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Surprising Truth: Not All Meat Thermometers Belong in the Oven

Surprising Truth: Not All Meat Thermometers Belong in the Oven

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No one wants a serving of salmonella with their turkey or pork dinner, so cooking meat thoroughly is essential to avoid foodborne illnesses. If you have an oven-safe meat thermometer, this problem will be a thing of the past, and you can consistently create safe, succulent roasts.

Oven-safe meat thermometers, also known as cooking thermometers, are designed to stay in the oven while meat is cooking. The unit, or the probe that stays in the oven, is made to withstand the extremely high temperatures inside an oven. Instant-read meat thermometers are not oven-safe.

Overcooking can make meat dry, tough, and tasteless. Knowing whether or not you can leave the meat thermometer in the oven while the food is cooking is important.

Can Meat Thermometers Stay in the Oven?

Most of us are familiar with simple pop-up type meat thermometers that sometimes come perfectly positioned in turkey roasts. These thermometers use a spring that is held in the down position.

When the metal that holds it reaches a set temperature, it releases the spring, and a section outside the meat will ‘pop up’. These pop-timers are useful but are not always reliable. Many a Thanksgiving turkey has been ruined by trusting one of these small devices.

There are two standard types of meat thermometers that you can leave in the oven during cooking. Oven-safe meat thermometers usually have a round analog dial-type face, and oven-safe probe thermometers connect to a screen outside the oven during cooking.

There are meat thermometers available that are so hi-tech that they have wireless receivers outside the oven that will let you know when your roast is perfectly heated all the way through.

If you already have a food thermometer and are unsure if it can stay in the oven while food is cooking, it is always safest to assume that it can not. Oven-safe thermometers will specifically indicate if they are oven-safe on the packaging.

There are many models of meat thermometers that you can leave in the oven. The most popular type has a single probe attached to a large oven-safe face that indicates temperature. Many models also have recommended cooking temperatures for various types of meat.

Multiprobe meat thermometers are less common. These are suitable if you are cooking large pieces of meat. It allows you to monitor the internal temperature of more than one place in the meat while it is cooking.

Are Meat Thermometers Oven-Safe or Not?

There are different types of meat thermometers. Some kinds can be left in the oven while cooking, and others are used during and after the meat is cooked to gauge the inside temperature.

Both types are called meat thermometers, so just because you have a ‘meat thermometer does not mean that it can be cooked in the oven along with the Sunday roast.

Meat thermometers can be extremely versatile cooking tools that can be used at the barbecue or to measure the temperature inside a hamburger patty. Many of these handy gadget types are very useful but are not suitable to leave in an oven.

When purchasing a meat thermometer you want to leave in the oven, ensure that it indicates on the packaging or specifications that it can be left in the oven during cooking.

What Types of Meat Thermometers Do You Get?

It is important to heat meat to a safe temperature to ensure that bacteria present in the meat is completely destroyed. Using a meat thermometer can ensure that you and your family stay safe without overcooking everything.

Let’s take a look at the various types of meat thermometers. Some are more versatile than others, but if it’s just quick once-off convenience that you need, there’s no point in investing in a tool that’s going to lay about in a kitchen drawer until next Thanksgiving.

Type of Meat ThermometerWhat Is It Used ForIs It Oven Safe?
Dial Oven-Safe (Bimetal)Roasts, Soups, and CasserolesYes
Thermocouple Thermometer
It is versatile and can be used to measure the temperature of many types of food.No
Digital Instant-read (Thermistor)Can measure temperature in thick and thin foodNo
Digital Fork ThermometerSuitable to measure temperature in most types of foodNo
Pop Up Thermometer (usually single use)Mostly used when cooking poultryYes
Dial Instant-read (Bimetal)Roasts, Casseroles, and SoupsNo
Oven CordIt can be used in most types of foodYes – the base remains on the counter and is attached to a probe in the meat with a wire.
Wireless Digital Meat ThermometersIt can be used in most types of foodYes – A probe in the meat communicates a receiver unit outside the oven. Some models connect with an app on your smartphone or tablet.

Oven-Safe Dial Thermometers

When selecting an oven-safe thermometer that you can leave in meat while roasting, you need to consider a few things.

What will it be used for?If you rarely only roast a year at Thanksgiving, you can probably get away with just using the inexpensive pop-up thermometer and a meat probe.
That way, you will be able to check the meat’s internal temperature when you take it out without investing in an oven-safe thermometer.
How often will I need to use it?If you regularly cook meat in the oven, then acquiring an oven-safe meat thermometer will make life easier.
Being able to see the temperature inside the meat without opening and closing the oven multiple times is convenient.
Oven-safe meat thermometers range from basic inexpensive dial types to wireless probes that connect to your phone.
How easy is it to read?Dial oven-safe thermometers usually have a large analog face attached to a probe that is inserted into the meat. They can sometimes be hard to read accurately, especially if you don’t want to open the oven!
Oven-safe thermometers with wires or wireless units have screens outside the oven that display the cooking temperature digitally. They conveniently display information about the temperature inside the meat without bending down or opening the oven to check the temperature reading.
Will I need any additional features?Before you invest in a meat thermometer that is safe to leave in the oven, decide whether you may need to use it in any other handy features.
Some over-safe thermometers come with an alarm that lets you know when the meat is safely cooked, or you can preset the thermometer unit to let you know when the meat has reached particular doneness.
CostMeat thermometers can range in cost from around $10 to $110. Between those two numbers is a lot of variation and features, and not all of them are safe to leave in the oven.
Meat thermometers vary greatly in terms of their features and costs.

How Can I Check That My Meat Thermometer Is Accurate?

Food thermometers should be checked periodically to ensure that they are still measuring the temperature of food accurately.

Many types of meat, like pork, fish, and chicken, must be cooked to a minimum temperature to destroy any potentially dangerous bacteria. Having a faulty meat thermometer could therefore have serious consequences.

Fortunately, food thermometers are usually easy and quick to calibrate. You will need to know where the adjustment nut is on your thermometer so that you can make any necessary adjustments.

You can either use the freezing or boiling method to check that your thermometer is accurate.

How to Calibrate a Food Thermometer
Ice Water MethodBoiling Water Method
Fill a glass with crushed ice. Add tap water until the glass is full. Stir to mix the ice and the water thoroughly. Immerse the probe of the thermometer into the water. It must not touch the sides or the bottom. Wait for at least 30 seconds before you take a reading. Without removing the probe from the water, adjust the reading to indicate 32F.
Boil water in a deep saucepan. When it is actively boiling, submerge the probe of your food thermometer into the water and wait at least 30 seconds. There reading should be 212F or 100C. Do not remove the thermometer from the water while you are adjusting the calibration nut. If you live in a high-altitude boiling point may be slightly lower. Water boils at a lower temperature in high altitudes.

Even if you have a food thermometer that cannot be calibrated, you should still regularly check that it accurately measures your food’s temperature. If you find it is reading slightly high or low, you can take that into account when you are cooking.

What Type of Thermometer Must Not Be Used in the Oven?

Any kind of thermometer that does not specifically indicate that it is oven-safe should never be used in the oven. Do not consider using an instant-read probe or dial instant-read type of thermometer in the oven because they will get destroyed.

Many types of meat thermometers are compact instant-read probe units. These are intended to insert into cooked meat to let you know if the inside has reached the minimum required temperature to be safe.

Instant read meat thermometers are handy to use for many types of food, but they should never be left inside the oven.

What Is the Minimum Temperature That Meat Must Be Cooked?

To kill all potentially harmful bacteria in meat, it must reach a particular temperature. The minimum temperature depends on the type of meat you are cooking.

When measuring the temperature of meat, insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the meat, but do not touch any bone. Bone can conduct heat and may reflect a higher reading than in the surrounding meat.

The minimum temperature that meat must reach during cooking to be safe is as follows:

Type Of MeatTemperature
Ground Mince155F
Meat Casseroles

These are the minimum temperatures meat should be cooked. Many people love well-cooked meat and will exceed these minimum temperatures to create a ‘well-done steak.

How to Insert a Meat Thermometer

A meat thermometer will take the guesswork out of serving perfectly cooked roasts every time. Using a meat thermometer correctly can make cooking meat a lot easier and safer.

At which point you measure the temperature of a piece of meat depends on the texture and thickness of the meat that is being cooked.

For accuracy, a meat thermometer must be inserted the full length indicated on the probe. A mark or indicator line usually shows how far the probe needs to be pushed into the meat.

If you need to measure the internal temperature of something flat like hamburger patties or steak, slide the thermometer probe in on the flat side. That way, there will be enough contact with the thermometer, and it will remain steady while the temperature is being gauged.

For large cuts of meat, you should test the temperature in a few places where the meat is thickest. This will ensure that all the meat is safely cooked, and it doesn’t just reach the minimum required temperature in the place where the probe was inserted while it was being cooked.

Final Thoughts

The days of peering through the oven window or opening the oven door to quickly jab a fork into our meat to guesstimate whether it is safely cooked are over.

A meat thermometer is an essential kitchen gadget to cook meat, especially roasts, in the oven safely. Not all meat thermometers can be left in the oven during the cooking process. Many types of meat thermometers are designed to insert into the meat when it is removed from the oven to check the temperature inside the roast.

There are meat thermometers available that can be left in the oven during cooking. However, unless a thermometer specifically indicates that it can be used in the oven during the cooking process, you should never try it.

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