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Can You Use a Meat Thermometer for Water? (Or Other Foods)

Can You Use a Meat Thermometer for Water? (Or Other Foods)

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Whether you’re grilling chicken, roasting turkey, sizzling some steaks, or frying fish fillets, a meat thermometer is an essential tool to have in your kitchen drawer.

This small but useful device takes the guesswork out of cooking! It lets you know that your meat and poultry have reached a safe temperature—hot enough to eliminate harmful germs.

But did you know that meat thermometers are capable of so much more? You can use a meat thermometer to measure the temperature of water and other liquids like soup, milk, and coffee. 

You can also use it on bread, ice cream, baby food, casseroles, microwave meals, your refrigerator, and even oil and candy, depending on your thermometer’s temperature range.

Here’s a quick guide on when and how you can use a meat thermometer to measure water and other food products, as well as other kitchen thermometers you can use.

What Is a Meat Thermometer?

Cooking Temperature For Meat

A meat thermometer is a kitchen tool used to measure the internal temperature of meat. It has two basic parts: a metal probe with a sharp tip for you to insert into a cut of meat and a dial or digital display that shows the temperature.

Most meat thermometers have a temperature range of 0 to 220°F, but there are others that can tolerate temperatures as low as -40°F and as high as 500°F.

Meat thermometers come in digital and analog versions. Fancier varieties have built-in temperature alarms or features that tell you when the meat is safe to eat. Others can be easily inserted into meat, such as a roasting turkey, and instantly pop up when the meat is done.

A meat thermometer is often used to achieve juicy and tender meat and avoid tough and dry ones, but it can also tell you if your water is warm enough for bathing, poaching eggs, or making a cup of coffee!

When to Use a Meat Thermometer


You can use a meat thermometer every time you cook or reheat food and drink to know whether or not they’re ready for consumption. 

It provides an easy, safe, and reliable alternative to guessing food temperature by touch or sight, allowing you to steer clear of food-borne illnesses from E. coli and salmonella.

This device will also come in handy when you want to achieve the right temp to bring out the best flavor and texture and avoid overcooking or undercooking your meats and dishes.

Undercooked meat can make people seriously ill. That’s why every type of meat has to be cooked at a safe internal temperature to kill all bacteria. 

At times, the meat will look brown because it was in the refrigerator for too long, or there were issues with its storage, creating the false illusion that it’s done when it’s still a bit raw. Yikes!

Meat thermometers provide an accurate solution to this issue, assuring you that meat is safe to eat. You can also use them to measure other types of food, drink, and scenarios, such as:

  • Soups and sauces
  • Bread, pastries, ice cream, and other desserts
  • Casseroles, meat dishes, and microwave meals
  • Fish and seafood
  • Infant formula, breastmilk, and baby food
  • Water temperature for bathing, poaching eggs, or making coffee
  • Oil temperature for frying
  • Candy making
  • Candle making
  • Refrigerator temperature

Using a Meat Thermometer for Water

Thermometer In Boiling Water

Sometimes, you can just eyeball a pot of water to see if it’s hot enough to use. However, there are several situations where you might need a more precise temperature reading than that!

Serious tea lovers like to get optimal temperatures when boiling water to steep tea leaves. Different types of tea require different temperatures to brew the best flavors.

You can also use a meat thermometer to check the temps of other liquids, like hot chocolate or coffee. It warns you if your drink is too hot before you burn the roof of your mouth.

Specific cooking techniques, like boiling pasta and blanching vegetables, need water to be heated to an exact temperature to achieve the perfect food color, taste, and texture. 

Water also needs to be just below the boiling point to poach eggs properly. A meat thermometer may be the key to great-tasting meals and meats that are cooked to perfection!

Precise water temperature measurements have their uses outside of the kitchen, too. If you’re preparing a bath for a baby, a meat thermometer prevents burns and ensures that the water isn’t too cold, either. They’re also useful when mixing baby formula or reheating breast milk.

How to Use a Meat Thermometer

To get the most accurate reading from your meat thermometer, you’ll need to know the correct place to put it on your meat, dishes, and drinks. Check the user manual for specific instructions.

Here’s a quick guide to help you get started:

Water and Other Liquids

You can measure the temperature of water, milk, or soup by dipping the probe of your thermometer into the pot, cup, or container without hitting the sides.

See to it that you insert at the right depth. Some meat thermometers, like thermocouples and instant-read thermometers, need to reach ¼ to ½ inch deep, while dials need at least 2 inches.

If you’re working with an instant-read thermometer, you’ll only need to wait a few seconds for the result. The ideal temperature for coffee and other hot drinks is around 130 to 160°F.

Cooked Meals and Meat Dishes

As for microwave meals, casseroles, and other dishes, a good rule of thumb is to insert the thermometer probe in the thickest part of the food or at the center of your dish.

If you’re measuring egg-based or meaty dishes, it’s best to check the temperature in more than one area and leave the thermometer in for about 10 seconds to register the temp.

Don’t forget to wash your meat thermometer by hand with hot, soapy water after each use!

Meat and Poultry Products

When measuring the temperature of pork, beef, turkey, and lamb roasts, insert the thermometer probe in the center of the thickest portion of the meat. Avoid touching any bones, gristles, or fat.

For thin foods, such as hamburger patties and chicken breasts, you’ll need to insert the probe sideways. Some thermometers have a notch on the side that needs to be fully covered.

Wait for 15 to 20 seconds for the temperature to register. Regularly check the accuracy of your thermometer based on your user manual or by doing the ice water test or hot water test.

Other Food Thermometers


No meat thermometer? No problem! There are plenty of food thermometers out there that you can use to measure water temperature.

An instant-read thermometer is an all-purpose food thermometer that takes 15 to 20 seconds to get an accurate reading. Unlike traditional meat thermometers, this type tends to be smaller, and you can’t leave it in throughout the cooking process.

Candy and deep-fry thermometers are another option for measuring water temperature. They can read much hotter temperatures than meat thermometers, usually 400°F or higher!

They also conveniently clip to the side of your pot. However, most have a rounded end instead of a meat thermometer’s sharp tip, so you won’t be able to use them on your roast turkey.

If you don’t have any kind of cooking thermometer, you can just guess the water temperature by watching and waiting for it to boil. While this is far less precise than using a thermometer, it’s how our ancestors cooked for centuries and also managed to heat water.

However, you should never use a digital thermometer used to take body temperature to measure water. These thermometers are built to measure body heat, which is cooler than the heat of boiling water. If you dip one in hot water, it might shatter and seriously injure someone.

Final Thoughts

For serious home cooks, a meat thermometer is an indispensable kitchen tool. It’s the key to ensuring food safety when cooking different cuts of meat. It’s also the secret ingredient in many dishes as it helps prevent overcooking or undercooking.

However, meat thermometers can do more than just measure meat. For example, you can use them to check the temperature of water.

To use a meat thermometer in water, dip the probe into the water and wait a few seconds to get an accurate temperature reading. If you want a thermometer that you can keep in the pot continuously, get one that can clip to the side like a candy thermometer.

Most days, you can get away with guessing your water temperature instead of measuring it precisely. However, for certain uses, such as brewing tea, poaching eggs, or preparing a baby’s bath, an accurate temperature reading may be necessary.


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