The machines of modern meal-making are tools of considerable precision. This is the age of bluetooth-enabled meat thermometers and smartphone-powered toaster ovens, devices that reflect the idea that food-making is more science than art.
This isn’t new. The latest kitchen machinery merely builds on a longstanding obsession with culinary exactness—a fixation that’s long been shaped by emerging technologies. Microwaves count down by the second. Ovens automatically preheat to 350 degrees with the press of a button.
Or, they seem to, anyway.
In fact, different ovens set to the same temperature can vary by as much as 90 degrees, according to an investigation by cook illustrated magazine. And even when an oven says it’s at 350 degrees, the temperature can shift up and down quite a bit—dipping to 300, rising to 400—as something’s cooking. (Plus, some ovens simply wear out over time.)