Got a meat thermometer languishing in the back of the utensil drawer? Or never used one at all? Consider taking it out (or buying one) so you can create succulent, delicious meat that will have others envious of your ability to know just when the meat is cooked to perfection, all without having to cut the meat open to check! A meat thermometer will also help you make sure the meat has reached a safe enough temperature for harmful bacteria to be destroyed, so everyone walks away from the meal without food poisoning.
Obtain a meat thermometer if you haven't already got one. There are different types available, including ones with dials, ones with digital readers and even some that have a probe that relays a message outside of the oven so that you don't even have to open the oven during cooking! Read the instructions for your make of thermometer carefully, as each one does differ. The following general instructions apply in all instances.
Review reports that test the accuracy of various meat thermometers.
Before putting your meat into the grill, prepare the thermometer. It should be pushed into the center of whichever part of the meat that is thickest. This part is going to take the longest to cook, and once it is done, you can be assured that your meat is ready. Be sure to push in far enough and take care if any part of the thermometer is sticking out, to avoid catching this extruding part on any element of the oven as you place the meat dish in, or remove it.
If your meat has a bone, do not push the thermometer to the bone. It is important that the thermometer goes into flesh completely. This might necessitate wiggling the thermometer around a bit.
If you have an instant-read thermometer, it does not sit in the meat during cooking at any stage; rather, this is used immediately by inserting it into the meat at any stage wished during cooking. The meat must be pulled out of the oven in order to get a reading. Selecting this type of thermometer over the other types is simply a case of your preference and its affordability.
Check the thermometer 5-10 minutes prior to the end of cooking time. If the reading on the thermometer is close to the temperature required, allow the cooking time to complete as advised by the recipe (see note below on cooking time continuing outside oven). If the meat is already cooked, remove from the oven. If the meat is nowhere near the required temperature, adjust the cooking time for longer and keep a regular eye on increases in the meat temperature.
Many recipes and guides advise that you pull the meat out of the oven a few degrees short of the desired temperature, as the temperature within the meat will continue to increase for a little bit even after you remove it from the heat as the meat continues cooking.
Regularly calibrate the thermometer to make sure it's accurate. Put at least 2 inches/ 5 cm of the stem into boiling water. It should read 212°F/100ºC, the boiling point of water at sea level. (If you're above sea level, you'll need to find out what the boiling point is at your altitude. You can use an online calculator.) Some thermometers have a recalibration or adjustment nut under the dial that you can turn in order to adjust the reading.
Always clean your thermometer thoroughly after using it.
If the thermometer has cracks in it, get the glass replaced to avoid possible bacterial growth.