How To Use a Food Thermometer

One common problem that many of us face when cooking is the problem of not knowing our food’s internal temperature. It’s easy to see what’s on the outside and know if the food has been brought to the proper temperature externally.

However, for the internal part of the food, relying on the oven’s average temperature will be wrong since layers separate the external part from the internal part. Reasonably, this is why a food thermometer is a must-have.

What is a food thermometer?

A food thermometer, just like a human thermometer is used to measure temperature. However, as the name depicts, it is used in taking the temperature of our food, rather than that of humans.

Therefore, a food thermometer is used to get a feel of the internal temperature of our cookings. It is used when cooking foods like turkey, poultry, beef, fish, birds, casseroles, and even hamburgers. As long as your food has a distance with layers between the internal and external environment, using a food thermometer to gauge is ideal.   

Why use a food thermometer?

When following cooking guidelines, there are internal temperature rules that indicate we bring our food to a particular temperature in the oven, internally. For the external part, setting the oven’s temperature works perfectly all the time. However, how do we know if the inner layer is also at the required temperature? By using a food thermometer.

A food thermometer helps to keep the dressing on our foods and helps to avoid spoiling the parts with knives. The traditional means of checking out food’s internal environment includes using knives and poles, both of which if admitted leave the food looking poked in various places. It is to avoid this, that we use the food thermometer. 

Here are other reasons why you should definitely have a food thermometer in your kitchen:

1. It helps to prevent overcooking

Cooking a good meal is helped by bringing it just to the right temperature at the required time? What happens when the food has too much temperature than it needs, is exposed to a longer-term of higher temperature than necessary? It becomes overcooked.

I like to think that a food thermometer helps to put your food at the best temperature for it so that it is not undercooked, overcooked, or burnt. It helps you to reach the best temperature that is required to achieve the right texture.

2. It helps to avoid the consumption of contaminated foods

Food consumed when it is not well cooked externally may contain bacteria of various types. For example, raw meat contains Salmonella, E.Coli, and a couple of other bacteria which might be consumed with it when it is not cooked properly.

With a food thermometer, to reduce the chances of consuming such contaminated and uncooked food. You can check the temperature as many times as possible to ensure you have your food in the right state- cooked, and free of bacteria.

3. It helps to bring ingredients to the right temperature

Each of the ingredients used when cooking has a temperature to be reached before use. Using a food thermometer helps to measure and confirm these temperatures. With all ingredients at their expected temperature and ready for use, you achieve more homogenous and successful cooking.  

4. It is used for meal preparation

Other than using the thermometer to bring the cooking ingredients to the right temperature, it can also be used in preparing the meal itself and for checking the absolute temperature when we are done cooking.

Children, especially babies require that their foods are at a particular temperature- high enough to kill bacteria but not too high to burn them. A food thermometer helps to reach the average temperature needed and even confirms it.

Types of food thermometer

In cooking, there are various types of food thermometer; however, they can be categorized basically into:

1. Instant-read thermometer

 These types of thermometers are used to instantly tell the temperature of your food. They are not placed into the food for a long time, to avoid damage. They can be used to take the temperature of soups, roasts, and other foods with limited layers.

2. Disposable thermometer

 Disposable thermometers are single-use thermometers that are disposed off after use. They work very quickly and are effective for poultry meals. They are also some of the easiest types of thermometers to use. 

3. Dial oven-proof thermometer 

They are some of the most popular types of thermometers. Unlike the instant-read thermometer, the dial thermometer can be left in your cooking for a long time. It could be placed in the food from the beginning and used till the end to monitor the temperature as it changes.

4. Digital thermometer

The Digital thermometer is used when cooking chicken parts, pork, and hamburgers. It takes readings within seconds when inserted 2 inches into the thickest part of the food.

5. Thermometer-fork combination

This type of thermometer is shaped like a fork, with the thermometer display at the edge. It combines the function and physical look of a fork, and a thermometer. It is used mostly when grilling and can read temperatures in 5-10 seconds     

How to use a food thermometer

The use of food thermometers depends largely on the type of food thermometer to be used. Here, we’ll be discussing how to use the aforementioned types. 

How to use an instant-read thermometer

When you are ready to take the temperature of your food, simply deep the thermometer three inches into the thickest part of the food. The instant-read thermometer will take the temperature immediately. It is advised that you use this type of thermometer towards the end of your cooking.

How to use an oven-proof thermometer

Unlike the instant-read thermometer, the ovenproof thermometer takes a few minutes to give a temperature measurement. To use, you can place in your food as it cooks. Also, dip it into the food into about three inches.

How to use a digital food thermometer 

Insert the thermometer stem about two inches into the food, targeting the thickest part. The thermometer will pick up the food’s internal temperature in no time. 

How to use a thermometer-fork combination

To use this type of thermometer combination, deep the fork end of the thermometer half an inch into the food. Wait a few seconds and you’ll be able to read the temperature on the indicator.

Things to watch out for when using a food thermometer

  1. Know the type of meal you are cooking and the right thermometer for it, to avoid misreadings 
  2. Choose a conventional thermometer to save yourself a lot of troubles
  3. Always insert your thermometer into the thickest parts of the meat, poultry, or hamburger.
  4. Even if you take the temperature of your food at the beginning, ensure you take a final one when you are done cooking
  5. Insert your thermometer carefully and properly. Thermometers should not touch the fatty sides or the bones for an accurate reading to be displayed.
  6. Give your thermometer time. Do not hastily insert your thermometer into the food to remove it. Give it the required time to read the food temperature and guide you on the step to take.


When should a food thermometer be inserted?

At the beginning and the end of your cooking. This depends on the type of thermometer you are using. 

Should a food thermometer start at zero?

Yes. However, this is not mandatory as long as you are positive that your thermometer is working accurately. 

How should a food thermometer be cleaned?  

Different thermometer types require different cleaning methods. You can clean instant-read in hot water with soap, just like the digital meat thermometer. Avoid submerging all thermometer types into water and clean to get rid of all food particles. Sanitize after washing, then rinse and sundry.

How accurate is a food thermometer?

A food thermometer is quite accurate. The accuracy can be checked with methods like the ice water method and the boiling water method.

The Ice water test requires that you fill a glass of water to the top with ice. Pour cold water until the glass overflows. Insert your thermometer and wait to check the readings. If the thermometer reads 0°C or 32°F, it is accurate. This works because water freezes at this temperature and therefore the ice is expected to measure just that.

The Boiling Water test involves bringing water to a boil and inserting the thermometer in it. It will read 100°C because that is the standard temperature of boiling water.

Can you use a food thermometer on humans?

Yes. However, it is not a very hygienic option. If used on humans, ensure you clean and sanitize properly before returning to the kitchen.


Using a food thermometer is easy and it saves lots of time spent guessing or checking again and again. With it, you can get accurate temperature measurement and avoid the doubt that comes with relying only on the food’s physical look, its tenderness, or other means of knowing when your meat is done.