How Digital Thermometer Pans Work

Stove dials can be difficult to gauge accurately.
Stove dials can be difficult to gauge accurately.
©iStockphoto/Petegar

­Most recipes for oven-baked goods prescribe the specific temperature at which you'll be cooking. To whip up a batch of cookies, you'll usually need to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius). Unless you live in a high-altitude region where the air is drier and requires longer cooking times, following the recipe instructions should yield a mouthwatering pan of snickerdoodles.

When it comes to stovetop cooking, however, recipes lack that level of heat precision. Take, for instance, the HowStuffWorks recipe for a delectable vegetable omelet. To get the eggs sizzling, the recipe advises:

"Spray 12-inch skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Beat whole eggs, egg whites, milk, salt and pepper in large bowl until foamy. Pour egg mixture into skillet; cook over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes or until bottom of omelet is set. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; cook 8 minutes or until top of omelet is set. Remove from heat."

But what's the difference between high, low and plain old medium heat on a stove without numeric settings? And for numeric stove dials, is medium heat a five or a six? Just what constitutes high and low? Even when you turn your dial to the appropriate setting, it takes a while for the eye to reach the desired temperature. Depending on whether you cook on a gas or electric stove, it could mean anything from a few seconds to minutes.

­Every experimental cook has experienced the pain of a fickle stove. If you try to cook before a frying pan has gotten hot enough, it will take a long time to cook. But if you allow the stove eye to heat up too long, you'll end up with a burned mess.

The makers of the Digital Thermometer Pan have heard the cries of frustration echoing from kitchens across the world. If you want a perfect pancake, omelet or crepe, fret no more. Just like a digital thermometer can tell you when you're running a fever, this thermometer-pan combination reads the frying pan's temperature to let you know exactly when it's reached the perfect heat for cooking your desired dish.

Mechanics of Digital Thermometer Pans

The digital thermometer pan tells you the exact heat of the pan's surface.
The digital thermometer pan tells you the exact heat of the pan's surface.
©iStockphoto/quidnunc

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These days, there are plenty of kitchen gadgets in product testing and on the market to convert the casual cook into a Wolfgang Puck. There are spoons that can taste your food for you. Fruit bowls that emit UV lights can keep your produce fresh longer. Machines can tenderize and marinate meat while killing 99.5 percent of bacteria at the same time [source: Popular Science].

But after the hustle and bustle of the workday, who has time for all those fancy gizmos? When we get home after spending eight hours in a cube, all that most of us want to do is toss some food on the stove and relax. The Digital Thermometer Pan combines the simplicity of a frying pan and the precision of a digital thermometer to make cooking easier with tastier results.

Essentially, the Digital Thermometer Pan is a frying pan with a thermometer screen on the handle. Digital thermometers usually work through thermostatic sensors. These sensors react to temperature changes by altering their amount of resistance. Resistance refers to the degree that something resists an electric current running through it. A microchip or circuit in the device then converts that change in resistance to a temperature and displays it digitally on the readout screen. That resistance sensor in the Digital Thermometer Pan is located in the center of the cooking gadget, at the primary heat source. That way, you can get an exact readout of the hottest possible temperature on the pan and avoid scalding your food.

A lot of good cooking relies solely on instinct and attentiveness, but the Digital Thermometer Pan can help novice cooks develop those skills without sacrificing meals through trial and error.

Using Digital Thermometer Pans

You can avoid burned pancakes by using the digital thermometer pan.
You can avoid burned pancakes by using the digital thermometer pan.
©iStockphoto/RyersonClark

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­Certain sets of ingredients can survive in only a narrow range of temperatures. Consider, for instance, the pancake. Pancakes are a staple of the modern breakfast, usually accompanied with sunny-side-up eggs and crispy bacon. Perfectly prepared, pancakes are thin, but substantial; soft, with a faint crunch on the edges; and heated until golden brown. Achieving this level of pancake excellence takes time and a watchful eye. But the first step toward reaching those heights of breakfast glory starts with the stove.

If you don't warm your griddle enough, the pancake batter will sit lifelessly on the surface. That extended period on the stove will produce tougher, chewier pancakes than desired. On the flip side, if you heat the eye too much, the pancake will cook quickly on the outside and leave you with a mushy, batter-filled interior. According to Allrecipes.com, you should warm the griddle or frying pan to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius), at which point a water droplet will sizzle and pop when it strikes [source: Anderson].

The Digital Thermometer Pan eliminates the guessing game of determining when the pan is ready. Instead, all you have to do is wait for the digital thermometer screen on the handle to display that lucky number: 375. And the Digital Thermometer Pan doesn't discriminate between temperature scales. Your Canadian friends can cook their pancakes with ease since it also gives the reading in Celsius.

In addition to knowing when to throw your food on the fire, the Digital Thermometer Pan also prevents you from scorching your meal during the cooking process. If you notice that the temperature on the Digital Thermometer Pan has risen too high, you'll know to turn down the heat before liquids or grease evaporate too quickly. This element takes a little kitchen know-how but can prove beneficial to your taste buds by not having to eat charred vittles.

After you've gorged on pancakes and syrup, it's time to clean the kitchen. How can you wash the Digital Thermometer Pan safely? The temperature display apparatus on the handle detaches from the frying pan, and since the thermoresistor sensor is housed inside the center of the frying pan, it stays protected.

Now, if only the Digital Thermometer Pan came with a robotic flapjack flipper, everyone's pancake predicaments would be finally resolved.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

Sources

  • Anderson, Jennifer. "Perfect Pancakes." (Feb. 5, 2009)http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/Perfect-Pancakes/Detail.aspx
  • "Digital Thermometer Pan." ThinkGeek. (Feb. 5, 2009)http://www.thinkgeek.com/homeoffice/kitchen/a7a9/
  • "Kitchen Gadgets Bonanza." Popular Science. Oct. 9, 2007. (Feb. 5, 2009)http://www.popsci.com/node/1863