Thermometers: Two Types Every Kitchen Should Have

To keep your food safe, you should have two types of thermometers in your kitchen:


1) a thermometer for your refrigerator and freezer; and


2) a thermometer to “take the temperature” of foods you’re cooking and foods you leave on a buffet.



The Refrigerator/Freezer Thermometer


You can find this item in most hardware stores and supermarkets. It doesn’t take up much space, so leave one in your fridge all the time. You can buy a second one for your freezer or move the same one from the fridge to the freezer and back again regularly. Don’t put the thermometer very close to the refrigerator or freezer door. You won’t get an accurate reading that way.


In the fridge, try the thermometer on different shelves. You’ll probably find that the temperature is not the same everywhere. The lowest part of the fridge will probably test coolest. However, your fridge should be no warmer than 40°F anywhere because 40°F-140°F is the “danger zone” for bacterial growth. The ideal refrigerator range is 37°-38°F. You probably don’t want your fridge much cooler than 36° because otherwise some of your beverages, fruits, and vegetables may begin to freeze.


If you have a frost-free refrigerator and freezer, the temperature will vary during the cycle, so check it a few times before resetting dials.


Your freezer should be at 0°F or even slightly cooler. The colder the temperature in your freezer, the higher the quality and shelf life of its contents.


If the freezer or the refrigerator is too warm or too cold, adjust the dial.


If your refrigerator has a built-in thermometer, you can get along without a stand-alone one, though you won’t be able to check temperature variations from on shelf to another.


Note: Refrigerators and freezers don’t function as well if they are either overloaded or almost empty, so you may also want to adjust the quantity of food you keep in the refrigerator and/or freezer. If you are unable to get your refrigerator and/or freezer to an acceptable temperature, you probably need a technician. However, keep in mind that appliances don’t last forever. If your appliance is 20 years old or older and not cooling sufficiently, it may be better to invest in a new one. Money spent on repairs could be wasted.



The Food Thermometer


The food thermometer has a prong about 5 inches long that should be inserted into the middle of (deep into) whatever you’re cooking. These thermometers can usually measure temperatures from 20°F to 220°F. They need to be calibrated from time to time to keep them accurate. Check your thermometer when it’s new, after it’s been dropped, and occasionally thereafter. If it needs calibration, two methods of adjusting it are described below; you can use either one.


The boiling point method: Immerse at least 2 inches of the probe in boiling water. The needle should read 212°F (100°C). (At higher altitudes, the boiling point may be different. Check with your local health department if you’re unsure about your area.) Allow a little time for the thermometer reading to adjust to its new environment. Then, if the temperature is not 212°F, rotate the thermometer head (with a wrench or pliers) until it reads 212°. Note: Look for a model with a calibrating wrench right on the case.


The ice point method: Insert the probe into a cup of crushed ice. Add enough cold water to replace any air pockets. The temperature should stabilize at 32°F (0°C). If it doesn’t, adjust the thermometer as described in the above section on the boiling point method.


Wash your food thermometer well after each use.





Xanedu Coursepack. HRI 158 Tidewater Comm. College—Virginia Beach by Don Averso, Fall 2008.
Cooperative Extension Service, University of Alaska, Fairbanks: “Health, Home, and Family Development: Frequently Asked Questions”


Cornell Cooperative Extension Service “The Healthy Fridge”


You must be logged in to post a comment or question.

Sign In or Register for free.