Different Types of Kitchen Thermometers and Their Uses

Meat Thermometer
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  • 01 of 05

    Instant-Read Thermometer

    A digital instant-read thermometer
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    The instant-read thermometer is a probe thermometer, available in both analog and digital styles, that allows a cook to take instant temperature readings of a food. They're great for testing the doneness of a piece of meat or poultry while it cooks, but it isn't meant to be left in during cooking. You simply insert the probe into the food, check the temperature, and then remove it.

    Instant-read thermometers can also be used to measure the temperature of hot food in a steam tray or chafing...MORE dish, as well as cold items in a salad bar, and to measure how quickly a soup or sauce is cooling (to ensure that it does not spend excessive time in the temperature danger zone).

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  • 02 of 05

    Meat Thermometer

    A meat thermometer in a pork roast before cooking
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    A meat thermometer is similar to an instant-read, but it sports a larger dial (on the analog types, that is) to make them easier to read. The main difference is that unlike an instant-read thermometer, a meat thermometer is inserted into a joint of meat or a whole chicken (or turkey), where it remains throughout the roasting process. To monitor the temperature, you simply peek at the dial.

    Digital versions are even more sophisticated. They can be programmed to emit a beep to signal that your...MORE desired target temperature has been reached. In this case, the probe is situated at the end of a long, oven-proof wire that is attached to the unit it self, which can usually be fixed to the outside of the oven with a magnet.

    You can even leave the probe in the meat after you take it out of the oven, to monitor the meat's temperature while you rest it.

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  • 03 of 05

    Candy and Deep-Fry Thermometer

    Boiling apple jelly with a candy thermometer
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    While the previous two types of thermometer are probes, with a pointy end that is inserted into a food to measure its temperature, candy and deep-frying thermometers are made of glass and are are used for measuring much hotter temperatures.

    Whereas meat and poultry might be cooked anywhere from 130 F to 175 F, candy involves cooking sugar as high as 300 F, and deep-frying requires oil to be 375 F and hotter.

    You can get separate candy and deep-frying thermometers, but usually the are combined, and...MORE they work fine for the home cook. Usually there's some sort of clip attached so you can secure the thermometer to the lip of the pot you're using, along with a guide showing the temperature levels for each food.

    Why it matters: In confectionary, your sugar needs to hit just the right temperature, neither too cool nor too hot, to achieve the proper consistency for the type of candy you're making. Similarly, depending on what you're frying and what type of oil you're using, too cool and the item can turn out greasy, whereas too hot and the oil can start to smoke and even ignite.

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  • 04 of 05

    Oven Thermometer

    An oven thermometer helps confirm that your oven is heating properly.
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    Just when you thought there was anything at all in your kitchen you can rely on (other than your own common sense), it turns out that there isn't. Not even your oven temperature. That means when you set it to 350 F, or 400 F, your oven might be anywhere within 25 to 50 degrees higher or lower than that. Even worse, your oven might have hot spots or cool spots—regions where the temperature is consistently higher or lower than other parts of the oven interior -- which can effect baking times.

    To...MORE find out, get yourself an oven thermometer, which you can place on the shelf (or hang by a hook from one of the oven racks). When you set your oven to 350 F, the thermometer will tell you whether it's actually at that temperature or not. Some amount of fluctuation is normal. But if you find that your oven consistently reads 25 degrees hotter than what you set it to, you can adjust the temperature you set it to accordingly. No more blackened cookies!

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  • 05 of 05

    Refrigerator Thermometer

    A refrigerator thermometer measures the temperature inside your fridge
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    As if a miscalibrated oven weren't bad enough, a miscalibrated refrigerator can really cause problems. That's because if your fridge doesn't get cold enough, foodborne bacteria (some of which can cause food poisoning) can grow. For reference, the temperature inside your refrigerator should be between 33 F and 40 F. But to make sure, you can get a refrigerator thermometer. It works much the same way as the oven thermometer: stick it in the fridge and it'll display the temperature...MORE of the inside of your cooler. (They also have ones for your freezer, the interior of which should be around 0 F.)