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I have two meat thermometers. I bought a second one because I thought the first one was resulting in overcooked meat, however the new one is doing the same! They are both standard metal prong 'analog style' with a needle.

An example - cooking chicken breast. The thermometer says the temperature must reach 77 degrees Celsius. I cooked it for a short time in a griddle pan first and then put the pan in the oven. The temperature hung around 71 degrees and when it didn't seem to be getting any higher and I felt it was overcooking I pulled it out. Sure enough, overcooked!

How can I use a meat thermometer to cook meat correctly?

  • You aren't leaving the thermometer in while cooking right? Because that will definitely mess up your reading. – sarge_smith Sep 10 '10 at 23:04
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    Of course it was overcooked. Carry-over cooking is a fancy term for a simple cooking rule: heat has inertia. When you take something out of the pan or the oven, it will continue to get hotter. As a general rule, meats should be taken out of the oven ten to fifteen degrees (F, slightly less for C) before they are 'done' and then allowed to rest. The carry-over will raise the temperature to where you need it to be. – daniel Sep 11 '10 at 7:26
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    Heat does not have inertia. There are hotter parts and cooler parts. All of these various locations of your food will equalize their temperatures between themselves and anything else exposed to the food (pan, air, etc). – Douglas Held Feb 6 at 20:37
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With thin cuts of meat (like chicken breast or a steak), you want to make sure you put the thermometer in to the thin side of the meat so that the whole thermometer goes in to the meat, rather than putting it in through the "top" so that only a little of the thermometer is in the meat. If you're putting it in the top, you can get wildly inaccurate temperatures. Also make sure that the thermometer isn't touching a pan, exposed to air, or touching a bone. Any of those can have a negative effect. The Right Way To Do It

Also, you only need to cook chicken to 74C / 165F. That may be part of the problem in your case.

You may also want to check that your thermometer is accurate. You can stick it in boiling water to check that it reads 100C / 212F (assuming of course it goes up that high).

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