How to use an Instant Read Digital Meat Thermometer Correctly


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Pros and Cons of Instant Read Thermometers

Just like every other product, these have their own advantages and disadvantages, keep reading to find out what they are,


The instant-read thermometers are incredibly accurate in figuring out and measuring the temperature because they have a digital display and don’t use mercury. They provide you with instant reading, and their long poke allows for measuring distinct substances in deep innermost places.



With the above-mentioned information, you can easily find the best instant-read thermometer for your use. This will also make it easier for you to know what features to look out for. Also, make use of the frequent questions mentioned down below and their answers to get rid of your confusion. 

Key Takeaways on the Need for an Instant Read Thermometer

Digital instant-read thermometers are light, compa

Digital instant-read thermometers are light, compact, quick, and easy-to-use. And they are increasingly user-friendly!

From displays which orient to “up” whichever way thermometer is held, to models that turn themselves off to conserve the battery, ease of use is excellent in most models.

Thermometers aren’t just for restaurants and catering businesses. Something so simple and convenient can make your next cooking session not only fun, but as safe as possible, and you can be sure to serve food of the perfect doneness, by making sure it cooks to the ideal temperature.

‘But, just what is this thing and how does it work?’, You may be wondering. So we thought we’d take a little look at the science and tech inside these things.

Reader Interactions

2 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Ruth Brentari says

    I have a Thermoworks instant read thermometer. I’m relatively new to cooking. I was cooking 2 bone-in pork chops in a casts iron pan. I measure the first chop at 125 taking the temp from top down. I measured the 2nd chop at 185, taking the temp both top down and through the side. We didn’t cook them any further, let them test 10+ mins. Both were medium rare when we cut into them. I’ve calibrated the thermometer (Thermoworks Mk4), it’s accurate. I’m 90% confident I didn’t hit the bone. I did take the temp on the pan. What did I do wrong with the second chop?


    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Ruth- Typically the sides cook faster than the center, I’ve always found the edges to be higher in temp then the center. Also if you are measuring from the side you should try to get into the center. You’ll get a more accurate reading if you test it on a plate off the pan, sometimes the tip of the probe can briefly the pan and get a false high.


Operating Instructions For The Instant-Read Thermometer

​Accurate Temperature Measurement

  1. ​Press ON/OFF button to turn the instant-read thermometer on
  2. ​Clean thermometer stem and insert the tip into food or liquid for accurate reading

​Data Hold

Before withdrawing the digital thermometer, press the HOLD button, this will hold the temperature reading until pressed again. “H” will appear in the LCD.

​Max Mode

  1. ​Press MAX button to read the highest temperature detected. “MAX” will appear on the display.
  2. ​Press MAX button a 2nd time to display the lowest temperature reading detected. “MIN” will appear on the display.

​Self-Calibration (Your Meat Thermometer Comes Pre-Calibrated)

  1. ​Place the stem into at least 1 inch of crushed-ice water. Don’t let the stem touch the bottom of container.
  2. ​​To avoid accidental recalibration, this function works only when the ambient temperature is 32 to 34 °F.
  3. ​When temperature is within range, press the CAL button to recalibrate the food thermometer.

Bonus Content

How Instant Read Thermometers Work

In general thermometers take some material that changes when it’s heated, then measure that change with some other measuring device. For example, mercury expands when the temperature goes up. Your classic mercury thermometer has a precise tube where the mercury can expand that’s marked with a specialized ruler. As the mercury expands, we read the temperature off the ruler.

In the case of digital thermometers, we’re measuring the changes to different electrical properties as temperature changes. For thermistors and resistance temperature detectors, the property is electrical resistance. For thermocouples, the property is the voltage created by the junction of two different metals. A lot of people have loud opinions about what technology does better for accuracy or better for speed. It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole here, and with the time I’ve spent in there, you can all but call me Alice. The big takeaway, in my opinion, is that the choice of sensor matters a lot less than how the engineers design the thermometer around it. Don’t get hung up on thermistors vs. thermocouples unless you have extremely specific needs. Focus on the end results.

Calibrating a Thermometer

If you’re concerned about the accuracy of your thermometer, you can test its performance in an ice-water bath. Your better class of thermometer can be recalibrated, maybe by you or maybe by the manufacturer. A cheapy might just need to hit the garbage.

This is more complicated than just fixing yourself a cold drink. You need to make a mix of ice and water that’s exactly 32°, and that takes some work. As you can see in our photos, our uncareful bath is 34°. To do it right, fill an insulated cup most of the way full with crushed ice. Fill most of the way with water and let sit for a minute to let the temperature equalize. Insert your thermometer and stir with the probe. The number on the screen should be 32° ± the manufacturer’s published tolerance ± how imperfect your ice bath is.

You can also check the result against another trusted thermometer. Get the sensors as close together as possible in the ice bath without touching the probes together. The numbers should be equal, ± the manufacturer’s tolerance for the test thermometer ± the manufacturer’s tolerance for the trusted thermometer. As you might guess from reading this, that won’t tell you much unless you have a very accurate trusted thermometer. Better to learn how to make a really good ice bath.

Boiling water is more suspect than freezing water. Where freezing temperature only changes in situations where you would die, boiling temperature changes all the time. It drops a degree for every five hundred feet of elevation gained, and moves with the local barometric pressure. There are online calculators where you can punch in your data and get an estimate of local boiling temperature, but that’s just another error term for the pile.

How do I get accurate temperature readings?

The first goal is to get a true core temperature, ideally probing in the thickest portion of the item to be measured; meat, veggie or whatever. If there is a bone near the center of the item being cooked it is good to get near or touching that area. Keep in mind it will be the slowest area to reach temperature. In a turkey for instance, getting right up to the thigh bone will give you the best indication of doneness because it is typically a thick section of the bird. For an unstuffed bird, the opposite is true in the breast meat, you want to stay centered in the thickest section of the meat. Getting too near the rib cage will temp out as done before the core temp has been reached. For higher temps, fowl, pulled pork, brisket, and such, getting that temp evenly and thoroughly is key and best measured at the core itself if possible.

Can you put an instant read thermometer in the oven?

Typically, no. A thermometer with a plastic casing or viewpoint, analog or digital, cannot be used in the oven. There are lots of choices that are made for this. We tested and reviewed duel probe thermometers which are designed for leave-in use. There are also leave-in oven thermometers and multi-probe devices designed for BBQ. Whether via a stainless-steel braided min-cable or via Bluetooth wireless, or both, the option to monitor what is going on in the oven without having to open it up is unquestionably the best option.

Can you cook meat with an instant read thermometer in it?

Assuming your thermometer is designed to work in the cooking environment and can stand the heat, then yes. Again, most instant read thermometers are not made for this, instead you need a probe style made to monitor during the cooking cycle (see links above). Cooking with a probe in the meat works just fine. Rarely, in a high heat, somewhat longer cook time, you will get a channel of slightly more cooked meat where the metal casing of the device will transfer a small amount of heat. Most often you will not even notice that, and the benefit so far outweighs it making it is still worthwhile to cook meat with a probe in it.

How high do Instant read thermometers go?

On average they max out at about 550°F. There are many analog style dial thermometers that use smaller increments and will max out at 220 or 250°F. These are specifically for internal temps of food that will not exceed those thresholds. Keeping one around that doesn’t need a battery makes sense, but there are such great digital choices with quicker read times and broader ranges as to make these analog devices pretty outdated.