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What Goes Up Should Stay Up: A Guide To Thermometers & Temperature Probes

Posted: Aug 02, 2013

In commercial foodservice, temperature is of the utmost importance.  Storage, cooking, serving, and even dishwashing temperatures must be closely monitored and adhere to a number of codes and regulations enforced by local health departments.  Businesses need to have proper thermometers to properly monitor these temperatures, but not all entrepreneurs know how to differentiate between the different varieties.  Here are the varieties of thermometers found in commercial kitchens, and their uses.

Refrigerator & Freezer Thermometers:  All refrigerators and freezers, regardless of their location in the commercial environment, are required to have a thermometer.  Though a number of varieties of refrigerators and freezers have digital or built-in thermometers for easy reading, many localities still require that all pieces of refrigeration have an interior thermometer.  Exterior or pre-installed thermostats aren’t always precise, and therefore health departments require interior thermometers to ensure businesses are storing perishable food properly.  There are a number of types of refrigerator and freezer thermometers, including wall mounting, hanging and freestanding models that have temperature ranges suited to their intended use (refrigerator units have higher temperatures than freezers). 

Dishwasher Thermometers:  Possibly the most overlooked thermometer category, dishwasher thermometers are essential in the commercial foodservice environment.  Commercial dishwashers need to maintain specific temperatures for sanitation reasons, and water temperatures should be monitored on a frequent basis.  Dishwasher specific thermometers are a must to do so, as the high heat coupled with the intense blasts of water can do damage to thermometers that are used in other areas of the kitchen.

Grill / Oven Thermometers:  Often times, pieces of restaurant cooking equipment need to be calibrated for precise cooking; especially in the case of grills and charbroilers, which are turned on at the beginning of every shift.  High heat grill and oven thermometers are intended to be used for this purpose.  These thermometers have an incredibly large temperature range, and are equipped to withstand temperatures exceeding 500ºF.

Temperature Probes / Food Thermometers:  In the commercial kitchen environment, cooks have a need for a variety of different thermometers.  Though each of the following thermometers are used for different purposes, they are all equally important in their own way. 

  • Deep Fryer / Candy Thermometers – Used for monitoring the temperature of viscous liquids such as fryer oil or syrups, these thermometers rest on the side of a pot or frypot with their stem resting in the liquid being heated.  These thermometers are ideal for precisely measuring the temperatures of jellies or candies being cooked, or for calibrating the temperature of a commercial deep fryer.
  • Meat Thermometers – The standard for cooking thermometers, despite their name, these thermometers are used for more than just measuring meat temperatures.  These thermometers are used for not only measuring the readiness of meats, but also doing things like monitoring the temperatures of serving wells.  Meat (or probe thermometers) come in several different varietes, including digital and dial types, as well as a few item specific models (for things like espresso or steamed milk).
  • Temperature Probes – Temperature probes are thermometers that are used while cooking products.  Temperature probes are placed in food prior to cooking (traditionally large cuts of meat), and placed into an oven.  These probes are attached to a digital read–out meter, which constantly gives the temperature of the food product it is monitoring.  Most all of these temperature probes are equipped with alarms that can be preset to sound when the product being monitored reaches a specific temperature, and there are a number of piece of equipment (such as combi ovens or cook & hold ovens) that come with attached temperature probes.
  • Infrared Thermometers – Digital infrared thermometers, a relatively recent advent in the commercial kitchen, are an incredibly efficient and sanitary way to monitor temperatures.  These devices take a thermal reading of the surface of any item that they are directed toward; a tremendous time saver for cooks that would otherwise have to wait for a probe thermometer read out.  The infrared feature of these thermometers, however, can only monitor the surface temperature, so many manufacturers produce models that are also available with a probe for taking internal temperatures.


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