Are you headed to a getaway cabin or vacation rental sometime this summer? Maybe with your family, or a big group of friends? Last year, I took an early vacation to Wyoming and Montana, where we rented a little cabin and grilled every meal. My trip reminded me of my most essential vacation cabin kitchen tool — which, ironically, I forgot to bring.
My most important vacation rental tool is teeny-tiny and you can probably put it in your carry-on: a kitchen thermometer!
As for why, let's think about vacation cooking. If you rent a cabin at the lake, a beach house in the Hamptons, or a place in the mountains, grilling is probably in your meal plan. It's the easiest way to cook simply, enjoy local produce, and feed a lot of people without heating up the house.
But what if you're making hamburgers, fresh sausage, or, as we did in Montana, extra-thick pork chops? How do you make sure that they're completely done, but not overdone? This can be a little tricky, especially on a strange-to-you grill. And while you, like me, might be cavalier about eating medium-rare burgers or pink-inside pork chops, you may have guests with you who are more cautious.
For all these reasons, a thermometer is a really handy tool to have while on vacation, and I can report from my experience that vacation rentals rarely have one in their (ill-equipped) utensil drawer. It's a tiny thing to throw in your duffel bag — much easier than packing your favorite knife, bar towels, and sheet pan. Not like I've, ahem, ever done that.
Don't have a thermometer? We have a few ideas.
3 Kitchen Thermometers to Bring on Vacation
- Oxo Good Grips Digital Instant Read Thermometer, $20 at Oxo: Simple and sleek, this digital thermometer from Oxo comes with a sleeve for storage.
- Taylor Leave-In Mini Thermometers, $3.50 at Crate & Barrel: These compact leave-in thermometers with glow-in-the-dark pointers come in three styles — poultry, pork, and beef.
- ThermoWorks Super-Fast Thermapen, $125 at Amazon: Expensive, yes; worth it, yes. Read why this is our top pick.
This month, we're looking at the items we bring with us to make our vacation rentals a little less alien and a little more like home.
Updated from post originally published June 2014.