From Season 12: A Slow and Easy Thanksgiving
Fact: Ovens are inaccurate. Since all ovens cycle on and off to maintain temperature, even the best models will periodically deviate from the desired target by at least a few degrees throughout cooking. On top of this, we’ve found that ovens set to the same temperature can vary by as much as 90 degrees. We recommend recalibrating your oven regularly, but in the meantime a reliable oven thermometer will tell you what’s really going on.
Oven thermometers come in two styles: bulb and dial-face. We prefer dial-face brands, as we’ve found that the tinted alcohol used in bulb thermometers can get stuck, compromising accuracy. In addition to giving accurate temperature readings, an oven thermometer should be easy to read and easy to mount securely and safely out of the way. It should also be durable. (Even if an oven thermometer only costs a few bucks, you shouldn’t have to keep replacing it.) Our most recent favorite was a dial-face model that uses a bimetal coil (the different metals in the coils expand and contract at different rates when heated or cooled, moving the dial on the thermometer face). It worked fine until the numbers on the thermometer face disappeared, burned off by the heat.
Not convinced that it wasn’t our own fault for accidentally leaving it in the oven during a cleaning cycle, we bought duplicates of our favorite, the CDN Multi-Mount Oven Thermometer, and rounded up four other dial-face brands to see what each could do over the long and short haul. We used a thermocouple to read high and low oven temperatures and compared its readouts with those given by each thermometer. (Thermocouples are precise instant-read instruments used in scientific and industrial processes.) We also maneuvered pans and baking dishes in and out of the oven to gauge whether a thermometer stayed put and out of the way. Finally, we left a thermometer in every oven in the test kitchen and asked test cooks to provide feedback over six months of daily use.
Sure enough, despite our being careful not to leave thermometers in place during cleaning cycles, the numbers on our old favorite started to fade again. Other models developed fogged or discolored faces, were difficult to place in the oven or maneuver around with pans, and were off by as much as 10 degrees.
In the end, we were most impressed by the winner's easy-to-read numbers despite its small face. It can hang or stand freely on oven racks. It’s accurate, and after months of testing, its face remained clear, its numbers visible and readable.
Victorinox (formerly Victorinox Forschner) 6-inch Straight Boning Knife: Flexible
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
|★ ★ ★||★ ★ ★||$19.95|
Wüsthof Classic Boning Knife
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasnt sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|★ ★||★ ★ ★||$99.95|
|Recommended with Reservations|
Mundial Boning Knife: Flexible
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
|★ ★||★ ★||$19.95|
Shun Gokujo Filet Knife
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
MAC Boning KnifeChef Series
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
Messermeister San Moritz Elite Flexible Boning Knife
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.