The Most Important Thing Ina Garten Does Before Throwing Steaks on the Grill

published Jun 15, 2023
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Whether you prefer juicy grilled steak, barbecued baby back ribs, or garlicky grilled chicken thighs at your backyard cookout, one thing is certain: They’re all easier to cook if you’re equipped with a meat thermometer. I don’t like grilling without one, because I like to lessen the chances that I undercook (or, worse, overcook) the main event. (At least if it’s undercooked you can throw it back on the grill.)

So with barbecue season in full swing, it was nothing short of serendipitous that I came across the most ingenious hack for checking the calibration of my meat thermometers while thumbing through Ina Garten’s cookbook Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?.

The tip goes like this: Boil a pot of water, then measure the temperature of the water using your thermometer. Because water boils at 212°F, that’s exactly what your thermometer should read. I decided to test both my digital and dial thermometer, to mixed results.

For my first test, I held my digital thermometer under boiling water for just under three minutes, at which point it consistently read somewhere between 212°F and 212.9°F — bingo! Next I moved on to my dial thermometer. Because the stem was a bit shorter, I kept hold of it with some tongs so my hand wouldn’t be too close to the flames and hot steam.

After a few minutes, this thermometer never made it past 200°F. A second test in a larger pot yielded the same results. This is important to note because older and lower-quality thermometers can often give inaccurate readings and cause you to overcook steaks on the grill. I’ll give it a pass, as it’s almost a decade old, but now I know to add roughly 12°F to its reading every time I use it. Thanks, Ina!

Have you ever tried this hack? Let us know in the comments below.