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kitchen timer

I wasn’t planning on writing about my kitchen timer. But I was in the middle of a couple of baking projects yesterday, and realized that I was gazing at it lovingly. Like, a little too much, perhaps. And as the tears welled up in my eyes, I decided that I’d share my affection for my new buddy in the kitchen.

One of the hardest transitions for me – from being a professional baker, to writing recipes for folks at home baking in their jammies – was figuring out precise baking times. In the restaurant, you just kept checking in the oven, or used that special sense that bakers develop when things are ready to come out. Sure we used timers, but they were more back-up reminders; a majority of pro bakers just know when things are done, or simply keep checking and pull things out when they’re ready.

So many factors go into baking times, such as what material the baking pans are made out of (black attracts heat, so things bake faster), how warm or cold the mixture was when being put into the oven (if you chill a custard then bake it, it’ll take longer than if you use a just-made custard that is still warm), some ovens are convection (which bake faster), and probably most importantly, the vagaries of each and every oven. I have two brand-new ovens, both made by the same manufacturer, and each one heats and cooks differently.

(Which I’m sure that those of you out there who are parents of several children can relate to. Those kids are made in the same “facilties” – presumably – yet each one can turn out radically different.)

One could, I suppose, test and write recipes for each and every possible variation. Which would require an arsenal of baking equipment and a good sampling of every model of oven made from the last fifteen years crowding your kitchen. Hence the resulting brownie recipe might span ten to fifteen pages, which I think would scare even the most dedicated, and geeky, baker. But it’s best for people to get to know their own oven and rely on recipes as guidelines, and to use their own intuition and senses to tell when things are ready.

Still, I love having a timer because I forget things in the oven because I’m doing things like checking my blog comments and condensing epic-length recipes to make them manageable for folks baking in the pyjamas. When my no-longer-trusty Minute Minder bit the dust, from right out of the package, I looked around for a replacement. In the cookware shops in Paris, there were lots of timers in decorative shapes – ones that looked like heads of lettuce or little tiny coffee cups (which, as the French would say, were très design, which is not really a compliment) – and others that felt really cheap, and didn’t inspire confidence. So I hit the internet.

I wasn’t asking for much; just an on switch, and an off switch, and the ability to time things in minutes. I didn’t need fancy bells or switches. (I have a timer with so many features I actually don’t even know how to reset it once it rings.) I don’t need to know how those minutes will pass in seven different time zones and I don’t want to have to call customer service in tears while my cookies burn because someone with a doctoral degree in electrical engineering would be stupefied trying to use it. I just wanted a timer that is easy to use with as few buttons as possible, that would be a reliable kitchen companion. And this CDN timer that I bought on Amazon is it.

We’ve become good friends in the kitchen; his – or her (I haven’t figured out which) only drawback is that he (or she) doesn’t have an automatic shut-off, or even a switch that I can turn it off manually to preserve the battery, so it’s always using power unnecessarily. (In which case, I’ll leave it up to you then to assume which gender my timer is.) But it boasts big numbers (def. male), it’s easy to handle (debatable whether that’s male…or female), the ring isn’t annoying, and I can press as many of its buttons as I want and it doesn’t mind at all. (How’s that for a perfect relationship?)

So far, it’s been great and we’ve been happy together baking away side-by-side in my kitchen. The only problem is that I fear I’m developing an unreasonable attachment to it. I guess when we begin leaving the kitchen together and taking our relationship into other rooms, then you can start getting worried.

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    • Madhuja

    I completely understand your attachment to your kitchen tools! I seem to have misplaced my tart pan and I am absolutely tearing my hair out while trying to find it!
    By the way, don’t you mean vagaries, when you say “vagarities”? :)

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, my spell-check kept catching that, and I chose to ignore it. (Because I am stubborn that way!…and it’s been hard to pull myself away from gazing lovingly my timer.) But I fixed it… ~dl

    • Stephen

    “But I fixed it…”

    I had visions of you taking your spell check behind the bike shed and giving it a good thumping for being so ignorant, the OED allows vagarity.

    • Erica (@acookinakitchen)

    Have been having some troubles with my kitchen timers recently. My mechanical one is very temperamental and needs ‘special tweaking’ to get it to work at all, plus I don’t think it uses the same units of time as anyone else. As for the battery operated? well, they just go all unreliable when the battery runs out unexpectedly. I am suffering from the lack of an appropriate timer – I have just removed some chicken stock from the simmering oven of an aga that was put in two days ago – unharmed, well coloured, better flavoured than it had ever dreamed of but, nonetheless, completely forgotten until a few hours ago, and yet I don’t want to commit again to the cost and counter space and inevitable heartbreak of disappointment in my relationship with a new one. I will content myself by taking small pleasure in the fact that you are happy in your new relationship (for the time being) and that there is still hope.

    • Nathalie

    I would love to see your finished kitchen. You gave lots of interesting updates about the construction and your shopping adventures. As a professional pastry chef, I would love to see your home/work kitchen, with its timers of course.

    • ron shapley

    I use the kitchen timer on my microwave….

    • Anne

    I kept only a few things from my grandma when she died, her huge serving plates, teapot and her kitchen timer. Every time I use it, I remember baking cookies with her. I have had the timer 27 years and love it. Great post, great blog!

    • Claire

    David, your timer is clearly male! “it’s always using power unnecessarily. But it boasts big numbers, it’s easy to handle, the ring isn’t annoying, and I can press as many of its buttons as I want and it doesn’t mind at all.” Yes, definitely a boy timer! And thank you for a glorious giggle on a Friday morning.


    • triptup

    We will never worry about you, David.

    • Frances

    My timer is pink and can multi-time – definitely a lady!

    • Kim

    I can definitely relate to the difficulty in writing cooking times into recipes–I always keep checking and/or tasting until I know whatever I’m making is done. One truly does form a natural timer after a while..
    Sometimes I feel like writing in my recipes, “you’ll know when it’s done. enjoy!”

    • Olya

    Count yourself lucky… I’m still in search of my perfect timer (it’s a him!) and am picky about it/him. Besides all qualities your timer have, for me, it has to have pleasant and loud enough voice to be heard from another room. Also I’m creaving très design ..for some fun. :) Thank you for another funny little story – your posts become my morning nessesity like a cup of coffee :)

    • Denise

    Just went on and ordered it….17.37 euros, free shipping. Ok if it is a decent timer I can feel good about. I’m using a cheap plastic thing that looks like a pineapple now that I don’t feel good about, but that cost 2 euros, a point in its favor. After the demise of my favorite, about a year ago, and replacement with the same model, which died in a couple of months, I had been holding on with cheap. Hopefully, your post will solve this annoying, but real problem.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Denise: I’ve been through a number of timers, and when I realized I could no longer depend on my previously trusty Minute Minder, I searched around and a few people chimed in at that post regarding their timer experiences. Honestly, you wouldn’t think it would be that hard. But sometimes simple, and functional, are the last things people think about when designing products.

    Nathalie: It’s a mess since I’m working on a book…as you can see!

    Claire: I once saw a sex education teacher in America on tv explaining to kids that “Men are like microwave ovens – they are always ready, and women are like regular ovens, they need to warm up.” ; )

    • thefrancofly

    I just began creating recipes. And I had to put my confidence in a timer or else New York Magazine and Twitter would have a bad hand in my recipes. Bon w-e!

    • Helen Indelicato

    your kitchen should be a mess, you’re baking – show us the pix can’t wait

    • Mavis

    Thanks. I always love your recommendations!! Those flat rubber OXO drying mats you suggested a month or two ago have saved my life, and I’ll had to this my Amazon list of things to buy for my growing catering and personal chef company. Thanks David!

    • Nazneen

    It seems lately there is a timer on everything. I use my microwave timer and I have two microwaves, plus my oven and my phone. Of course, I simply had to buy a specific kitchen timer too…just in case.

    • Allen Keeler

    I tried your mint chip ice cream recipe this past weekend. I have to say, it was very good. Notice I said was.

    • debbie in toronto

    I got all excited when you said CDN timer..thinking you meant Canadian timer…sigh…but it looks good none the less…

    bon weekend David.

    • Ana in Chicago

    Your timer is a DOG. Perfect companion!

    • Deeli

    Was tired of spending the money replacing timers and/or batteries so started doing what Ron Shapley mentioned in a comment earlier … Started using my microwave timer years ago ;-)

    • Norine

    Arrg timers. These things did not used to be a problem (the old lady says).

    How about a peek around the kitchen one area at a time. I am dying to see what you have done with that mysterious stairway. Please…

    • Jill Shepherd

    My favorite kitchen timer: my iPhone. Even with sloppy hands, I can push one button and just use Siri to set my timer. And then when I have to run out of the kitchen to rescue a kid from a tree or put a bandaid on a knee, its right there in my pocket to remind me that- seemingly hours ago- I put something in the oven that also now wants some attention.

    • Caramel et Fleur de Sel

    If you ask my husband, he will definitely refer to your timer as a “she”.
    I love my timer as well … strong, loud and very demanding. Mine is a definite “he”.

    • Lauren

    Your timer is a ‘male’. Since it can’t ask for directions to turn itself off, it’s certainly male.

    • sundevilpeg

    I feel the same way about my no-nonsense Polder timer – but we have taken the next step. The lil’ guy resides on my desk, here in my office/dining room, just in front of the banker’s lamp, snuggled between the desk calendar and the rubber-band holder – NEVER in the kitchen. Stays cleaner, stays dry, doesn’t get knocked around, and since I use it for timing grilled food outside three seasons of the year (meaning, at least as much as it’s needed in the kitchen), a home on the desk is a solid location. And he seems happy here. ;-)

    • Tara @ The Butter Dish

    FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST Thank David Lebovitz I am FREE At last!. — For so long David, I have been reading from top cooks… “put it in the oven and do not open the door for anything or the world will implode!” or “it must cook for exactly, precisely 45 minutes and 21 seconds.”

    and every time, my baked goods do not come out right. They under cook. over cook, high jump cook. It’s frustrating beyond belief.

    If I’ve read one thing, one blog this week that has truly given me hope it’s this one. My gut tends to tell me when things are done. Or if it’s iffy, I will want to open the door and test it every 5 minutes or so near the end of baking. I should know better than not to follow my gut and I would be a fool not to trust your advice.

    Merci merci merci mon’sieur Lebovitz!!

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Allen: Glad you liked that ice cream – it’s one of my favorites. I love mint & chocolate together.

    Jill: I tried using Siri, but every time I said “Timer 10 minutes” she would say, “Sorry, there is no meeting scheduled for that time.” Maybe I should try her in French?

    Deeli, Nazneen, and Ron: I can’t figure out how to use the timers on either of my ovens. All those touch screens!

    Mavis: I love those mats. I had someone bring me a few more since I don’t want to run out. And even though some Oxo products are available here, those mats aren’t. And I can’t imagine not having them in my kitchen anymore.

    • Gina

    Can’t live without the timer on the stove I inherited from my mother. I once went away for three days, forgetting that I had turned it on, and when I came back it was still yelling.

    Talk about reliable!

    • Hanananah

    You are toooo funny. I used to have a timer that I would carry with me in a pocket. So no matter where I wandered, inside or out, I’d hear it go off. I forgot how much I loved that little thing!! I think it may be time to rekindle the fire with a new one.

    • Sharyn Dimmick

    I bake without a timer — I watch the clock and rely on smells, amount of browning, toothpick tests — all that. The clock on my computer reminds me to go back down to the kitchen. I’ve had a timer for years because I thought I needed one and have never taken it out of the package.

    • Patricia Aishton

    It is thrilling you have found a nearly perfect timer. We know the drill when favorite kitchen tools bite the dust. I have the best steel knife in the world, it is nearly worn through the middle and I know I will never find a replacement.
    Now the bigger topic,while you are writing about small kitchen tools I am still waiting to hear about the fantastic new,completed? kitchen,or are you saving that topic for a full length book?

    I’ve mentioned that I’m showing some stuff here and in my newsletter as I go along. But it’s a mess because I’m working here. -dl

    • Holiday Baker Man

    Timers and me just don’t mix. I am constantly dropping them.

    • Veronica

    I use the timer on my oven. One button press and a little knob to twiddle to set the time. It stops beeping automatically after about 6 beeps, or you press the button again to stop it. You can easily adjust the time up or down while it’s timing. And it doesn’t require batteries. Perfect!

    • Mitch

    This is my favorite type of kitchen timer – three simple buttons and ease of operation. But it’s not just for the kitchen! Take that dude into the bedroom too! I have one on my nightstand that I can set for up to an hour when I want to sleep in – no need to repetitiously wake up to hit the alarm clock snooze bar! Great for baking; great for naps!!!

    • patrixio

    Timepieces like watches and clocks are female. All you ask of them is to be present and look pretty. Timers and stopwatches, on the other hand, are out there getting sh*t done and are therefore male. Yeah, it’s sexist, retrograde and neanderthalian in concept but it works perfectly with the tricky gender of French nouns.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Well, I’d let you get away with that, except minuteur is masculine in French. So maybe you’re referring to French men, when all we ask of them is to be present, and look pretty? ; )

    • BelleD

    A little surprised you only have 1 timer. I have 4: one on the microwave, one on the stove, one cheapy IKEA ($1 and I love it), and a fancy pancy stainless steel timer with big buttons that starts to beeps twice every minute until time is up (it drives me bonkers because I can’t be sure when it’s really time to go and check).

    And yes, I’ve had occasion to use all 4 of them at the same time (my first Thanksgiving dinner with 12 guests).

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I bought one of those cheap Ikea digital timers and within a few weeks, the numbers in the display only half-appear, and are all broken up. But you’re right about having a few timers on hand – I’ve been known to be “unfaithful” to just one, myself.

    • Nancy

    I have to remind myself NOT to read your posts while drinking coffee -LOL!!! I completely understand your love affair with your timer. I have one that I wear around my neck – I know, weird, but after being in commercial kitchens I found I had a problem – the timer would go off in my home kitchen – and I’d ignore it – I found the only way to really “hear” the timer is if it was around my neck.

    And your comment about children – PRICELESS!!! I am so going to remember that one…..

    • Virginia Field

    David, your essay is fabulous.

    Early this year I realized I needed a future with less burning, smoke detector alarms and cursing, and I resolved to use a timer for baking and roasting.

    Since I don’t have a Paris Flea Market to wander through, I go to estate/yard sales. In early spring I found a digital timer that also had a detachable thermometer probe. Maybe it would be an improvement on what I was using? Five bucks, and it was mine. I put it through the kitchen trials and it passed the easy-to-set, easy-to-read tests. Furthermore, the thermometer worked great for roasts and sauces. I am blessed!

    I named my timer “The Late Dr. Healey” out of respect for the homeowner from whose kitchen it came. From his vast book collection I learned that he was a Boston Symphony lover, a liberal Catholic, and that he strongly favored compassionate and humanistic thinking, and read lots of history, humor and horticulture. Though I’m not Catholic, I share all else with him. And, now I share his timer.

    [As to the brand, all it says on the front is “Oneida” and the back blank. ]

    • Leigh Ann Townsend

    Loved this post. And your timer looks very friendly on that counter.

    • ButterYum

    Lol – AMEN to the parent comment!!

    I have several timers and really love one in particular. I love it so much that I tried to purchase several more, but Chef’s Catalog doesn’t carry them anymore. Totally bummed about that so the search continues.

    • bonnie

    I bought that very timer years ago to accurately time tests in my classroom! It finally died after many years of service. Need to get another.

    • Sarvi

    “Those kids are made in the same “facilties” – presumably” — it’s the ‘presumably’ that got me. Thank you for the belly laugh, it’s a lovely way to start the day. And thank you for the recommendation as well, I am moving and need to buy a timer — for both the cookies and for the wee baker’s assistant, who sometimes needs to be timed.

    • Kathy

    Completely off topic– Have you ever attended the diner en blanc? Would love to hear about it.

    • Janice

    Can you remove the battery when not using to make it last longer?

    • Alexis

    Hi David, I love your blog, love your books, but as an engineer i can’t get over the “black attracts heat”, makes me think that the coolest place is right next to someone who’s dressed all in black :D

    • Ginger V

    How did you know? My timer has gone missing, I don’t know how or why. I have been looking for it for it off and on for over a week. I have looked in all the logical places as well as some that are clearly best not mentioned. I knew it was time for a replacement I just wasn’t sure what to replace it with. Now I know, thanks

    • Kate Pietschman

    Relationships with timers ebb and flow. I work at Starbucks. There are timers for coffee, timers for pitcher switch, timers for bananas, timers for spins (clean the lobby), timers for sanitation buckets, timers for breaks. One would think I had enough of timers.
    At home I have two timers. One for downstairs baking and cooking. One for upstairs. The upstairs timer is for GTD games like how much can I get done in fifteen minutes. I will leave that one to your imagination.
    The downstairs timer has a magnetic back and “lives” on the refrigerator though when something needs more time in the oven it gets to come upstairs with me.

    As for ovens I just got a new one that I am getting used to. It heats faster and bakes more evenly. The best part is it self-cleans and has an oven light.

    Reading your posts always inspire me to laugh, cry, or go bake. Mucho grats!

    • cwid

    Funny, it says food safe ABS plastic. You’ re not supposed to put it in with the batter, are you?

    • Michele Garcia

    I am forever forgetting I have a timer set for something else and then accidentally canceling the timer when I’m working on several different things in the kitchen. My husband gave me a little 1″x2″ timer he used to use while teaching, with a magnet on the back that I can attach to the side of the refrigerator. It’s right by the area where I grind flour with my Vitamix and proof doughs, so it’s pretty much my dedicated bread-making timer. It’s on all the time too, and has saved me from having to use my smartphone timer, and from lots of frustration.

    • Heide

    Thank you again David, for another jovial entertaining account of anything! I could never have thought of all that about a timer, but then again I am not a very good baker. I can cook, but not bake well at all for whatever reason. I use a thermometer that goes into the (usually, well always) meat. I set the temperature to the degress it is suppose to be done and the alarm goes off when the center of the item (meat) is at that temperature. I really could not bake without that “timer”.

    • Jill Silverman Hough

    I have the exact same timer, David, and love it so much that I got a second one so I can be super-nerdy and time two procedures at once. I have a third timer that’ll time three things simultaneously, but like you said about one that you have, it’s so feature-full I can’t ever remember how to set it. Amen to simple tools providing simple pleasures!

    • shari

    I recently misplaced my beloved vegetable peeler. (or accidentally threw it away, -I’ve been known to do that, -what is wrong with me?) And weirdly enough it came up missing just a few days after reading about a totally spectacular serrated peeler I can order from Amazon, (which is temporarily out of stock. figures.) Obviously I am not concentrating very hard on the task at hand if I’m throwing my favorite kitchen tools in the trash, but maybe I’m just too focused on getting to that place and time when I can gaze lovingly at my clean kitchen? ; )

    • Cyndy

    My husband tried to broil a steak one time while I was out of town. He didn’t set the timer, put the steak too close to the broiling element, set off the smoke detectors on all three floors, and the dog was running around freaked, not knowing which way to go.

    Later on the phone, I said “Why didn’t you at least set the timer?” His reply, “Who do you think I am, Betty F****** Crocker??!”

    Turns out he didn’t know how to set the timer anyway…

    • Clementine

    That’s funny. I have the same affection for my timer. The best one I ever had. And it is the same one as you have, but I bought it at Lidl…
    I also use it when I do my 25 minutes of dayly sport on the hometrainer. You cannot imagine how happy I am when it rings !

    • shelly

    I love you. You never boring me!

    • Susan

    I have two magnet backed, digital timers; one on the range hood above the stove, the other on the oven door. I’m not a neat cook so slipped them into plastic sandwich bags so they wouldn’t get gunked up by moisture and/or sticky fingers. The magnets are strong so they still hold tight to the surface, plus, the bags are light enough that I can still press the buttons and see the time clearly. If the bags get too gunked up, I just get new ones!

    • Adele

    The timer on my oven is very easy to use, but sometimes I need another one at the same time (so to speak) so I use my microwave timer. But it takes a few tries to set that one, I inevitably end up resetting the clock a few times before getting it right.

    My scale stopped working and I’ve been like a deer in the headlights trying to decide which replacement to buy. It was a Salter, pounds and grams, very easy to use and very sleek looking. Apparently I should have googled it first, though, because it’s known to have a very short lifespan :~(.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve been through a few scales and I’ve been extremely happy with the one I recommend in that post I linked to about my scale. It’s worked great since I bought it – and I just had a chance to test out Oxo’s lifetime guarantee and I have to say, they were incredibly prompt and replaced my worn out measuring cups.

    • judy

    hahahaha Great post.
    Try pushing the minute and second buttons at the same time to stop timing. Good luck!

    • Helge

    Don’t worry about the battery – our equivalent Ikea timer had a battery life of years, and showed decreasing display brightness (does one say that about a reflective LCD?) long before the battery ran out (so it should not suddenly die on you if you need it most). And I concur with deploying two or three timers at various strategic positions in the kitchen.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I was actually thing about the always-on battery and perhaps it’s a good thing so that one knows when the battery runs out when it happens, rather than when you put something in the oven, hit the buttons on the timer, and nothing happens. Which has happened to me…!

    • Danielle

    Such an ironic post… just began my courses at LCB in Paris and I have worked in bakeries for a little over a year…throughout the first few classes students are constantly asking the Chef how many minutes in the oven. He proceeds to tell them each time “Je ne sais pas?!” And I completely understand why. In my last kitchen I don’t even think we had one timer because we constantly were checking or just knew when our cakes and tarts were finished. So glad to see this is a common thread!

    • Kay@Chopstix2steaknives

    I do find that the simplest timers are sometimes the best. Though mine is quite tiny and I am always losing it in class.

    • Kathleen

    Ok enough with the insults of people at home baking in the pyjamas vs you the professional baker. I know when my creations are done – sometimes by smell, sometimes by vision, sometimes by touch. We’re not idiots.

    • Russ Parsons

    my stove is littered with timers (like 3 of them). but i’ve become addicted to Siri on my iphone. actually, it’s the only thing i use it for, but just say “set timer for 7 minutes” and 7 minutes later i hear marimba. like a little miracle.

    • Russell Herman

    Love seeing all your gadgets but looking forward to seeing pics of your whole apartment even more! After following your frustrations, don’t we deserve a treat?

    • Vicki A.

    Ah yes, the kitchen timer. Mine has indeed wandered into other rooms. Now I find I’m doing my reading with the timer (45 minutes for the NYTimes, except for Sunday), 30 minutes for book group books, 1 hour for my own books, etc. Feeding into my compulsive self, I guess.

    • Adrienne

    I loved my old kitchen timer but my husband left it on top of the toaster oven and part of it melted… It was never the same after that….. (The timer, that is… The husband hasn’t changed much…)

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      When I find a piece of kitchen equipment I like, I buy two in case one has a meltdown (or breakdown.) But I don’t think you can apply that rule to husbands ~!

    • Hal

    @Kathleen, while I don’t know David personally, I’m confident that the ‘cooks in pjs’ thing is made in a self-deprecating tone (at least that’s how I read it). Because now, he’s one of those cooks in pajamas too!

    Do lighten up, it’s Friday!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, if I could, I wouldn’t just bake in my pyjamas, but I would do everything in them! In fact, I’m wearing them now – but I think it’s acceptable to wear them when blogging ; )

      I often miss how “pyjama-friendly” America is, and miss running to the store in a t-shirt and pyjama bottoms. But on the other hand, if I didn’t have to change to go outside..I’d probably be in pyjama bottoms morning til night!

    • Carole Kost

    I absolutely adore reading your blog and have copied some of your recipes and filed them. Your description of building your new kitchen was interesting and fun to read. Presently, I am in the same . I live in Italy (from SF and in Rome for many years) and have recently bought a new apartment which is only “bare bones” still with cement floors, and am concentrating on the most important room…my kitchen. I could describe what’s happening but it would be almost identical to your description…I think the workers in France and Italy are about the same!
    Actually, I wanted to write and tell you about the little, simple digital timer I found at Muji (I know they have shops in Paris) . MINUTEUR DE CUISINE NUMERIQUE 6.75EUR
    It works very well and can be turned off easily. And the price is good, too. I don’t know whether it would be better than the one you have.
    Thank you again for your great blog. If you ever come to Italy, I would love to meet you and show you some interesting Italian food sources. By the way, I wonder if you have ever heard of “Città Del Gusto” here in Rome.
    Best regards, Carole Kost….Rome

    • Leslie Bonner

    That you for the chuckle.

    I use the timer on my oven and another one that I can carry from room to room. I wish I could tell if my things in the oven were done. I know what the recipe recommends but, as you noted, all ovens are not the same. So, sometimes I undercook the cookies and sometimes I overcook the cookies. They still taste delicious however.

    • Margie

    Love this little story…I have a timer that has a lanyard; I wear it around my neck while working in the garden.

    • Becca D.

    I use the oven timer at work which screams in my ear perfectly. I honestly rarely bake at home but have a timer that seems adequate. Or I use my phone.

    But I just started training a new person this week and she’ll ask me how long and what temperature which so far has been whatever felt right in my head. I have a “1st timer” which is when I turn and then after that, it cooks until it’s done.

    I used to get annoyed asking my chef-instructors or former chefs when they said it’s done when it’s done as that gave me no info. Now I know to ask- “When should I check it?” Works every time.

    • Jenn

    I don’t know which I love more: the parent comment as a whole or the “presumably” portion of it. I know it’s a sidebar but it made me giggle hysterically. I love the comfort of a simple favorite gadget, so I completely understand your timer relationship. Right now I’m loving my vegetable peeler. Though I’m not a baker or even a cook by any stretch of the imagination, j’adore kitchen gadgets! Right up there with office supplies and hardware stores. Don’t ask. :)

    • Holly

    Thanks for all you do! Definitely enjoy your posts.
    I user a timer app on my iPad. Works really well–from baking to watering the tomato plants.

    • Maureen

    My digital timer also has one of those temperature probes so I’m suspecting mine’s male. When I was looking for timers I looked until I found one that was so loud I couldn’t ignore it if I was working on the computer upstairs. The only downside is that everyone living along the canal can tell when my bread is done.

    • Randle

    I know what you mean. I can somehow “feel” when short ribs are finished braising, but I burn toast on a regular basis if I don’t set a one-minute timer. Love your blog!

    • Lee Pinney

    I’m a long time lurker, and a huge fan that happens to be more than just a little bit jealous of your courage to pack your bags and move to France. I can’t wait to see what you’ll fall in love with next, as I have ordered the CDN because my timer finally gave up the ghost.

    Thanks David for the hours of entertainment, and advice.

    • Linda, NYC

    Hi David – don’t know if I’ve missed crucial posts BUT did we ever get a look at the finished version of your new apartment and especially your kitchen? Last I recall it was in serious construction disarray and you were shopping appliances. Was there ever an “after” photo display?

    No, there wasn’t. For one thing, as mentioned, I am working a lot in my kitchen and it’s a mess, with stuff everywhere. So it’s not very presentable. But also I’ve read a number of posts where people talk about their remodels and folks criticize their design and material choices. And as anyone knows who has been through a remodel, “I put down wood floors too, and you’re going to wish you didn’t!” or “I have that oven and I hate it”, is not exactly what someone wants to hear. So I’ve opted to show parts of the kitchen here and in my newsletter, as I go. -dl

    • virginia

    Common mistake: black attracts heat. It is untrue, black attracts light, what happens in the oven does not have anything to do with light (or color) but only with heat exchange. There is no discrimination!

    • Anna

    i love reliable kitchen gadgets. how much harder would life be without them?

    • Sandy

    Heh. When I stopped baking professionally and started teaching baking and pastry in a culinary school, this is the first thing I told my students: “Get an annoying timer. By that I mean not the cute little retro dial ones which ping once or have a short ring, but electronic ones which beep incessantly until you HAVE to turn them off. You don’t know how often a timer will save your product.” The students who paid attention to this advice never burned anything. The ones who ignored it…well.

    Simple electronic timers rule.

    • Lynn McBride

    For the first time ever I have an oven ( a Smeg) with an easy-to-use timer as you described. I would buy an oven for that reason alone.
    I noticed your countertop, I’m about to put a countertop like that in my new kitchen. I’m debating about the finish. In the states we would put a varnish on top, but the French and the British all seem to simply oil them. But I even have a British friend here who has been converted and will put a bistro varnish on her her wood countertops. I think I will try that too.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I’ve been having discussions with some folks about wood countertops. I’m used to using mineral oil, but in France, I’ve had people recommend olive oil (which I don’t want to use, since it can go rancid) and pure walnut oil. A friend in England highly recommended a German product called Osmo Polyx oil. Of course, I could not find it in France, but it’s apparently sold in the US – including on Amazon – and she is bringing me some from the UK to try.

    • Estelle

    David, one of the features I must have on my timer is a clip. So many times I have put something in the oven or on the stove top and couldn’t hear the timer in the other room. The result was devastating and often smelly. Now, I take my beloved timer and clip it to my “pajama bottoms” and am secure that I will never forget about something.
    Love this post.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I only buy pajamas with pockets…for that very reason ; )

    • Mimi

    I can tell you my kitchen timer never gazes lovingly at me.

    It glares at me.

    • Pam Stewart

    Love your blog, mainly cause your voice comes thru, no assistant pretends to be you.

    I also enjoy your commenters, they are a little obsessed just like me. Little pieces like timers do affect our quality of life which is not appreciated by everyone.

    Being new I am going thru old postings like re Maida Heatter( yes I still wrap my brownies) and now the turkey melon (yes I have been obsessed since 1978
    with Julia Child’s Chicken.

    xxoo, pam

    • Lynn at Southern Fried French

    Merci, David, I’m going to try this Osmo Polyx on my countertops, if I don’t succumb to the varnish. My brother-in-law who makes beautiful cutting boards out of exotic woods suggested the walnut oil as well, as the only oil that won’t go rancid.

    • Jody

    My older Minute Minder is hanging in there, but I’m glad to hear a recommendation for a trusty back-up.

    • Genie

    Timers (plural) in my kitchen. And I love mine so much, my daughter was given one (one for birthday; another for Christmas) and my step-daughter was given one. Nothing like my Pampered Chef timer. I can clip it to my clothing and walk around the house/garden with it, then hurry back to the kitchen when the timer goes off.

    • Suzanne@NY

    OMG — that’s so adorable — I have the very same timer. I found mine on with the following search words : annoying timer. (Best I ever had, too.)

    • Ashley

    Yes! We have this exact timer, settled upon after too much experimentation with too many fatally flawed times.

    Actually, we have several (at least 8) of these, for a family of four. We use them not just for cooking in our multi-cook household, but for timing music practice, keeping track of computer time allowance, timing sanity breaks if one of us is under a deadline.

    One of the best things about these is the “count up’ feature, wherein, if I want to keep track of how long something has been cooking (or cooling), I just start the timer and it counts up. Very handy. And if you don’t stop the timer after it goes off, it stops beeping after one minute and begins counting up, so you know how long ago it went off.

    Also handy — they can be propped up on a counter, or stuck magnetically to a surface. There’s a little loop if you want to hang it from a hook or a sting around your neck. They use easy to find AAA batteries. And the big numbers really help.

    So, bravo and congratulations on finding the last timer you’ll ever need (assuming they don’t discontinue them.)

    • Adriana

    At this point I’m using a timer function on my phone and it’s enough for me. But a few days ago I found a digital scale on Amazon that also has a timer and I really like it, although I don’t really need a new one. Oh, kitchen gadgets, my obsession!

    • Denise

    A few days ago, I posted, above, that I went directly to and bought this timer after reading this post.

    It came this afternoon, I’ve already used it and I second everything David wrote, it is wonderful. Simple. It only times, minutes and seconds, starts and stops and goes back to zero. Nothing fancy. Just my speed, I love it!

    You can stand it up, hang it, or it has a magnet on the back so it can be stuck to the fridge. It takes one little aaa battery and has a nice feeling, on the heavy side, for something so small.


    • meg

    We have a West Bend timer. We’ve idolized it a bit by mounting it on its own wooden stand–it’s that awesome. I dread the day I have to replace it. We have some of those CDN ones. They’re okay, but cheaply made. The buttons start to stick.

    • kelly

    This is not completely on topic, but on gadget, which I completely understand and can be obsessional about. From this post, I went to your favorite knife post to your scissors post (totally with you !) – anyway, this is almost embarrassing to write, but I will because I have also fallen in love with these and got them at the Raspail market (10 € and came with a little cleaner brush), but have seen them elsewhere but didn’t look at price (somehow assume more, but that may just be some sort of self soothing).

    Anyway, they are, what I am going to call, “herb scissors”, for lack of a better name. The only thing I can remember from on the box is… As Seen On TV. I know !! But I’m telling you, you may not use these EVERY day, but they are very handy. I was making lots of salsa and things like that and anything you need to cut up small, but not necessarily beautifully – it’s perfect. I started out just doing the cilantro for salsa, then not wanting to touch the jalepeno decided to see if I could cut that up. Then why not onion ? Anything you want to dice into a salad… very easy and saves a lot of clean up. The little brush thing makes the scissors easy clean up too – which really wouldn’t be without.

    On a completely separate note, I’d like to thank you for your note about where to get fresh corn on the cob in one of your last posts. 15 years in Paris and it has NEVER occurred to me to look for it in the 13th despite seeing a world of produce that you don’t see in Paris.

    • Nuts about food

    It definitely sounds male to me, given all the pros are not female pros… and I am only allowed to say that because I am girl myself! Hehe

    • The 3 F’s

    I’m having the same affair with my kitchen timer…after all these years I can still turn it on.

    Especially great for those whose minds are in many places at once. Cheers!

    • Donna Eshelman

    Hi David: Thanks for this post. After reading it, I ordered the CDN timer since I value simplicity as well in certain kitchen objects such as timers. I am really happy with it and love that it has a magnet on the back so I can store it off the counter and on the refrigerator or stove. I may mention this timer in a holiday post as a great simple gift/stocking stuffer for moms. I run an on-line guide for parents and babies and love to encourage simplicity and efficiency when possible.


    • T.W. Hughes

    Hello David,
    I need a triple timer–so I can time as many as 3 different things at the same time. In the past I used the West Bend triple timer, and even carried a spare because I was so attached to that timer. The last couple of their timers disappointed me in the quality and, so I switched and gave the Oxo triple timer a try. I love it and would be lost without it! Easy to use–no need for instructions, except in the case of changing the current time–it also serves as a clock. The digits on the Oxo triple timer do not seem to be as large as the one you have now, nor can you “turn it off”, but otherwise a very nice piece of equipment that I would hate to do without. Yes, I carry a spare of this one too:-)
    Regards from Thailand,

    • Chris

    “One could, I suppose, test and write recipes for each and every possible variation. Which would require an arsenal of baking equipment and a good sampling of every model of oven made from the last fifteen years crowding your kitchen. Hence the resulting brownie recipe might span ten to fifteen pages…”

    Reading this made me smile and ask, WWJD, what would Julia do? She probably would take 10 pages on a brownie recipe : )


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