Using a food thermometer is easy and important

Do not rely on color and time for doneness of foods – use a food thermometer to help keep your food safe.

One of the biggest challenges in food safety is the use of food thermometers. An estimated 62 percent of consumers own a food thermometer, but less than 10 percent actually use it. A food thermometer is considered one of the most important tools in controlling contamination from bacteria such as e-coli, salmonella, and listeria. Safe minimum internal temperatures to cook to vary by food. Using thermometers is the only way to really know your food is thoroughly cooked, and that it has reached a temperature that will destroy any harmful bacteria.

Many home cooks use color, firmness, clear juices or shrinkage as signs of doneness. These are not accurate indicators. Additionally, looking for visual signs of doneness may make the food overcooked and dry, whereas using a food thermometer can assure that the food has reached a safe temperature and is not overcooked.

There are many types of food thermometers. Choose the one that is right for you. The most common are the oven-safe variety and the digital or dial instant-read. Oven-safe thermometers can remain in the food as it cooks in the oven. Digital or dial instant-read, which gives a fast reading in two to ten seconds, is not designed to remain in food.

Using a food thermometer is not a sign of an inexperienced cook. It doesn’t reduce taste. Michigan State University Extension recommends consumers become comfortable and confident in using food thermometers to help keep their food safe. It is not complicated and worth the effort.  

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