Properly cooked meat is juicy and tasty, while overcooked meat can be dry and tasteless. On the other hand, undercooked meat can pose serious health risks. Sometimes it can be hard to know whether food is properly cooked. Research has shown that color is not reliable indicator to determine the “doneness” of meat and most other foods. To eliminate guesswork in your kitchen, you should use a quality food thermometer. A food thermometer is an essential kitchen tool for making sure that meat and poultry are properly cooked, and for monitoring the internal temperature of other foods.
Some foods may already contain harmful bacteria when they are purchased. Numerous studies estimate that nearly half of the meat and poultry sold in U.S. supermarkets and grocery stores are contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria. Raw foods, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, unpasteurized milk, and dairy products may contain bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. Most bacteria grow very slowly at refrigeration temperatures, but multiply rapidly if the food is left at room temperature. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 76 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses each year.
Importance of Safe Cooking
The bacteria found in contaminated food can only survive until the temperature reaches a certain point. It is important to cook foods at a high enough temperature to kill these bacteria and prevent food borne illness.
For safety, the USDA recommends cooking hamburgers and ground beef mixtures such as meat loaf at 160 °F, as measured with a food thermometer. Consumers should not eat ground beef patties that are pink or red in the middle unless a food thermometer has been used to verify the cooked temperature. The USDA food safety officials also recommend cooking all raw beef steaks and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer before removing the food from the heat source.
It is especially important to use a thermometer when cooking meat and poultry, because these foods carry the highest risks of food poisoning. Using an accurate cooking thermometer is the only way to be sure that all bacteria in your food have been killed. An added bonus is that the food you’re serving is tasty and not overcooked.
Which Meat Thermometer Best Suits Your Needs?
An instant read meat thermometers have an easy to read temperature display that provides accurate information fast. If you prefer to check the meat temperature instantly, you may want to invest in an instant-read thermometer.
If you prefer to insert the meat thermometer before you start cooking, you can try a leave-in meat thermometer. The console of digital leave-in thermometer stays outside the oven while the thermometer probe remains inserted into the meat.
Thermoworks Digital Cooking Thermometers
ThermoWorks Super-Fast Cooking Thermometer (store: Amazon) is ergonomically designed, splash-proof, and very easy to, use, clean and store. It has a durable finish for everyday use with no external buttons to catch germs or food residues. It has no confusing special features or extra buttons.
The digital display has large enough numbers to enable consumers to read the temperature without glasses. The display has a light sensor which automatically turns on the backlight in a dark room.
The small stainless steel probe is sharp enough to penetrate easily, making small holes, which don’t allow meat juices to flow out. The sensor is at the very tip of the probe, which makes it possible to measure internal and outside temperature of a larger roast, as well as the temperature in a thin piece of meat.
It has an auto on/off when you unfold/fold it. There are switches in the battery compartment which allow you to set it for Fahrenheit or Celsius readings, and also in tenths or whole degrees. You also can disable the auto-off for continuous readings.
This is a professional device, used and recommended by America’s Test Kitchen. Thermapen thermometer registers temperatures ranging from -58.0 to 572.0 degrees F (-49.9 to 299.9 degrees C). Each unit comes with a NIST-Traceable certificate of calibration, which shows test results for the individual product. It needs 3 seconds for accurate reading, so to take a quick check you don’t have to hold your oven door open long.
People use Thermapen for a variety of purposes. The sharp long probe enables you to measure the temperature of everything. It is often used for grilling, smoking, baking, cooking meat and poultry, or for candy making. It helps remove the cookies at the optimal temperature and is also good for checking temperature in baby bath water or in the fish tank.
If you are looking for a high quality food thermometer, that has both a high and low alarm, ThermoWorks ChefAlarm is worth considering. ChefAlarm comes with a sturdy carrying and storage case. It has a dual tip protector for the probe. The product comes in a nice selection of bright colors.
Stainless steel probe measures to 572 degrees. The probe is very long and can be inserted and left in the food without frying the cable. An additional ThermoWorks Pro-Series Needle Probe is available to buy on Amazon, if the original gets damaged. The metal-encased cord for the probe is resistant to heat and long enough for convenient use.
The ChefAlarm is very accurate and reads in only 4 seconds. It can be used for both hot and cold foods.
You can adjust the alarm volume to make sure it is loud enough to hear if you are not in the kitchen.
People use ChefAlarm for cooking a variety of foods. It works well for grilling, smoking, candy making, meat cooking, and yogurt making.
ThermoPop – Rotating Display Pocket Thermometer is another innovation from ThermoWorks. The ThermoPop is very compact and portable food thermometer, which feels good in your hand. It has very tiny tip, a lit screen, and easy to read numbers. You can hold it in either hand or read it when it’s upside down. ThermoPop is very accurate and reads in only 5 to 6 seconds! It shows the temperature in both C and F. It will shut off automatically after 10 minutes. It comes in a protective case, so can be easily put in a pocket. The wide temperature range (-58⁰F to 572⁰F) makes it suitable for both deep fryer testing and frozen foods.
Tips for Using a Meat Thermometer
- Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, so the tip of the probe does not touch any bone, fat or the pan surface;
- For pork, beef, and lamb cuts, insert the probe in the center of the thickest meat area, away from fat, bone, and gristle;
- Steaks are thinner cuts compared to roast cuts, so be careful not to put the end of the thermometer onto the hot cooking surface;
- When check the internal temperature of poultry, insert the probe into the thigh area near the breast, avoiding the bone. The best place to insert a probe in a turkey would be in the high part of the thigh muscle;
- Ground meat is more likely to contain bacteria. The probe should be placed in the thickest area of the meatloaf. Food safety experts recommend inserting the thermometer into the side of the hamburger, to make sure that the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees F.
- The internal temperature of stuffed and rolled meats should be checked in two different places;
- After each use, wash the probe of the thermometer thoroughly in hot, soapy water. To sanitize the probe make a bleach water solution and soak the probe into it, then rinse it before each use.