Cooking food to the required internal temperature ensures that you aren’t consuming dangerous bacteria. When you want to know if the required internal temperature has been attained, you need a food thermometer. There are several food thermometer types. Each of these types has purposes for which it’s most suited. It, therefore, becomes essential to know how to choose food thermometers. This includes knowing how each type of thermometer works and when it should be preferred. Below, this article discusses the various types of food thermometers. It is a valuable resource for those who want to know the types of thermometer to choose for their cooking applications.
Cooking timers and instant-read thermometers
In most cooking applications, you will require two types of thermometers: cooking timers and instant-read thermometers. An instant-read thermometers display the temperature at a particular point of the food. A cooking timer reads the temperature changes at the point where the tip of its probe is placed.
Instant-read thermometers such as ThermoPro meat thermometers allow you to read the temperature at different points in food quickly. A cooking timer will alert you or pop up when the temperature at a specific point reaches the level you had set.
Though cooking timers and instant-read thermometers have different uses, they go hand in hand. For example, let’s say you are grilling a turkey. You don’t want to keep inserting an instant-read thermometer to check whether the desired temperature has been reached. What you will do is push the tip of a cooking alarm to the center of the turkey and key in the desired temperature. The thermometer will alert you when this temperature is reached. You will then detach the cooking alarm and use an instant-read thermometer to check whether all points in the food have attained the desired temperature.
Types of instant-read thermometers
Instant-read thermometers come in various forms. For example, ThermoPro Digital Fork, ThermoPro Digital Instant-Read, and ThermoPro Digital Wireless thermometers are all examples of instant-read thermometers but with different features and applications. Below are the common types of instant-read thermometers and their uses.
1. Thermistors/ Digital instant-read thermometers
Thermistors read the temperature in about ten seconds. They use a temperature-sensitive semiconductor which is attached to the tip of the probe. Typically, the diameter of the probe is one-eighth of an inch. This makes thermistors suitable for use in checking the temperature of thin foods. Using a thermistor is simple. You only need to place the probe in the food and read the temperature from the digital display. The main limitation of thermistors is that they cannot be used while food is cooking in an oven.
Thermocouple food thermometers are the fastest of all instant-read thermometers. They display a reading within two to five seconds. They have two fine wires at the tips of their probes. The digital screen displays the temperature at the intersection point of these wires. The diameter of the thermocouple food thermometer probes is significantly smaller than that of thermistors. It is only about 0.0625 inches. This makes them suitable for measuring the temperature of thin foods. Like thermistors, using a thermocouple is as simple as just inserting the probe into the food and taking the reading from the digital screen.
3. Bimetal/dial-instant thermometers
The temperature displayed by these thermometers is the average temperature along a bimetallic coil. Bimetal thermometers are slower than thermistors and thermocouples; they take between 15 and 20 seconds to read the temperature. However, that is not the only shortcoming of bimetal food thermometers. Their probe is about two to three inches thick. This means they cannot be used to measure the temperature of thin foods. However, if inserted sideways, they can be used to measure the internal temperature of moderately thin foods such as chicken breasts.
4. Disposable/single-use food thermometers
These thermometers take about five to ten seconds to read the temperature. They are designed for single use and use with specific foods. Most of them change color to indicate that the set temperature has been reached. You should check for instructions on how to use disposable food thermometers in the manufacturer’s manual.
5. Thermometer-fork combination
These thermometers are convenient for grilling. They take less than 10 seconds to read the temperature. They can be used to measure the temperature of both thick and thin foods. When using digital fork thermometers, place the tip of the thermometer at least 0.25 inches deep in the thickest part of the food.
Cooking timers record the changes in temperature at a particular point. They have a keypad where you can key in the desired temperature. When this temperature is reached, the timer either alerts you or pops up. Based on this, there are two types of cooking timers:
1.Cooking alarms: They flash and beep to alert the user when the set temperature is reached.
2.Pop-up timers: They have a spring that pops up the stem when the set temperature is attained. These timers are mostly used in roasting chickens and turkeys.
Other food thermometer types
Most of these are traditional food thermometers that have since been superseded by instant-read thermometers. They take more than a minute to read the internal food temperature. They include:
1. Liquid-filled thermometers
These are the oldest types of food thermometers. They consist of a colored liquid in a calibrated glass tube. The thermometer is placed in the food before putting the food in the oven. As the food cooks, the temperature is read from the calibrated glass case.
2. Oven-safe bimetal thermometers
This thermometer is inserted in food before the food is placed in the oven. It consists of two metal strips that have different thermal expansion rates. As the food cooks, the temperature is indicated on a dial. Bimetal thermometers have thick probes. These thermometers, therefore, cannot be used to measure the temperature of thin foods. Bimetal thermometers take between one and two minutes to record the temperature.
How to choose food thermometers
The types of thermometer to choose will depend on the food you are cooking and the desired accuracy. Instant-read thermometers are by far more accurate than traditional food thermometers. Furthermore, since instant-read thermometers take only a few seconds to read the temperature, you can measure the temperature at different points thus increasing the accuracy. If you are cooking thin foods, go for thermometers with thin probes such as thermistors and thermocouples.