Food Thermometers – Play it Safe!
According to the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education, the best way to prevent foodborne illness is to keep foods – all foods, not just animal products – either hot or cold. Bacteria multiply the fastest at any temperature between 4 and 60°C (40 to 140°F). So one of the best ways to reduce foodborne illness is to make sure you are cooking food to the proper internal temperature. Use a food thermometer, and use it properly. Keep reading for some tips on how to choose and use a thermometer to keep bacteria at bay.
Food Thermometer Basics:
A food thermometer is the best way to make sure that all your foods are cooked to an internal temperature high enough to destroy any harmful bacteria. Not only will using a food thermometer help you know when your food is in the “Danger Zone” (between 4 and 60°C), but it’ll let you know when a food is cooked to the right temperature.
There are several different kinds of food thermometers that are handy and effective for making sure your food is cooked to the proper temperature. Food thermometers are available at most kitchen supply stores for reasonable prices (i.e., under $60). The following are the most common kinds of food thermometers – do your research and then choose the one that’s right for your cooking level and needs.
This old-school, oven-safe model works by registering temperatures on a dial after 1-2 minutes. The thermometer must be placed 2-½” deep in the thickest part of the food.
- Can be used in roasts, casseroles, and soups
- Can remain in food while it's cooking
- Not appropriate for thin foods
- Heat conduction of metal stem can cause false high reading
This kind of thermometer is fast and easy to use, giving readings on a digital screen within 10 seconds. The thermometer must be inserted ½" deep into the food.
- Gives fast reading
- Can measure temperature in both thin and thick foods
- Not designed to remain in food while it's cooking
This high-tech thermometer works by registering the internal temperature on a handset that is attached to the sensor by a cord. This kind of thermometer stays in the food while it is cooking and gives very quick readings (within 2-5 seconds). It needs to be placed ¼" or deeper into the thickest part of the food.
- Gives the fastest reading out of all thermometers
- Easy to read
- Good for measuring the temperatures of thick and thin foods
- Can be costly and more difficult to find in stores
Disposable temperature indicators (single use):
This disposable single-use thermometer is made of a temperature-sensitive material that changes colour when it reaches the desired temperature. It gives readings within 5-10 seconds and must be placed ½" deep inside the thickest part of the food.
- Gives fast reading
- Only works with specific temperature ranges
- Can only be used with the food for which it is intended
- Designed to be used only once
This clever thermometer stays inside a food while its cooking, then “pops up” when the desired internal temperature is reached.
- Convenient for roasting poultry
- Must be used in combination with a conventional food
- May be set to pop at a temperature that is too high or too low.
- Similar to a digital instant-read thermometer, a dial instant-read thermometer registers the internal temperatures of food within 15-20 seconds on a dial plate. The thermometer must be placed 2-½" deep inside the thickest part of the food.
- Can be used in roasts, casseroles and soups
- Fast reading
- Cannot measure thin foods unless inserted sideways
- Not designed to remain in food while it is cooking
It looks like a fork and feels like a fork, but it’s actually a powerful thermometer that can read food temperatures within 2-10 seconds. The fork thermometer must be placed at least ¼" deep in the thickest part of the food.
- Gives fast reading
- Can be used with most foods
- Convenient for grilling
- Not designed to remain in food while it’s cooking
- Danger of false reading if the sensor inside the tines of the fork is not fully inserted