So I'm packing for a trip to Colorado, where I'll be visiting (and cooking) for family members and guess what I'm putting in my luggage? The photo to the right should help you with this head scratcher...
Yes, that's right.
I'm packing an oven thermometer!
More on this below...
But first I want to raise a virtual champagne glass to my fellow mystery writing cook Elizabeth S. Craig. Writer's Digest has just named Elizabeth's Mystery Writing is Murder blog as one of the Top 101 Websites for Writers in 2010! Congratulations, Elizabeth! And now...
My Colorado realtives are wonderful people. The mom of the family has a demanding full-time job and the dad runs his own business. Without a lot of time to cook, they rely heavily on their gas grill, stovetop, and microwave.
For some time now, their oven has been less than reliable. My dinner menu for them takes this into account. I'm cooking up Italian-fried shrimp as the main dish with two dipping sauces on the side and a mixed green salad with gorgonzola dressing. The problem? I have to bake a birthday cake, too, and as much as I love Colorado cowboys, there is no way I'm attempting to bake a double-chocolate layer cake over an open fire.
Frankly, their oven shares the same problem as many older ovens out there. The heating element works just fine, but the temperature gauge has gone haywire. Consequently, the digital read-out on their stovetop may *claim* the oven is 350 degrees F, but when I put an independent thermometer inside, it reads 280.
This crazy variance in temperature will wreack havoc with cooking times on everything from my spicy, succulent Puerto Rican-style roasted pork shoulder (aka Pernil) to my Mocha-Dipped Rum Macaroons. BTW - if you missed those previous recipe posts, just click on the photos below and a PDF recipe will appear for you to print out, save, or share...
Click the photo to get a printable version of Cleo Coyle's recipe for Puerto Rican-style Roasted Pork Shoulder (aka "Pernil")
Click the photo to get a printable version of Cleo Coyle's recipe for Mocha-Dipped Rum Macaroons
To be totally honest, my own ten-year-old oven is not as accurate as I'd like. The main problem I have (and your oven may have it, too) is pre-heating times. They take quite a bit longer than what my trickster oven claims. For higher temperatures especially, I must pre-heat my oven up to 30 extra minutes to get the *real* oven temperature to match the temperature on the stovetop display.
A sad but true fact of life, folks. (Or maybe it's just the mystery writer in me.) Even your oven needs a background check! So the next time you're out shopping, pick up an oven thermometer. You don't need anything fancy or costly. I bought mine for a mere 5 dollars.
C'mon. Be brave. Don't you think it's time you found out whether your oven is a trustworthy appliance--or has been lying to you for years?