NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Why Use a Food Thermometer?

Why Use a Food Thermometer?

            Is it done yet? Is it done yet?  How do you know when your favorite food is done? Because it's brown in the middle? Because it is warm to the touch?  Because it is steaming?   All of those indicators –color, feel and appearance – can be misleading when it comes to properly cooking food.

            For example, according to USDA research, 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turns brown in the middle before it has reached a safe internal temperature. The only way to be sure food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature.  Using a food thermometer not only keeps you safe from harmful food bacteria but it also helps you to avoid overcooking, keeping it juicy and flavorful.

            Just like washing your hands before you prepare a meal, you should get into the habit of checking the internal temperature of food, especially meat, poultry and egg dishes. Using a food thermometer is the only sure way of knowing if your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy foodborne bacteria.

Tips for using a food thermometer

  • Use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature toward the end of the cooking time, but before the food is expected to be done.
  • Insert the food thermometer into the thickest part of the food, making sure it doesn't touch bone, fat or gristle.
  • Make sure to clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water before and after each use.
  •             Thermometers come in all shapes and sizes—digital probes for the oven and microwave, dial oven-safe and even disposable temperature indicators.    Some thermometers are designed to better measure the temperature in thicker food products (such as a dial thermometer) and others are designed to better measure the temperature in shallow food products (such as a digital thermometer). Before using a food thermometer, read the thermometer manufacturer's instructions. The instructions can tell you how far the thermometer must be inserted in a food item to give an accurate reading. Most digital thermometers will read the temperature in a small area of the tip so they may work with thin foods or foods in a shallow

                Newer to the market of food thermometers is the thermometer fork combination:
    This utensil combines a cooking fork with a food thermometer. A temperature-sensing device is embedded in one of the tines of the fork. There are several different brands and styles of thermometer forks on the market; some using thermocouples and some using thermistors. The food temperature is indicated on a digital display or by indicator lights on the handle within 2 to 10 seconds (depending on the type). These lights will tell if the food has reached rare, medium, well done, etc. Particularly useful for grilling, the thermometer fork will accurately measure the internal temperature of even the thinnest foods. The thermometer fork should be used to check the temperature of a food towards the end of the estimated cooking time. Thermometer forks are not designed to remain in a food while in the oven or the grill.

                What temperature are we looking for on that thermometer?   Temperatures for common foods are:

                Ground Meat Mixtures of Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb – 160 degrees F

                Whole Pieces & Ground Meat Mixtures of Turkey, Chicken – 165 degrees F

                Steaks, Roasts & Chops of Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb – 145 degrees F.

                Egg Dishes – 160 degrees F.

                Leftovers – 165 degrees F

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