Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to use a food thermometer, today, I’m going to show you how to use a food thermometer. I know, you just thought you pop it in your meat and you’re good to go. I wish I could say that’s all you gotta do, but if I did, I’d be lying to you.
I know your food thermometer is hiding somewhere.
That’s right, I’m talking to you. Now march your body over to the draw of the discarded and unloved kitchen utensils and pull out that food thermometer that’s probably collecting dust. You know, it’s tucked between the meat tenderizer and that pastry thing that’s still in the packaging you bought from a Pampered Chef party.
How many times have you baked a piece of frozen salmon per the package instructions only to find it wasn’t cooked enough?
Sure, most times we poke a fork in to see if it flakes, but we need to be sure it’s at its safe internal temperature. Just because the fish flakes, it doesn’t necessarily mean the fish is thoroughly cooked.
If you wanted to eat raw fish, you would have gone out and bought some sushi.
How about that juicy hamburger you thought you cooked to perfection, only to realize it was partially raw on the inside.
This is where using a food thermometer is imperative in order to cook your food to the proper temperature. Not only is it not safe to eat partially cooked food, but it’s also pretty darn gross!
I’m gonna get real scientific on you right now.
The reason you need to cook your food to the proper temperature is that the bacteria that cause food-borne illness (aka wicked food poisoning) multiplies the quickest in temperatures between 40°F and 140°F?
Hey, you and I are pretty smart cookies. We can tell when our food is done. Why would we need a food thermometer anyway?
Well, there’s no way to be 100% sure it’s safe and fully cooked without getting an accurate temperature reading. Just looking at the texture and color doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cooked thoroughly.
The best way to avoid puking all over the house is to use a food thermometer.
Cooked food is only safe after it’s been heated to a high enough temperature to kill the harmful bacteria. Color and texture alone will not tell you if it’s done.
I’ve already mentioned this twice; that’s how important it is.
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To ensure your food is safe for consumption, use a food thermometer. There is nothing worse than taking a shortcut only to realize you were the cause of the intestinal disarray going on in your household.
Intestinal disarray; do you like that one? I thought it was rather fancy myself.
A mild case of food poisoning will keep the family out of school and work for a minimum of a week. It will save you from being sent to collections when the hospital emergency room sends you a bill for $250,000.
Don’t forget, that shortcuts while cooking may also make for a very uncomfortable and smelly journey to the emergency department. Just sayin!
If you don’t already have a food thermometer, please go buy one as soon as possible. There are many different types available. Personally, I like the Dial InstaRead type of thermometer. There are a bunch of different ones out on the market, but they all have the temperature guide either on the face of the thermometer or on the sleeve.
How to use a food thermometer and how to cook your food to the proper cooking temperature.
When you think your food is done, place the pointed end into the thickest part of the food, making sure not to touch bone, fat, gristle or the cooking pan below.
Sometimes, you may go a little too deep. Unless you’re using a “pop-up” thermometer that has been placed inside your meat, DO NOT attempt to read the temperature while your food is still in the oven or outside of the oven door. Due to the heat from the oven, it can affect the reading UNLESS you’re using a thermometer made for oven use.
Each thermometer is different, so please refer to the instruction guide for the amount of time you must wait to ensure an accurate reading. Most thermometers take anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds to hit the temperature.
I’m weird, I like to watch the dial move as it’s calculating the temperature.
Some foods do require a resting time to complete the cooking process. Some say, it’s also to help kill the bacteria, but I don’t buy that one since they should already be dead once it hits the correct temperature.
I usually use the 5-minute resting time to pop a veggie in the microwave.
A word of caution. DO NOT SUBMERGE or place them in the DISHWASHER. Always wash it with warm soapy water. If for some reason your thermometer bends, throw it out and purchase a new one.
Keeping your food hot.
As your food cools, there’s a very strong possibility bacteria can begin to grow.
The reason this happens is bacteria thrive in cooler temperatures. As long as you can keep the internal temperature from going any lower than 140°F, you’re good to go.
Don’t go freaking out. This is mostly if you’re letting a roast sit out and cool. You can always keep your food warm by using a chafing dish, slow cooker, or the simmer setting on your stove-top.
If only I had known this.
I would have never left a meatloaf to cool on the top of my stove. I’m not gonna get into a lot of detail, but let’s just say I wish we had more than 2 bathrooms in our house.
I have a love-hate relationship with my microwave. I love how fast it works, but I hate the inconsistency of the heat distribution. It feels scalding hot in some places and like an iceberg in others.
The thing about microwaves is it’s so important to make sure the temperature of your food is heated thoroughly to 165°F. Every microwave is different, so you MUST always test the temperature with your food thermometer.
When you microwave your food, always stir it from the middle.
Read the package instructions. If it says, let your food sit for 2 minutes before eating it; then do it!
Food continues to cook for a few minutes once it’s pulled out of the microwave. By allowing it to sit, it will also allow whatever cool spots to warm up, as the heat from the perimeter of the food will make its way into the core of the microwave dish.
Plus you won’t get smacked and burnt on your face and hands by the scalding hot steam.
Seriously, by not cooking your microwavable dish for the allotted time, by not letting it reach an internal temperature of 165°F and by not letting it sit, you will raise your chances for foodborne illness. Personally, I like to overcook some of my microwave meals.
I know you’re now gung-ho and ready to go out and buy a food thermometer.
There should never be any shortcuts when it comes to preparing food for yourself or your family. I know we’re all in a rush, but when you’re cooking food for your family it’s imperative to slow down and practice good food safety skills.
Shortcuts are bad news.
Just remember, always cook your food to the proper temperature with the use of a food thermometer.
I really hope you learned a great deal about food thermometers. If you learned something new, I’d love for you to share it in the comments section below.
Until we meet again,
P.S. Don’t leave without downloading your Meat Cooking Temperature Guide. You can grab it down below.
Sources: FDA, Food SafetyGov