Cooking Tips
Remember Three Words For Accurate Temperature Readings: Swirl, Stir, Drag
Small but effective moves to use next time you temp.
03-04-2021
Mari Levine

Accuracy is paramount in cooking, and two of the best examples of this are deep frying and making caramel. It takes only a few extra degrees to turn a glossy caramel sauce into a tooth-cracking mouth trap. And if your frying oil is too hot or not hot enough, you could end up with burnt or greasy food.

But there’s some technique involved with temping caramel and oil. In both cases, there are hot spots to consider. And if you’re taking the temperature of a relatively small volume of liquid, as is often the case with caramel, your thermometer’s probe might register the temperature of the sides or bottom of the saucepan instead of the caramel.

The next time you have to temp a Dutch oven of oil or a saucepan of caramel, keep these three words in mind: swirl, tilt, and drag. These small but effective moves will help you get the most accurate reading.

When Taking the Temperature of Oil

  • Gently stir oil before taking its temperature. This evens out hot spots and is especially useful if you’re using a clip-on probe thermometer, which is affixed to the side of the pot.
  • Drag your thermometer back and forth in the oil for a few seconds before taking a reading. This is another way to ensure that you’re getting the temperature of more than just one spot.

When Taking the Temperature of Caramel

  • Swirl caramel around the pan before taking its temperature. This averages out the hot and cool spots so that you know the temperature of the entire batch, not just one section of it.
  • Tilt the pan before taking a reading. This pools the liquid together and makes it deep enough so that your thermometer’s probe takes the temperature of the caramel—not the sides or bottom of the pan. If you’re using a clip-on probe thermometer, tilt the pan in the direction of the probe.
  • Drag your thermometer back and forth in the caramel for a few seconds before taking a reading. This is another way to ensure that you’re not taking the temperature of just one specific spot.

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