How to Calibrate A Meat Thermometer That Starts at 120

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Many professional chefs make use of a meat thermometer to ensure their meat is cooked to the perfect temperature. However, do you know that sometimes the thermometer might not read the temperature properly?

If a meat thermometer’s calibration is off, it can end up showing a higher or lower temperature, which can interfere with your cooking.

So, to help, we have constructed this guide on how to calibrate a meat thermometer. We’ll look at how to test the calibration of your thermometer and how to fix it as well.

Why Is Calibration Important?

If a thermometer is not properly calibrated, it will show the wrong temperature. And if the shown temperature is lower than the actual temperature, you may end up burning your meat. In the case where the thermometer shows a temperature higher than the actual one, you may end up undercooking your meat.

So, users of meat thermometers need to check the calibration from time to time to ensure the reading is accurate. This needs to be done regardless of whether the thermometer is analog or digital.

Testing the Calibration

The first step is to check whether the meat thermometer’s calibration is off or not. There are many methods of checking whether the instrument is working properly or not.

All of these methods have a basic principle. The basic idea is to use the thermometer to measure a known temperature and compare the reading with the temperature.

With that measurement, you can discern properly whether the thermometer’s value is lower or higher than the actual temperature. Knowing that you can then calibrate it accordingly.

Now we’ll describe two common methods of testing;

 Testing with Ice Cold Water

One of the most common methods of checking the calibration of a thermometer is by using ice-cold water as a reference. If you recall, water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you know this, you can follow the steps below to test your thermometer-

  1. Take an empty glass or bowl, whichever works best for your thermometer.
  2. Add ice water or ice cubes to the glass or bowl.
  3. Use the thermometer to measure the temperature of the glass bowl. If you are using water, make sure the head is properly immersed. In the case of ice cubes, make sure the head is touching the cubes.
  4. Wait for a minute or two for the thermometer to properly adjust. It takes time for the temperature to become steady.
  5. Read the temperature reading.
  6. Compare the temperature reading with the reference temperature. If it is lower than the reference temperature, the thermometer readings are lower than the actual temperature, and vice versa.

Testing with Boiling Water

The other method of checking the calibration of a thermometer is by using boiling water as a reference. Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit. This fact will be used as the reference temperature. Follow the instructions below to perform this test.

  1. Take an empty pot. Make sure it can withstand the temperature and it won’t hurt to touch.
  2. Add water to the pot.
  3. Put the pot on a stovetop and turn the stove on.
  4. Adjust the temperature of the stove and set it to boil the water.
  5. Wait until the water reaches boiling temperature.
  6. Turn the stove off.
  7. Place the thermometer head on the boiling water and measure the temperature. Remember to wait until a steady temperature appears.
  8. Record the temperature and compare it with the reference temperature (100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit).

Although testing with ice-cold water is much safer, some people prefer to use both methods to achieve better accuracy. Human error can occur during the testing, which can lead to reading the wrong temperature. To avoid this, multiple tests are done to properly check the thermometer’s calibration.

Calibrating an Analog Meat Thermometer

Analog meat thermometers are commonly used. Their calibration can change with use and time. Most of these thermometers come with prongs or a mini wrench attached to their sleeves. You can adjust these to fix the calibration of your meat thermometer.

Using the tests above, you can calculate how off the thermometer’s reading is. Knowing that you can properly adjust the calibration settings.

Calibrating a Digital Meat Thermometer

Digital meat thermometers need to be recalibrated by their manufacturers since they are much more complex. You can mentally adjust the temperature from the calculations you obtained during testing if you can’t have it recalibrated.


As you can see in this guide on how to calibrate a meat thermometer, it is not too difficult to recalibrate one. Although digital meat thermometers are less prone to giving wrong readings, if the test shows that the readings are off, it is recommended to contact the manufacturer.


Related Article that may Also Help You:

  1. Meat Thermometer Using the process  in Oven
  2. Comparative Review & Buying Guides of Best Meat Thermometer
  3. How you use Digital Thermometer in an easy way!
  4. Meat Thermometer for Turkey Breast– Compiling

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