Like many tools that I've had for a long time, I don't remember exactly when I got this OXO cake tester ($5), but I do know that, over the years, it's become a favorite tool not for testing a cake's doneness (the irony!), but rather for all kinds of other cooking uses.
You know all the times you pull out a fork or knife to test the tenderness/doneness/cooked-through-ness of something? Use a metal cake tester instead!
The advantage of a metal cake tester over a fork or knife is that the tester's tiny pinprick doesn't let steam or juices escape prematurely (crucial if you're testing the softness of a foil-wrapped baked potato or roasted beet and it ends up needing more time) or leave behind a noticeable slit or three-pronged poke in your food that can compromise the structure of a delicate piece of fish, for example.
It's great for quickly and lightly checking tenderness on roasted vegetables, especially all kinds of squash, root vegetables, and baked potatoes; steamed vegetables (did that broccoli go long enough?); and yes, fish and meat as well. (Oh, and I also use mine to stir a single cocktail.)
I wrote a couple weeks ago about my love for the instant-read Thermapen, and while that's still my go-to for checking internal temps on meat and fish, a cake tester provides a handy workaround if you don't have an instant-read thermometer.
- For meat, just insert the cake tester into the center of the meat, hold it there for 3 seconds, then remove and touch the tester to your wrist. If the metal is warm or the same temperature as your skin, the meat is medium-rare. If it's hot, the meat is well done and cooked through.
- For fish, do the same thing, but in this case a cold tester means the fish is not cooked, a warm tester means it's just right, and a hot tester means it's probably overcooked!