Let’s cover the essential tips and benefits of a meat thermometer- How to buy, use and calibrate. As a food scientist, this is my most important tool in the kitchen for nailing safe and delicious meals.
With the holiday season in full swing, it’s time to talk meat thermometers. I genuinely think even the most sophisticated cook should use one–they’re not expensive and allow for precision in the kitchen, something particularly important when multi-tasking, for both safety and taste’s sake. Furthermore, they’re easy to use. What’s not to like?
Types of Thermometers
Overall, there are four different types of thermometers: meat, oven, oil/candy and all-purpose.
- A meat thermometer ranges from 140 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, which captures the range of cooking meat explicitly.
- An oven thermometer is ideal for any kitchen, but especially when using older appliances or when cooking with an unfamiliar oven as it can help identify hot spots or an oven that doesn’t keep regular temperature.
- A candy thermometer ranges from 100 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, which encompasses a wide range of recipe needs. It comes with a liquid gauge, as digital instant-read thermometers like oven and meat thermometers can’t capture the high heat needed for boiling sugar, deep frying or making cheese.
- An all-purpose thermometer is precisely what it sounds like: an instant-read digital tool that can be used for baking, cooking meat or anything else that would be helpful to have an internal temperature read.
Popular Meat Thermometers on Amazon
How To Use a Meat Thermometer
Using a meat thermometer is quite simple. I recommend to use either a digital instant-read apparatus or a digital probe, but you can also use a bulb or bimetallic thermometers, which are easily found at grocery stores. The latter isn’t as accurate and can take longer to give precise temperature reads.
With both options, you will want to select the thickest part of the meat to plunge the probe into, which is likely to house the least-cooked piece of the meat.
Turkey or Chicken Doneness Testing: There are two spots; just above the crease between the thigh and where the breast starts, or the thickest part of the thigh meat. Do not touch the bone or you will get a false high reading. The instructions will tell you to probe at least ½ an inch, but you’ll want to go deeper if the meat is thicker than an inch altogether. With digital thermometers, the temperature should continue to drop as you move inward, and you’ll know you’ve gone too far once it starts to rise again. Target 165 degrees Fahrenheit for the breast, 170 degrees Fahrenheit for the thighs, and 165 degrees Fahrenheit for stuffing.
Large roasts should be checked 30-40 minutes before you expect it to be done cooking–thinner and smaller cuts are good to check 5-10 minutes out. You should shoot for 5 degrees less than your desired temperature, and take your meat out of its heat source so it can finish cooking on its own.
Give the thermometer time to stabilize. It is taking average readings along the sensing part of the probe. Some thermometers can read as fast as 2 to 3 seconds, and others need more time.
>> Check out How to Check For Doneness of Meats
How to Calibrate Thermometer
Digital is a bit more difficult to calibrate than analog (a mercury thermometer) however both use the same method. A digital thermometer can be adjusted by a repairman if needed, but you can also keep in mind how many degrees it may be off and do the math in your head.
- Ice point Method: Add cold water and ice to a drinking cup, allow to stabilize for a few minutes. Insert the probe into the center of glass only touching the ice water. Allow the temperature to stabilize. If it does not reach 32°F(0°C), press “calibrate” on the digital thermometer 32 degrees or turn dial-face thermometers to 32 degrees.
- Boiling Point Method: Boil water to 212°F (100°C). Add to a glass measuring cup and insert the probe into the hot water. If it does not reach 212°F (100°C), press “calibrate” on the digital thermometer 212 degrees or turn dial-face thermometers to 212 degrees.