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Temperature monitoring is an essential activity whether you are grilling or smoking food. Apart from proper preparation activities before you start cooking, it is important to ensure that you have a means of monitoring the cooking temperatures. Temperature monitoring is necessary since it helps you ensure that your food is not under-cooked or overcooked. It is also very important for meat to be cooked under the right temperature for safety and health purposes. It is advised to cook meat that fits the FDA and USDA standards using a well-calibrated thermometer. To achieve this you need a well-calibrated device that will provide the correct temperature to ensure that you make consistent meals. This article will, therefore, highlight how to calibrate a food thermometer to ensure that you make consistently safe meals for your family and friends.
How to Calibrate a Thermometer
Calibrating refers to the process of comparing the device measurements to a known standard and restoring the accuracy of the device. Calibration ensures that you obtain accurate and precise temperature readings which are necessary for well-cooked dishes. Calibrating your monitoring device ensures that you also get correct ambient temperatures as well as the internal temperatures of the meat you are cooking.
Why calibration is necessary
Cooking thermometers often get dropped which may change their functionality over time. Besides the wear and tear factor also largely contributes to thermometers losing their accuracy over time. Moreover, the constant transition from being in hot and cold environments also reduces their accuracy. Hence the device must be calibrated for it to make accurate and precise measurements. To avoid getting any incorrect readings, it is paramount that you calibrate it regularly. Furthermore, it is prudent that you check the calibration to +/-0.5 degrees Celsius before purchasing it.
How to do calibration
Apart from a new device and one that has been dropped on the floor, it is important to calibrate any device that has a reading which is off by +/- 0.5 degrees Celsius. There are two ways of calibrating a thermometer; the ice water method and the boiling water method.
1. The ice water method
This is the most common and easiest method to use to calibrate your thermometer. In just a few steps, you can calibrate your thermometer and continue with cooking. So first, fill a large container with crushed ice and add cold water till it is full. Stir the cold ice water and put the thermometer probe into the mixture. Ensure the sensor tip is submerged in the center of the ice water and not at the sides of the jug, and wait until the reading is steady. Proceed to adjust the temperature of the thermometer to zero degrees Celsius.
2. The boiling water method
This is also an easy method to calibrate your thermometer. First, boil distilled water in a deep pan. You should note that you are not required to remove the water from the heat. Carefully put the thermometer probe in the middle of the boiling water. Take caution to ensure that the probe does not touch the bottom of the pan or its sides. Wait until the thermometer records a steady reading. If the reading is not 100 degrees Celsius, adjust your thermometer accordingly while still in the water.
Confirming that the thermometer is calibrated
The first thing to check is whether, after calibration, the temperature has reset to 0 degrees Celsius for the ice water method or to 100 degrees Celsius for the boiling water method. For digital thermometers, you only need to click the reset button for you to calibrate it again. However, for other non-digital thermometers, you need to use the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)-certified thermometer to check the accuracy of the thermometer. Using the same procedure as those above, insert both thermometers in boiling water and compare the temperatures. Next, adjust the temperature readings by the difference between the NIST thermometer and the test thermometer.
Best practices for thermometer calibration
The more you use your thermometer, the more likely it is for it to drift out of calibration. Hence, the first thing you need to do is calibrate your thermometer every month and adjust it if necessary. This will provide you with the opportunity to ensure that your device is accurate and helps you make consistent meals. However, you should note the situations which may require you to calibrate your thermometer. First, any new thermometer that you purchase must be calibrated.
It avoids any situations of incorrect readings at any point. Secondly, when you use your thermometer in a wide fluctuation of temperatures, ensure to calibrate it to bring it back to accuracy. Lastly, hard drops on the floor also require calibration afterward, to obtain accurate temperatures. Additionally, thermometers tend to drift from calibration as they age, hence the need for regular calibration.
1. What does it mean to calibrate a thermometer?
Calibration of a thermometer means “fine-tuning” it to maintain its accuracy and precision. It is a process that ensures the thermometer takes the correct readings of both the internal and ambient temperatures of the meat and grill, respectively.
2. Should thermometers be calibrated?
Yes. Thermometers must be calibrated because they tend to lose their calibration when handled constantly. Circumstances like dropping the thermometer, new thermometers, and aging factors make it necessary for thermometers to be calibrated.
3. How do I know if my thermometer is accurate?
A thermometer is considered calibrated when the initial temperature reading is at zero degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Celsius when checked using the ice water method or the boiling water method, respectively. Resetting the temperature of a thermometer to either of those two readings will calibrate it to get accurate readings.
Calibration of a thermometer is a care practice for your thermometer that ensures your devices gives accurate and correct readings. It ensures that these correct readings do not result in food that is under-cooked, overcooked, or even not safe for consumption. An important practice is to calibrate your thermometer at least once every month so that it is in perfect shape for use any time you need it. As such, there are two methods you can use to calibrate your thermometer, the ice-point method, and the boiling point method. Always be careful that the probe does not touch the sides of the container. Either of these methods will calibrate the thermometer to the correct reading.
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