How to Use a Meat Thermometer
Why Do You Need Food Thermometers?
In this era of fast food, it is an act of true caring to prepare a meal for family and friends. It’s frustrating when your carefully cooked dish comes out poorly because it is overcooked or undercooked. In addition, we are more conscious about food safety these days, and we know that maintaining food at the proper temperature helps keep it safe to eat. To preserve your investment of time and money in the food you buy and cook, proper temperature monitoring is critical. Every good cook should have several digital food thermometers for different purposes.
According to Robert Gravani, Ph.D., Food Science Professor at Cornell University and Spokesperson for the Institute of Food Technologists, Many cooks believe they can tell if food is done – and safe to eat - by how it looks and feels. However, according to the USDA, recent research has shown that color and texture are unreliable indicators of food temperature safety. Using a food thermometer is the only way to make sure meat, poultry, fish, and egg dishes are cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful microorganisms.
What Types of Thermometers Do You Need for Food Safety and Tasty Meals?
Different thermometers serve different purposes. Your well-equipped kitchen should contain at least one of each type of thermometer.
- Meat Thermometer - to check the internal temperature of ground meat, roasts, pork, veal, beef, poultry, fish, and egg dishes
- Fridge Thermometer - to keep the food in your refrigerator and freezer within the safe temperature range
What is the Best Way to Use a Meat Thermometer?
Most of us use a meat thermometer for a large roast or the Thanksgiving turkey. According to the USDA, however, we should be using these thermometers routinely for foods such as hamburgers, chicken breasts, and even egg dishes such as quiche. Using a thermometer is the ONLY method that can ensure a safe temperature for your food.In fact, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has a campaign called: "Is It Done Yet? You Can't Tell By Looking. Use a Food Thermometer to be Sure!"
According to USDA research, 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown before it reaches a safe internal temperature.
What about pop-up thermometers that come already inserted into a whole turkey or chicken? According to the Huffington Post, “A pop-up turkey timer is probably one of the most unreliable kitchen gadgets of them all. And by the time it does actually pop, the turkey will be dry like sawdust.” Pop-up timers are set at much too high a temperature, and they are no substitute for a high-quality meat thermometer.
It’s not safe to eat undercooked food, but you don’t want to overcook your meat, either. Overcooked meats are dry and tough; properly cooked meat should be tender and juicy (is your mouth watering yet?). You need to know the recommended temperature for each type of food.
A couple of years ago, the government changed some of its temperature recommendations to include an option for cooking whole cuts and chops of pork, beef, and veal to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, with a three-minute “rest period” after the meat is removed from the oven. This rest time helps to destroy harmful bacteria while leaving the meat juicy and flavorful. You may still prefer to cook these meats to 160 degrees. It’s important to note that all ground meat mixtures MUST be cooked to 160 degrees and all poultry MUST be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees for safety – the “rest period” does not apply to these foods.
|Ground Meat & Poultry Mixtures
Veal, Beef, Lamb, Pork, Patties
Turkey, Chicken, Patties
160°F / 71°C
165°F / 74°C
|Fresh Beef & Veal
145°F / 63°C with 3 min. rest
160°F / 71°C
170°F / 77°C
|Lamb & Fresh Pork
145°F / 63°C with 3 min. rest
160°F / 71°C
|Poultry||165°F / 74°C|
Pre-Cooked (to reheat)
145°F / 63°C with 3 min. rest
165°F / 74°C
|Fish & Shellfish||145°F / 63°C|
||160°F / 71°C|
|Leftovers||165°F / 74°C|
If you are using an instant-read thermometer, insert it into the thickest part of the meat before you expect your food to be fully cooked. For additional convenience, use a leave-in thermometer or a digital thermometer with an oven-safe probe that can remain in the food while it is cooking. When you insert the thermometer or the probe, be careful not to poke through the food and make contact with the cooking pan, and avoid touching bone or gristle in order to get an accurate reading.
Be sure to wash your instant-read thermometer shaft or stainless steel probe with hot water and soap. A nylon scrubber does a good job. AcuRite’s instant-read thermometers have stainless steel shafts for easy clean-up. For AcuRite thermometers with probes, you can detach the probe and clean it by hand or in the dishwasher.
Types of Meat Thermometers
Instant-read meat thermometers are compact, easy to use, and affordable, giving a temperature reading in seconds.
- Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer with tilt display 00274/00284CS - antimicrobial plastic housing, steel probe with protective sheath, tilting LCD display for versatile viewing options
- Digital Instant Read Thermometer 00681 - antimicrobial plastic housing, steel probe with protective sheath, bold LCD display
- Digital Instant Read Thermometer with Folding Probe 00665E - pocket-size, probe locks into place, folds for portability
Digital meat thermometers with a probe allow you to monitor the temperature of your food with the oven door or grill cover closed. They can be used with an oven, grill, barbecue, fryer, or smoker. The display remains outside of the oven or other cooking device, while the commercial-quality stainless steel probe (which is connected to a three-foot heat-resistant cord) is inserted into the food and remains there while it cooks. An audible alarm lets you know when your food is cooked to the temperature you select.
- Digital Meat Thermometer with Probe for Oven / Grill / Fryer / Smoker 00993ST / 00993STA1 – compact design with a cord that is heat-resistant to 450º F; display can sit on counter or table, or may be mounted magnetically to oven door; suggested temperatures printed on back
- Digital Instant Read Thermometer 00681 - folding design with a rotary dial to set the desired temperature; cord is heat-resistant to 700º F; presets for USDA-recommended temperatures or set your own
Wireless Meat Thermometers let you enjoy time with your family or guests without having to stay close to your food while it is cooking. You can stay inside in the air conditioning while your meat cooks on the grill, or visit in the family room downstairs while the roast is in the oven, with no risk of an overcooked or burnt meal. These nifty thermometers include a stainless steel probe on a three-foot heat-resistant cord that stays in the food with the oven door or grill lid closed, a pager with a belt clip, a display that includes a kitchen timer, and a variety of handy features. These thermometers are extremely useful for the oven, grill, barbecue, fryer, or smoker, and make a unique host or hostess gift.
- Wireless Meat Thermometer & Timer with Pager 03168 – pager with 100-foot range, kitchen timer and clock, cord that is heat-resistant to 600º F, easy-stow cord and probe, audible and visual alarm to indicate when food is done
- Digital Meat Thermometer & Timer with Pager 00278 - premium model with 200-foot range pager; cord that is heat-resistant to 700º F; patent-pending algorithm for remaining cooking time; easy-set dial; alarm with sound, light, and vibration to indicate when food is done
Save Money While Making Sure Your Fridge, Freezer, or Cooler is at a Safe Temperature.
Anyone who has had to throw away spoiled food after a fridge catastrophe knows that it can be very expensive when your refrigerator or freezer doesn’t cool properly. But did you know that you may also be wasting money by over-cooling your fridge or freezer?
According to the USDA, you should keep your refrigerator between 32 and 40º F. Freezers should be kept at or below 0º F. The USDA recommends that you use a refrigerator thermometer to check these temperatures on a regular basis. Maintaining and monitoring the temperature of cooled or frozen food is a safety issue: harmful bacteria grow rapidly when food is not sufficiently chilled. Even food in a picnic cooler should be monitored because if the interior temperature is above 40º F, the food could make you and your family sick.
Consumer Reports recommends using a refrigerator/freezer thermometer if your appliance only has a dial to indicate temperature. Most fridge dials are difficult to read and don’t necessarily pinpoint the correct temperature. It is important to have a thermometer that is easy to see and can be placed in the warmest part of the fridge.
AcuRite has thermometers to monitor the temperature of your refrigerator, freezer, or cooler. Choose the features you need, ranging from a simple clip-on digital food thermometer to a sophisticated wireless refrigerator/freezer digital thermometer that allows you to see the temperature without opening the fridge door.
It’s especially important to monitor refrigerator and freezer temperatures in the event of a power failure. If the power goes off, try not to open the fridge or freezer in order to preserve the internal temperature. This is where a wireless thermometer really comes in handy. According to the USDA, your refrigerator should keep food cold for about 4 hours without power; a full freezer should hold its temperature for about 48 hours, or half that time if it is half full. You can use dry ice or block ice to maintain the proper temperature. A good-quality refrigerator thermometer is critical when the power goes out.
When power is restored, check your thermometer to ensure that the refrigerator temperature is at or below 40º F and the freezer temperature is at or below 0º F. No matter how long the power has been out, your appliance thermometer will continue to register the temperature so you can be sure your food is still safe. A small investment in one of these thermometers will pay for itself many times over.
- Digital Fridge, Freezer & Cooler Thermometer 00515M – handy device includes silcone band to hang in fridge, freezer, or picnic cooler; modern stainless steel design; LCD display shows high/low and current temperatures with the ability to set alerts so that you can react quickly
References ad Resources
- IsItDoneYet.gov – Information about proper internal temperatures for meats and other foods
- Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency – USDA article includes information about food safety during power loss
- Do Pop-Up Turkey Timers Actually Work? – from the Huffington Post
- Food Thermometers Are Key to Food Safety – USDA article
- How to Use a Meat Thermometer – from Better Homes and Gardens magazin
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