When it comes to ensuring safe cooking temperatures for foods this summer, “you need the right tool for the job,” says Stacy Reed, an educator with Penn State Extension in Lancaster specializing in food safety and nutrition.
To be sure your food is being cooked to a safe temperature, Reed recommends keeping a cooking thermometer handy, whether you’re cooking in your kitchen, grilling on the deck or barbecuing in a public park.
Penn State Extension recommends using a bimetallic thermometer for thick foods and a thermistor-type digital thermometer for thick and thin foods, Reed says.
• Bimetallic: The probe in these thermometers contain a coil made of two metals bonded together. The temperature is recorded along the probe part of the thermometer and displayed on the dial. Bimetallic thermometers should be used for thick foods only.
It comes in an oven-safe variety, designed to be left in the meat while cooking, which is great for a whole turkey or chicken or big roasts.
There’s also an instant-read bimetallic thermometer, which doesn’t stay in the meat while cooking and is used to test the internal temperature of meat, poultry or fish at the end of the cooking process.
• Thermistor: This type of thermometer uses a resistor — a type of semiconductor — to record cooking temperature. It consists of a probe and a digital display. Because the temperature is recorded right at the tip of the probe, this thermometer can be used in either thick or thin foods.
• Calibration: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, you can calibrate a meat thermometer in ice water or boiling water.
• Ice water: Place crushed ice into a large glass, fill the glass to the top with clean tap water and stir. Put your thermometer into the water a minimum of 2 inches, without touching the sides or bottom of the glass, and wait 30 seconds. The thermometer should read 32 F — the temperature at which water freezes. If it doesn’t, adjust your thermometer according to its package directions; some can be adjusted by turning a nut just below the display part of the thermometer.
• Boiling water: Bring a pot of clean tap water to a rolling boil, and wait 30 seconds. Put the thermometer at least 2 inches into the water. The thermometer should read 212 F. Adjust the thermometer accordingly if it doesn’t.
For more information on cooking thermometers and calibration, visit bit.ly/ThermometerTypes.
Sources: Penn State Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.