My wife got me a digital meat thermometer for our anniversary, and I'm more than a little bit alarmed by how excited I am by it. The base is about the size of a 1st generation iPod, and it connects to a long cord with a menacing needle on the end of it—the sight of which would surely send terror into the hearts of any animal corpses that might happen across it, were they not already dead. Anyway, the thing has been a revelation for me, as I am something of a salmonella-phobe thanks to a nasty bout of food poisoning I acquired via one of those low-temperature poultry recipes that were trendy for a brief but terrible moment back in the 80s.
As a result, I've inflicted some of history's driest and most comically overcooked roast chickens upon the unfortunate masses, not trusting myself enough to rely on the clear-juice test. ("How can I tell if the juice is clear when it's running down a char-blackened bird?", I have sobbed aloud to no one on many occasions.) Well, those days are gone, and with them the eras of overdone pork, unevenly cooked burgers, and beef tenderloins that resemble a horrific crime scene. In the case of roast chickens—which I have always been embarrassed by my inability to make, as it is the first thing that most people learn how to cook—I now insert the thermometer just before the bird meets the heat, run the cord out the oven door, and watch as the digital readout on the base ticks upwards. Three cheers for science! Can I thank Carl Sagan for this, or maybe the guys at CERN? Because the excitement of being able to serve up this utterly phenomenal Jamie Oliver recipe for roast chicken with flawless results is, for me, just as exciting as miniature black holes are. Believe, yo. Here's "Chicken Head Man" by T-Model Ford to help drive the point home. Stream or download it using the player below.