How To: Sanitize Instant-Read Thermometers

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Most of the time, it’s fine to simply wash our thermometers with soapy water and call it a day. But when we’ve been using them to take the temperature of meat, we want them clean. And we mean really clean.

Who knows what microscopic nasties are hanging around after all that poking and prodding? And since it can’t go in the dishwasher with everything else, how can we be sure we’re getting our thermometers clean?

Start off by washing the stem in soapy water. This will remove any residual grease or food particles, and it kills a good percentage of the bacteria commonly found on surfaces. Most modern thermometers will be fine getting a little splashed as long as they’re not completely immersed in water and if they’re dried right after.

Then, there are two ways that you can sanitize the stem:

1. You can hold the stem of the thermometer in boiling water for at least thirty seconds. Harmful bacteria will die at 171-degrees Fahrenheit, and since water boils at 212-degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll be good to go.

2. You can also sanitize the stem in a food-safe sanitizing solution. The most common sanitizing solution is chlorine/bleach diluted in water. Follow the directions on your bottle of bleach for the proper ratio of bleach to water, and hold it in the solution for about ten seconds. Finish up by washing the stem with soap and water again to remove any residual bleach.

To answer our questions about food safety we turned to a standard culinary school textbook: ServSafe Coursebook, Fourth Edition published by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

(Image credit: Sweet Maria’s)

Food Safety 101:
Safe Temperatures for Poultry and Meat
How Long Can I Keep Leftovers?
How to Defrost Frozen Meat
• How Long Can I Leave Cooked Food Unrefrigerated?