Whether you are already working in the food industry or plan to enter it, food safety knowledge is imperative to keep your customers safe. Some of the food safety measures can be as simple as washing your hands, while others can be as intensive as making sure food is cooked to the correct temperature.
When you undertake a food handling course, one of the questions you may see mentioned is: where should a food handler check the temperature of food? If you are unsure what the answer to that question is, keep reading.
Where Should A Food Handler Check the Temperature of Food?
If you are using a food thermometer, you might think that inserting it into food at any point will produce an accurate reading. You may have even had your food thermometer calibrated to make sure it’s correct.
However, there is a right and wrong place to check your food’s internal temperature to make sure it’s cooked and ready for human consumption. You should test the temperature of food in its thickest part.
This means that if you have a chicken breast, you will not gain an accurate reading of its temperature by measuring the temperature in the thinnest part. This area may be cooked, but the thickest part, typically the center, may not be.
If you were to serve that food after inaccurately checking its temperature, you may put your customers at risk of food-borne pathogens like salmonella. Each year, pathogens like salmonella lead to approximately 48 million cases of food poisoning, resulting in around 3,000 deaths.
How Do You Use a Food Thermometer?
Given the importance of having food at a safe temperature for human consumption, it’s a good idea to make sure you are using a food thermometer how it is intended. How you use one can depend on which type of food thermometer you have.
You can purchase dial oven-safe thermometers, instant-read thermometers, a thermometer-fork combination, and pop-up thermometers. Food industry workers tend to use both contact and non-contact varieties.
Read through the instructions for use, and consider following some of these steps below:
- Test the thermometer’s accuracy by dipping it into ice-cold or boiling water.
- Calibrate it by relying on the thermometer’s instruction booklet.
- Place it in the thickest part of the food, but make sure that you avoid hitting gristle, fat, or bone.
- Wait for as long as the thermometer’s instruction guide recommends before you remove it.
- Clean the thermometer with hot, soapy water after each use to avoid cross-contamination.
Food Thermometer Placement by Food Type
The golden rule regarding food thermometer use is to place it in the thickest part to gain an accurate reading. However, there may be other factors to consider based on the food type. We’ve included a general guide for appropriate food thermometer placement below.
- Roasts (beef, pork, lamb) – Insert in the thickest part (usually the center), away from gristle, fat, and bone.
- Chicken – Insert it in the thickest area of the thigh of the whole chicken, avoiding bone. With chicken parts, insert in the thickest area while avoiding bone.
- Whole Turkey – Insert the thermometer in the closest and thickest part between the wing and thigh. Avoid bone.
- Whole Game Birds – Insert in the thigh, wing, and thickest part of the breast.
- Steaks, Chops, and Hamburger Patties – Insert in the thickest part, away from any gristle, fat, and bone.
- Ground Poultry and Meat – Insert in the thickest part of the patty or meatloaf. In thin patties, insert the thermometer sideways through the center.
- Fish – Insert in the thickest part of the fish when it flakes with a fork and appears opaque.
- Egg Dishes and Casseroles – Insert in the thickest part of the dish.
A Texas Food Handler Card Will Teach You the Correct Use of Food Thermometers
When you enroll in a food handlers course to receive your food handlers card in Texas, you can learn many necessary food safety measures. This course can also teach you about the best ways to use food thermometers and why temperature control is so important.
Sign up for a 100% Texas Department of State Health of approved course today, and get your Texas food handlers card online.