How to Use a Food Thermometer

You can’t tell if a food is safely cooked by sight, smell or even taste. A food thermometer is the only way to ensure food is cooked to the proper temperature and harmful bacteria are eliminated.

Food thermometer placement is extremely important in order to guarantee your food is cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. The food thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the food and should not be touching bone, fat or gristle. Begin checking the temperature toward the end of cooking, but before the food is expected to be “done.” Note that for safety and quality, meat must rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.

How to Use a Food Thermometer

The only way to know that food is cooked to the correct temperature and eliminate harmful bacteria that may be present, is to use a food thermometer. However, a food thermometer is only helpful if you are using it properly.
Follow these simple steps to ensure you are correctly using a food thermometer:
Buy a food thermometer. Digital or manual; pop-up or instant-read; there are many types of food thermometers.
Test your food thermometer. Use either the ice water or boiling water method to confirm your food thermometer reading is accurate. Be sure to calibrate your thermometer.
Place food thermometer properly. Food thermometer placement is very important to get an accurate reading. Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, making sure not to touch bone, fat or gristle.
Use the chart below for a complete list of correct thermometer placement:
Food Thermometer Placement
Beef, Pork or Lamb Roasts Insert in center of the thickest part, away from bone, fat and gristle.
Hamburgers, Steaks or Chops Insert in the thickest part, away from bone, fat and gristle.
Whole Poultry Insert in thickest part of thigh, avoiding bone.
Whole Turkey Insert in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest area, avoiding bone.
Poultry Parts Insert in the thickest area, avoiding bone.
Ground Meat and Poultry Insert in the thickest area of meatloaf or patty; with thin patties, insert sideways reaching the very center with the stem.
Egg Dishes and Casseroles Insert in center or thickest area of the dish.
Fish Insert in the thickest part of fish when fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Wait the recommended amount of time for your type of thermometer. For meat products including raw beef, pork, lamb, veal steaks, chops and roasts, use the food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.

Know the safe internal temperature. Using a food thermometer is only half the equation. Compare your thermometer reading to below chart to be sure it’s reached a safe temperature.

Don’t rely upon sight, smell or taste alone to determine if your food is safe to eat. Make sure foods are cooked to a safe minimum internal cooking temperature by using the chart below and testing the food with a food thermometer to make sure this temperature is reached.

Ensuring foods reach this safe minimum internal temperature with a food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine the doneness of cooked meats, poultry, egg dishes and leftovers.

Category Food Temperature
Ground Meat and Meat Mixtures Beef, Pork, Veal and Lamb 160°F
Hamburgers (prepared as patties, meatballs, etc.) 160°F
Turkey and Chicken 165°F
Fresh Beef, Veal, Pork and Lamb Steaks, Roasts and Chops* 145°F*
Poultry Whole Chicken and Turkey 165°F
Poultry Breasts and Roasts 165°F
Poultry Thighs, Legs and Wings 165°F
Duck and Goose 165°F
Stuffing (cooked in bird or alone) 165°F
Pork Fresh Pork* 145°F*
Fresh Ham (raw)* 145°F*
Precooked Ham (to reheat)** 140°F
Egg Dishes Egg Dishes 160°F
Eggs Cook until yolk and white are firm
Leftovers and Casseroles Leftovers 165°F
Casseroles 165°F
Seafood Fin Fish 145°F or until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork
Shrimp, Lobster and Crabs Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque
Clams, Oysters and Mussels Cook until shells open during cooking
Scallops Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm

Clean your food thermometer with hot, soapy water after each use. This prevents cross-contamination and the spread of harmful bacteria.



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