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How to Use Food Thermometer Properly – 4 Common Mistakes to Avoid

How to use food thermometer properly

When it comes to safely and properly prepare a variety of foods, using accurate and useful food thermometer is an absolute must. Whether you need to check the doneness of a steak or need to see if a baked item has cooled down enough, a properly working food thermometer is essential. However, merely owning a food thermometer isn’t enough; you must also know how to use a food thermometer correctly. Otherwise, any measurements that you take may be inaccurate, and your food may not turn out as good or as safe as it should be. Keep reading to learn more about common thermometers mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1. Using an Infrared Thermometer to Test Internal Temperatures

Infrared thermometers are convenient and easy to use. However, they are not designed to test the internal temperature of food or liquids. Infrared thermometers work by measuring the infrared energy that bounces off of the surface of an object. Therefore, they strictly measure the surface temperature of a food or liquid – not the temperature inside. If you use an infrared thermometer to check the doneness of a hamburger, for example, you may get a reading that suggests that you should continue to cook it longer. In reality, though, it has already reached the right internal temperature and is now ruined.

To accurately measure the internal temperature of a food or liquid, which is a crucial aspect of food safety, you need to use a food thermometer with a probe that penetrates it. The ThermoPro TP-17 digital thermometer with dual probes is an example of a thermometer that can handle the job correctly the first time. Because it has two probes, it can test and monitor the temperature of two foods or liquids at once, which is a nice bonus for busy cooks.

Mistake 2. Testing the Accuracy of a Food Thermometer with an Improperly Designed Ice Bath

As a conscientious cook, you probably already know that owning even a high-quality food thermometer isn’t enough. From time to time, it’s essential to test the thermometer to ensure that it is still delivering accurate readings. The ideal way to do this is by inserting its probe into an ice bath. This sounds easy enough to do, but most people go about it the wrong way and end up with misleading information.

If the ice in your ice bath is floating at the top of a cup of water, the difference between the temperature of the water at the top of the glass and the water at the bottom of the glass can be as extreme as 20 degrees. Depending on where you insert the probe, then, you could end up with very different readings. With a proper ice bath, the water is within 0.01 degrees Celsius of the ice point. This can be accomplished by ensuring that ice is resting at the bottom of the glass. The water should be slightly below the ice level at the top. Immediately before testing, stir the ice and water thoroughly and let it sit for one minute. For optimal accuracy, stir the probe around while taking the temperature.


And here is a more detailed guide to show you how to calibrate food thermometer accuracy.

Mistake 3. Not Measuring from the Thermal Center of a Food

Because there are gradients of temperature across different areas of food or liquid, it is crucial always to measure its temperature from its thermal center. When cooking food, the thermal center is the point at which the temperature is the lowest; when cooling food, it is the point at which the temperature is the highest.

The trouble that most people have is identifying the thermal center accurately. This can easily be accomplished with a high-quality digital thermometer that is designed for speed and accuracy. The ThermoPro TP01A digital instant-read thermometer is a great and affordable example of one that can be used for this purpose. To find the thermal center, turn on the thermometer and then pull the probe slowly through the food or liquid; while doing so, look for the highest or lowest temperature. Make sure not to let the probe rest on the bottom but to suspend it, and then take the reading from there.

Instant Read Digital Food Thermometer

Mistake 4. Not Stirring Food Before Measuring Its Temperature

As mentioned above, foods and liquids have gradients in temperature, which means that some areas may be hotter or colder than others. This poses a problem when attempting to measure the temperature of food because the probe may land in a place that is warmer or cooler than average. This issue can easily be overcome by merely stirring up the food or drink before measuring its temperature, but people often forget this crucial step. If you forget to stir the food or drink first, you’re apt to end up with an inaccurate reading that can give you the wrong idea about the doneness or safety of a food or liquid.

keep stirring until the temperature accurate

When food or liquid is cooling or heating, different areas heat up or cool down at different rates. Therefore, always stir the food or liquid thoroughly before measuring its temperature. That way, the food will be of a uniform temperature when you test it, and your reading will be far more accurate. For even more accurate results, stir the probe as you take the temperature. Note that just about any food thermometer with a probe will work; for convenience, consider the ThermoPro TP21 digital wireless remote thermometer, which allows you to monitor the temperature from up to 300 feet away.


Now that you are aware of the most common mistakes that people make when using food thermometers, you are ready to kick your cooking skills up to the next level. With your newfound knowledge, you will have an easier time making the most of today’s food thermometers and their many high-tech features. Browse our selection to identify the one that is suitable for you. Whether you opt for an instant-read thermometer, a dual-probe thermometer or even a wireless food thermometer, always keep the above tips in mind for optimal results.

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