Are You Making This Dangerous Mistake with Your Meat Thermometer?

Updated: Jun. 22, 2023

This simple step will ensure that all of your meat is safe to eat.

So, you’re using a meat thermometer to temp your chicken as you cook. Good for you!

But simply using the meat thermometer to be sure food reaches a safe temperature won’t prevent your family from getting sick. There’s an extra step to keep in mind—one that may seem obvious, but that’s overlooked by many. You have to clean that thermometer between temperature tests.

Why Do I Have to Clean My Thermometer?

If the meat you’re testing isn’t fully cooked, the probe of the thermometer could be contaminated. Any bacteria on it (like salmonella) can be transferred back to the meat if the thermometer isn’t cleaned. So, even when the meat later reads as fully cooked, it still has the potential to make you sick.

This barbecue staple causes most cases of foodborne illness.

How to Clean a Meat Thermometer

To sanitize the meat thermometer, most home cooks should simply wash it with hot, soapy water. However, if you’re tailgating or at a campsite where hot water isn’t accessible, wiping it with a clean alcohol swab (like this) will also do the trick.

It’s a good practice to clean your thermometer thoroughly both before you use it for that meal and after you’re completely finished. Go the extra mile here. You simply don’t want to take chances when foodborne illness is a serious possibility.

Whether your thermometer of choice is high tech (we like this smart WiFi version), basic (here’s our choice for the best affordable option), or our Test Kitchen’s ultimate go-to, be sure to take good care of it and keep some hot soapy water handy. Your family will thank you.

Put Your Thermometer to Work Next Time You Grill!
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