How To Get The Most Accurate Temperature Readings?

Using the Food Thermometer

Most available food thermometers will give an accurate reading within 2 to 4 °F. The reading will only be correct, however, if the thermometer is placed in the proper location in the food. If not inserted correctly, or if the food thermometer is placed in the wrong area, the reading will not accurately reflect the internal temperature of the food. In general, the food thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the food, away from bone, fat, or gristle.

Where to Place the Food Thermometer?

When taking the temperature of beef, pork, or lamb roasts, the food thermometer should be placed midway in the roast, avoiding the bone. When cooking hamburgers, steaks, or chops, insert a thermistor or thermocouple in the thickest part, away from bone, fat, or gristle. If using a dial bimetal thermometer, read “Thin Foods” below. When the food being cooked is irregularly shaped, such as with a beef roast, check the temperature in several places.


FSIS recommends cooking whole poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook poultry to higher temperatures. For optimum safety, do not stuff poultry. If stuffing whole poultry, the center of the stuffing must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. If cooking poultry parts, insert food thermometer into the thickest area, avoiding the bone. The food thermometer may be inserted sideways if necessary. When the food is irregularly shaped, the temperature should be checked in several places.

Thin Foods

When measuring the temperature of a thin food, such as a hamburger patty, pork chop, or chicken breast, a thermistor or thermocouple food thermometer should be used, if possible. However, if using an “instant-read” dial bimetallic-coil food thermometer, the probe must be inserted in the side of the food so the entire sensing area (usually 2-3 inches) is positioned through the center of the food. To avoid burning fingers, it may be helpful to remove the food from the heat source (if cooking on a grill or in a frying pan) and insert the food thermometer sideways after placing the item on a clean spatula or plate.

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