How to Use a Food Thermometer

taking the temperature of turkey coming out of oven with a food thermometerFood thermometers are one of the most important tools for cooking food safely. Food thermometers are the only way to know if food is cooked to a hot enough temperature to kill bacteria that can make your family sick. Food thermometers can also help make sure you don’t overcook your meat, keeping it juicy and tender while still killing all the germs that might be present. Here’s how to use a food thermometer correctly.

Calibrate Your Thermometer

To make sure that your thermometer is set correctly, you need to calibrate it. The best way to do this is using a cup of ice water. Place the thermometer in a cup of ice, making sure not to touch the glass with the tip of the thermometer. The thermometer should read 32°F. If not, adjust the nut (the hexagonal metal ring under the dial) until the dial lines up with 32°F.

Taking the Temperature of Food

Once you’ve cooked your meat, poultry, seafood, egg dishes, or leftovers, use the thermometer to check that they have reached the safe minimum internal temperature (see chart below). Place the thermometer into the food item at the thickest point. Make sure the tip isn’t touching bone, fat, or gristle. Wait 15-20 seconds for the thermometer to register the temperature. If the food is hot enough, remove from heat and let sit for 3 minutes if needed or serve. If the food isn’t hot enough, return to the pan to cook further and recheck the temperature until it has reached the correct temperature.

chart of minimum safe cooking temperatures for meat, poultry, fish, egg dishes, and leftovers

Clean Your Thermometer

After each use, you should clean your thermometer with hot, soapy water. Do not soak or submerge the thermometer underwater. Allow to air dry and store in the protective sheath.

You can’t tell just from the color or texture of food if it is fully cooked to a safe temperature. The only way to know for sure is to use a food thermometer. As you prepare for Thanksgiving, grab your food thermometer to use to ensure your turkey is cooked to 165°F in the breast, wing, and thigh before serving. This will keep germs away and prevent foodborne illnesses at your holiday celebrations.

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