How To

by SteakBytes


Choosing the Right Kitchen Thermometer

What’s the real difference between a well-done and medium rare steak? The short answer – cooking temperature. From both a food safety and flavor perspective, temperature is the ultimate deciding factor in how home cooked meals will be received by your family and friends. Not only does the temperature determine the doneness, it also affects the way flavors and marbling breaks down within the meat itself. Because so many important elements of a meal rely on the cooking temperature, it’s equally important to have a good set of kitchen thermometers in your grilling arsenal. Just like there are those that swear by a preferred cooking method, there are those who will only use a certain type of thermometer. Below, we’ve laid out the pros and cons of a variety of styles in kitchen thermometers that should help make your next decision a little easier:

Liquid filled
Speed: 1 to 2 minutes     Placement: At least 2 inches into the thickest part of the food

Probably one of the most common, liquid-filled thermometers are often used when cooking items like roasts, casseroles and soups. These thermometers can be used while cooking which is handy for those keeping a close eye on cooking temperatures. While very common, liquid-filled thermometers will not work well when used in thin foods and heat conduction on the dial’s metal shielding can cause false high temperature readings.

Bimetal (oven safe)
Speed: 1 to 2 minutes     Placement: 2 to 2 1/2 inches into the thickest part of the food

Oven safe bimetal thermometers should be used for similar foods and cooking situations as liquid-filled thermometers. You’ll get the best results when used with roasts, casseroles and soups and accounting for potential false high temperature readings due to the metal shielding around the dial. Like liquid-filled thermometers, the calibration on these thermometers cannot be adjusted.

Bimetal (instant read)
Speed: 15 to 20 seconds     Placement: 2 to 2 1/2 inches into the thicket part of the food

While similar to their over safe cousins, bimetal instant read thermometers cannot be used while cooking. However, the faster read time is based on an average temperature along the entire probe length of 2 to 3 inches. These types of bimetal thermometers can also be temperature calibrated and are best used when checking temps toward the end of cooking time.

Thermistor (digital)
Speed: 10 seconds     Placement: At least 1/2 inch deep in the food

Faster than bimetal or liquid-filled thermometers, Thermistors also provide an east-to-read digital readout that can be much easier than deciphering an analog thermometer dial. Though not oven safe, these thermometers can also be used on thinner cut foods and are readily available in most home or kitchen supply stores.

Speed: 5 seconds     Placement: 1/4 inch deep or deeper as needed

The fastest read of any thermometer, Thermocouples can be used with much thinner foods and provide extremely accurate temperature readings on easy-to-read digital displays. While Thermocouple thermometers can be a bit more difficult to find, they are usually available at higher end kitchen stores.

In a pinch, you can always reference this quick guide chart to see which type of thermometer may be the best fit for the recipe you have in mind.

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