How to use a meat thermometer: everything you need to know

meat thermometer

Beef, poultry, game or fish… How to get a perfect rare steak or a well cooked lamb? To cook meat to perfection – in many cases – you need a kitchen thermometer, which indicates the ideal cooking temperature and facilitates the preparation of many dishes.

Here is the information you need to make the best use of a kitchen thermometer for perfect meat cooking:

What the meat thermometer is for

The food thermometer used for cooking meat can check the temperature at the core, i.e. in the central area furthest from the fire, indicating the exact cooking point. For the success of the dish, it is necessary to avoid overcooking, which would make the meat dry and hard. Cooking meat perfectly, in particular when it is about roasts, is not as simple as one may think, because they are foods in which the right cooking time makes the difference. Too long or too short a cooking time risks ruining even the most valuable meats. Therefore, a kitchen thermometer is a right ally in the kitchen for the preparation of meat recipes.

How to use a roasting thermometer


The thermometer should be sunk into the coldest point of the meat, the one farthest from the fire, deep into the heart. Be careful not to insert the pin near a bone, which is always warmer than the muscular part, or in the fattest areas. Once the pin is inserted, it is necessary to wait a few seconds: the thermometer will detect the temperature, and consequently it will signal the correct one. When the desired temperature is reached, the meat will be cooked to the right point.

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For thinner preparations, such as meatballs, ribs and steaks, instant-reading thermometers are more suitable, which are inserted into the meat at the end of the cooking time to check the temperature. The tip should be inserted for one or two cm inside the food, care must be taken not to pierce it completely, and avoid touching the grill or the pan. If the thermometer is analog, it is necessary to wait until the needle is completely stopped, and then proceed to read. For cooking whole chickens, turkeys and roast beef or lamb, the recommended type is the one with the probe. This model, in fact, can be left inside the meat even during cooking in the oven, with the convenience of being able to monitor the temperature at all times.

How a food thermometer is made

The meat thermometer (also called a roasting thermometer), is an insertion thermometer, equipped with a pin with which to pierce the meat. It is equipped with a display, analog or digital, which shows the temperature inside the meat. There are models with convenient symbols that indicate the right degree of cooking for various types of meat. For the professional kitchens of great chefs there are probe thermometers, which can measure very high temperatures, and have a separate pin and display. After each use, the probe or the metal pin of the thermometer should be washed immediately with warm water and soap. The rest of the instrument can be cleaned with a kitchen sanitizer. If you have chosen a digital thermometer, remember to turn it off so as not to unnecessarily consume battery power. If you have doubts about the efficiency of your thermometer, try plunging it into ice-cold or boiling water: if the values deviate from zero or one hundred degrees, it’s time to buy a new one.

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The right temperature for meat

Temperature and cooking time depend on the type of meat chosen, the thickness of the cut and also personal tastes. Meat should be considered ready when the temperature of the heart is at the recommended temperature. If the heart exceeds the limit on the thermometer, the external part, more exposed to heat, will already be overcooked. Moreover, it is good to know that, because of the heat accumulated by the external parts, the heart of the meat continues cooking even far from the fire. For this reason it is better to remove from cooking when the heart of the meat is still missing some degrees.
The temperature of the inner part of the roast, for example, can increase even of 5 degrees once it is taken out from the oven.

Table of meat cooking
Here is a summary table for the main cuts and types of meat:

Types of meatTemperature
Braised beef85 C°
Knuckle of pork or veal80 C°
Whole chicken or turkey75 C°
Leg and loin of lamb70 C°
Chicken breast70 C°
Pork fillet65

Whether you are already passionate about cooking or are just starting to take your first steps at the stove, a food thermometer is an essential tool for all recipes. It will facilitate the preparation of many dishes and help you to reduce mistakes while achieving great results.

Elly Blunt
Hey, I’m Elly. Let me introduced myself a little bit. I am a foodie who loves trying out new cooking techniques and tools. I addicted to meal preparation kits and tasting different cuisines.