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Good cooking is an art that combines skill and talent. Great chefs all over the world rely on tools and equipment to deliver an amazing culinary experience. One of the greatest inventions in the kitchen is the meat thermometer. With it, you know exactly when your meat is done and to what specifications. A meat thermometer is a device that measures the internal temperatures of the meat to determine doneness. They come in different designs. Some have probes, while others don’t have. Most of them have a dial, digital or analog, where you can read the temperatures.
What Can Meat Thermometer Do For You?
When cooking meat, doneness is critical. The focus is on the texture, tenderness, and juiciness. However, doneness is the product; the journey towards it requires that your meat overcome several challenges notably safety and quality.
To Serve Safe Meat
Safety is critical, and that is why we cook food. Now that you cannot control how the food is produced or where the meat passes before it gets to your kitchen, you must make sure that you do everything to serve safe meat. Cooking at the right temperature and for the right time can help. Different bacteria and foodborne pathogens succumb at different temperatures. Not all meats are equal. For example, despite the common belief that poultry cooks faster than beef or mutton, the temperatures required to kill all bacteria that may be present in the meat is, in fact, higher in chicken than in beef.
A meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of the picture by giving you accurate readings for every type of meat. Especially when you are doing commercial meat in a hotel or restaurant, a thermometer comes in handy. It gives you the confidence that you are serving the juiciest steak in town at the safest way possible. Without the thermometer, you can only hope that you have killed all bacteria. If you are cooking large steaks such as toasts, the guesswork is just too much to fathom, especially when you have to prepare 30 or more pieces at a go.
To Serve Quality Meat
Many factors determine the quality of your meat serving. The most critical factor is moderation. You want the meat to cook just right. You do not want to overcook the meat, which will marsh up the taste, or undercook it, which will leave a raw feeling in the customer’s mouth. Meat cooks in phases, if you miss one signal that the meat is ready, it may start drying. Dry meat does not deliver the full-sensation that every chef out there is looking to achieve. Removing the meat too early again can be even worse than overcooked food.
When you are preparing different types of meat at the same time, it is hard to estimate how long it will take each to be ready. Ram steaks, poultry, beef and other types of meat have different cooking times. Furthermore, color can be deceptive especially for processed meat. You can rely on a thermometer to give you a reliable indicator of doneness. A meat thermometer will let you know when the fire reaches to the deepest parts of your turkey, and you don’t have to cut it into pieces to confirm.
Maintain Safety in Stored Food
These meat thermometers are also used when preserving meat. The freezer has to maintain a specific temperature range for your meat to be safe. Storage cabinets can also preserve warm meat, which is ready to serve. A kitchen thermometer can help you set the right temperature for the stored meat. Food safety is paramount especially when working with meat. Some pathogens such as E. coli can be deadly when consumed. Meat has to remain in safe mode at all times.
You can also use the thermometer as a timer. Oven-safe thermometers can help you when you are cooking. Sometimes you may forget that you had food in the oven for a few minutes. USDA also recommends the use of a thermometer in the kitchen. When the meat overcooks or burns, it releases some compounds that can cause stomach upset.
Types of Meat Thermometers
These thermometers come in different designs. Some are fork-shaped while others are needle-shaped. Whichever the model, they all fall under five major categories based on the mode of operation. The type of thermometer you need depends on the kind of meat that you cook. General-purpose meat thermometers work best.
They use a bimetallic strip to achieve accurate readings. Because the metal strip is not sensitive, they require 1-2 minutes to generate accurate measurements. They cannot work with thin pieces of meat, and they work best when used inside the oven. You need to insert the probes at least 2 inches inside the meat.
They use a bimetallic coil sensor that is more sensitive than a strip to measure food temperatures. They are only used after the food is out of the oven. Insert the probes 2-3 inches inside the thickest part of the meat, and wait for 20-30 seconds. A digital dial displays the readings. It gives you an average of the highest and the lowest temperatures within the sensor.
It is very similar to a thermocouple apart from the fact that it takes longer to generate readings. It can measure thin slices of meat since you only need to probe ½ an inch. It comes with digital dial and removable probes. It is not oven-safe, and it can only work after the food is ready. The thermistor takes about 10 seconds to generate reliable data.
This instant-read thermometer can generate reliable readings in just 5 seconds. You only insert ½ an inch, which means it can measure temperatures of thin pieces of meat such as ham. A digital display gives you the readings. If you want to measure temperatures inside a turkey, you have to probe further than a ½ inch. It can only be used when the food is out of the oven or fireplace.
It is similar to ancient nurse thermometers, but it can measure a wider temperature range. They are oven-safe, which means you can put them in the oven. You cannot use them with small pieces of meat. It works well for poultry and large steaks. It can be used in roasts and soups, too. They take about two minutes to measure temperatures accurately.
How to Use Meat Thermometers
The trick to safe usage of these thermometers lies on the type that you have purchased. Broadly, your thermometer is either oven-safe or instant read. Whichever option you choose, make sure to avoid bones and fat. At high temperatures that determine doneness, fat will have melted already keeping the surrounding parts cooler than the rest of the meat. Bones are better conductors of heat that meat, and you will most certainly get false readings if the needle-like probes touch the bone.
Common Usage Tips
- For thin pieces, stick the probes sideways.
- For poultry, stick the probes where the thigh meets the body.
- Always ensure that your thermometer is properly calibrated.
- Read the label or manual to know how to use the thermometer.
- Clean the probes with warm soapy water after use.
- Wipe the thermometer after use to remove greasy residues.
- Turn off digital thermometers after use.
- Sanitize the thermometer probes after using them with raw meat.
They are the easiest to use when preparing meat. Probe the thermometer sensor 2-3 inches inside the thickest part of your meat. Place the thermometer inside your oven together with the meat. Most of them come with timers and alarms. When the right temperatures are achieved, the alarm goes off, and you can remove the meat. There are also pop-up timers that snap after the desired temperatures are achieved.
Once your meat has cooked for the desired time, remove the meat from the fire. Use the probes to measure the temperature. Insert the probe(s) in the thickest part of the flesh — 2-3 inches is enough. If the thermometer has more than one probe, insert them in different places. Give it 10-20 seconds to get an accurate reading.
There are many thermometers in the market such as Thermopro Thermometers, which deliver reliable readings all the time.
A good kitchen thermometer is a valuable tool for any chef. It helps you keep the meat safe, juicy, and tender. Choose the gadget that delivers results at all times, and you can rest assured that your servings will always be perfect.