Thermometer by AustinPettis


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                                                        Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
                                                        444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528
                                                        Phone: 402-441-7180                                    Web site:

Pass the Taste Test …Use a Thermometer!
                              Alice Henneman, MS, RD, Extension Educator
                          Joyce Jensen, Registered Environmental Health Specialist,
                                Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department
      Recipe directions often
say to cook a food until
“done.” What is “done?”                                                         Inserting a Thermometer
      While we worry about                Insert thermometer in the center at the thickest part of
cooking a food long enough          the food away from bone, fat or gristle.
for safety, we also should be
                                          BEEF, PORK or LAMB ROASTS. The
concerned about cooking it
                                    food thermometer should be placed midway in
too long to taste good. We can
                                    the roast, avoiding the bone. Irregularly
assure 100% safety if food is
                                    shaped foods, such as beef roasts, should
cooked until it tastes and
                                    have their temperature checked in sev-
looks like cardboard, a piece
                                    eral places.
of shoe leather or a hockey
puck — no one will eat it!                THINNER FOODS such as
      Webster’s dictionary          MEAT PATTIES, PORK CHOPS and CHICKEN BREASTS.
defines “doneness” as “the          An instant-read thermometer may be inserted sideways — if neces-
condition of being cooked to        sary — in the thickest part, away from bone, fat, or gristle. Insert so
the desired degree.” Besides a      the entire sensing area is positioned through the center of the food.
safe temperature, another           USDA encourages people to use digital instant-read thermometers
aspect of “doneness” deals          for thinner foods — digital thermometers don’t need to be inserted
with subjective qualities such      as far as dial instant-read thermometers.
as the appearance, texture and
optimum flavor of a food.                 CASSEROLES and
                                    other COMBINATION
                                    DISHES. Place a ther-
        Using a food
                                    mometer into the thickest
    thermometer is the
                                    portion of the food or the
  only way to accurately
                                    center of the dish. Egg
     determine a safe
                                    dishes and dishes contain-
   internal temperature
                                    ing ground meat and
         is reached.
                                    poultry should be checked
                                    in several places.
      Here are some tempera-
ture guidelines, using U.S.               Check manufacturer’s instructions as to how far the thermometer
Department of Agriculture           must be inserted in a food to give an accurate reading. If instruc-
(USDA) and U.S. Food and            tions are not available, check the stem of the thermometer for an
Drug Administration (FDA)           indentation or “dimple” that shows the end of the sensing device.
recommendations. These will         The probe must be inserted the full length of the sensing area. For
help ensure cooking to a            dial instant-read thermometers, this is usually 2 to 3 inches and less
“doneness” that is both SAFE        for digital instant-read thermometers.
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension educational programs abide with the non-discrimination policies of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture.
                       Common Food Thermometers
     Some types of thermom-       temperature of a thin food,        and the
eters commonly used in the        such as a hamburger patty or       thermom-
kitchen include:                  boneless chicken breast, insert    eter probe
                                  probe sideways with the            is placed
      Dial Oven-Safe (Bi-
                                  sensing device in the center.      in the
metal) Designed to stay in
                                  About 15 to 20 seconds are         food. An
food during cooking. Insert
                                  required for the temperature to    advantage
2 to 2-1/2 inches deep in the
                                  be accurately displayed.           of this thermometer is the ease
                                                                     of tracking food temperatures
est part                                Digital Instant-Read
                                                                     while maintaining oven heat.
of the                            (Thermistor) Not designed to
food,                             stay in food during cooking.             Disposable Temperature
at the                            The heat sensing device is in      Indicators (Single-use) —
begin-                            the tip                            Designed to be used only once
ning of                           of the                             for a specific temperature range.
the cooking time. It remains      probe.                             Temperature-sensitive material
there throughout cooking and      Place                              changes
is not appropriate for thin       the tip                            color
food.                             of the                             when
                                  probe in                           the
      Dial Instant-Read
                                  the center of the thickest part    desired
(Bimetal) Not designed to
                                  of the food. About 10 seconds      tem-
stay in food during cooking.
                                  are required for the tempera-      perature
Insert probe the full length of
                                  ture to be accurately displayed.   is
                                                                     reached. Should only be used
                                                                     with food for which they are
area,                                  Oven Cord — Fre-
                                                                     intended. Place approximately
usually                           quently used in foods such as
                                                                     1/2" deep (follow
2 to                              roasts and turkeys during
                                                                     manufacturer’s directions).
2-1/2                             cooking in the oven. The base
                                                                     Reads in 5-10 seconds.
inches. If measuring the          unit sits on stovetop or counter

                              Tips for Using Thermometers
❏ Use a clean thermometer that has been washed in hot soapy water and hot rinse water before and
  after use. Most thermometers should not be immersed in water — check manufacturer’s directions.
❏ To prevent overcooking, begin checking the temperature toward the end of cooking but before the
  food is expected to be “done.”
✓ Bacteria normally are found only on the external surface of larger cuts of meat like beef roasts and
  beef steaks. Beef roasts and beef steaks can be considered safe if cooked to 145º F in the center
  since the outside will reach a temperature high enough to kill bacteria on the surface. When meat
  is ground up or mechanically tenderized, bacteria on the surface can get mixed throughout the
  meat and the meat must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160º F. Mechanically tenderized
  meat has been punctured or injected, which can introduce bacteria into the center of the meat.
      When foods are cooked to less than 160º F, wait until toward the end of the cooking period
  before inserting a thermometer. Otherwise, it is possible bacteria from the outside could be trans-
  mitted to the inside.

      These temperatures are recommended by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration for consum-         Celsius Conversion Table
ers. They are not intended for processing, institutional or              32º F    =   0º C
foodservice preparation. Foodservice workers should consult their        140º F   =   60º C
state or local food code, or health department.                          145º F   =   63º C
      Never partially cook food for finishing later because this         160º F   =   71º C
increases the risk of bacterial growth on the food. Bacteria are         165º F   =   74º C
killed when foods reach a safe internal temperature. When prepar-        170º F   =   77º C
ing food in the oven, set the oven to at least 325º F.                   180º F   =   82º C
                                                                         325º F   =   163º C
FOOD                 (ºF)   TIPS
Casseroles/Combination Dishes and Leftovers
Casseroles/Combination 165º F                  At this temperature, the food will be hot and steamy
Dishes and Leftovers                       throughout, a measurement that can only be determined by a
                                           food thermometer. Thoroughly cook meat and poultry before
                                           combining with other ingredients in casseroles and
                                           combination dishes.
Eggs and Egg Dishes
Eggs                            160º F *       * It is very difficult to insert a thermometer into these
(poached, fried, scrambled                 forms of eggs and it is necessary to rely on a visual
and hard-cooked eggs)                      indicator. Cook so both yolks and whites are firm, not runny.
Egg Dishes                      160º F         At 160º F, eggs will
(soft stirred custard, baked               be thick enough to coat a
custard, pumpkin pie, strata,              metal spoon with a thin
quiche, bread pudding,                     film for soft stirred
hollandaise sauce, etc.)                   custards. For other egg
                                           dishes, such as quiche, a
                                           knife inserted near the
                                           center should come out
Ground Meat and Poultry
Ground Beef, Veal,              160º F         Cutting into cooked ground meat and using color as an
Lamb, Pork, Bison and                      indicator of safety is no longer considered reliable. Some
Game Meat                                  ground meat may turn brown before it has reached a
(game meat includes deer,                  temperature that destroys bacteria. A hamburger cooked to
elk, moose, caribou, antelope              160º F, measured with a food thermometer throughout the
and rabbits)                               patty, is safe regardless of color.
                                               Hamburger patties are a common ground meat food.
                                           A 1/2 inch thick ground beef patty is more likely to cook
                                           thoroughly in the middle without being overdone on the
                                           outside than one that is too thick. A pound of beef, before
                                           cooking, yields 4 patties measuring approximately 1/2" by 4.”
Ground Poultry                  165º F        Ground poultry is cooked 5 degrees higher than ground
(turkey and chicken)                       beef, veal, lamb and pork.
FOOD             TEMPERATURE        TIPS
Hot Dogs, Luncheon Meats, Cold Cuts, Fermented and Dry Sausage, and
other Deli-Style Meat and Poultry Products
Hot Dogs,          Heat these ready-to-eat        * People at risk for listeriosis include: pregnant
Luncheon           foods until steaming hot   women and newborns, older adults, and people
Meats, Cold        throughout to help protect with weakened immune systems caused by cancer
Cuts, Fermented    susceptible populations    treatments, AIDS, diabetes, kidney disease, etc.
and Dry            from listeriosis.*             Although these foods are fully cooked, they can
Sausage, and                                  become contaminated with Listeria
Other Deli-Style                              monocytogenes. Heat these foods until they are
Meat and Poultry                              steaming hot throughout.

Large Cuts of Beef, Veal, Lamb, Bison
Large Cuts of      145º F - medium rare              * CAUTION: Do not serve any rolled,
Beef, Veal and     160º F - medium               tenderized or scored large cuts of beef, veal or lamb
Lamb: Roasts       170º F - well done            below 160º F. The process of cutting or puncturing
and Steaks         160º F - all rolled,          meats before cooking may force any surface
                             tenderized or       bacteria into the center. When in doubt as to how a
                             scored meats.*      piece of meat has been handled, cook to
                                                 160º F.
                                                     Large cuts of beef, veal or lamb — like roasts
                                                 and steaks — can stay slightly pink in the center if
                                                 they have reached at least 145º F. Beef roasts cooked
                                                 to 160º F will generally have very little pinkness to
                                                 the meat, and the juices will not be pink or red.
                                                     A consumer would not be able to determine if a
                                                 roast that was pink in the center had reached 145º F
                                                 without a food thermometer.

Pork Chops and     160º F                             Pork chops may have just a trace of pink color
Roasts                                           at this temperature. Pork roasts are safe when
                                                 cooked to 160º F even though the center of the roast
                                                 may be somewhat pink. A consumer would not be
                                                 able to determine visually if a pork roast that was
                                                 pink in the center had reached a safe temperature.

Ham                160º F - purchased “fresh”        Both vacuum-packaged fully cooked hams and
                             or described as     canned hams can be eaten cold just as they come
                             “cook-before-       from their packaging. However, if you want to heat
                             eating”             these fully cooked hams, set the oven no lower than
                   140º F - purchased fully      325º F and heat to an internal temperature of
                             cooked              140º F.
                   165º F - reheated or              For fully cooked ham that has been repackaged
                             repackaged          from its original manufacturer’s packaging or for
                                                 leftover fully cooked ham, heat to 165º F for
                                                 greatest safety.

Chicken    180º F - whole               Poultry will generally reach a safe temperature (160º F)
and        180º F - thighs and      before it is “done.” At 160º F, harmful bacteria have been
Turkey               wings          destroyed, but poultry will still be pink and raw looking near the
           170º F - breasts         bone, and the juices will be pink and/or cloudy. By 170º F for
                                    white meat and 180º F for dark meat, the flesh of poultry will no
                                                   longer be pink and the juices will be clear. With
                                                   whole chickens and turkeys, the joints will move
                                                   easily. This is an example of recommending a
                                                   higher internal temperature than is needed for
                                                   safety to assure attaining desirable quality aspects
                                                   of “doneness.”
                                                       When cooking whole poultry, the food
                                                   thermometer should be inserted into the thickest
                                                   part of the thigh (avoiding the bone).
                                                       If cooking poultry parts, insert food
                                                   thermometer into the thickest area, avoiding the
                                                   bone. The food thermometer may be inserted
                                                   sideways, if necessary. When the food is irregularly
                                                   shaped, the temperature should be checked in
                                                   several places.
Stuffing   165º F - in casserole         CAUTION: The safest way to cook stuffing is in a casserole
                     or in turkey   in a 325º F oven. The internal temperature of the stuffing must
                                    reach 165º F.
                                         Today’s turkeys cook faster than in the past as they now are
                                    bred to have a greater portion of breast meat that cooks faster
                                    than dark meat. If you stuff your bird, you take the chance of
                                    your turkey becoming overdone before your stuffing has reached
                                    a safe temperature.
                                         The ingredients for the stuffing can be prepared ahead of
                                    time. Keep wet and dry ingredients separated and chilled. Mix wet
                                    and dry ingredients just before putting stuffing into a casserole or
                                    filling the turkey cavity. If you choose to stuff your turkey, make
                                    sure it is stuffed loosely. The stuffing should be moist, not dry,
                                    since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.
                                         Cook a turkey immediately after stuffing it. If a turkey is
                                    stuffed, the center of the stuffing should be checked after the
                                    thigh reads 180º F. Check the temperature in the innermost part
                                    of the thigh and in the center of the stuffing. Even if the thigh has
                                    reached a safe internal temperature of 180º F, the center of the
                                    stuffing inside the turkey may not have reached 165º F and can
                                    cause foodborne illness. BOTH temperatures of 180º F for the
                                    turkey and 165º F for the stuffing must be met.
Duck and   180º F - whole               The same precautions and temperatures apply as with
Goose      180º F - thighs and      chicken and turkey. USDA recommends cooking whole poultry
                     wings          to 180º F as measured in the thigh using a food thermometer.
           170º F - breast          When cooking pieces, the breast should reach 170º F internally.
                                    Drumsticks, thighs and wings should be cooked until they reach
                                    an internal temperature of 180º F.

 FOOD                TEMPERATURE                       TIPS
 Fin Fish            The FDA 2001 Food Code            When you slip the point of a sharp knife into the
                     recommends cooking most           flesh and pull aside, the edges should be opaque
                     seafood to an internal            and the center slightly translucent with flakes
                     temperature of 145º F for         beginning to separate. Let the fish stand three to
                     15 seconds. When using the        four minutes to finish cooking.
                     microwave, rotate the dish
                     several times to ensure even
 Shrimp,             cooking. Follow                   Should turn red and the flesh should become pearly
 Lobsters and        recommended standing              opaque.
 Crab                times. After standing time is
 Scallops            completed, check seafood in       Should turn milky white or opaque and firm.
                     several spots with a meat
 Clams,              thermometer to be sure the        Watch for the point at which their shells open. That
 Mussels and         product has reached the           means they’re done. Throw out those that stay
 Oysters             proper temperature.               closed.

                           Calibrating a Thermometer
         To assure the accuracy of a thermometer,                     Ice Water Method
   check — and adjust if necessary — by compar-           1. Fill a large glass with finely crushed ice.
   ing its temperature reading with the temperature       2. Add clean tap water to the top of the ice and
   of a known standard. This process is called               stir well.
   calibrating a thermometer.                             3. Immerse the food thermometer stem a
         How often a thermometer is calibrated will          minimum of 2 inches into the mixture,
   depend on use. Calibrate a thermometer when-              touching neither the sides nor the bottom of
   ever it is dropped and when first purchased. If a         the glass. Wait a minimum of 30 seconds
   thermometer is used frequently, calibrate it              before adjusting. TIP: For ease in handling,
   weekly or monthly. On the other hand, if it has           the stem of the food thermometer can be
   been several months since it has been used,               placed through the clip section of the stem
   calibrate it before use.                                  sheath and, hold the the sheath horizontally,
         Some thermometers can be calibrated by              lowered into the water.
   turning an adjusting nut under the head of the         4. Without removing the stem from the ice,
   thermometer. Check manufacturer’s instruc-                hold the
   tions. The easiest way to calibrate a thermom-            adjusting
   eter is with the ice water method.                        nut under
         Even if a food thermometer can’t be                 the head of
   calibrated, it should still be checked for accu-          the ther-
   racy, as described in the ice water method. Any           mometer
   inaccuracies can be taken into consideration              with a
   when using that food thermometer, or the food             suitable
   thermometer can be replaced.                              tool and
         For example, if a thermometer is checked            turn the
   by the ice water method and reads 34º F instead           head so
   of the recommended 32º F, it is reading 2                 the pointer
   degrees too high and 2 degrees would need to              reads
   be ADDED to final cooking temperatures.                   32º F.
5/04                                                 -6-

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