classmates from Tante Marie’s Cooking School are reading so I can show off that I still remember my temperatures….

The truth is that you don’t have to have to use a thermometer to get where you’re going in the kitchen—with yogurt (my Sitto used her trusty finger as her thermometer) or frying (throw bits of herb or bread into your oil and when it bubbles vigorously, it’s ready) or even chocolate. But it sure can take the guess-work out of things, and helps prevent trouble when you may not want to risk losing your milk or your oil or your chocolate to a mistake.

You know I got my digital candy and oil thermometer from Williams-Sonoma, and not just because I love Chuck Williams—it’s truly a fabulous, sturdy, reliable product. You can find them, though, all over at places like Amazon and probably down the street at your local culinary shop for $25 or less. Mine has taken a beating, but has stayed by my side for a couple of years now and is still going strong, with a little TLC like hand-washing the metal thermometer piece and never immersing it in water.

There’s nothing like pulling out the thermometer to get everyone riled up that something special is about to happen on the stove. When I pulled mine out the other day, I had no idea just how amazing our treat was going to be. I’m talking stop-you-in-your-tracks WOW. So come back to get in on the rest of it this week (don’t you just love a good kitchen cliff-hanger?).

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