Cook It Safe Always Use a Food Thermometer to Ensure a Safe Internal Temperature

On Behalf of the Cook It Safe Taskforce Date: 9/30/11

The IFIC Foundation 2011 Food & Health Survey found that half of all Americans do not use a food thermometer. Many consumers judge that a food is done by looking at its color, texture or appearance -thinking this is a good way to know when food is safe to eat. None of these methods work. That's why USDA and our partners urge you to use a food thermometer. 

Why should you use a food thermometer?

·         It's the only way to be sure a food is safely cooked. USDA research shows that 1 out of every 4 hamburgers turn brown in the middle before it has reached a safe internal temperature. You can't tell food is safe by its appearance. Using a food thermometer is the only sure way of knowing if your food has reached a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.  

·         Uneven cooking in the microwave may result in cold spots in the product, where harmful bacteria can survive.  

·         It helps you avoid overcooking. Using a food thermometer not only keeps you safe from harmful bacteria, but it also helps you to avoid overcooking, keeping your food juicy and flavorful.  

What type of thermometer should you use?

There are many types of thermometers- digital probes, dial oven-safe and disposable temperature indicators. To learn about the different thermometer types and their uses, go to USDA's Kitchen Thermometers fact sheet. 

How should you use the thermometer?

·         Use a thermometer toward the end of the cooking time, but before the food is expected to be done. Using a thermometer to check for "doneness" ensures that the food has reached a safe temperature, without being overcooked and dry.

·         Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the food, making sure not to touch bone, fat, or gristle. The reading will only be correct if the thermometer is placed properly into the food.  Make sure the food has reached its safe internal temperature prior to removing from the heat source.

  • After reheating foods in the microwave oven, allow a stand time. Then, use a clean food thermometer to check that food has reached 165 °F.

·         Clean your thermometer with hot, soapy water before and after each use. Most thermometers should not be immersed in water. Wash carefully by hand. 

When is your food safe to consume?

Compare your thermometer reading to the Recommended Safe Minimum Internal Temperatures chart to determine if your food has reached a safe temperature. 

Find out more about the 'Cook It Safe' Campaign at  View the 2 Cook It Safe videos to learn about the need to read and follow all package cooking instructions to help prevent foodborne illness.  

For more information on food safety, please visit:
    Cook it Safe: Know Your Microwave Wattage and Know Your Food is Cooked
    Cook it Safe: Know when to use a Microwave or Conventional Oven
    Cook it Safe: Read and Follow Cooking Directions Every Time!
    Cook it Safe this Food Safety Education Month