If you have ever tried to read a Good Cook Classic Meat Thermometer you’re probably wondering, what’s with the different types of meat labeled at the bottom of the dial?
The bottom red row has beef, lamb, and pork grouped together. The upper black row has poultry and ham as a group.
Well, it is there to let the home cook know at what temperature certain types of meat are done. The idea is when the top of the needle (black tip) is pointing to temperature, the bottom of the needle (red tip) will be pointing to a corresponding level of doneness for whatever meat you’re cooking.
And to confuse matters, they’ve updated this thermometer so that there is no longer a red tip or black tip. The newer model of the Good Cook Precision (the one I own) has two black ends, with the bottom of the needle having a bulbous end.
The temperature on top, degree of doneness on the bottom is an ok idea but not effective for cooking something to its ideal temperature. I’ll explain this in a bit.
Older version of the Good Cook Precision meat thermometer pictured above.
Update June 2020: The probe part has loosened from the main face and the thermometer twirls around like a whirly gig, and it can’t be tightened with a wrench. See video:
If anyone else has these issues please do me a favor and let me know in the comments section below.
Rather than deal with this thing any further I would suggest these other low-priced, solid thermometer choices that I’ve tested and stand behind:
The Shortcomings of the Good Cook Meat Thermometer
You might have noticed this thermometer is quite slow in reading temperatures. This is because it’s your basic bi-metallic analog thermometer that is measuring the average temperature across the length of the probe.
The length of the Good Cook Precision Classic Meat Thermometer is over 4 inches long. That’s a large area and not precise at all in measuring temperature. It all has to do with the bi-metallic measuring process of the probe.
This means the thermometer has a bi-metallic strip inside the probe end. The two metals (usually steel and copper) expand at different temperatures, causing this strip to twist.
When heated, the bi-metallic strip slowly turns a shaft with the needle connected at the end. This temperature reading process takes a lot longer than a good digital meat thermometer, which can usually read the temperature in a few seconds.
And most importantly, a digital meat thermometer will give you an accurate reading at the probe’s tip, not over an area of inches. Goodbye dry meat.
Another drawback of analog thermometers such as this one is that it is hard to see exactly where the needle on the dial is pointing. The dial is set up in 2-degree increments. Sometimes the difference between a juicy and a dry roast is only a few degrees.
The most confusing part of this particular thermometer is the temperature doneness scale at the bottom of the dial, and the reason you’re probably reading this.
How Do You Read a Good Cook Meat Thermometer Anyway?
Since there is an older version of this model and a newer version it can get quite confusing. As stated earlier the older version had a red tip and a black tip. The new version has replaced the red tip with a bulbous black end. So, just keep that in mind for the explanation of how to use this thermometer
Let’s look at the picture above as an example. The thermometer itself is resting on the counter at room temperature. When the thermometer is heated one end of the needle will start to rise clockwise to the left.
When the black end (on the old version) or the pointed end (new version) is pointing to a certain temperature, the corresponding red part of the needle (old version) or the bulbous end (new version) is pointing to a meat’s level of doneness.
Imagine if you were cooking a steak and wanted to cook it to medium. That would mean you would cook it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit according to this thermometer. The black or pointed end of the needle would be pointing to 160 degrees while the other end (red tip or bulbous end) would be pointing to the medium level of doneness for beef.
If you cooked it to the 160-degree beef setting as they suggest it would be way overcooked.
The first problem is that there are three totally different types of meat (beef, pork, lamb) with differing levels of doneness grouped into one category.
Another problem is that you can’t make a generalization of doneness across the entire range of a certain type of meat. Would you cook a steak to the same temperature as you would a chuck roast?
You could, it probably wouldn’t taste too good. And that is why you don’t want to follow this thermometer’s recommended temperatures. There is one caveat to this, the poultry doneness setting at 165 degrees Fahrenheit is helpful. But even this can be misleading if you are cooking different pieces of poultry such as chicken thighs. A chicken thigh’s temperature when it is at most succulent is above 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
The USDA’s newest guideline for a safe minimum internal temperature of pork is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you notice the picture from the National Pork Board above, the levels of doneness appear to be lower temperatures than represented on the Good Cook thermometer. The medium doneness level on the Good Cook is at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. That is considered well done by the National Pork Board.
If you cooked a pork tenderloin to that internal temperature it would be thoroughly dry.
My suggestion would be if you are using the Good Cook Classic Meat Thermometer, just pay attention to the temperature numbers on top and forget the doneness chart at the bottom. You can find what temperatures to properly cook your food to by visiting our other articles here.
Good Cook? Not If You Want to Be a Great Cook
Simply put, the Good Cook thermometer isn’t a good thermometer when cooking something in the oven. The glass dial is hard to read, not to mention you have to keep opening the oven door to check your food.
The biggest problem with this thermometer along with all the other basic analog thermometers is that they are only giving you the average temperature of something across a large area.
And with the Good Cook’s probe length of over 4 inches, there is no way you are getting an accurate reading at the center of your $100 rib roast.
A digital probe oven thermometer allows you to not only keep your oven door closed, but it also lets you know when your food is done. Cooking a turkey? Insert the probe into the turkey and set the alarm for 165 degrees Fahrenheit and worry about your side dishes, not the turkey.
What Does NSF Mean on the Good Cook Meat Thermometer?
You might have noticed the NSF on the dial of the Good Cook Thermometer. This just means that the thermometer meets standards set by the National Sanitation Foundation or NSF International, an American product testing, inspection, and certification organization based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The NSF seal should not be confused with the National Science Foundation logo, which is eerily similar.
Can the Good Cook Classic Meat Thermometer Go In the Oven?
Yes, it can. You can leave the Good Cook Classic Meat Thermometer in the oven. The back of the package states ” this meat thermometer is designed to be left in the meat during the entire cooking process.” This only pertains to the Good Cook meat thermometer that is pictured. Good Cook makes a few other models that aren’t rated for the oven. (see below)
If you have a thermometer and are unsure if it can stay in the oven, don’t do it. There’s nothing worse than a ruined meal because of a thermometer shattering onto your food.
How Do You Calibrate a Good Cook Thermometer?
The Good Cook Classic Meat thermometer only has a range between 120 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This leaves few options to calibrate the thermometer. It rules out testing it at freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and boiling (212 degrees Fahrenheit). One option would be to test it against another proven, accurate thermometer in between the ranges that exist on the Good Cook temperature dial.
You could try simmering some water and test the temperature with another dependable accurate thermometer. Then you could compare the reading on the Good Cook Thermometer and adjust it accordingly.
There is an adjustable bolt underneath the dial just above the probe stem. All you need to do is use a set of pliers or a wrench to adjust the bolt so that the needle on the thermometer will match the temperature of the more accurate thermometer.
It is at this point where you are probably wondering what is the point of calibrating this thermometer if you already have a more accurate one on hand. Great question. At 6 bucks invested it might be time to cut your losses. In that case, might we recommend some more accurate, dependable thermometers that won’t have you constantly second-guessing them?