Why Bother Using a Food Thermometer When Cooking or Holding Food?

food thermometer

In the most recent data Annual Report from the CDC, published August 2017, the most common causes of food borne illness identified were related to improper cooking with:

  • “poor temperature control”
  • “insufficient time or temperature while cooking or heating”
  • “improper holding temperatures”
  • “eating contaminated raw, undercooked or under processed foods.

I conclude that to reduce the chances of getting your guests sick, be cautious about temperatures and use a food thermometer for cooking and holding. It really is quite simple.

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I will admit that most of our marriage we have not used a food thermometer. We have judged whether food is properly cooked by looking at the outside but just like you can’t judge a book by the cover or a movie by a two-line critical review you can’t tell whether food is safely cooked by looking at the outside.

We are also likely to agree that overcooking kills texture and flavor, so there is a sweet spot. So, if your focus is a delicious entrée then our goals align.

My focus is reducing disease and there is absolutely no doubt that using a thermometer will reduce disease. I can’t think of a more compelling argument.


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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