Food safety is the main reason to own a meat thermometer. Having a dirty meat thermometer defeats that purpose.
Cooking can be messy, and your meat thermometer will come into contact with lots of contamination.
Fortunately, cleaning a meat thermometer is pretty easy as long as you remember a few things to avoid. Knowing how to sanitize a meat thermometer the right way will keep it functioning properly.
In this article, I will show you the best ways to clean your meat thermometer so you don’t ruin it. Also, I’ll discuss some models that have antimicrobial coatings that help inhibit bacterial growth.
Let’s get started.
Why Should You Sanitize a Meat Thermometer?
When cooking any meat, chances are you will take more than a few temperature readings with your meat thermometer. Let’s say you’re cooking a lot of chicken on the grill and decide to check a chicken thigh that registers 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
That chicken is way undercooked and now your thermometer has bacteria such as salmonella on it. After checking all your chicken you need to go and sanitize that thermometer.
If you were to insert the unclean thermometer again into a piece of chicken and then immediately serve that chicken, you might run the risk of making someone sick.
The main thing to remember is to never have any surfaces or objects that have come into contact with raw meat also touch food that is ready to eat.
This also goes for cutting boards, utensils, your hands, anything.
So, if your thermometer comes into contact with raw meat or anything hazardous you will need to clean and sanitize it. Don’t worry, it isn’t too hard if you remember a few tips. I’ll explain.
How to Clean a Thermometer Probe
A probe thermometer refers to a thermometer that has a cord with a temperature probe attached at the end. The probe can be inserted into a large piece of meat while in the oven or grill to monitor its temperature.
Not only can the probe become coated and stained with remnants from the meat, but it can also be stained from the smoke of a grill or fat splatters. For the probe to function properly, it needs to be free from the gunk that can accumulate on it during cooking.
So, what are some ways to get this residue from cooking off?
A sponge with some dish soap and hot water will work just fine. However, you need to be extra careful not to get the area where the probe connects to the cord wet. Why you might ask?
There are electronics inside the probe that the thermometer uses to sense temperature. Electronics and water don’t mix.
Never soak a thermometer probe in water, unless it is graded waterproof. Thermometer probes, once they get water inside them and start giving false readings, are pretty much useless since they can’t be calibrated.
That’s why I like to just use a soapy sponge on the end tip of the probe and try not to get too close to the cord end. For the cord and the area where it connects to the probe, you can use a paper towel with a little rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
You can also use a mixture of baking soda and water for hard stains. The mixture will form a paste and you can rub it onto the stained parts. Let it rest for a bit and then scrub it off with a sponge, the stains should come out.
How to Clean a Digital Thermometer
When you are cleaning a digital meat thermometer you have to take the same precautions as when you clean a probe thermometer. You are fine to clean the metal probe with soap and water, just make sure not to get any water on the main body of the thermometer where sensitive electronics reside.
When you’re cooking you will inevitably have times when you grab your thermometer with dirty hands. Your hands could have something like raw chicken, pork or beef bacteria on them. How do you clean that off your thermometer?
The best way to clean sensitive parts like the main body of the thermometer is to use a paper towel with a little rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or Clorox wipes.
There are some digital meat thermometers that are splash-proof. Even still, you don’t want to use too much water when you clean them to be on the safe side. Some thermometers are rated waterproof such as the Kizen Instant Read Meat Thermometer or the ThermoPro TP-19 Instant Read Meat Thermometer.
There are also some digital meat thermometers that are made with antimicrobial coatings to inhibit pathogen growth.
Antimicrobial Meat Thermometers
The hard plastic polymer body of these thermometers are impregnated with a silver-based antimicrobial coating.
According to Microban, “small amounts of silver disrupt bacteria’s metabolism by preventing it from converting nutrients into energy, which inhibits bacteria survival, reproduction and colonization.”
However, even though the antimicrobial coating will help kill bacterial residue on the thermometer, you will still need to clean and sanitize it if you get any raw meat remnants on it while cooking.
The antimicrobial coating just creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria to thrive.
That’s always a good thing if you happen to store your thermometer around other cooking utensils.
How to Clean the Cover of a Meat Thermometer
If you have an analog dial thermometer and the face of the display is foggy or stained, using a paste of baking soda and water will help remove the residue on the outside of it.
Just make the paste and rub it on the cover and let it rest for about 5 minutes, then scrub the face with the rough part of a sponge. This should remove most of the stain buildup.
Another problem that occurs with some dial thermometers, including those embedded into bbq grill covers, is moisture buildup on the inside of the glass display.
If it’s an oven-safe or grill cover thermometer you can get rid of this moisture by placing it in a covered glass baking dish in an oven set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. This should remove the moisture.
Preventing food born illnesses is one of the main benefits of owning a meat thermometer. It helps you know when meat is cooked to a safe temperature. Knowing how to use a meat thermometer properly is important, but so is making sure it is clean as well.
You need to make sure you’re not going directly from checking undercooked meat to ready-to-eat meat before sanitizing it.
As you can see, a meat thermometer is not hard to clean as long as you take care to not get it too wet in the process.
Also, having a splash-resistant meat thermometer is nice to have when you need to clean it. You don’t have to be quite as careful when cleaning it with water or a solvent.
Furthermore, having a meat thermometer with an antimicrobial coating just adds another layer of safety in that bacteria won’t survive for long on its surface.
Alright, go cook some chicken already! Thanks for reading.