Finding the Right Temperature with Kitchen Thermometers
A crucial aspect of food safety is making sure that dishes are prepared to the proper temperatures. Dangerous organisms can develop in insufficiently cooked food, leading to a foodborne illness. Not only does this put your customers in danger, but it can also hurt your restaurant’s reputation.
Why Should You Use a Thermometer to Check Food Temps?
Utilizing a food thermometer in the kitchen is primarily for safety and sickness prevention. However, there is an additional advantage in that it can help you avoid overcooking food. Ensuring meals don’t burn or dry out.
Because our senses are unable to gauge a food’s internal temperature, we are unable to determine if it is safe to consume a food based solely on sight or touch.
Even though color and texture can be useful indicators, recent studies have revealed that they aren’t always accurate, and they can’t be used in place of a cooking thermometer.
Keep Your Foods Out of the Danger Zone
In the foodservice industry, it is constantly important to keep foods out of the “danger zone.” This “danger zone” is defined as the zone of temperatures where bacteria grow on warm foods.
Whether you are holding hot foods on a buffet line or cooling down pans to store in the walk-in, it is crucial that you use a thermometer to ensure the proper temperatures are achieved and held.
Bacteria grows between 41°F (5°C) and 135°F (57°C).
Additionally, microbes can grow significantly faster during the cool down period between 70°F (21°C) and 125°F (51°C).
Food must not only be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature but must also be held at the proper temperature.
Minimum Internal Cooking Temperatures
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides standards for food safety. As the governing body in US foodservice, the USDA tells us what minimum internal temperatures are required for different foods.
|Product||Minimum Internal Temperature & Rest Time|
|Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb Steaks, chops, roasts||145 °F (62.8 °C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Ground Meats||160 °F (71.1 °C)|
|Ground Poultry||165 °F|
|Ham, fresh or smoked (uncooked)||145 °F (62.8 °C) and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes|
|Fully Cooked Ham (to reheat)||Reheat cooked hams packaged in USDA-inspected plants to 140 °F (60 °C) and all others to 165 °F (73.9 °C).|
|All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing)||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
|Eggs – egg dishes (quiche, frittata)||160 °F (71.1 °C)|
|Fish & Shellfish||145 °F (62.8 °C)|
|Leftovers – any||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
|Casseroles – meat and meatless||165 °F (73.9 °C)|
When using a food thermometer, be sure to hold the sensing area within the product for about 15 – 20 seconds.
This provides consistent temping and can gives time for heat and warmth to stabilize. You can also take a second reading in different locations to confirm it is safe to serve.
Types of Kitchen Thermometers
Kitchen thermometers come in various types, each designed for specific cooking tasks. Here’s a straightforward explanation of the different types:
- Instant-Read Thermometers. These thermometers give you quick temperature readings in just a few seconds. They’re like digital versions of traditional thermometers. Use them when you want to check if your food is cooked and safe to eat. Great for checking the doneness of meat, like chicken or steak. An excellent choice is the Taylor 9841RB.
- Probe Thermometers. These have a long, pointy probe that you stick into the food you’re cooking. They stay in the food while it cooks and show you the temperature on a display outside the oven. They’re helpful for big things like roasts or turkeys, where you need to make sure the inside is cooked properly. Check out the Taylor 9877FDA pocket thermometer!
- Infrared Thermometers. Looks like a mini flashlight. It measures temperature without touching the food. It’s good for checking the heat of a pan or grill, and even the surface temperature of things like your pizza stone in the oven.
- Thermocouple Thermometers. These are fast and very accurate. They’re often used by professional chefs. The tip is thin, so they’re good for delicate foods. They’re useful for things like making candy or checking if your steak is exactly how you want it.
Additionally, there are kitchen thermometers for ensuring equipment temperatures.
Oven thermometers give chefs an internal temperature for ovens. Using these can help to ensure your oven is providing accurate heat. The Taylor 3506 securely hangs in ovens and has a temperature range of 100°F – 600°F.
Refrigerator and freezer thermometers are also very useful. They normally provide temperature ranges of -20°F to 80°F. These thermometers ensure refrigeration or freezing temperatures are maintained in coolers and freezers. Check out the Taylor 5925NFS to keep your refrigerated foods safe.
How to Calibrate a Kitchen Thermometer
Calibrating a kitchen thermometer is essential to ensure accurate temperature readings. Keeping your thermometers calibrated is crucial for safe and successful cooking.
Below we discuss 2 ways to quickly calibrate.
- Ice Water Method. Fill a glass with ice and add clean water until the glass is full. Stir the mixture to ensure an even temperature. Insert the thermometer probe into the ice water, avoiding touching the sides or bottom of the glass. Wait for about a minute until the reading stabilizes. The thermometer should read 32°F (0°C) in the ice water. If it doesn’t, note the difference between the reading and 32°F.
- Boiling Water Method. Fill a pot with water and bring it to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling, insert the thermometer probe into the water without touching the sides or bottom of the pot. Wait for the reading to stabilize, which should be 212°F (100°C) at sea level. Adjust the calibration accordingly if the reading differs from this value.
Some thermometers have a calibration screw or nut placed beneath the dial or digital display. Gently turn the nut or screw to the desired temperature.
After adjusting, retest the thermometer’s accuracy using both the ice water and boiling water methods. If the readings are now accurate, your thermometer is calibrated and ready to use.
Refer to your thermometer’s user manual for specific calibration instructions.
In recent food safety research, the USDA found that only around 61 – 63% of participants used a food thermometer when cooking.
However, after viewing this USDA-made video, “How to Use a Food Thermometer”, thermometer use raised to 75%.
Keeping an eye on your foods while they cook can help chef’s hit ideal temperatures more often. However, busy chefs don’t have the time to stand around and watch. They often have many things to accomplish. In this case, utilize kitchen timers to help chef’s stay on top of things.
Remember, the key is to choose the thermometer that fits your cooking needs.
If you’re checking a steak, go for an instant-read. If you’re roasting a chicken, a probe thermometer is your friend. And if you’re just curious how hot your grill is, an infrared thermometer will do the trick.
Whatever type you choose, a kitchen thermometer helps you cook with confidence and make delicious meals safely.