Thermometers ensure proteins like chicken, beef and ground meat are cooked to the correct internal temperature to eliminate harmful bacteria. To get an accurate reading, insert the thermometer in the food as described in the manufacturer’s instructions (look for an indentation or “dimple” on the tip of bimetallic-coil or digital instant-read thermometers).
Always check foods in their thickest part away from bone, fat or gristle. Use this chart to determine the recommended minimum temperatures for different foods.
Wash the Thermometer
Thermometers can harbor bacteria if they aren’t properly cleaned. The best way to wash a thermometer is with hot, soapy water before use. Ensure to lather the probe (or needle for dial thermometers) and any parts touching food. Rinse well and allow the thermometer to air dry before using again.
If you don’t have access to hot, soapy water, sanitize your thermometer with a solution of isopropyl alcohol 70 percent or higher or a household bleach solution of one teaspoon of bleach per quart of water. Wipe down the entire thermometer, rinse it thoroughly with warm water, and let it air dry before storing.
Using a cooking thermometer ensures that your foods have reached safe internal temperatures and helps prevent overcooking, which can lead to dry, tough meat and nutrient loss. Follow these tips to ensure the accuracy of your thermometer and get accurate results every time you use it.
Place the Thermometer in the Thickest Part of the Food
Foods must reach certain internal temperatures to be considered “safely cooked.” Thermometers help you gauge these temperatures so that you can serve safe foods.
The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the food, away from bone, fat and gristle. For thin cuts of meat, such as hamburger or chicken strips, insert the thermometer sideways. Always clean the probe and stem of the thermometer after use.
It’s also important to remember that the portion of the food in contact with the thermometer will be hotter than the rest. This is called the “potato nail effect.” This means that the temperature reading might not be accurate.
If your thermometer is not giving an accurate reading, it may need to be calibrated. Most food thermometers have a calibration nut that can be adjusted under the dial. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for details. Also, remember to wash your food thermometers with hot, soapy water after each use.
Leave the Thermometer in the Food for 10 Seconds
Food cooked to the correct internal temperature can help protect us from foodborne illnesses. This is particularly important for pregnant women and their unborn babies, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.
Before using a food thermometer, read the manufacturer’s instructions. These will tell you how far the thermometer must be inserted into a food to give an accurate reading. They will also usually provide directions on calibrating the thermometer, if necessary.
To get an accurate reading, ensure the probe is inserted into the center of the thickest part of the food. It must not touch bone, fat or gristle. It is also good to check the food temperature in several places, especially with casseroles and egg dishes containing ground meat or poultry. After each use, wash your thermometer carefully with hot, soapy water. This prevents cross-contamination with harmful bacteria and helps your thermometer work well for a long time.
Remove the Thermometer from the Food
In addition to helping ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature, a food thermometer reduces the time and energy spent in the kitchen. It can also prevent over-cooking, which can degrade the quality of foods and cause nutritional deficiencies.
Meat thermometers are small, prong-type devices that can be inserted into the center of the meat and other proteins to determine their internal temperatures. These devices are available in analog and digital forms and can help you cook meat to a safe, optimal level of doneness.
A candy thermometer is a long, narrow thermometer with a high heat range that can measure the temperature of boiling sugar and other foods like syrups, sauces, and oil. These help achieve the right consistency for confections like caramels and brittles. It is important to clean and sanitize your thermometer after each use, especially if you are handling raw foods. This helps reduce the spread of germs and keeps your thermometer working accurately.