Although considered unnecessary by many, a food thermometer is one of the essential kitchen utensils everyone should have. It is used to check and confirm the internal temperature of your cooking, when cooking, or after cooking.
It is impossible to tell how your food looks on the inside, right? Unless, of course, you open it up, which might spoil the aesthetics. Since we cannot always open up the food to check its interior, the safest and best option is to use a food thermometer to check the temperature.
Moreover, you cannot always rely on how your food smells, looks, or feels to tell if it is well cooked or not. These methods and other methods of checking if your meat is done are only guessing based on experience.
The best way to save yourself from the stress of guessing and having a good confirmation is by making use of a food thermometer. Well, now you can learn everything there is to know about a food thermometer, its types, and how to use it.
What Is a Food Thermometer?
A food thermometer is a heat reader to maintain the right temperature for your cooked foods. It helps to maintain the temperature and monitor heating in cooking foods, especially for meat and poultry. You can also use it for baking to check the internal temperature of your pastries without burning them.
Furthermore, you can use a food thermometer for varying reasons asides from keeping your food at the right temperature. You can also prevent it from reducing to a danger zone, burning or flattening your cooked foods. the perfect temperature of the food until it’s served and eaten is between 40°F and 140°F.
A food thermometer helps to preserve this heat temperature by monitoring and indicating how you should direct the heat of the food.
Moreover, you cannot truly test the “doneness” of food except you monitor with a tool used for internal temperature monitoring.
Advantages of Using a Food Thermometer
Using a food thermometer comes with numerous advantages. Some of them are listed below.
It helps to avoid overcooking
While a couple of people hate to undercook their meals, some others dislike overcooked meals. What’s the right way to do things? Cooking under the right temperature for the right amount of time. Using a food thermometer helps you to achieve just that.
You can check the internal temperature of your food from time to time to know when it is cooked and ready without having to rely on your oven temperature.
Your oven’s temperature is the temperature you are subjecting your entire food to, but the heat that actually gets into the meal and cooks it differs because of the many layers of your food.
It makes it easy to follow recipes
Are you trying a meal for the first time while following a recipe? Then it would help if you were using a food thermometer because it is one of the best guides that you can get when cooking.
A food thermometer makes following step-by-step instructions easy so that you cook your food to the exact temperature recommended.
If your recipe says to cook meat till it has a temperature of 40°F, of course, that is different from saying you should set the oven to that temperature.
It helps to prevent undercooking
If it’s not a soft-boil egg, purposely underboiled, for no reason should your food be undercooked. Undercooked meals are almost raw meals and therefore do not taste as good as the real deal.
They are not subjected to the right amount of heat for the right amount of time; therefore, their taste often doesn’t come out well. How do you ensure that your meal is not undercooked and that you don’t have to return it to the cooker many times after taking it off? By using a food thermometer.
With it, you can measure the temperature of your food until it reaches the perfect degree. Waiting for the color to change or for the texture to change are not confirmed ways; get a food thermometer.
It helps to prevent food poisoning and the spread of bacteria
Food poisoning comes with stress and sometimes with trips to the hospital. Therefore, it is always in one’s best interest to avoid getting it. What one factor also contributes to food poisoning? The consumption of meals is not cooked appropriately.
Not cooking your meals well to the adequate temperature or the required temperature is exposing yourself to poison.
Often, raw meats contain bacteria. However, cooking them to the right temperature kills the bacteria and renders them harmless to us. With a food thermometer, you can tell if your food is at the temperature it should be and save yourself from the trouble of consuming harmful bacteria.
It is used to reheat food to a safe temperature
It is generally known that the timeframe required for cooking a meal while raw is different from that required to reheat the food later. How do you reheat a meal to a safe temperature so that the internal temperature is affected, but you do not end up burning it? By using a food thermometer.
Apart from using it when cooking from scratch, a thermometer can also be used when reheating meals for consumption.
It helps to eliminate guesswork
With a thermometer, you do not look at your food and try to guess through a series of probabilities if your meal is done and ready. You can take readings to know the temperature and decide if it is or not.
Not using a thermometer means having to rely on years of experience cooking and watching out for color change, texture change, and other changes based on guesswork.
Disadvantages of Using a Food Thermometer
Does using a food thermometer have any disadvantages when we talk about using it for cooking, safety, and human effect? Let’s talk about the incapabilities of a food thermometer.
Most are not versatile
Most thermometers are designed to work for a particular type of food. Many of them are not versatile, which usually brings up either a costly versatile one or many cheap ones used for different meals.
For example, the digital or instant-read thermometer is used for poultry products, while the deep fry is best used when deep frying. Not all thermometers are versatile; most of them have specific uses.
Versatile thermometers that work for various meals at the same time are often expensive. Nonetheless, they are totally worth it, as they are an investment that will serve you well. If you are on a budget, you could get single-use food thermometers or other cheaper types that will serve you well.
Requires technical know-how
Using a food thermometer requires that you be able to place it incorrectly, know when to place it in your meal, remove it, and read it. All of these affect many people’s ability to use a thermometer accurately.
They are occasionally inaccurate
Unless you recently checked your thermometer’s accuracy using the ice water and boiling water technique, you would not know if your thermometer is accurate or not. As a result, if it is inaccurate at the time of use, you would get wrong readings that will lead to wrong judgment.
The solution to this is to occasionally check if your thermometer is accurate and working correctly, using the boiling water and cold water technique.
Types of Food Thermometer
Thermometers come in different sizes and shapes and they often have specific uses which differentiate them from all other types. Thermometers you will come across in the kitchen include:
1. Digital instant-read thermometer
This thermometer is designed to measure temperature as fast as possible and give readings within seconds. They are digital, which means that they display the readings/figure themselves. Digital instant-read thermometers can be used to measure both thin foods and thick foods.
They are inserted about two inches into the thickest part of the food for the readings to be taken.
2. Disposable thermometers
These are other types of very cheap thermometers that help to get readings as fast as possible. They are effective but are designed to be used only once and then disposed of. They are easy to use but cannot read at extremely high or extremely low temperatures.
3. Thermocouple thermometers
Thermocouple thermometers are almost like a complement to disposable thermometers. They are durable and can be used for a long time.
You can use them to measure very extreme temperatures. They are also fast and even better can be used for liquids, meats, and other food types. They can also be placed in food while cooking without any repercussions.
4. Dial oven-safe thermometers
The dial oven-safe thermometer is another thermometer that you can leave in your oven when cooking, You only have to place about two and a half inches deep into your meal, and it will monitor the temperature from the beginning of your cooking till the end.
Dial oven-safe is also called oven-proof, and they are perfect for roasts, soup, and casseroles.
5. Pop-up thermometer
A pop-up thermometer is another easy-to-use tool. It can stay in your meal from the beginning till you finish your cooking. To use a pop-up thermometer, set your desired internal temperature and place it in the food. When the temperature is reached, it pops up to indicate.
The limiting factor in the pop-up thermometer is that you can only use it for a specific type of food, such as poultry roasting.
6. Thermometer-fork combination
This type of thermometer is easy to recognize because it is a combination of fork and thermometer. It is fast and safe to use. It is best only for when grilling, and cannot stay in the food for a very long time.
7. Meat thermometer
A meat thermometer is a food thermometer specifically designed for meat. It can be used when cooking meaty meals like beef or pork. They are often digital and can even be left in the meal while cooking it.
8. Deep-fry thermometer
The deep-fry thermometer is the perfect one for when deep-frying. They are made to be able to handle the very high temperature. A deep-fry thermometer can also serve as a candy thermometer. This thermometer type is essential when determining the temperature of the oil when frying.
9. Refrigerator thermometer
Food thermometers can be used for both hot meals and cold meals, so we also have refrigerator thermometers. They are placed in the refrigerator to ensure that your food is being stored at a temperature that will help kill the bacteria and protect your food from spoilage.
How to Choose a Food Thermometer
Are you convinced that you need a food thermometer? Here are some of the things you should look out for when picking a food thermometer.
Why are you getting a good thermometer?
When picking a thermometer, one of the first things you should consider is why you are getting one. Do you plan to place the thermometer in your refrigerator, or is it for the oven? Are you getting one to help you with meat cooking or for general cooking?
Answering all the core questions and understanding your purpose of getting a thermometer helps you to streamline the options as then you will know the ones available for your purpose intended.
After defining the purpose, the next thing should be picking a very accurate thermometer. Compare with other thermometers before picking it, check the accuracy, and confirm that the thermometer is working properly.
Your meal types
The type of meal you plan to use your thermometer with also matters. You cannot pick a thermometer that is best for deep-frying to use for grilling. Understand that while certain thermometers are versatile, others are not.
Pick a versatile one if you can afford to do so, or pick one that will meet your highest need. You can check the types of thermometers to know the best thermometer for each type of food.
Your budget goes a long way also to determine the type of thermometer you’ll be getting. Do you have a big budget? Then picking the versatile thermometers that will serve you well is ideal. If you don’t, you can settle for other thermometers that are cheap and serve the intended purposes.
Thermometer range is another vital thing to consider. You do not pick a thermometer that can read up to 212°F when you plan to cook meals up to 300° F. Ensure that the thermometer you pick can stand the heat of your type of meal and not destroy the thermometer.
Thermocouple thermometers are an excellent example of thermometers that can stand extreme temperatures.
The speed of your thermometer also matters when you are picking one. It is not advised that you pick a thermometer that keeps you waiting around when cooking. Instant-read thermometers and other digital thermometers that give readings in no time are the best types of thermometers for checking food temperature in record times.
Durability and quality
Durability and quality are the other factors to consider. Do not pick a low-quality thermometer because it is cheap. Pick one that is affordable, of high quality, and durable, because it will serve you best and save you a lot of stress going back and forth to purchase new thermometers.
How to Use a Food Thermometer
Using a food thermometer is easy, and the use largely depends on the type of thermometer you have. Here is a general guide for when using a typical or simple thermometer:
- Place the thermometer in your meal when you are ready to take the temperature
- Ensure that you stick it into the thickest part of the food
- Insert the thermometer about 2 inches deep into the food
- Lease for about 2-5 seconds
- Take your readings and remove the thermometer
- Wash, rinse, and sanitize
Read the complete guide on how to use specific types of thermometers
Common Mistakes You Make When Using Food Thermometers
Often, people make mistakes when using the food thermometer. These mistakes, in turn, affect the accuracy of the reading gotten from the thermometer and the decision that is made with the reading. Here are common mistakes to avoid when using a food thermometer:
Inserting the thermometer wrongly
The correct way to insert the thermometer into the food is to place it in the thickest part of the food, 2 inches deep. If you insert your thermometer into your food using any other way than this, then you might not get an accurate reading.
Not inserting it deep enough means the thermometer gets affected by the external heat. Also, the deepest part is supposed to be the core of the food. It is the part that gets the least heat due to the layers present; therefore, the temperature at the place is a good one to judge.
Not testing the thermometer’s accuracy
It is necessary to check your thermometer’s accuracy from time to time. So that when it slacks or become inaccurate, you can catch it in time to correct it. As long as you use your thermometer regularly, and check the accuracy as often as possible, it will save you a lot of stress and dealings with inaccurate readings.
Using a body thermometer as a food thermometer
For emergency purposes, a food thermometer can serve as a body thermometer. However, it doesn’t go the other way round. Most body thermometers are infrared, and therefore not built to work for food. They take the external surface temperature and so are not a good use when taking the internal temperature of meals.
Placing the thermometer in fats or bones
Another common mistake that people make when inserting the thermometer is placing it in places with a high-fat concentration or in contact with bones. Always ensure that your thermometer is touching the chunky part of the food, and not fat or bone,
How long should you leave a thermometer in your food?
Unless it is a type you can leave in all through the cooking, the ideal time to leave a thermometer in food ranges from the thermometer to the thermometer. However, on average, it should not exceed 15 seconds.
Can a food thermometer take the human temperature?
Yes, it can. However, you will need to follow through with a DIY process to use it.
How should a food thermometer be cleaned?
Always wash, rinse and sanitize your food thermometer. However, be careful not to submerge the whole thermometer in water; at least you damage it.
Are food thermometers safe?
Yes, they are. Food thermometers are very safe. The only type of food thermometer that raises the question of being safe is the mercury-in-glass thermometer. However, you can totally minimize the chances by not using one.
Can food thermometers be used for liquids?
Yes, they can. There are specific types that can be used for liquids, including oil. Before using it in liquid, though, confirm that your current thermometer is suitable.
With the comprehensive guide on a food thermometer, I have covered the types of thermometers you would find in stores, how to pick one and how to use them. Choosing and using a food thermometer should be added to the list of things to get next time you go shopping if you don’t have one.
Food thermometers are essential and a perfect way to ensure that household meals are cooked to the very best temperature.
Thanks for reading.
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