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What is a Button Thermometer?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2016
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A button thermometer is a kitchen tool which is designed to quickly determine the temperature of food, typically meats. Cooks who are concerned about food safety may use button thermometers to ensure that meat is cooked all the way through, and others may use a button thermometer as a guide to determine how cooked a piece of meat is. A button thermometer is a very useful tool, although there are other types of thermometers which may be even more handy.

The design of a button thermometer includes a long probe attached to a circular readout. The probe is stuck into the most dense part of the meat, avoiding both fat and bone, and the readout quickly relays the internal temperature. The cook can use this information to adjust the heat, remove the food, or estimate how much longer the cooking process will take. The design is also reusable, although cooks should wash button thermometers carefully to reduce the risk of contamination.

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Many companies make button thermometers designed specifically for steaks, since consumers sometimes have a difficult time gauging the doneness of steak. These steak button thermometers may read “rare, medium,” and “well done” rather than providing an actual temperature. In other instances, a steak button thermometer includes the temperature ranges for states of doneness, making the thermometer more versatile since different meats are done at different temperatures. As a general rule, meat like beef should be cooked to at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) to be safe, while pork and poultry need to be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius).

There are some disadvantages to a button thermometer. The first is that the cook needs to open closed heating environments like grills and ovens to check the temperature, which can disturb the cooking process. A button thermometer is also temporary, meaning that it cannot be left in throughout the cooking process. The thermometer may also become unreliable due to ambient heat.

For cooks who want to keep an eye on food without disturbing it, a wireless thermometer may be a better choice. Wireless thermometers are designed to be left in the food while it cooks, with a separate readout display. In many cases, the cook can carry the display around while he or she works on other projects, which is useful for slow cooking processes where the cook does not want to hover in the kitchen.

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