Are Meat Thermometers Accurate? [How To Test & Calibrate]

According to the USDA food safety inspection service, food thermometers are the safest and most accurate way to check that your food is ready to your preferred doneness. Further, meat thermometers are an efficient tool to check if your meat is cooking at a safe temperature.    

Are meat thermometers accurate?

Meat thermometers are accurate as long as you use them correctly. You need to put the thermometer at the thickest part of the meat to get a reliable temperature reading. However, you should test your meat thermometer now and then and if they are inaccurate, adjust them to get a correct reading.    

Continue reading to learn everything about meat thermometers. In this article, we will talk about whether meat thermometers are correct; and when they are not, how to adjust them to be accurate. Further, we will discuss how a meat thermometer is different from other food thermometers. 

Are Meat Thermometers Accurate

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Do Meat Thermometers Give Accurate Readings?

The meat thermometers give accurate readings, but you need to calibrate them regularly. Further, a meat thermometer can give an inaccurate reading if you use it to check the temperature of any other food

Moreover, digital thermometers give more accurate and quick readings than analog or dial meat thermometers. Additionally, if the meat thermometer gives a false reading, it is useless. Therefore, you need to test and adjust your meat thermometer every six months at least, or whenever you are not sure if it is showing the correct temperature, or after you drop it. 

How Accurate Should A Meat Thermometer Be? 

The meat thermometer should be able to register 212 degrees F or 100 degrees C. If it is not accurate and not adjustable to get the right temperature, you may end up overcooking or undercooking your food. 

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Can A Meat Thermometer Be Wrong?

A meat thermometer can be wrong due to an error that you can adjust and calibrate. Further, thermometers may give incorrect readings if they are not operated correctly or used in ways they are not intended. 

For example, if you use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the oil for deep frying or if you use a medical thermometer to check the temperature of roasted chicken, you may not get accurate results.   

Should Meat Thermometers Be Calibrated Frequently?

The meat thermometers should be calibrated frequently as a properly calibrated meat thermometer is crucial to achieving meat quality and safety. Therefore, the thermometer manufacturers and experts recommend calibrating your meat thermometer annually, weekly, or after every use, depending on the type of thermometer you are using, as drift in meat thermometers is very common.

Are Food And Meat Thermometers The Same?

Meat and other food thermometers are different and cannot be used interchangeably. Furthermore, there are various food thermometers, including instant-read thermometers, candy thermometers, deep fry thermometers, and meat thermometers. Therefore, you can use a thermometer according to your requirements and the food you are cooking.

Furthermore, we have discussed some other differences between a meat thermometer and other food thermometers to give you a better idea. 

Meat ThermometersFood Thermometers
The meat thermometer resembles a pointed stick with a dial at the top, and the pointed tip can easily penetrate into the meat.Food thermometers typically have round tips.
They are shorter in length as compared to other food thermometers.These thermometers are usually longer.
Meat thermometers can usually reach temperatures of 200 degrees Fahrenheit.Other food thermometers can reach up to 400 degrees F.
The meat thermometers are helpful to check the temperature of significant cuts of beef, roasted turkey, grilled chicken, fish, and more.Food thermometers are used to check the temperature of candy, syrup, sauce, oil for deep frying, other liquid food, and more. 

How Do You Know If Your Meat Thermometer Is Accurate? 

You need to test and adjust your meat thermometer regularly to maintain its accuracy. You can check the accuracy of your thermometer using the cold water test. The following steps will help you determine if your meat thermometer is working correctly.

  1. Add cold water and ice to a glass or jug until it is almost filled. 
  2. Place your meat thermometer into the center of the glass, and its tip should be 2 inches into the water. Hold it for about 30 to 60 seconds (hold for about 1-2 minutes if your thermometer is a dial meat thermometer). Also, do not touch your thermometer to the sides and bottom of the glass
  3. Check the reading of the thermometer. If it is 32 degrees F or 0 degrees C (the temperature where water freezes), your thermometer is accurate.  

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How Can You Calibrate Your Meat Thermometer?

Here are some steps to calibrate and adjust your meat thermometer. If your thermometer is showing a temperature other than 32 degrees F, you can follow the process to calibrate your digital and dial meat thermometers. 

1. Digital Thermometer

Some modern digital thermometers come with a reset button or the built-in calibrate feature. Further, you can use the user manual guide for instructions on operating the reset button or calibration feature to adjust your thermometer. 

However, if you cannot adjust your thermometer, you need to note down the difference in the reading. Then, you have to subtract (if your meat thermometer reading is greater than 32 degrees F) or add (if your thermometer is showing a reading lower than 32 degrees F) to your desired cooking temperature.  

2. Dial Thermometer 

In the case of dial thermometers, you can adjust your thermometer if its reading is inaccurate. For that, turn your thermometer over and twist the nut using pliers to adjust the gauge. 


A meat thermometer is an indispensable tool in the kitchen. Meat thermometers have a pointy tip that you insert into the meat to measure its temperature. Meat thermometers are accurate, but you should check and test them regularly. Nonetheless, if your thermometer is not showing the correct reading, you can adjust or reset it to get accurate readings.

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