Learn to calibrate your kitchen thermometer

The kitchen thermometer is a very easy-to-use instrument that can be of great help to achieve a precise finish in recipes, but also provides safety when using high temperatures to kill bacteria that some foods bring. However, you should keep it calibrated for accuracy.

Meat and eggs are very common foods in our kitchen, but it is known that they can cause illness if they do not reach the right temperature during cooking to eliminate harmful bacteria. In this sense, it is essential to use a food thermometer, since it is the way to know that we and our loved ones are consuming healthy food.

One of the most common bacteria in food is Escherichia coli, since it develops in warm-blooded animals, such as birds, cows and pigs. Likewise, some vegetables may be contaminated with fecal matter from these animals and therefore, they are also transmitters of the bacteria. It is also important to note that raw milk and eggs may contain the pathogen, so eating them raw is not recommended. 

This and other bacteria present in the food we use every day cause multiple diseases in people. Despite the fact that science has advanced a lot and production processes in Europe and elsewhere are increasingly rigorous, the risk is still present and so are the diseases that are consequences of consuming dangerous bacteria.

the color trap 

Many people think that a simple change in the color of food indicates that all bacteria have been eliminated and therefore it is safe to eat. This is especially dangerous when cooking meat and eggs, since it has been proven in different studies that these foods can change their color and appear well cooked, but inside they have not reached the correct temperature.

For example, we can imagine a red meat fillet, which when placed in the pan quickly turns brown, well, this does not necessarily mean that it has already reached the necessary temperature to completely eliminate bacteria such as Escherichia coli. Something similar happens with eggs, which can take on an opaque color very quickly without reaching the right temperature.

Therefore, we cannot always trust the color of food when cooking, but we must check with the thermometer to be completely sure. In this sense, it is good to know that the minimum internal temperature recommended by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is 63 °C for lamb, veal, beef and pork, while dishes with Eggs should reach 71°C and poultry should be cooked to 74°C.

The importance of calibrating the kitchen thermometer

Even if you have the best kitchen thermometer of the moment, it is essential that you perform a periodic calibration of the instrument, since otherwise you could be cooking with the wrong values, which would increase the risk of developing diseases caused by improper food handling, this it is particularly important in restaurants and other food businesses, but also in homes.

The reason thermometers lose calibration has to do with the specific range of temperatures in which they can function properly. In fact, many times in the kitchen we use the thermometer at different temperatures than those indicated by the manufacturer, since we precisely want to know how hot or cold the food is. By processing this data beyond its capabilities, the device loses accuracy. This can happen to any model, no matter how high-tech it is.

Therefore, experts recommend calibrating the thermometer once a day in the case of restaurants and also at home if you use it daily. This will depend on the use you give it, but in any case you should perform the calibration at least weekly so that it is always ready to use when necessary.

How should I calibrate the kitchen thermometer?

Calibrating this instrument is a quick and easy process, which can be done by anyone without the need to hire a professional technician. There are two basic ways to calibrate your kitchen thermometer: the ice water method and the boiling water method. The first is considered by many to be the simplest and most practical, since you only need to add cold water to a glass filled with crushed ice to the brim. As a general rule, this liquid should be at 0 °C, so when immersing the thermometer it should indicate this temperature. If you notice that it is not correct, you just have to adjust it to the exact figure and it will be calibrated. If you have a digital device, you just have to press the reset button or simply wait for the screen to show the correct temperature.

The other way is to use the other extreme, which would be the boiling point, but in this case you must take into account that water boils at a certain temperature depending on the height above sea level. For example, at sea level water boils at 100 °C, but if you are 600 meters above sea level, then it will boil at 98 °C, because every 150 meters above sea level the boiling point decreases. by 0.5 degrees. Although this doesn’t seem very complex to science enthusiasts, most prefer to use the freezing point method because it has fewer variables.

As we have seen, using a thermometer to measure the temperature of food is the most reliable way to know that we are not consuming disease-causing bacteria, but it is useless to take measurements if we have not calibrated the device. Therefore, we invite you to carry out this process periodically to ensure a healthier diet in your home.

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