Do you love cooking meat? Do your meats often end up undercooked or overcooked? Even if you think you’re the perfect chef, using a meat thermometer is a quick safety measure that’s worth the 5 seconds it takes of your time.
And the problem isn’t that people don’t have access to them. A study revealed that 60% of Americans have food thermometers at home. However, less than 10% of them use thermometers regularly. This is quite alarming considering the dangers of eating undercooked meat pose.
If you belong to the 60% who own a meat thermometer, then good for you. But the more important question is do you know how to use a meat thermometer?
Continue reading below and check out our complete guide on meat thermometers.
The Meat Thermometer: Why You Should Use One
Before anything else, let us first touch on the importance of using a meat thermometer. We mentioned earlier that failing to cook your meat properly may pose dangers.
Certain kinds of meat require precise temperatures for cooking. Failing to get the temperatures right may leave the bacteria hanging around. When this happens, you may get different kinds of illnesses after ingesting the meat.
Using a meat thermometer will help ensure the safety of your food.
Another reason is it helps you avoid overcooking your meat. This is crucial especially during those afternoon barbecues with the family. Using a meat thermometer will ensure your meat’s tenderness and juiciness.
It keeps you from burning your meat and charring everything to waste.
Lastly, a thermometer can help you reheat food by reaching safe temperatures. This is crucial since meats tend to develop cold spots. Cold spots are breeding ground for bacteria.
Types of Meat Thermometers
Learning how to use a meat thermometer begins with identifying the thermometers. There are two main types to choose from. Let’s take a closer look at them below and see which ones suit your preferences better:
Oven-going thermometers are excellent for cooking meats with larger cuts. These include your whole chickens, roasts, and our beloved turkeys.
One interesting feature of this type of thermometer is you can leave it inside the meat during the cooking process. Additionally, they are relatively cheap. You can also find them in most grocery stores.
However, the downside is that they take quite a while before they give you a reading.
The instant-read is the other main type you can go for. As the name implies, the thermometer gives you instant reading. Its main difference from the oven-going type is that you can only use this if the mean is outside of the oven.
Moreover, you can use the instant-read thermometers for both larger and smaller cuts of meats.
This thermometer comes in two variants: dial and digital. We will discuss how to use both types later down below. Expect these thermometers to cost you a little bit more compared to their oven-going counterparts.
How to Use a Meat Thermometer
Now that you know the different types of meat thermometers, we can now discuss the proper steps on how to use them.
First, you need to learn how to insert the thermometer correctly. If you are using an oven-safe thermometer, make sure to put it inside the meat before cooking.
The key to proper insertion lies in finding the meat’s thickest part. You want to avoid the fat and bone. You also don’t want the thermometer touching the pan. If you are cooking a turkey or a whole chicken, the breast or thigh parts are the best options.
If you are using a digital or dial style, insert the thermometer roughly two inches into the center of the portion. Sometimes, a digital thermometer comes with an indicator mark on the problem. This will serve as your guide as to how deep you need to push inside the meat.
After inserting, give it 15 to 20 seconds before pulling out the thermometer.
Check Early and Often
Another important step is checking the meat’s temperature. You want to perform your checks early and often.
For turkeys and larger roasts, conduct your first temperature check 30 minutes before you expect the meat to cook. For thinner cuts of meat, 5 to 10 minutes is a good time to perform your initial temperature check. One of the keys to achieving perfectly-done meat is to aim for the temperature that your recipe instructed.
Also, there is something that we call carryover cooking. This means that meat will continue to cook even after you take it out of the oven. For larger roasts and turkeys, you want to remove them from the heat once they are 5 degrees away from reaching the doneness temperature.
Thereafter, allow the meat to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. During this time, carryover cooking begins to kick in. This will allow the meat to reach the doneness.
It also retains enough juices that will trickle down the rest of the meat.
Don’t Forget to Calibrate
You also need to learn how to calibrate a meat thermometer. Doing so will help you get accurate readings. Get an empty cup or glass and fill it up with ice. Add some tap water but don’t put too much.
If you see the ice floating a bit, it means you already have enough water.
Let the ice water sit for 5 minutes. The melting ice will chill the water and the latter will reach 32 °F. Thereafter, place the thermometer stem inside the glass. Let it sit for 30 seconds.
Check the gauge and see if it reads 32 °F. If it doesn’t, adjust the calibrator accordingly.
Minimum Internal Temperatures
Last but not least, let’s take a look at the safe minimum internal temperatures for different meats:
- Ground beef – 160°F
- Steaks, chops, and roasts – 145°F
- Chicken – 165°F
- Casseroles – 165°F
- Duck – 165°F
- Ground lamb – 160°F
- Lamb chops, steaks – 145°F
- Ground pork – 165°F
- Pork chops – 145°F
Increase Your Culinary Knowledge
Learning how to use a meat thermometer is an essential culinary lesson you must learn. Not only does it help bring your meals to perfection, but it also ensures the safety of your dishes.
We invite you to increase your culinary knowledge by reading our different articles. We offer guides and tips that will help develop your skills in the kitchen.