Let me guess, you have just bought a slow cooker, a skillet or a griddle and you feel you are getting ripped off. You even bought it with the iStir Automatic stirring system ( I am not joking…look)
I can tell you, by now you have the so-called “temperature disorder disease” defined by two major symptoms:
- Righteous indignation
- Beautiful toffee color encaustic medium after a day’s work
The underlying cause is that the temperature control of standard countertop electrical devices does not allow for a stable temperature whatever the settings might be. These devices, slow cooker, electric frying pan or griddle do not have thermometer, they have an electrical resistor that works on the principle of Joule heating, that outputs a constant rate of heat. So basically gets hotter and hotter until the rate of heat being produced comes into equilibrium with the heat being dissipated. With the Low or High or 1, 2, 3… settings they only change the amount of electricity you provide (a very basic rheostat), these meaning that the equilibrium temperature will be reached in more or less time, depending on the resistor.
So what can you do? basically helping it reaching the equilibrium at the lowest temperature possible in which, as said:
Heat being produced= Heat being dissipated
As explained above, the heat being produced can only be manipulated by setting the temperature control at the minimum. The heat being dissipated can be increased by filling the pot or skillet to its maximum capacity or placing a few clean big pebble stones at the bottom. In the case of griddles it helps very much placing enamel cups filled with vegetable kitchen oil on the griddle, you can use them to clean your brushes too, it works wonderfully and is cheap.
Accurate temperature controlled containers are of course available in the market under the name of “water ovens” (here one as an example), the problem is that these water ovens typically sell for little less than 500€ so many people decide to build their own using a temperature sensor and a PID controller (Proportional-Integral-Derivative controller) that switches the power on/off when the sensor reaches the desired temperature or set point (PID theory is actually something a little more complicated since it uses a controlling algorithm to minimize errors). Plug & play PID solutions are also in the market for under 150€, here one. In the picture bellow you see a simple installation scheme.
Be optimist, temperature control of cooking pans as you have seen is really a hot issue in internet. Millions of foodies over the world are at this very minute thinking how to get the right temperature for their Sous-vide cooking. I can foretell that in 3 years time the market will be packed with accurate temperature controlled cooking devices at a reasonable price, but if you cannot wait so long here you found a few simple ideas.
Despite all said above, my prefered option is the double boiler wax pot, a simple one costs under 20 euros has a 1,5 litre capacity and will keep your wax under 100 ºC with no cabling, no sensors, no iStir (:-).
The working principle is the same one as the bain-marie or water bath, a double boiler filled with water. As heat source you can use any heating device or even your heated palette. And your wax will be heated from all sides and at the right temperature.
I included this simmer pot as a 1/1000 things, check.