How to Calibrate a Meat Thermometer

A meat thermometer should be used for every meat dish you cook, especially during the holidays when turkey and ham are the centerpieces of most meals. Calibrating a meat thermometer is a quick 10 minute process that significantly improves food safety. The risk of contracting a foodborne illness during the holidays is high; ensuring food is thoroughly cooked is one of the best ways to mitigate this risk.

How to Calibrate a Meat Thermometer

You should calibrate a meat thermometer on a regular basis, especially when you're cooking for a large group of people. To calibrate a thermometer, you'll need a pot, water and ice. Fill the pot with water and plenty of ice. Put the thermometer into the ice/water mix and make sure it reads 32 degrees F (if the thermometer has a low reading).

Next, dump out the water/ice mix, refill the pot with water and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, make sure the temperature on the thermometer reads 212 degrees F at sea level. Since water boils at different temperatures depending on altitude, check the table below for the appropriate boiling point.

Adjusting Your Meat Thermometer

If your temperatures are off at either reading, adjust the nut on the backside of the thermometer. Test again using both ice and boiling water until the thermometer gives the correct temperatures.

Altitude Adjustments

Altitude (feet) Boiling Temperature of Water (degrees F)
0 (sea level) 212.0
500 211.1
1000 210.2
2000 208.4
2500 207.5
3000 206.6
3500 205.7
4000 204.8
4500 203.9
5000 203.0
5500 202.0
6000 201.1
6500 200.2
7000 199.3
7500 198.3
8000 197.4
8500 196.4
9000 195.5
9500 194.6
10000 193.6

Table Source