How To Use An Instant Read Digital Meat Thermometer


To properly cook your food requires maintaining the proper temperature. Having an instant-read digital meat thermometer is a blessing in this case. But you need to know first how to use an instant-read digital meat thermometer because your food safety depends on it.

So, if you are a novice user of this kitchen tool, it’s completely okay. In this article, you will get a complete guide on the proper way to use and maintain an instant-read meat thermometer. Also, we’ve compiled some common questions in the FAQ section that you’ll find helpful.

Let’s get to the point now.

What Is an Instant-Read Digital Meat Thermometer?

Well, an instant-read digital thermometer is nothing unlike how it sounds- a thermometer that gives the temperature reading instantly. If you make sure that you are using it in the right way, you can eat and serve safe and germ-free food.

Most of the instant-read thermometers come with a simple physical structure- a probe made of stainless steel that you will insert into food and a handle that will show temperature.

Why Do You Need it?

You should have an instant-read meat thermometer in your kitchen since it is an out-and-out essential tool for Why Do You Need itany kitchen.

However, the biggest reason for investing in a meat thermometer is the prevention of food poisoning and making sure of the safety of your food.

According to the CDC (The Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention), you must cook your foods thoroughly as well as check them with a meat thermometer for avoiding any kind of foodborne illness such as norovirus or salmonella.

And, most importantly, the illness that relates to food poisoning can be very harmful to people having a weak immune system, the elderly, pregnant women, fetuses, and newborns.

However, using a quality instant-read thermometer will keep you tension-free if you can use it correctly.  

How to Use an Instant-Read Digital Meat Thermometer

Now, it’s time to talk the core of our discussion. If you make sure that you use an instant-read digital meat thermometer properly, there’s nothing more to worry food safety. Let’s wade through the steps below.

Step 1: Cook the Meat

Since you cannot use an instant-read thermometer in the oven, in the first place, you need to cook the meat at a recommended temperature and for a recommended time.

An instant-read thermometer takes only 10-15 seconds to show the result.

Step 2: Mark the Thickest Portion of the Meat

Regardless of which type of thermometer you are using, you have to go for the temperature of the thickest portion of the meat. Why? Well, the thicker parts need more time to get cooked. Therefore, when it reaches a safe temperature, you can be sure that the rest of the meat is cooked as well.

When you cook a whole chicken, you need to find the thickest part of their meat. How to do so? Well, you will find it in their thigh or their breast. Spots like fat, bone, or gristle can be a reason for inaccurate reading. That’s the reason you have to avoid those spots.

On the other hand, if you are handling a thinner item such as a chicken breast or a hamburger, you should go in from the side.

Step 3: Place the Probe into The Food

Now, it’s time to insert the probe into your food. Insert the probe a minimum of 1/2 inches (1.3 cm) into the meat for having an accurate reading. You will find an indicator mark on your probe that looks like a small notch, it’s for making sure that how deep you have to insert in the thermometer.

Wait for around 20 seconds and then read your instant-read thermometer.

After reading the thermometer, if you find that your food has not yet come up to the recommended safe temperature, it’s time to get it back to the heat. Then, wait for around 5 minutes or more and check it again.

But often food may keep cooking for a while even if it’s removed from the heat. In case, your food only needs a couple of more degrees, wait for a few minutes cause your food may reach the temperature during resting.

Voila! You’re done checking the temperature successfully!

How To Calibrate an Instant-Read Meat Thermometer

To make sure that your thermometer is accurate, you can test it using either boiling water or ice water. Both of these ways are useful to confirm whether your food thermometer gives accurate reading or not.

Using Boiling WaterUsing Boiling Water

It’s a pretty easy trick you can follow easily. First of all, take a small pan filled with boiling water.

Now, you know that water boils at 212°F, so, take the temperature and see if your thermometer reads the right temperature.

However, it depends on your altitude as well as air pressure. For this, your thermometer may read a few degrees less than 212℉.


Using Ice Water

Using Ice WaterAnother way you can follow to calibrate your digital meat thermometer. Fill a small gas with as much ice as needed. Next, add a small amount of water to the ice. Don’t pour much water into the glass, if you see the ice begin floating a little, that’s it, you have added enough water.

Now, wait for a few minutes, let the water sit and the ice will chill the water. Once you think that your water is chilled enough, place the probe of your thermometer down into the icy water for 30 seconds. Now, check if the temperature of the water is 32℉.

Make sure your thermometer’s probe is utterly covered with water. Also, the thermometer shouldn’t get into touch with the bottom or sides of your cup, otherwise, you may not get an accurate reading.

Variations of Food Thermometer Placement

It’s essential to know precisely where to place the probe of your thermometer for various meats. Here you go with the detailed information.

Food Thermometer placement
Whole Poultry Avoid bone and push the probe in the thickest part of the thigh.
Beef, lamb, or pork roasts Avoid bone, gristle, and fat, insert the probe in the center of the thickest part.
Poultry and ground meat Push the probe in the thickest part of the patty or meatloaf. For thin patties, push the probe sideways so that it reaches the very center.
Fish Check if the fish flakes easily using a fork, if it does, push the probe in the thickest part of the fish.
Steaks or hamburgers Avoid bone, gristle, and fat, insert the probe in the center of the thickest part.
Whole Turkey Avoid bone, mark the innermost areas of the wing and thigh, and then insert the probe in the thickest area.
Game animals Avoid bone, gristle, and fat. Then, push the probe in the thickest part.
Poultry parts Avoid bone and insert the thermometer’s probe where you find the thickest part.
Casseroles and egg dishes Mark where the center of the thickest part of your food and then push the probe in it.
Game birds Mark the innermost areas in the thigh and wing and insert the probe in them. Also, push the probe in the thickest portion of the breast.

Do the job carefully to get the appropriate reading from your thermometer.

Things to Avoid While Using an Instant Read Digital Meat Thermometer

Yes, there are some things you should avoid while using an instant-read digital meat thermometer. Let’s get to know things in detail.

Improperly Made Ice Bath to Calibrate Your Thermometer

A fact worth mentioning here is when the ice floats on water, the difference in the temperature between the water at the bottom and top can be the highest 12℃. But According to NIST, you can call it a proper ice bath only when it is within 0.01℃ of the ice point because it ensures food safety.

To make a proper ice bath- 1) ice should be resting on the bottom of your container 2) at the top, the water level should be a bit below the ice level 3) stir properly and let the water sit 4) stir your thermometer before it performs the test.

Unable to Mark the Thermal Center of the Food

You need to make sure that you mark the thermal center of your food especially foods that require placing the probe in the thermal center. This may seem a bit difficult while using a slow digital thermometer especially if it takes more than 5 seconds for reaching an accurate reading.

However, the right way to insert the probe is, insert the whole probe into the meat first. Then start pulling the probe tip through your food and check where it shows the lowest reading.

How to Clean and Sanitize an Instant-Read Digital Meat Thermometer

You should never underestimate the power of using and maintaining the tool regularly. It will make your thermometer long-lasting. So, here are a few tips to make your job easier.

Step 1: Wash the Probe of Your Thermometer

First thing first, use warm water to wash the probe of your thermometer to get rid of any residue. Also, this step helps to begin the sanitizing process. You should stop rinsing the probe only when you see all the fat and other residues are gone.

Step 2: Use Alcohol to Sanitize Your Thermometer

Once you’re done rinsing the probe with warm water, it’s time to sanitize the thermometer. To do so, pour rubbing alcohol onto a cotton swab. Then, gently apply the alcohol to the probe of your thermometer. Make sure you do the job so gently because the probe is delicate.

Step 3: Rinse Your Thermometer

You need to rinse the thermometer again, this time, your thermometer needs to be free from any residual alcohol from its probe. Simply do the job using warm water, it will work great.

Step 4: Air Dry Your Thermometer

Now, let your thermometer air dry by kipping it in a clean environment. If you want to use a towel or something else to make sure that the thermometer is dry, no need for it. Keeping it in a clean environment for 1-2 hours will work fine.

Additional Tips

Some more stuff you should know while using the thermometer. These are:

  • Before first use: Before you are going to use an instant-read meat thermometer for the first time, it’s important to wash it using soapy water. Remember, it’s needed to be sure that the model you’re using is a waterproof model. Otherwise, you can simply clean the probe only.
  • Storage: Most models have a storage case. Other models come with magnets where the probes keep stuck.
  • During use: You will want to prevent germ creation deep into the meat. For this, you have to wash the probe between uses. Are the uses minutes apart? Yet, you need to wash it frequently.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the perfect timing to use the digital meat thermometer?
Answer: Use it when it’s to end the minimum cooking duration. Then, wait for 15-20 seconds and let it remain in the meat.
How can I get an absolute reading?
Answer: The way is to push the probe in the center of the thickest part of your food.
I just checked the temperature of chicken, is it okay to check the same thermometer for checking steak or pork, or is it needed to be washed every time?
Answer: You have to wash it after each use if you don’t want to accept cross-contamination.


So, ‘how to use an instant-read digital meat thermometer?’ still is a big question for you? Hopefully, your answer is negative since we have come up with precise information regarding the topic.

While using the thermometer, make sure you follow the instructions properly. And, remember, you should never stab your food during inserting the thermometer’s probe. You should gently push the probe, and that should be enough. Stabbing at your food may lead to bending your probe.

Hopefully, you can do it perfectly. Good luck!

Mumtahina Adira

Hello World! I am Home Improvement blog writer of KnowBend. I also try to use the product and then write a review about the product, so that my audience is not harmed.

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