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Meat Thermometer Novice

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This is probably a very stupid question but I'm having trouble finding an answer online. I just purchased a Taylor tru temp meat thermometer, it's not digital and oven proof (I think/hope). I was cooking a 1.5lb turkey breast. I did not put the thermometer in before cooking, but took the turkey out to check the temp midway through. Then I left the thermometer in for the remainder of the cooking time. After checking and seeing it reached the appropriate temp, I took it out to rest. The temperature started dropping immediately after I took it out of the oven, which made me worry that the temp that it read inside the oven was not correct, and it was only the resting temperature which I should look at. After cutting into the turkey breast, it looked done (and it it had been in the oven for enough time that it should have been done), but I was paranoid that I was eating undercooked turkey throughout my meal.

My question is: what temperature should I be reading? The one in the oven? Should it have dropped so fast out of the oven? Do I have a defective thermometer?

Any insight would be much appreciated.

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  1. The rested temperature is the one to go by. 24 ounces is a small mass of meat so it is not surprising that the reading dropped quickly, especially if you did not have it centered properly. It's not always the tip of the probe that is measured. You should insert the probe horizontally, not vertically.

    1. You don't indicate if this was a boneless or bone-in turkey breast. If it was "bone-in" you may have had the probe too close or against the bones; that'll give you false readings. The probe needs to go into the center of the thickest part of the breast meat but it should hot be in contact with any of the bone material. The other possibility is that your probe wasn't deep enough into the meat fibers when you set the breast aside to rest. If it is too near the surface of the meat it will favor a reading for the exterior surface of the bird which will, of course, be cooling faster than the deep interior portions of the meat. Your probe doesn't read temperatures over its full length. It is typical for the sensor to be located within the lower third of the probe, nearer to the tip than the cable, and that entire portion of the probe needs to be within the meat fibers. Look at your probe and see if there's a slight dimple somewhere along its length. The area between that dimple and the tip is where the sensor is housed.

      1. Thanks for the responses. I had indeed inserted it vertically, so maybe that was the problem. The breast was probably only three inches thick, so it probably was not an accurate read. In the oven it did say it reached the correct temperature though.

        I guess I didn't get sick so it must have been done, right? Just want to make sure I get it right for next time: I should insert it horizontally, into the thickest part, and then use the temperature that it reads once I take it out of the oven? If it reads 170 in the oven is it not definitely done?

        1. (It was a boneless/skinless breast)

          1. If its not a digital probe thermometer (and one of those round dial ones) I wouldn't leave it in the meat in oven. Just keep poking and testing the meat periodically until its done. As far as the actual testing, it doesn't matter how you go into as long as the end of the probe, where the temp is read from, is close to the middle of the meat to get an accurate reading.

            1. Typically, for poultry you want cook to 165F to 170F internal.
              As long as the probe was in the center of the hunk of meat, you should be fine.

              1. Although thermometers are wonderful, you should also learn to judge food visually to see if its done. You can always cut into the center of a piece of chicken or pork to see if it is pink--if so it needs more cooking. And when you're eating out, you won't have a thermometer with you so its good to know the visual clues.

                2 Replies
                1. re: escondido123

                  In recent years, the idea that pork must not have any tinge of pink in order to be safe has fallen by the wayside. A little pinkish tinge is perfectly fine, and prevents dried-out meat. As far as that goes, you are unlikely to suffer any discomfort if your poultry has just a slight blush.

                  As far as the other comments here, the Taylor model you bought is intended to remain in the meat as it cooks. It is a manual one - no cable. You will get some opinions that you need a more expensive digital probe. You don't. An OVEN thermometer is a good idea, though. I had the Cook's Illustrated horizontal model that either sits on the rack or hangs from it, encasing waht looks like a rectal thermometer. However, the lighting in my kitchen, combined with my poor vision, made it hard to read and I discovered that when I cleaned it, the thermometer had slid so that the "mercury" wasn't lined up with the temperature markings on the metal housing. I replaced it with one from a different manufacturer (CDN?) that can hand, sit, or adhere to the side of the oven with a magnet (that's the position where I can read it). Like your model of Taylor meat thermometer may also have, there is a large arrow you can move to the temperature you want, making it even easier to read.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    Every time I have suggested to people that pork doesn't have to be grey, they get all worried. In fact, my sister won't eat either pork or chicken unless it is white--but then she wants beef well done and egg yolks firm. My husband and I, on the other hand, like pork and chicken with a blush. But unless I'm serving foodies, I go for more cooked since it makes some people uncomfortable.