The First Thing You Should Do When You Buy a New Food Thermometer

Make sure your temp reader isn't a dud.

When it comes to cooking meat, the best way to know when it's time to pull it from the heat is by checking the temperature at the center of it. Normally, this is done with a meat thermometer.

Of course, meat isn't the only food that can benefit from a temperature check. Casseroles, breads, desserts, and more may need a test of the internal temp before they're ready to serve. Candies and confections often require a candy thermometer to make sure you're cooking the sugar properly.

However, if this vital kitchen tool doesn't read temperatures accurately, you could be in trouble. Luckily, testing to make sure your new food thermometer works and reads properly is simple and easy. Read on to find which methods work best for you.

Caramelizing sugar in saucepan to make homemade lollipops.
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How Do You Calibrate a Food Thermometer?

Use one of these tests to determine how accurate your food thermometers are. If they're within a few degrees, they're likely still OK to use. If they're off dramatically, you may need to calibrate it (if you can) or buy a new one.

The Hot Water Test

The first test of a new food thermometer requires a pot of boiling water. Once you get the pot to a roaring bubble, submerge the probe of the thermometer in the water. Hold the reader in your hands for a minute or two. If the thermometer reads to around 212 degrees F (100 degrees C), you're good to go.

The Ice Water Test

This test is like the hot water test above, but it is a safer alternative if you don't want a boiling pot of water just hanging around in the kitchen.

To conduct this simple test, fill a large glass or measuring cup with ice, then pour water over it, and stir well with a spoon. Next, stick your thermometer into the center of the glass so the tip of the probe is submerged. Hold the thermometer still for about a minute, making sure it stays in the center. Then, check the temperature. It should read 32 degrees F or 0 degrees C, which is the temperature that water freezes.

What to Do if Your Food Thermometer Is Wrong

Depending on what kind of food thermometer you have, you should be able to fix it so it reads true if the reading turns out a little wonky.

Most digital thermometers have a reset button or a calibration feature, which the user's manual should explain how to use. Many manual thermometers have a calibration dial that you can turn until the thermometer reads 32 degrees F when it's inserted in the ice bath.

If you can't fix the problem and if it's off by more than two degrees, try contacting the manufacturer to see if you can send it back for a replacement or a repair. Most thermometers come with a warranty that should cover a problem if one should arise during the first use.

In the rare event the manufacturer can't help you, you can make do with your lying thermometer. Simply, make a note of how many degrees off it is, and write it on some duct tape and attach it to the thermometer so you know to always add (or subtract, as the case may be) the number of degrees off that it is.

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