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How To Calibrate An Instant Read Thermometer


Taylor Compact Waterproof Digital Thermometer


New From: $10.49 USD In Stock

What good is a thermometer that doesn’t give you the correct reading?

01_NotCalibrated

This thermometer is off. No way is it almost freezing in my kitchen!

You need to calibrate, son!

When I worked on the grill of a busy restaurant, I had to stop (at least twice a shift) to recalibrate my thermometer. When a thermometer is in constant use, it starts to read off by one or two degrees Celsius (or five to ten Fahrenheit.)

Plus, it was an excuse to down a glass of iced water. Working on a grill is hot work.

Why calibrate?

Failing to re-calibrate is like not using a thermometer. I learned this one time when cooking a pork tenderloin roast. I’d learned my lesson. The temperature on the thermometer says it’s 125°F and the carryover cooking took it to 140°F, a perfect medium for the pork roast.

When I cut into the roast to serve it, it was raw. I felt like a donkey. (A little Gordon Ramsey for you there.)

Sure, the temperature read 125°F, but my thermometer was off by ten degrees. I should have calibrated it first.

How do I calibrate my thermometer?

Today I am going to show you how you can quickly calibrate your thermometer. All you need is a good thermometer, a glass, ice, and water. It will take less than a minute.

Yesterday I wrote about the top 6 thermometers I used in my career. I chose the most common thermometer out there for demonstration:


Taylor Classic Instant Read Pocket Thermometer (Kitchen)


List Price: $9.99 USD
New From: $2.73 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Here are the steps to take when you are calibrating a thermometer:

02_FindNut

Find the wrench that conveniently comes with this thermometer. It is on the side. If you are using a digital thermometer, disregard this step.

03_PutIn

Slide the stem through the hole…

04_UseWrenchMakeSureNutSecure

Place the hex nut in the wrench of the holder. Make sure it is secure.

05_HalfGlassIce

Fill a glass half-full with ice.

06_FillWater

Fill it with cold water.

07_RestThermFor6Seconds

Stick your stem into the glass. Your holder makes a convenient handle for you to hold over the water. Wait for six seconds so the needle stops. It should be at 0°C (or 32°F). If not, go on to the next step.

08_TurnKnobInDirectionYouNeed

Grab the top and move it like a dial while holding the wrench. You want to move it to 0°C (or 32°F).

09_TurnBelowPointYouWant

I like to move it slightly past where I need to, so I can correct it to be sure it is right where it needs to be.

10_TurnTo0C-Or32F

Here is the finished calibration. 0°C (32°F).

That’s how you calibrate your thermometer. A quick note: Some thermometers out there do not allow you to calibrate them. Throw them away and buy a nice one from this list:


Taylor Compact Waterproof Digital Thermometer (Kitchen)


List Price: $14.99 USD
New From: $10.49 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Taylor Classic Instant Read Pocket Thermometer (Kitchen)


List Price: $9.99 USD
New From: $2.73 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

CDN DT450X ProAccurate Quick-Read Waterproof Pocket Thermometer (Kitchen)


List Price: $16.00 USD
New From: $12.35 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Taylor 17002 Springfield Instant Read Digital Thermometer (Kitchen)


New From: $8.00 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Norpro 5979 Instant Read Thermometer (Kitchen)


New From: $6.99 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Zyliss Classic Meat Thermometer (Kitchen)


New From: $9.95 USD In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

Your turn

When was the last time you calibrated your thermometer? Let me know in the comments.

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Cell Phones In The Kitchen? Why Not? Why Yes!

I know, I know! Chefs hate it when their staff is on the line with their phones. “If only we could get them to pay as much attention to the food as the phone.” Today we are going to look at some reasons why it’s a good idea to let your staff use their phones.

chef, who is this?

“They Use Their Phones So Much!”

I completely get the frustration the older guard have with the cooks today. I grew up without the constant barrage of social media and texting, but I was there for the dawn of that age.

It wasn’t until I found myself in my office giving a corrective action form to a younger employee that I realized that the old system of motivation did not work. The kid could not peel his eyes off of his iPhone for the entire time I was writing him up.

I did what any chef would do. I asked him if he actually had any respect. He rolled his eyes, and sighed. He didn’t get it.

Or was I missing out on something?

I had a problem getting through to the new generation because I tried to fit them into the same mold that I was taught in. The fear that the chef might be angry, or that he wouldn’t teach me. The fear that I would lose my job.

What if we tried to use those phones constructively in the kitchen and engage our staff in the chef’s vision? Isn’t that what the chef is responsible for?

Ways to Encourage Your Staff to Use Their Cell phones to Further Your Vision:

Calling – This one is so basic, but in larger operations a total necessity. For example, I once had a live barbecue station set up on a deck where the guests could order specialty items off of a special menu while the rest of the table could order off the regular menu on the outside. Instead of setting up a temporary MICROS machine just for a pickup item, the cook at the barbecue could call to the chef de partie at the main kitchen to say their item was on pickup and to start the other, faster plating.

Cameras – So many applications for this. Have a problem with the close a cook did the night before? Snap a picture before it is fixed. How about a new plating for a dish? Snap. How about a quick problem to relate to maintenance about the freezer banding? All taken care of by a quick snap. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

Facebook – Businesses just don’t know where to go with Facebook. They are scared that any post will impact their business in a bad light. In most cases, their cautiousness really hurts their kitchen. The problem really is that without engaging in the game, how will you know how to fix the damage? In any case, if your cooks are snapping pictures and sharing them with their friends on Facebook, that’s free advertising for you. Plus, it let’s the cooks feel like they are contributing to the energy of the restaurant they are working in.

Twitter – A cook can ask a question on twitter and get feedback in real time. They can also post pictures of the daily specials, or of items on the regular menu. All of this comes at no cost to you. Make sure you are inspiring these up and coming chefs, and the social media will take care of the rest.

Instagram – Chefs, take heed! Your good cooks are already on Instagram, and they are proudly posting their plates. Why? It’s all about being proud of what you are doing. The feedback they get is live, and it’s an ego boost. You will get instant feedback from their followers on how well things are doing, and create a culture where your cooks are proud to be working where they are.

Texting – This is basic. Need something checked? How about a list of prep? How about directing someone how to do something when you are in a situation away from them? Most people are heads down on their phones, so this is one of the best ways to get their attention.

Dropbox and Evernote – These two are my favorite. Need to share the schedule? Invite your staff to a Dropbox folder where they have access to the current schedule. Share recipes from Evernote folders, and they can be search-able through keywords. Plating pictures can be there, everything a cook would need to execute your vision.

Alarms – This last one is my favorite. The ability to set multiple alarms is awesome. Need the stock to come off at a certain time? How about the cookies in the oven, or the sponge cake? Does the pork belly have multiple, time-sensitive steps? Alarms to the rescue.

90% of your kitchen staff use smart phones that are capable of delivering your information to them.

A chef’s job is to clearly indicate their vision and guide the staff to executing that vision. With all the tools at your cooks disposal with their smart phones, why not let them use them to your advantage?

Now It’s Your Turn

So, what do you think of letting your staff use their cell phones in the kitchen? Let me know in the comments!

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printers in heap

Reader Survey So Far

It’s been a week since I have put up the reader’s survey, and so far I have gotten over 40 responses. I’m blown away by the feedback. It’s now clear what professional chefs are looking for when they search the Internet.

The First Impression From The Survey

I will be straight with you; I hate printers. That’s right. Printers. Stay with me, I swear the point is coming.

Demonic machines that spit out reams of paper at your demand. CTRL+P! How many copies? Four? TEN?

What do you mean you lost the last one?  How long again until I have to reprint them?

Printers have an evil side to them. They know that in the current set up of most kitchens if the chef hands out printed recipes, it will make the pages self-destruct so you will be forced to use it again.

No matter how many times I printed off a recipe for a cook, it would magically disappear before the next time that cook had to do the task. That nasty printer always wins.

The Traditional Culinary Kitchen Workflow

The highest scoring result from the survey is the desire to have technology in the kitchen to make our lives easier as a chef. Let’s face it – at this level there isn’t much cooking left, it’s almost always:

  1. Creating dishes
  2. Creating recipes for those dishes
  3. Costing those recipes
  4. Creating prep manual and matrix
  5. Creating station lists
  6. Making a plating manual
  7. The worst part of all – PRINTING ALL OF THE ABOVE
  8. Demonstrating the dishes to the team
  9. Follow up of set standards
  10. REPLACING LOST RECIPES

What if it doesn’t have to be that way?

Sure, you could institute a rule that “no one is allowed to remove the recipe from the binder.” You could cajole, threaten, and even lose what’s left of your hair running around with the recipes. Or, delegate the task to a subordinate – but could their skills could be used in a better way?

What if we put the onus onto the cook? The Number Two concern with the survey was the use of phones in the kitchen. Interesting though, that over 50% of respondents said they used an iPhone, and 40% used an Android. Think on this for a second;

90% of your kitchen staff use smart phones that are capable of delivering your information to them.

A common complaint is that the staff is too busy using their phones in the kitchen. Chefs, it’s time to embrace this technology. Let them use their phones, and deliver the information to them there:

  • Prep lists
  • Prep matrix
  • Recipes
  • Plating manuals
  • Task lists
  • Timers
  • Instructions on how to do something

Where We Go From Here

Let’s look at the different systems that we can use for distributing our information to our team. Over the next while we will look at:

  • Creating a standard template for our information
  • Software to use for standards implementation
  • Setting up a system for sharing
  • Distributing the content to your team
  • Follow up

Now It’s Your Turn

I am liking how this survey is turning out. I think that I am on the right track. If you haven’t already, give me some feedback. Take the survey. I’ll keep you posted.

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Last Wednesday I talked about the petition that Jamie Oliver is pushing to get the G20 governments to commit to teaching our children about food. I believe that it will affect our trade, so go and sign the petition.

As of this writing, we are sitting at 1.25 million signatures. That’s amazing, so let’s do what we can to give it that final push to 1.5 million!

In the meantime, here is a cool video and song Jamie Oliver made about this campaign. Love him or hate him, stand behind him, because I believe what he is fighting for.

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Teaching Our Kids to Cook Will Help Them Appreciate Food

Jamie Oliver is presenting a petition to create a movement for all G20 countries to make it compulsory for schools to teach practical food education in the classrooms.

I believe that we need to get behind this as chefs, or our career down the line will be relegated to cater to convenience products. Let me explain.

Where Did I Get My Inspiration to Cook?

I used to watch the Urban Peasant, Yan Can Cook, Julia Child, and others from the age of 6 on. We didn’t have cable in those days, so the choices were limited on what to watch.

In seventh grade I had a home economics class that taught us how to cook at home. I won’t say that I remember a lot from the class, (except I almost failed because I stole some cheese from another student because I thought the recipe didn’t have near enough to be a real pizza.)

Later there was the Food Network Channel that helped inspire me to open my eyes to new cuisines while I was going to cooking school.

The point is that someone had to introduce me to the culinary world. All that information and learning drove me to my love of cooking.

Today There Are Few Cooking Classes, and the Food Network is More About Entertainment

Kids are not enrolling in culinary schools for the right reason. Instead of going to learn about how to make sushi or cook a Thai dish, the perception is that a training to be a chef will turn you into a superstar sensation.

I have watched apprentices and stagiaires quit when the reality of the kitchen hits them hard in the face. The long hours, missed holidays, working weekends, barely eating and the sacrifice in relationships are just too much to endure.

To get past all that the culinary trade demands of you requires you to be in touch with one thing. The Love of Food and the Trade.

Why Signing the Petition Will Help You Keep Your Chef Job in the Future

I’m all for combating childhood obesity, but go sign the petition for our culinary profession. Here’s 7 reasons why:

  1. Eager culinary students want to cook dishes and techniques are cool to do.
  2. On those long 15 hour days with next to no break, the passionate ones forget about the time and do what it takes to get it done. Those there for something to do will be begging to go home after a hard 4 hour shift.
  3. Having a legion of culinary students eager to learn guarantee that there will be a need for YOU to guide them.
  4. Teaching those students or apprentices will keep you fresh; the best way to learn is by teaching.
  5. Children who grow up experiencing food will be more likely to appreciate what you are offering when they are adults.
  6. People who appreciate food will pay more for your restaurant’s dish, knowing the care that went into the food.
  7. The more food education the more revenue as people turn from processed food to better food choices. Yours!

Please go and sign the petition. Then share the petition with your social networks.

On the petition page you will see the sharing tags. Let’s get the word out there and share the crap out of this petition.

 

Question of the Day

What inspired you to choose the culinary career? Was it a class in school, a television program? Let me know in the comments.

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Please Take My 2015 Reader Survey

Help Me Create Content That Serves What You Need

Now that I am back in the driver seat, I wanted to make sure that I was doing the best that I possibly can to meet your needs. To do that, I need to know more about you. So, I created this quick, ten question survey.

_Reader_Survey

Would you please take a few minutes and complete this survey? By doing so, you will be helping yourself. Why? Because you will help me write and develop things that are interesting and relevant to you and the business that we are in.

Your input is super important to me. The results are totally anonymous, and I can’t tell who said what. Best part? You can be done in about 5 minutes, because I know you need to be out there in that kitchen rallying the troops.

Take Me To The Survey!

Thank you for helping me out!

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Pardon the Mess

picture of bathroom renovations

True, funny story – I recently finished renovating my bathroom. In itself, no big deal, except it took me over three and a half years to complete this renovation.

Today the final tub surround looks like this:

picture of the completed renovation

Looking much better

The reason it took over three and a half years? Micheal Hyatt talks about it in this post here. Truly amazing that I would be on the cusp of finishing the project and receive that awesome post in my mailbox.

So, what’s that got to do with my site?

I told you in my previous post that I would be making a fresh start at this new address. Well, moving can be so much fun. I’ve done an initial migration of all my content over to here.

While I am unpacking my boxes, the site will look like the first renovation picture. It will take some time, but it will look like the second photo.

In short, it’s like the renovations at my house – with one small difference – it won’t take me three and a half years to complete the task.

Things will be broken, links will lead to nowhere. Updating my theme broke the sidebar.

Before I go, can I ask for a small favor from you?

If there is anything that is broken on the site, drop my a line from my contact form, and I will do my best to fix it.

 

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A Fresh Start

Have you ever asked, “Why do we do it that way?”

I started playing the drums at the end of grade 10.

Like almost all drummers at the time, I was taught the match stick grip, and that you had to use your dominant hand to play the hi-hat and your non-dominant hand to play the snare drum.

There’s nothing wrong with that setup, just that you had to cross your arms while you played. Sometimes it interfered with different fills, especially when you were playing and needed to access the right side of the kit quickly.

That’s how I thought it had to be. It’s just the way that it’s always been done.

Then I saw Carter Beauford of Dave Matthews Band play.

He had a style which was called the “open style.” It blew my mind.

Imagine that you could play without crossing your arms, and be able to move all through the kit effortlessly and not have to waste time and energy crossing and uncrossing your arms.

Working in the culinary field is all about making your life simpler

If you’ve ever worked in a busy restaurant on the saute section, you know exactly what I am talking about. No movement wasted. There simply isn’t time.

If you waste your energy on movement, you will mess up the rest of the ticket, and the food will come out late.

The chef will scream at you, and you will be dreaming of your feet in the sand, or worse, every movement will be followed by choice curse words that would surprise the darkest parts of your soul.

It’s time to simplify things.

Instead of blogging/Vlogging under “The Well Done Chef,” I will blog under my real name. This way it will be easier for you to find me.

Over the next while there will be some construction noise. I will figure out how to put all of the contact information in the sidebar with all the various, awesome social sites. That way I will be at your beck and call.

In the meantime, you can always ask me a question you have. Look on the sidebar there, and fill out the form. Who knows? Maybe it will be featured on a weekly Q&A sometime.

Now it’s Your Turn

Have you ever discovered a different way of doing things that made your life so much easier, that made you want to slap your head and go, “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”

Hit me up in the comments with your answer, I’d love to hear you!

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Good morning to everyone, it’s Monday again,  I can’t wait for more reader’s questions.

I want to start out by apologizing for no post on Friday. My host provider (Hostmonster) had a blackout and I wasn’t able to access my site for the whole day.

Lemon Coconut Chicken Salad

Use coconut cream to replace mayonnaise in traditional chicken salad recipe for a delicious alternative.

Keith asks:

I’m looking to make a few “mixing sauces”; one for chicken salad and one for a broccoli salad. The catch is that I can’t have any egg or milk in it.

For all you culinary students out there, this is important. You will see more requests like these popping up as people discover intolerances to food. Keep up with the current trends to stay competitive in our career.

I suggest figuring out what they can eat, and move from there. They want to recreate a mayonnaise-based dressing. Ideas include a dressing made with grainy mustard, avocado, and coconut butter.

In Keith’s case, they like the coconut, but mustard and avocado are not interesting.

Use coconut milk to recreate the mayonnaise for the chicken salad mix. (It’s important to use coconut milk that is natural and free of gums and additives.) When you refrigerate coconut milk the fat rises to the top. Scrape it off and use in place of the mayo in the chicken salad recipe. (Thin it out with the coconut juice left in the can.)

For the broccoli, a dressing made with grainy mustard will work, especially by adding in some crisp bacon for good measure.

Get creative with alternative requests for traditional recipes. You may discover a tastier version than the original recipe.

busy cooking

Speed on a line is important.

JCherry writes:

I am a line cook, and I have been for 18 months, 3 of which I have been on the hot line, and I am trying to decide between staying at my current job or moving to a new place that has offered. Both places have excellent reputations, but one gives me the opportunity to explore more advanced cooking techniques and cross-train in pastry while the other keeps me on the line during busier services and will eventually improve my hand speed.

My question is for the more experienced chefs out there: Is it better to develop and emphasize technique or hand speed?

What a great question. Do you want to be a line cook, banquets, or both?

When I hire someone, I look at their speed and technique. I will put them where their strengths lie.

Figure out what kitchen role you want to fill. If you see yourself on the line for most of your career, then it’s important to build up the line speed. If you want to be in a setting where you will be able to carry out your tasks with less immediate pressure, then developing your skill set is the way to go.

If you are looking to move up later in your career, it’s important to know where your strengths are, and improve on them by challenging yourself.

I worked with a Sous-Chef that could pump out a banquet of sixty by himself. Unfortunately he was like a tornado in the kitchen. You always knew when this Sous-Chef was cooking because of the swath of destruction he laid down.

One night he had to jump onto service to help in a rush. He was on the meat station cooking chicken, steaks, pork chops and lobster. After I returned dish after dish for wrong meat temperatures, he grabbed his olive oil container to find that it had but a drop in it.

Before I could react, that container was flying off the walls, sailing past my nose, and connecting with one of my cook’s heads. He could barely find anything because of the clutter on his station.

On the other extreme, I demonstrated to a line cook how to make guacamole. The preparation is straightforward. Cut avocados in half, remove the pit. Scoop them into a food processor, add salt, sugar, and lime juice. Blend.

Two cases of avocados should take a competent Prep cook thirty minutes to complete. The trick with prep (or banquets) is to complete one step of a task at a time, then move on to the next step.

I went back to check on the line cook to see his progress two hours later. (I hadn’t seen him so I was wondering if he succumbed to the avocados, or if he was goofing off.) He was still on his first case.

The problem was he was preparing the guacamole like a line cook would; take the seed out of an avocado, then scrape it into the bowl of the food processor. Take another avocado, seed out, scrape. When the bowl was finally full, then measure out the salt, sugar, lime juice needed.

Both are opposite examples of people unsuited for their tasks. For you, it’s best to find out where you have the most enjoyment cooking, and focus there.

Freezer Burned Steak Frozen IMG_1025

Thawed, refrozen, thawed, refrozen. Not nice at all.

abefroman asks:

Is this meat good? It was frozen meat (ham and turkey), moved to a cooler that was 32 deg for 48 hours. Is it safe to eat this? Any or refreeze it? If it’s safe to eat and shouldn’t be refrozen how long do I have to eat it?

At 32°F the meat is below the danger zone, so it will be okay to cook and serve. The meat is okay to re-freeze if it has ice crystals.

I did monthly inventory in a hotel where the cooks defrosted meat then refroze them to avoid loss. Sometimes several times. I could tell by looking at the meat that it had gone through the freezing cycle because the muscle would separate from the intramuscular fat.

That meat would fall apart when you cooked it, and taste watered down. I believe that you need to have a plan for your meat so you won’t need to freeze your meat to avoid a loss. That means pulling your proteins in advance and thawing them in the refrigerator slowly instead of in water.

How long meat keeps depends on how many days it was out before freezing. Your nose should be the guide here. You’ll smell if the meat is okay to consume after washing it.

California Strawberries

Picked in their prime. You need to act fast or you will lose them all.

Kaneohegirlinaz writes

I’ve been buying Cali berries for the past couple of weeks, just about every other day.

Here’s the thing: The smell A~MAZ~ING, They look fairly descent when I first purchase them at the green grocer, but the next morning, they majority of them have dark/black blotches on them and turn soft pretty fast.

What gives?

It’s great to get the berries at the peak of their season. Berries picked in their prime don’t last long. I’ve had strawberries go bad the same day they were picked. One time I received Quebec strawberries at 8 AM in the morning. By 3 PM they had a white fuzzy blanket covering the top. It’s frustrating, I know.

The answer is to Macerate them. I wrote how to do that here.

If you have a question for me, drop me a line on my Ask the Chef! Page, or you can follow the links on the sidebar to get to my Social Media contacts. I love hearing from you.

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Introducing the Culinary Toolbox

Kitchen

The Culinary Toolbox will help you find your good kitchen gadgets.

Let me take a second to let you know that I have set up a page called the Culinary Toolbox.

New Culinary Student And A Fresh Student Loan…

Sixteen years ago I started on my journey to get my Red Seal. I started off pestering my way into a culinary program that had a waiting list of a year. I’m sure I tired the Dean with ten or so calls a week.

Armed with a list of over a hundred items, a fresh student loan, I walked into the Campus Bookstore to get my books and tools. Do you remember what it was like when a store had selections of candies right at the counter when your parents went to pay for their items?

I don’t know how, but in the end, over thirteen hundred dollars melted from my fingertips. I bought a flashy new (complete) set of Henckels 4 Star knives, a Victorinox zester (because my friend’s brother told me it was the best. He was a real chef so I took his word as gospel.) Piping bags, star tips, a wedding cake set – if it was on that list, (even for the third semester), it went into my basket.

I didn’t know that two months later that someone would steal my complete toolkit from my work but it was a blessing

How The Theft of My Toolbox Helped Me Choose the Right Tools for Me

Losing my tools was traumatic. I didn’t have a loan to let me buy another set of tools.

Forced  to buy my tools as I could afford them, I relied on borrowed tools for the rest.

Let me give you an example: my knives. During two months of working with them, I discovered that I hated my 4 star knives. They were heavy, expensive, and they hurt my wrist working with them. No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep them sharp.

I had one knife after the theft of my kit – the headmaster’s knife. I learned what a good knife was by the feel of it while working. How did it feel in my hand? What tasks was I to use it for?

Today when you look into my knife bag, you won’t see a complete set, rather, a mixed bag of knives. I bought what worked the best, regardless of the name on the blade.

I learned there is junk out there, even for a professional cooking student. I wish I had someone to guide me through my purchases.

How will the Culinary Toolbox help me?

I would have benefited from someone wiser than me. I had no clue about the pros and the cons of what I was about to buy. I plan to correct that through reviews here.  I’ll give you the honest, industry insider view of the item you want to buy.

If the it has any value, I’ll put it up in the Culinary Toolbox.

Disclosure

I’ll be honest here. Items I review link to my Amazon store. The hope is that one day I’ll cover the cost of running WDC. In the five years I’ve had an Amazon store, I haven’t received payment, because I don’t (or haven’t) cross(ed) the threshold for payments.

That’s not the point though. I just want you to get the item for the best price possible, and Amazon has that hands down.

Now all that’s left to do is shop.

The Culinary Toolbox.

 

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