Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by Rebecca Huff
A meat thermometer is a very important tool that allows you to test the doneness of meats you are cooking.
Why Use a Meat Thermometer
The USDA recommends using a food thermometer to make certain that meats have reached a safe internal temperature. Cooking food to the proper internal temperature reduces the risk of food borne bacteria and the danger of getting sick.
However, that is not even the best reason to start using a meat thermometer. This is the best part…your meat will taste better if you use one. That's right, juicier, tastier meat! Why?
Have you ever excitedly started preparing a recipe with chicken or fish only to end up with overcooked, dry meat? A food thermometer can help you avoid overcooking your meat! If you want tender, juicy, and flavorful dishes it is highly important that you measure the internal temperature of your dishes.
The thermometer I'm using for this post is pretty basic. Recently, I bought a new one which I'll link here (Amazon Affiliate link) but you can use any meat thermometer you like, as long as it's calibrated and works well, you're good to go.
How to Use a Meat Probe or Meat Thermometer
An instant read meat thermometer can be inserted about half an inch into the thickest part of the meat. This will give you an instant temperature reading. Avoid touching the bone or fat with the probe and remove the meat from heat once it reaches about 5 degrees below your desired temperature. As your meat rests, the temperature will continue to rise and the meat will continue to cook.
Make sure to insert the probe into the right area or the reading will not be accurate. Look for the thickest part and only insert half an inch. The thermometer should not come out the other side or touch the pan.
When to Use a Meat Thermometer While Cooking
You'll want to use your meat thermometer towards the end of your cooking time. In this recipe for Simple Leg of Lamb Recipe, you might have an hour total cooking time. You'd want to start checking for the desired temperature during the last 10-15 minutes if you're using a probe style meat thermometer.
Of course, if you use the leave in kind, you can just monitor it towards the end and take the meat out when it reaches the goal temperature.
What Kind of Thermometer Do I Need
The meat thermometer I use is perfect for cooking meats in a pan as well as making candy or caramel. You open it and that turns on the device.
There are meat probes that you can simply insert into the meat and get an instant read temperature and also leave in thermometers. The leave in type allows you to get a constant read on the meat you're cooking, allowing you to keep the oven door closed.
There may be times you don't want to keep opening the door to probe the meat to check for the temperature.
For example, in the case of cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey. Every time you open the oven door, the temperature drops and has to come back up.
Having a leave in thermometer, like this one will let you see the temperature and even set an alarm when the meat reaches the desired temperature.
Dial Safe thermometers can also be left in, providing that it says so on the packaging and it's usually all metal. Some even have the names of meat right on the dial making it even easier to use a meat thermometer with confidence.
A chicken thermometer like the one you see below works well on other meats. This one was used to cook the recipe at the bottom of this page.
Appearance is not a reliable method for checking meat doneness
Try not to cut into your meat to see if it's done. Cutting into meat allows the juices to escape, meaning a higher chance your meat will be dry.
In addition, beef can often look done inside when cut open but turn red again a few minutes later. A meat thermometer takes out the guesswork.
Grilling meat can also be tricky without a meat thermometer. Actually, grilling meat might be the trickiest when it comes to testing doneness without a thermometer. What a shame to buy an expensive cut of meat, then cook it improperly! Sadly, though, I have done this and so have many others.
Avoid this mistake and start using a thermometer to prepare meat with confidence. Your family and guests will rave over your meat!
An instant-read thermometer with a digital display inserted in the thickest part of the food can help you to know when it's time to take your food off the heat. Make sure to avoid bones, fat or gristle when taking the internal temperature of the meat. After use, always wash the thermometer with soap and water.
Now let's get cooking
We like to use chicken breast for this recipe, however you can use pretty much any kind of chicken you like. We've also tried the marinade on pork chops and whole turkey. It was delicious!
Caribbean Chicken Recipe
- 16 ounces of chicken any style
For the Marinade:
- 4 medium green onions sliced
- 1-2 jalapeno chilis seeded and chopped (for additional heat, leave seeds in)
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup cup honey warmed slightly to soften (or Pyure Harmless Hunny for a Low Carb option)
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- Add marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Place chicken in a shallow dish or bowl.
- Pour marinade over chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Prep your grill or heavy flat-bottom skillet to medium-high heat by adding avocado oil to the skillet and heating the pan or oven safe dish.
- Remove chicken from marinade and place on in the skillet, or on the grill.
- Put skillet with chicken in oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until internal temperature has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Baste with marinade during cooking, but discard any remaining marinade before serving.
The longer the meat marinades the more flavorful the end result will be. I like to let mine marinade overnight in the refrigerator.
This chicken recipe makes a great meal prep dish; add rice, beans, salad, veggies or noodles.
What type of thermometer should you use?
There are several different types of thermometers on the market.
- Probe thermometer (mainly a meat thermometer but can be used for candy, etc.)
- Instant-read thermometers
- Thermometer fork combination
How to check thermometer accuracy
Test your digital instant read thermometer for an accurate reading by using boiling water and ice water.
During the cooking process, you want to check for doneness by inserting the thermometer in the thickest area of the meat. If you are cooking a whole chicken, it's best to use an oven-safe food thermometer probe with wire so you don't have to keep opening the oven door.
When the digital thermometer registers the right temperature (safe temperature for avoiding salmonella or other food bourn illness) it will make a beeping sound to alert you that the minimum internal temperature has been reached.
Food safety dicatates the cooking temperatures which vary for different types of meat. You could get a poster like this one to keep inside your pantry door to use as a reference.
The Bottom Line: Using a meat thermometer will not only make your food safer, but also more juicy, tender and tasty!