How to calibrate a digital thermometer for amateur chef

What tips do you have for calibrating a digital thermometer?

When you use a digital thermometer, it can be useful to know if the reading is accurate. This is particularly true in baking and cooking where small changes in temperature can make a big difference in the outcome of your dish. For example, an overcooked cheesecake that’s too brown can have a nasty burned flavor.

There are several ways to calibrate a digital thermometer. One way is to immerse the probe in a container of ice water and adjust the temperature until it reads 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Another way is to immerse the probe in a container of boiling water and adjust the temperature until it reads 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to calibrate a digital thermometer

What is the best way to calibrate a digital thermometer?

Oven thermometers are not as accurate as they used to be. Although most ovens have a built-in indicator that shows the internal temperature of your oven, it may not be accurate and can be off by 50°F or more! Digital thermometers (or ‘digital probes’) can take temperatures without opening the oven door and losing heat; this makes them very popular for taking food’s temperature when cooking. But how to calibrate a digital thermometer? Here is what you need to know:

What You Need:

Ice water  kitchen/oven/digital probe thermometer (the latter needs batteries too)

First Step: Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water; add enough cold water so that at least 2 inches of the bowl is filled. Rest a digital probe thermometer in the cold water and let it sit for 5 minutes or until the temperature stops changing (for an oven probe, press the test/hold button before inserting it into the oven).

Second Step: Remove from ice bath and read temperature display on a digital probe thermometer. Oven probes can’t be removed from their housing so do not insert another thermometer. Place digital probe back into an ice bath and adjust reading as needed:

– if your reading is higher than 32°F, replace batteries and reinsert.  Do this again if necessary.  If you still can’t get an accurate reading after replacing batteries, throw away the digital probe and a new one!

– if your reading is lower than 32°F, remove batteries and reinsert. If you still can’t get an accurate reading after replacing the batteries, throw away the digital probe and a new one!

Third Step: Make sure to clean all thermometers with warm soapy water before placing them into a food or storage container. Do not submerge oven probes into the water as it may ruin their housing. Store all thermometers in a cool, dry place.


How To Use Your Digital Probe Thermometer Properly

– insert digital probe about 1/2 inch into food or use a metal clip to attach to food before cooking  (for more information on how to use digital probes, look for this blog).

– Start cooking at the desired temperature and wait for the unit to beep.

– Press the button and remove the probe from the oven.

– Insert digital probe at least 2 inches into food or use a metal clip to attach to food before cooking.  Press and hold the down button until you get an accurate reading.


– place the thermometer on a rack in the center of your oven to get an accurate temperature reading from all sides of your oven.

– digital probes may not function properly if exposed to steam, high humidity, direct sunlight, or other extreme conditions thus normal household incandescent or fluorescent lighting is best for storage and regular use (do not store under kitchen cabinets as this will cause false readings). Be cautious when storing probes near small appliances such as coffee makers and toaster ovens as they can generate excessive heat.

– keep the thermometer away from magnets and other magnetic objects.  This will cause false readings.  Do not store near or under appliances such as microwaves and dishwashers, etc.

– place the probe in ice water and adjust the reading to 32°F before inserting it into food if using a digital probe for taking temperatures while cooking (this is an important step).

– do not leave the thermometer inside of your oven when you are finished cooking especially if it’s still turned on!  If you forget to take out your probe, turn off the oven right away and let it cool down before removing the thermometer.  Place it in an ice-water bath for 10 minutes to cool down before putting it away.

– digital probes are not oven-safe nor can they withstand high temperatures for a long time so do not leave inside of an oven while it’s still turned on!

– do not submerge your digital probe into water.

– always clean after use according to manufacturer instructions.


How often should you recalibrate your digital thermometer?

In order to ensure that a digital thermometer is accurate, it should be checked for accuracy occasionally. In most cases, checking the thermometer once a year will provide the information needed as to whether or not it needs recalibration.


What are some common mistakes people make when calibrating their digital thermometers?

To start, one mistake that people might make is that they take the temperature reading off of a pan of boiling water instead of ice water.  This can lead to an incorrect temperature which will throw off any measurements made after this.

Another mistake that someone may make is that they don’t get an accurate measurement on their kitchen thermometer before trying to calibrate with it.  If the difference between the two readings doesn’t match up with the difference between both types of thermometers’ stated tolerances, then calibration won’t be possible and you’ll have to purchase another thermometer.


If calibration digital thermometer incorrectly, what consequences could occur?

If a calibration digital thermometer is incorrectly calibrated, it could lead to inaccurate food temperature readings. This could potentially cause food poisoning if temperatures aren’t properly monitored, as bacteria thrive in environments between 41-135 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, inaccurate temperature readings can ruin the texture and flavor of food, making it inedible. For these reasons, it’s important to routinely calibrate digital thermometers to ensure accurate readings.


Is it possible to over-calibrate a digital thermometer?

Yes, it is possible to over-calibrate a digital thermometer. When calibrating a digital thermometer, you should always use an ice bath or a boiling water bath. If you over-calibrate a digital thermometer by using an excessively hot or cold environment, the reading could be inaccurate. For this reason, it is important to only use calibration methods that reflect the temperature range in which the thermometer will be used.

As a professional chef, it is important to ensure that your digital thermometers are calibrated correctly so that you can obtain accurate readings. If you are not familiar with how to calibrate a digital thermometer, I would recommend seeking the assistance of a culinary professional or contacting the manufacturer


Do you have any other tips for using and caring for digital thermometers in the kitchen?

Digital thermometers can be calibrated by placing them in a pan of ice water and adjusting the reading until it matches the temperature on a reliable kitchen thermometer. The same method can be used to calibrate oven thermometers.

When using a digital thermometer, avoid inserting it too deeply into any food you are cooking. Many recipes will indicate when a digital probe is appropriate for that dish. In general, keep your digital thermometer readings at or near the surface of whatever you’re measuring temperatures for. Ovens pose another type of problem, common when baked goods have been prepared in pans with dark surfaces instead of lighter-colored metal or glass baking dishes: ovens tend to run hot, and this inaccuracy becomes more evident when using baking pans with darker surfaces. Always keep a close eye on your thermometer as you bake, and make adjustments as needed.

Recalibrate any time you notice accuracy problems or feel like better results are not being achieved. MenuCalc has a Thermometer feature that can be used to determine accurate temperatures; enter the reading from an accurate kitchen thermometer, and the program will calculate the actual temperature of the food based on readings from your digital thermometer. If it’s off by more than a few degrees, adjust accordingly and try again until you hit the target temperature (note that this adjustment feature only works for Fahrenheit readings).

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