Kitchen and food-use thermometers are used for several purposes. One key purpose is food-safety, by ensuring that food is either stored at or cooked to a safe temperature range. Another purpose is to gauge what state of physical transformation a food being cooked is at.
- 1 Thermometer choices
- 2 Cooking Tips
- 3 Literature and Lore
- 4 Sources
Types of cooking thermometers
- 5.1 Bimetallic-Coil Thermometers
- 5.2 Candy Thermometer
- 5.3 Cheese Thermometer
- 5.4 Chocolate Thermometer
- 5.5 Meat Thermometers
- 5.6 Disposable Meat Thermometers
- 5.7 Fork Thermometers
- 5.8 Instant Read Meat Thermometers
- 5.9 Oven Cord Meat Thermometers
- 5.10 Oven Safe Thermometers
- 5.11 Pop-Up Timers
- 5.12 Oven Thermometers
- 5.13 Refrigerator Thermometers
Thermometers come in many different varieties and scales. The choice isn’t just between Fahrenheit or Celsius: some of the simpler ones are not really thermometers at all. They just show ranges — rare, medium, burnt-offering, etc. Some have mercury in them, but most are pure metal these days because it is safer (and cheaper.) Some are so high-tech they’re even fun (toys for boys.)
Digital ones require batteries. Dial ones are also called “analog.”
Digital ones are better for checking thinner foods — they are the ones that food safety experts recommend for checking hamburgers. Large-dial ones are better for large pieces of meat.
When using a mercury thermometer, keep it upright while cooking and while it is hot. If you lay it down, the heated mercury may separate into small beads and render the thermometer useless in the future. Always let glass thermometers cool completely before cleaning or they may shatter.
What all thermometers have had in common is that they had to touch the food to work. This leads to the possibility of cross-contamination. We need a thermometer that you can just point at something on the grill, click a button to shoot and presto, there’s your temperature, with no surface contact needed. There are now (since about 1998) infra-red thermometers that do something like this, except they have one show-stopping limitation: they can only measure the surface temperature of food, and, given the nature of how infra-red rays work, it’s not likely that this limitation can be overcome with this technology.
From time to time, check the accuracy of your food thermometers. Bring some water to a rolling boil, put the thermometer skewer 5 cm (two inches) in, not allowing it to touch the bottom, and hold it there. If there’s a lot of steam, mind the steam: you may even want to put an oven glove on. Hold it there: after 30 seconds, an Instant Read Meat Thermometer should be reading 100 C (212 F). An Oven Safe Meat Thermometer may take up to two minutes to show the correct temperature. If your dial-type thermometer is off and has a nut underneath the dial part, then you can “calibrate” it by adjusting the nut. If your thermometer is designed so that you can’t calibrate it in this way, then you need to plan in the future to take into account how much it is off by, or pitch it and buy a new one.
Literature and Lore
“In the days of wood-fired stoves about all a good cook could guess were the differences between slow, moderate, fairly hot, hot, and very hot. Next came gas oven with marks on the gas tap called ‘Regulo’; these were an improvement but still not ideal. Then came the oven-door thermometers with a precision of plus or minus about twelve degrees – if they were carefully and regularly calibrated. Needless to say this was rarely done, so cooks knew that they had to ‘learn the oven’ whenever they needed to cook in a strange place – really not much better than the old wood stove days.
Through all of this, cooks also had to contend with words such as ‘Cool oven’ to ‘Very hot oven’, the Regulo marks, Fahrenheit, centigrade, and finally Celsius temperatures… When we are cooking on an old Fahrenheit stove we simply halve the Fahrenheit temperature to give us a guide to the correct temperature in degrees Celsius.” Pomroy, Wendy and Pat Naughton. Metric cooking with confidence. Metricationmatters.com 2008. Page 4.
Blewitt, Tom. Infrared thermometers help food safety professionals prevent foodborne illness. Melville, NY: Engineering Services, Underwriters Laboratories Inc., 1999.
Health Canada. “Food Safety Tips for Using Food Thermometers”. Publication P0285E-03. March 2003.
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. The Thermy™ Campaign. May 2002.
Types of cooking thermometers
Disposable Meat Thermometers
Instant Read Meat Thermometers
Oven Cord Meat Thermometers
Oven Safe Thermometers
|↑1||Pomroy, Wendy and Pat Naughton. Metric cooking with confidence. Metricationmatters.com 2008. Page 4.|