Checking Food Temperatures

Cooking foods to the proper temperature destroys harmful bacteria. This video describes how to use a calibrated thermometer to check food temperatures.
Checking Food Temperatures - Videos


Food Safety Retail Food Safety for Volunteer Groups Home Food Preservation Home and Consumer Food Safety Nutrition

More by Sharon McDonald, MEd, RD, LDN 

View Transcript

- [Narrator] The best way to make sure meats are cooked safely is to use a thermometer.

A properly calibrated thermometer inserted into meat, whether it is a hamburger or a chicken breast, measures the internal temperature of that food, allowing us to determine if that food has reached the required safe temperature.

Other methods for checking the doneness of cooked meat, checking the firmness through touch or checking for the lack of red color are not accurate and in some cases can be misleading.

Using a thermometer for measuring the temperature of meat is simple.

First, you need a calibrated thermometer, either a bimetallic or a digital thermometer.

First, we will use a digital thermometer which comes already calibrated.

When the meat is about done in terms of being cooked, insert the thermometer probe into the internal part of the meat.

If the item is thin, it may be easier to insert the thermometer from the side rather than the top.

To do this, tilt the patty with a spatula and insert the thermometer so that the tip is roughly in the middle of the thickest portion.

Wait a few seconds for the temperature reading to stabilize.

For a digital thermometer, this usually takes less than five to 10 seconds, depending on the type of digital thermometer.

When using a bimetallic thermometer, the thermometer should be inserted up to the dimple point located a few inches up the side of the probe.

Also, it takes longer for a bimetallic thermometer to stabilize so wait at least 15 seconds.

For hamburgers, the internal temperature must reach at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit and this temperature should be maintained for at least 15 seconds to ensure safety.

A temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit is used for certified professionals.

Chicken breast can be checked the same way, but the temperature must be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.

For thicker items like a roast or a whole chicken, the thermometer can be inserted from the top, but must be inserted to a point where the tip of the probe will be in the spot that is most insulated from the heat or the cold spot.

This is usually the midpoint or the thickest part of the meat.

Using a thermometer will not only assure that the cooked meat is safe, but it will result in a better food product and one that is less likely to be overcooked and dry.

Make thermometer use a habit.

It is easy and will ensure that you are serving a safe food product.


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