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Old 05-11-2010, 11:30 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2010
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When measuring the internal temperature of meat, where to place probe tip?

Last Christmas I got a Thermapen which has been great for quickly and accurately measuring internal food temperatures.
ThermoWorks - The New Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen

The only problem I've been having is that traditional 'meat doneness' charts seem incorrect.

When I measure meat temperature, I strive to find the coolest internal part of the meat... in other words I'll usually stick the tip of the probe in the exact middle of the meat at its thickest point not too close to any edge. Is this correct procedure? Because on a chicken breast if I even move 2 tenths of an inch closer to the top or bottom of the breast the temperature increases by a solid 10 degrees or more.

I read people saying 145 is medium rare for a steak but if I cook a steak to 145 according to my thermapen, it comes out looking medium well.

For chicken I've always heard 165 to be safe, 155 if you're feeling a little risky and going to let the chicken coast up a little more in temp after you pull it from the grill.

Problem is I stop at 145, let it coast to 150 and I still get a semi-dry texture similar to what I expect a well done chicken breast to taste like. If I actually cook to 160 I get unquestionably overcooked chicken.

My theory here is that the thermapen's sensor is so much smaller than most other sensors that I'm able to get a more true reading of the temperature in the exact center of the meat, whereas a larger sensor measuring device would read more of an average temperature for the inside of the meat... combining the temp at the exact center with more of the temps above and below the exact center.

So I guess my question is two fold... am I measuring correctly, and does my theory sound plausible to you?

FWIW I checked the accuracy of the thermapen by sticking the tip in boiling water and got an instant reading of 210.5 degrees which then climbed the rest of the way to 212... so it appears to be accurate.


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Old 05-11-2010, 11:40 AM   #2
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You are measuring correctly. I am not sure why it seems to be so off. I would continue doing it the way you have been, but also take the temp in a few other places as well just to get an overall temp. Also, you calibrated with boiling water, which was the right thing to do. Now you need to calibrate the other end. Mix up some ice water and take the temp to ensure the low end registers correctly as well. I am sure someone else here will be able to get to the bottom of this problem for you.

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Old 05-11-2010, 11:48 AM   #3
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Does ice water have a set/known temperature that I should expect?

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Old 05-11-2010, 11:49 AM   #4
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Ice water should give you 32F/0C.
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Old 05-11-2010, 11:51 AM   #5
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Your ice water should read 32 degrees. Fill a cup to the top with ice and mix it around a bit before taking the reading. Make sure that the probe is not touching any ice when you put the probe in.

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Old 05-11-2010, 12:06 PM   #6
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Next time, try the doneness temperature ranges listed below. I find these are more accurate than the typical published numbers.

Remember, the target temperature is the final temperature after resting, not the temperature of the meat in the oven. Internal temperatures can rise anywhere from 5-20 F while resting.

127º F

Medium Rare
135º - 140º F

141º - 145º F

Medium Well
146º - 150º F

Well Done

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