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How and Why to Calibrate Your Food Thermometer

How and Why to Calibrate Your Food Thermometer  1/11/19Once upon a time, I cooked everything to well done, “just to be safe.”  Then I started using a food thermometer.

I discovered that the recommended minimum internal food temperatures that are considered safe for helping to prevent foodborne illness from cooked foods are lower than the temperatures I had been cooking to.  Low and behold, once I stopped cooking to “overdone,” food was juicier and more flavorful!    

Accurately measuring the internal temperatures of foods we cook, bake, grill, roast, etc. depends on using a food thermometer that has been accurately calibrated and is positioned correctly in the food. 

To calibrate a dial gauge food thermometer, you must first determine if it has a calibration nut that can be adjusted.  It would be located just under the temperature dial at the top of the thermometer stem.  If it does, use the ice point method of calibrating the thermometer.  It might sound like you are back in a science lab, but rest assured:  it is actually pretty easy, and you need NOT put on a science lab coat to do it!  Simply follow these steps:  

  1. Fill a large glass with crushed ice.
  2. Add water to the top of the ice and stir well.
  3. Place the stem (probe) of the food thermometer at least 2 inches into the ice water without touching the sides or the bottom of the glass.
  4. Wait at least 30 seconds until the temperature stabilizes.
  5. The temperature should read 32 degrees F.
  6. If the temperature does not read 32 degrees F., keep the stem in the ice water and hold the adjusting nut under the dial gauge head of the thermometer while turning the head until the arrow reads 32 degrees F.  Repeat steps 4-6.

A quick video of how to calibrate a food thermometer is available online from the Ohio State University Extension at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdW5gbSa_dQ.

Properly using a calibrated food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure the food is safe to eat and to determine desired "doneness" of meat, poultry, and egg products.

Additional information about food thermometers, how to properly position and use them, and the recommended safe minimum internal temperatures for meats, poultry, fish, eggs, casseroles and leftovers is available from the Extension office, or online from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service at https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/Kitchen_Thermometers.pdf?redirecthttp=true.

Photo Source: http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/17710  (downloaded 1/14/19)

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