The answer is probably that you say you do but really don’t. At least that’s what recent surveys show. But if you’re not using that probe all the time, you’re playing with fire and death.
“But,” I hear you say, “I’ve never been sick from the food I cook. My mom never used a thermometer on food and we all grew up okay.” It’s really important to follow food safety rules, and that means using a thermometer to make sure food reaches a safe temperature.
As for how your mom cooked, well, things have changed. In the last three decades, tremendous changes have occurred in the food production industry. What used to be safe now may not be. How else can you explain the regular news stories about food contamination and recalls? New corporate farming techniques allow greater disease and contamination to enter the food supply. So this really is a big deal.
Also, a food thermometer is not expensive.
You can spend a lot of money on a fancy instant-read digital model, or stick with the old fashioned stick model that takes a minute or two to reach it’s reading. Either way, it’s a good investment. Then you have to learn how to use it properly.
In a survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation, about half of all cooks say they don’t use a food thermometer. Another from the American Dietetic Association puts that number at only 20%. And food safety experts say a lot of those people are lying.
Experts go on to say that most of the home cooks who use thermometers are not using them correctly. Because different parts of the food can cook at different rates, it’s important to take more than one reading. The cooking method can also affect how done the food is. Of course, those food experts also say those dial thermometers are too inaccurate to give a good reading on the safety of the food. Electronic thermometers that use transistors to measure the temperature instead of a metal coil are considered much more accurate. But those are more expensive.
I think using a thermometer at all is better than none, regardless of type. But you should take care to handle food correctly, especially raw meat and poultry.