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5 Reasons to Use a Meat Thermometer

Many people test the doneness of meats by touch or sight. However, unless you’re using a meat thermometer, you risk the meat not being properly cooked. This could not only lead to a disappointing culinary experience but can also increase the risk of foodborne illness.

Following are five reasons a thermometer is essential when cooking meat:

1. Prevent Illness

Specific cuts of meat need to be cooked to precise temperatures to make sure dangerous bacteria are killed. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends using a meat thermometer to check meat for doneness. Here are their recommended temperature guidelines:

  • Whole cuts of pork: 145 degrees with a 3 minute rest time
  • Whole cuts of beef, veal, or lamb: 145 degrees with a 3 minute rest time
  • Ground beef, lamb, veal, or pork: 160 degrees
  • Ground poultry: 165 degrees

2. Prevent Overcooking

Don’t ruin an elegant meal or backyard barbecue by serving dry, tough, overcooked meat. You can easily avoid this by using a meat thermometer. When cooked to the proper temperature, meat will stay juicy and tender.

3. Eliminate the Guesswork

No two cuts of meat are alike. If you only use cooking time to determine doneness, you could end up with some pieces being cooked perfectly and others over or underdone—not to mention burnt!

4. Maintain Safe Temperature

If you’re serving meat buffet-style, use a thermometer to check that it maintains a safe temperature. Meat that begins to cool can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria.

5. Reheat Foods to Safe Temperature

It’s important to reheat meats to safe temperatures. Reheated meats often heat unevenly or have cold spots. Using a thermometer helps confirm the proper temperature.

Types of Meat Thermometers

Meat thermometers have come a long way. These days, there are many types to choose from:

  • Digital: These thermometers can be programmed for specific cuts of meat and are very easy to read.
  • Oven- or microwave-safe: Oven- and microwave-safe meat thermometers are placed in the meat before cooking. They can also be used to measure the temperatures of casseroles or soups.
  • Thermometer with a timer: Timer thermometers are great if you have guests or need to step away from the kitchen for a while. Simply place the thermometer probe in the meat, and set the timer. An alarm will go off when meat reaches the perfect temperature.
  • Instant read: Use this type of thermometer to check meat for doneness. Simply place the probe into the meat for a quick temperature reading.
  • Thermometer fork: These are similar to instant-read thermometers, except the sensor is contained within the fork tines. The benefit of this type of thermometer is that you can use the fork to handle the meat, which makes it great for grilling.

Tips for Using a Thermometer

To get the most benefits from your meat thermometer, follow these easy tips:

  • Always place the thermometer probe in the thickest part of the meat or food. For poultry, insert the probe into the inner thigh. Do not touch the bone.
  • Use a meat thermometer when you are baking, frying, or grilling.
  • Wash the thermometer probe thoroughly with hot, soapy water after every use.

Using a meat thermometer is a simple way to safely serve delicious cuts of meat every time.

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