The Easy Way Ina Garten Calibrates A Meat Thermometer

Did you know you should check the accuracy of your meat thermometer approximately every six months? These devices can stop working properly as time passes, or if you drop or break them. And considering we rely on them to tell us if our meat, chicken, and seafood are properly cooked, it's crucial to ensure they're reading our food's temperature correctly. Consuming undercooked meat can lead to a variety of foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Luckily, celebrity chef Ina Garten has a simple trick that makes calibrating your meat thermometer easier than it sounds. In her book, "Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?," Garten explains that all you need to do is boil a pot of water. We know that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit — so simply stick your meat thermometer in the pot, and if it reads 212, you'll know it's working correctly. If you're within two degrees or so, you can rest easy, as this is a common margin of error. But if your thermometer's temperature swings really high or low, you may want to fix it or get a new one.

How to check your thermometer's temperature with boiling water

Considering the ample amount of steam released by cooking water, you may want to use tongs, an oven mitt, or a slotted spoon when checking your thermometer's temperature. And make sure you don't stick it in quickly — give the device ample time for the number to stabilize, which could mean holding it there for a few minutes. But don't worry about waiting a long time for a big pot of water to boil. As long as the tip of your meat thermometer is covered but not touching the bottom of the pot, that's enough to check for calibration.

It's also important to keep in mind that while the water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level, the exact temperature may be different if you live in an elevated location (water boils at 200 degrees Fahrenheit at 6,000 feet, for example). Be sure to check the numbers in your area before trying Garten's hack. If you do find out that your device is significantly off, you may be able to fix it by consulting the product manual or pressing a reset button. Either way, we have the Barefoot Contessa to thank for keeping our food safe to consume with this simple tip.