How to Use a Meat Thermometer Properly?

Whether you are cooking chicken, turkey, red meat or any other kind of meat, it should not be undercooked or overcooked. By serving undercooked meat you are putting the health of your family and friends at risk while overcooked meat is tasteless and spoils the meal. Thus, to ensure that the meat is perfectly cooked, it is necessary to use a meat thermometer. Meat thermometer eliminates the problem of under and overcooking because you can monitor the temperature of the meat correctly. However, you need to understand some things to use your meat thermometer properly.

Select the correct type of meat thermometer

Bulb and bimetallic meat thermometers are cheap, but they take a lot of time to give temperature readings which are not very accurate. Moreover, there is also the risk of the glass parts breaking apart in the meat. Digital meat thermometers are the best options available in the market. Instant-read digital thermometers give instant readings. Digital thermometers with the probe are useful for grilling large cuts of chicken, turkey, etc. The probe which is inserted into the meat is connected to a base unit which displays the temperature. Thus, the temperature can be monitored while the meat is cooking.

Select the target temperature

You need to determine the target temperature for the meat before cooking. The minimum healthy cooking temperature for medium and medium-rare cooking for red meat and pork is 145 degrees F. For chicken and turkey; the minimum safe cooking temperature is 165 degrees F. Different recipes have different temperature requirements for the meat. So you need to choose the correct temperature accordingly.

Placement of the meat thermometer

The probe of the meat thermometer needs to be inserted into the thickest part of the meat. The probe needs to be entirely inserted into the meat to get an accurate reading. Usually, the probe needs to insert 1/2 inch into the meat. But if the thickness of the meat exceeds 1 inch, then you need to insert the probe deeper. The temperature reading should start decreasing as you insert the probe deeper into the meat. Stop inserting further when the temperature starts rising. It is important to avoid contact with bone because bone heats at a faster rate than meat which will cause the thermometer to give a wrong temperature reading.

The frequency of checking the temperature

In case of thin or small cuts of meat, you can measure the temperature 5-10 minutes or less before the cooking is expected to finish. After that, check the temperature every two minutes to determine whether the meat has reached the right temperature or not. If you are roasting a large piece of meat, it is better to take the initial measurement 30 minutes before the process is expected to end.

Meat continues to cook even after it is removed from heat. Thus, a large and thick piece of meat needs to be removed from the heat source as soon as the meat thermometer indicates a temperature of 5 degrees less than the target temperature. Allow the cut to rest for 5-10 minutes so that its temperature reaches the target temperature.


Clean the probe of the meat thermometer under hot water if it is not sensitive to water. In case it is not compatible with water, wipe the probe with a paper towel or washcloth dampened by hot water.