A digital meat thermometer is a type of thermometer that is used to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods, particularly meats. The major difference between a meat thermometer and other types of cooking thermometers is that it typically has a lower temperature scale than a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Also, a digital meat thermometer has a digital readout of the information gathered by the probe rather than having a dial that is not powered by electricity. Digital meat thermometers can be useful in preventing the under- or overcooking of meats as well as other foods.
One type of digital meat thermometer is the oven-proof probe. This kitchen gadget has a small metal probe that is inserted into meat or poultry prior to cooking. The probe is attached by a sensory cable to a digital screen that remains outside the oven during the cooking process — the screen provides the temperature read-outs as the meat cooks. An oven thermometer can frequently be programmed to display the target temperature, current oven temperature, and cooking time remaining for a particular dish. Wireless oven thermometers that do not use sensory cables are also available.
A second type of digital meat thermometer is the instant-read thermometer. This type of cooking thermometer has a metal probe at its tip and an attached handle with a digital display. An instant-read thermometer is not inserted into food before cooking. Instead, it is designed to display accurate temperature readings after being inserted into hot food for a few seconds.
The final type of digital meat thermometer is the microwave-safe variety. This type is inserted into food that is then placed into the microwave, and is similar to an oven thermometer. Unlike an oven thermometer, however, a microwave-safe thermometer contains no metal.
Typically, the probe of a digital meat thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat, directly into the muscle tissue. A person generally should avoid inserting the probe into fatty or bony areas of the meat as these areas heat up at different rates. With poultry, the probe should be inserted in the inner thigh area, again avoiding fat and bone. To measure the temperature of any other type of dish, such as a casserole, the probe should be inserted in the thickest part of the dish, near the center.
Since a common use of a cooking thermometer is to prevent food-borne illness due to under-cooking, an important thing to know when using a digital meat thermometer is at what point meats reach their optimal serving temperatures. Whole poultry should reach a temperature of 165° F (about 74° C); the same internal temperature is necessary for serving poultry parts. Ground beef, pork, and lamb require a temperature of 160° F (about 71° C) for serving. Steaks should be 145° F (about 63° C) for medium rare, 160° F (about 71° C) for medium, and 170° F (about 77° C) for well done. It also should be kept in mind that meat continues to cook for a short time while resting, so its internal temperature may change.