With an instant read thermometer, you'll never have to second-guess your cooking again.

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raw turkey in the oven

Cooking is all about learning to take cues from your food. Is your chicken done? If the juices run clear when you cut between the breast and the thigh, then yes. Cooking caramel? Let the color give you the information you need. Searing a steak? Give it a good poke. If it's the texture of the tip of your nose, that means it's a perfect medium-rare.

All of these are sensory indicators that recipe developers use to help cooks achieve the right result, but they can be intimidating to new cooks, or even seasoned chefs who are trying a new recipe for the first time. But at the end of the day, all of these indicators are ways of gauging a dish's temperature, and there's a more efficient way to do it.

Enter the instant-read thermometer, a simple, and extremely accurate way to ensure you always cook a dish perfectly, from steak, to roast chicken, to the all-important Thanksgiving turkey. They work exactly how they sound, they quickly and accurately tell you the temperature of anything you're cooking, from a pot of boiling water to a chicken breast in the oven.

I recommend this one, which quickly and immediately tells you the exact temperature, and is easy to store by simply folding it up and putting it back in your tool drawer.

Once you get an instant-read thermometer, you'll wonder how you ever cooked without one; it simply takes all the guess work out of cooking and baking. You'll never have to cut a chicken breast in half again to make sure it's fully cooked, simply insert the temperature probe and know exactly what's going on in there, without losing the elegant look of a whole breast.

I use my instant-read thermometer all year, but it becomes especially important to me around the holidays. Here's why: A few years ago, my mom purchased a beautiful crown roast for Christmas dinner, a very expensive piece of meat that my whole family was looking forward to enjoying in all it's tender, rosy-pink rare glory. She followed the directions in the recipe closely, but when we cut into the meat at dinner, it was totally overcooked... all grey-looking and chewy. We all told her it didn't matter (which of course it didn't and we all still had a lovely time) but I gave her a belated Christmas gift that year: an instant-read thermometer. Now, instead of playing guessing games, she nails the holiday roast every time.