How to Calibrate a Food Thermometer

A thermometer used for cooking needs to be calibrated, not only in order to achieve the expected delicious results but, more importantly, to ensure that you are preparing and serving food that is safe to eat.

Depending on the type of thermometer you use to check the meat’s internal temperature or monitor your tempered chocolate’s temperature, you will need to make sure that it is calibrated and accurate periodically.

Keep in mind that even if your thermometer is only 5 degrees Fahrenheit off, this may be a safety hazard for you and the people who eat the food you prepare.

Here are two of the easiest methods for checking the accuracy of the measurements of your kitchen thermometer.

What does calibrating a thermometer mean?

Recommended-methods-to-calibrate-a-thermometer
Photo credit: foodfirefriends 

Just like with all other measurement tools, food thermometers need to be checked for accuracy periodically. Some of these thermometers may start showing inaccurate readings after some time of use, or when exposed to extreme temperatures, or when dropped, which can affect the quality and, more importantly, the safety of the food you are cooking, especially when preparing meat and fish.

Whether you use your food thermometer regularly or you only occasionally need to measure the temperate of your food, it is vital to know whether the readings are accurate and reliable.

While some thermometers can be calibrated according to the instructions of the manufacturer if there is a discrepancy in the readings, others will need to be replaced or sent to a specialized calibrating service.

Here is how to calibrate a thermometer at home easily and cheaply.

Recommended methods to calibrate a thermometer

A reliable food thermometer should show readings with an accuracy of plus-minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit at the most. If you find that there is a bigger gap when testing your thermometer, you will need to proceed to calibrate it or, if not possible to replace it.

Some types of thermometers are easy to calibrate and have nuts that need to be adjusted or reset buttons. You should follow the instructions provided by the thermometer manufacturer to correct the readings of the tool.

Of course, you can adjust your cooking time and methods by increasing or decreasing the finishing temperature if your thermometer shows small discrepancies.

But we recommend that if you find that you cannot calibrate your thermometer, that you replace it with a new one sold by a trusted manufacturer.

The most common and easy to perform calibration methods for food thermometers are the ice-water and the boiling methods. Both of them rely on the physical properties of water and its freezing and boiling point temperatures.

Read on to find out more about how to check whether your thermometer is working correctly with the help of freezing or boiling water.

Ice-water method

Water freezes at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius.

To check whether your food thermometer is calibrated, will a glass with ice and add cold water to it. Stir the ice in the water and let it sit for about 3 minutes until the temperature stabilizes to 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Insert the thermometer probe in the ice water to a depth of at least 2 inches. Make sure you do not touch the walls or bottom of the glass. Use the probe to stir the icy water and to ensure that it is not stuck to an ice cube.

Do this for at least 30 seconds before reading the temperature.

The thermometer should show a reading of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius).

If there is a discrepancy, you will need to calibrate the thermometer according to the instructions.

Boiling-water method

At sea level, water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius. If you live at a higher altitude, you will need to check the boiling temperature in your area in order to run this accuracy test properly.

Usually, the temperature is between 190 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit (88-100 degrees Celsius).

To use the boiling water method, bring some water to a boil in a saucepan or pot. Then place the probe in the boiling water and submerge it at least 2 inches deep. Ensure that you do not touch the walls or the bottom of the pan with the probe, and let the thermometer sit in it for at least 30 seconds.

Check the temperature reading. It should show 212 degrees Fahrenheit (or the water boiling temperature at your altitude).

If the reading is off, try calibrating the thermometer by turning the knob or resetting it until it shows an accurate reading.

Please note that this method can be dangerous, so make sure that you keep your fingers and hands at a safe distance from the boiling water and steam produced. You can use a stem sheath and hold it horizontally to stay safe.

Final thoughts

Ensuring that your food thermometer is essential no matter whether you work in a professional kitchen or use it for cooking at home.

Not only will an accurate temperature ensure that the food is tempered and prepared according to the recipe, but it will also guarantee that the meat, fish, or other protein is safe to eat.

It is recommended that you check the accuracy of your food thermometer at least once a month or if you expose it to extreme temperatures and significant differences in the temperatures. Also, if you happen to drop the thermometer, make sure that you check it before using it for preparing food.

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