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What Is a Food Thermometer?

Using a thermometer can be the most effective way of determining if food is ready or not.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2014
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A food thermometer is a device used to test the temperature of meats, poultry, dishes that contain eggs, casseroles, and soups. It is used to judge whether or not a type of food has reached a temperature high enough to kill bacteria it may be harboring. If food is not cooked to high enough temperatures, it may not be safe for consumption. Consuming it, in such a case, may cause food poisoning.

Often, people decide to stop cooking a food item because they judge it to be done. They may believe food is done because of how it looks, basing their opinions on whether or not it looks brown or crispy on the outside. They may also judge it based on its texture and whether it appears to be juicy or dry. Some may decide meat has cooked long enough because its juices run clear. Unfortunately, these factors aren’t generally effective enough to determine whether food is safe for consumption.

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Since a food that appears done can still make a person very ill, many food safety organizations publish information about the temperature food must reach to ensure bacteria are destroyed. For example, the recommended temperature for cooked poultry is 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73.88 degrees Celsius) while a beef roast that hasn’t been cut, sliced, or otherwise altered should reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit (62.77 degrees Celsius) before it is consumed. Ordinary household thermometers aren’t good for testing food temperatures. Instead, a consumer may purchase a special food thermometer designed for this purpose and capable of withstanding the high temperatures that are common in cooking.

There are many types of food thermometers a person may purchase. One type of food thermometer looks like a barbecue fork and is designed to be inserted into the food’s thickest section. A fork–style thermometer is meant to provide a quick temperature read, so it can be removed right away. It’s not designed to allow the user to leave it in the food item during the cooking process.

There are also digital or dial-type food thermometers that are meant to be read almost instantly. Many of them can give a temperature reading within 10 seconds of insertion into the food in question. To get a reliable reading, it’s important to place this type of food thermometer into the thickest part of the food. An instant-read thermometer is also not intended to stay in food while it’s cooking.

A consumer may also purchase an oven-safe food thermometer that can be left in the food as it cooks. These thermometers may require a little longer to provide a read than instant-read models. Usually, oven-safe models provide a temperature read within a minute or two. Like other thermometers, they have to be inserted into the thickest part of the food.

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RoyalSpyder
Post 3

In relation to the second paragraph, I agree that it's not always a good idea to determine that a food item is done just by how it looks or smells. This isn't the case for all foods (such as cakes and pies), but meat is definitely the exception. Even if you do decide to cut it open on the inside and check the texture, it might look done, but there could still be some bacteria lurking about. This is especially the case with pork. Eating it undercooked will cause parasites, and no one wants that.

Hazali
Post 2

I remember first learning about food thermometers in high school. I was taking a cooking class, and to be honest, the first few weeks were very boring. I think one of the things that contributed to this is how before we could get our hands dirty, we had to learn quite a few things about cleaning and the utensils. Though it was a very boring process, I certainly learned a lot from it, as my lessons taught me that there's more to cooking than simply putting something in the oven. Making sure the station is clean is always essential, as even the smallest mistakes can prove to be fatal.

Viranty
Post 1

When it comes to food thermometers, one thing I have always wondered is if we should even rely on them. I mean, even though they are the perfect way to tell if a food product is done, on the other hand, can't people also tell by the look and smell? For example, whenever my parents cook beef or baked chicken in the oven, they don't use a food thermometer, as they go by how much time has passed, and if it looks done all the way.

Also, another thing that they'll do is take it out of the oven, and cut the meat open, which is another way to determine if something is done or not. However, considering that these are simply alternate methods, my guess is that they're not as professional as using a thermometer.

For example, I'm sure that's it's required at restaurants, which have several strict guidelines. Taking into account that one can sue an establishment if they get sick, it makes sense that food thermometers are quite common.

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