How To Calibrate A Meat Thermometer

Meat is a staple food for 86% of people globally- according to a survey by Statista- and the best way to make sure your meat is cooked is with a thermometer!

Cooking meat to the correct temperature is critical to ensure safety from food-borne illnesses such as Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria. 

The only way to truly confirm that meat is cooked through is to check the temperature. 

For instance, any cut of chicken will need to reach 165℉ to ensure all bacteria are killed. 

Therefore, using a meat thermometer is an essential step when cooking meat. 

However, if the reading you get isn’t accurate, then what’s the point? 

This is why calibrating the thermometer regularly is an important skill to know and be in the habit of.

How To Test Your Meat Thermometer’s Accuracy

The USDA food safety inspection service states that the only accurate way to ensure that meat is cooked to the minimum required temperature is through the use of a meat thermometer. 

It’s important to regularly ensure that this critical tool is working appropriately. 

Here are two methods of testing your meat thermometer: 

Boiling Point Method

Step 1: Fill a pot with distilled water

Step 2: Bring water to a rolling boil

Step 3: Carefully place the thermometer stem at least two inches into the water. Ensure that you don’t touch the sides or bottom of the pot

Step 4: Wait thirty seconds

Step 5: The thermometer will read 212℉ if it is working correctly

Freezing Point Method

Step 1: Fill a tall glass with crushed ice and add cold water

Step 2: Stir and allow ice to melt partially

Step 3: Place the thermometer at least two inches into the water

Step 4: Hold the thermometer in the glass for 30 seconds. Ensure not to touch the sides or bottom of the glass. If testing a dial thermometer, wait for at least one to two minutes.

Step 5: The thermometer will read 32℉ if it is working correctly

Related >> Hamburger Temperature Guide

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04/12/2024 04:48 am GMT

How To Calibrate A Meat Thermometer

If the tests above did not give you an accurate reading, there are steps you can take to calibrate your thermometer. 

However, it’s important to note that not all thermometers are able to be calibrated! 

Bimetal Thermometers

Step 1: Fill a large container with crushed ice and distilled water

Step 2: Stir and allow some of the ice to melt

Step 3: Place the probe or stem of the thermometer into the water, taking care not to touch the sides or bottom

Step 4: Hold for thirty seconds or until the reading says it is stable

Step 5: Adjust the dial to the temperature of 32°F. Using a wench to secure the nut underneath the dial head, rotate the dial of the thermometer until it reads 32℉

Digital Thermometers

Step 1: Fill a large container with crushed ice and distilled water

Step 2: Stir and allow some ice to melt

Step 3: Place the probe of the thermometer into the water, not touching the sides or bottom

Step 4: Hold for thirty seconds or until the reading says it’s stable

Step 5: Adjust the temperature to 32℉. Hold the reset button, and set it to 32℉

Step 6: Keep in mind that many digital thermometers cannot be adjusted!

Step 7: Instead, you can note the discrepancy in the temperatures and make adjustments

  • For example: If you used the freezing point test and got a reading of 38℉. this means the thermometer is +6℉ off. You will need to subtract 6 degrees each time you read the thermometer.
  • You should continue to test the thermometer even more regularly once you get a faulty reading.

Step 8: Also, try changing the batteries if the reading is inaccurate.

Step 9: If you do not feel confident with working out the adjustments at each reading or testing the thermometer often, replace the thermometer!

Related >> Internal Temperature of Chicken Thighs

Liquid-Filled Thermometers

There is no easy way to calibrate a liquid-filled thermometer

Instead, like with some digital thermometers, you’ll instead have to note the discrepancy in the temperatures and make adjustments. 

The same example applies: If you use the freezing point test above and get a reading of 38℉, this means the thermometer is +6℉ off. You will then need to subtract 6 degrees each time you read the thermometer.

Continue to test the thermometer even more regularly, once you get the initial faulty reading. If you no longer feel confident working out the adjustments at each reading (or just can’t be bothered), replace the thermometer!

How Often Should You Calibrate A Meat Thermometer?

A good rule of thumb is to calibrate (or at least test) your meat thermometer twice a year. 

It’s also important to calibrate your meat thermometer after a long period of storage, dropping it, or going between extremes in temperature, such as measuring something cold and then hot.

Lastly, you should always check your thermometer if your reading doesn’t seem right- especially before consuming meat you think is questionable!

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Shawn Hill

Hey, I'm Shawn and I love this site. With a wife and 7 kids, I get most of my grilling practice from feeding my own family. I'm here to help you learn more about grilling, smoking, and backyard BBQ! With almost a decade of manning the grill and helping over 25,000 aspiring grill masters, you're in great hands! I've tried just about every type of grill, accessory, and gadget you can imagine. Because of that, I am here to help guide you to the best of the best and help you save time and money by avoiding the junk.

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