the north face womens arctic parka How the right thermometer makes me look good in the kitchen

Faithful readers know how much I love to cook. But that has not always been the case. Coming face to face with how much money we were spending on restaurants, diners, take out and drive thrus forced me (kicking and screaming) into the kitchen.

All those years ago, I looked to TV shows, cookbooks and online videos to teach me how to cook and became marginally decent.

I ordered two two serving meals, both of which arrived via FedEx with all of the fresh raw ingredients perfectly portioned, as well as a full color recipe card with step by step instructions and detailed photos of what this meal should look like when fully prepared. Each meal took about 30 minutes to prepare. I surprised myself (and my husband) with some amazing results.

I have to say that having a couple of Home Chef meals each week has made a huge difference in our lives.

My husband and I have eaten out in a restaurant maybe two times in all these months. Our overall food costs have plummeted (fewer trips to the supermarket can do that in a big hurry), and I have discovered that I been overcooking just about everything for years.

I blame that on my lack of culinary skill, but it mostly because I been using an unreliable and inaccurate food thermometer. I am learning how precise temperatures are the secret to becoming an excellent cook.

Here the deal with food thermometers: Most, even those touting to reveal the inside temperature of meat, poultry, fish, etc., are not instant, nor are they accurate. The difference of just a few degrees up or down can ruin an otherwise delicious cut of meat. Or turn a boneless,
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skinless chicken breast into something thick, dry and so tasteless it impossible to choke down. Been there, served that.

While not cheap, a high quality food thermometer runs about the cost of two restaurant meals including tax and tip. For me, such a thermometer was an investment that paid for itself in no time at all.

THERMAPEN MK4. This is the gold standard in food thermometers. You can count on a ThermaWorks Thermapen to give a full and accurate reading in two to three seconds. And the reading can be displayed in F or C. This food thermometer is perfect for simple tasks, complex recipes, baking and candymaking that require incredible accuracy. Find it on the Everyday Cheapskate website. It costs about $100.

THERMOPOP. Also from ThermoWorks, the ThermoPop is a more economical option that gives a full reading in three to four seconds not bad! This is my new pick for best inexpensive food thermometer. It comes in a bunch of fun color options and is available on the Everyday Cheapskate website. It costs about $30.

HOME CHEF. Honestly, it not for everyone. At about $9.95 per serving (meals come with two, four or six servings), this is not something a family would order for every meal every week. But as an alternative to eating out too often, a couple of Home Chef meals a week just might come as a cost saving, stress relieving, welcomed solution for busy families,
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professionals and others.