We often hear how important it is to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of food before we serve it.
We could be making ourselves and our family members sick when we give them undercooked foods that may contain bacteria, causing foodborne illnesses.
Unfortunately, Detective Foodsafe® has heard too many people say that they don’t own a food thermometer and wouldn’t know which one to buy anyway. This means that too many people aren’t using a thermometer to ensure that their home-cooked food is safe!
Detective Foodsafe is ready to give us all a little help picking out a food thermometer. Which one will work best for the foods we cook, finding the correct internal temperatures for different types of foods and how to care for your thermometer correctly are topics Detective Foodsafe loves to share!
Types of Food Thermometers
Detective Foodsafe can hear you say, “Are there different kinds? Who knew?”
Yes Virginia, there are several different kinds of food thermometers which can be used for different types of foods. Some are easier to use than others therefore you may use them more often!
Here are some of the more common types you will find in the store near you:
- Bi-metal thermometer has a dial face: it has a long metal stem with a dimple which must penetrate the food for a reading; many are self-calibrated, probe 2-2 1/2 inches deep in the thickest part of the food, reads in 1-2 minutes; not good for thin foods.
- Dial instant read: similar to number 1 but reads in 15-20 seconds; insert sideways for thin foods.
- Digital instant read thermometer: read in 10 seconds, place at least 1/2-inch-deep in a food; works in thick and thin foods.
- Thermocouple (digital), read in 5 seconds, place 1/2-inch-deep or deeper, thick and thin foods; hard for non-commercial cook to buy; costly.
- Pop up (as found in poultry), when a particular portion of the bird reaches a pre-determined final temperature it pops up. Experts recommend that you test other parts of the bird using another type of thermometer due to potential inaccuracy.
- Oven probe with a cord (often found in some ovens and older microwave ovens), designed to remain in the food during cooking, cannot be calibrated.
- Disposable, one-time use thermometers. These have specific types of foods on which to use and change color when the specified temperature is reached. Reads in 5-10 seconds.
- Specific-use thermometers such as candy/jelly/oil thermometers and appliance thermometers (oven, refrigerator and freezer).
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a food thermometer for proper use and placement. There should also be instructions for proper calibration.
Safe Food Temperatures
A food thermometer is the best way to test ‘doneness’ of the food you serve your family so that you can prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Color or smell is not a reliable way to measure doneness.
Each type of food has specific temperatures that should be reached, due to the density and size, as well as their potential to be contaminated with bacteria.
Always place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food you are testing.
Most food pathogens are destroyed between 140 degrees and 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
US Food Safety and Inspection Service or FSIS (and Detective Foodsafe) recommend (all in degrees Fahrenheit):
- Cooking Poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees for 15 seconds. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
- Cooking Hamburger to a safe minimum internal temperature of 155 degrees for 15 seconds.
- Cooking Veal, Lamb and Pork to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees.
- Cooking Leftovers and Casseroles to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Holding Cooked Foods below 41 degrees or above 140 degrees.
- Cooking Eggs and Egg Dishes to a safe internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Care of Your Thermometer
Detective Foodsafe wants us all to remember that our food thermometers will need to be cleaned thoroughly after each use.
Use hot soapy water to clean any food debris from them. Use caution with thermometers, most are not to be immersed fully in water.
Always store in their sheath, as the metal probe can be sharp.
Store in a location where they will not be manhandled, as they may break easily, especially if they have glass or plastic pieces.
Learn how to accurately calibrate your thermometer using either an ice water or boiling water method. Checking the temperature accuracy regularly will help you keep your family and friends safe from foodborne illness.
Food thermometers can cost anywhere from a few dollars up to a hundred, depending on the type you buy.
They are relatively simple to use and will help you avoid becoming a victim of food poisoning in your own home!