A common mistake made by home cooks is eating/serving food, particularly meat products that are not properly cooked. While this may be alright when eating things like steak, sometimes eating food that is still raw can be dangerous especially food like chicken.
Another mistake sometimes made is touching the food or looking at it to determine whether it is cooked, while experienced cooks may learn to determine when food is properly cooked by just looking at it or poking into it, more novice cooks should make use of a meat thermometer to avoid poisoning your family and guests (and even experienced cooks can sometimes make a mistake).
Much research into the subject has found that colour and texture are extremely unreliable indicators of food temperature safety and so more and more experts are advising people use a thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, fish and egg dishes are cooked thoroughly enough to kill harmful micro-organisms.
Choosing the right food thermometer may seem like a daunting task but it needn’t be, even though there are several types and styles.
Digital Food Thermometers
- Thermocouple: Of all food thermometers, thermocouple thermometers reach and display the final temperature the fastest – within 2 to 5 seconds. The temperature is indicated on a digital display.
- Thermistors: Thermistor-style food thermometers use a resistor (a ceramic semiconductor bonded in the tip with temperature-sensitive epoxy) to measure temperature. This type isn’t designed to remain in the food while it cooks.
- Oven Cord Thermometers: This food thermometer allows the cook to check the temperature of food in the oven without opening the oven door.The thermometer is programmed for the desired temperature and beeps when it is reached.
Dial Food Thermometers
- “Oven-safe” Bimetallic-coil Thermometers: This food thermometer is designed to remain in the food while it is cooking in the oven, and is generally used for large items such as a roast or turkey. This food thermometer shows the temperature of the food while it is cooking.
- “Instant Read” Bimetallic-coil Thermometers: This food thermometer quickly measures the temperature of a food in about 15 to 20 seconds. It is not designed to remain in the food while it is cooking in the oven, but should be used near the end of the estimated cooking time to check for final cooking temperatures.
- Pop-Up Timers: Commonly used in turkeys and roasting chickens.
When using a food thermometer, read the instructions carefully to ensure it is being used correctly. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the food to gain an accurate reading. Avoid touching the bone, fat or gristle.
To prevent spreading bacteria, make sure the food thermometer is properly cleaned with hot soapy water and well rinsed before used again.
Proper Cooking Temperatures for Common Foods:
- Raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts should be cooked to an internal temperature to 145°F (62 degrees Celcius).
- Ground beef, pork and lamb as well as egg dishes should be cooked to 160°F (71.11 degrees Celcius)
- Cook all poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (73.88 degrees Celsius) as measured with a food thermometer. Leftovers and casseroles should also be cooked to 165°F.