How to Use a Food Thermometer

Reviewed by Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN
digital food thermometer

Ryan McVay/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

The only way to know that food is cooked to the correct temperature and eliminate harmful bacteria that may be present is to use a food thermometer. However, a food thermometer is only helpful if you are using it properly. Follow these simple steps to ensure you are correctly using a food thermometer: Tweet this

  • Step 1: Buy a food thermometer. Digital or manual; pop-up or instant-read; there are many types of food thermometers. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for the food thermometer you use.
  • Step 2: Test your food thermometer. Use either the ice water or boiling water method to confirm your food thermometer reading is accurate. Be sure to calibrate your thermometer. According to a recent University of California – Davis study, home food thermometers can read up to 30°F off because they are not calibrated.
  • Step 3: Place food thermometer properly. Food thermometer placement is very important to get an accurate reading. Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, making sure not to touch bone, fat or gristle.
  • Step 4: Wait the recommended amount of time for your type of thermometer. For meat products including raw beef, pork, lamb, veal steaks, chops and roasts, use the food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
  • Step 5: Know the safe internal temperature. Using a food thermometer is only half the equation.
  • Step 6: Clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water after each use. This prevents cross-contamination and the spread of harmful bacteria.

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