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It’s Thanksgiving Eve, have you calibrated your thermometer?

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Turkey cooking illustration USDAEditor’s note: A shorter version of this article originally was published by Michigan State University Extension. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Make sure to purchase — or dig up — your bimetallic, stemmed, instant-read thermometer before you put the bird in the oven. Calibrating your thermometer is equally as important as actually using it to check the internal temperatures of the turkey and stuffing.

To view the entire infographic on turkey food safety, from freezer to leftover status, click on the image. Courtesy of the USDA, FDA and Ad Council

To view the entire infographic on turkey food safety, from freezer to leftover status, click on the image. Courtesy of the USDA, FDA and Ad Council

Using a calibrated food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure the food is safe to eat.

You must cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit as measured with that calibrated food thermometer.

Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For optimum safety, do not stuff poultry. If stuffing whole poultry, the center of the stuffing must also reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

To properly use a food thermometer, the thermometer probe must be inserted the full length of the sensing area (usually 2 to 3 inches up the thermometer stem).  Always refer to manufacturer’s instructions if you have questions regarding your specific thermometer.

Calibration counts
Before using the thermometer on Thanksgiving morning, calibrating the thermometer is an important step to take. Many food thermometers have a calibration nut under the dial that can be adjusted. Check the package for instructions. To calibrate using the ice point method is very simple with these steps:

  • Fill a large glass with crushed ice;
  • Add water to the top of the ice and stir well;
  • Place the stem of the food thermometer at least 2 inches into the ice water without touching the sides or the bottom of the glass;
  • Wait a minimum of 30 seconds before adjusting; and
  • Without removing the stem from the ice, hold the adjusting nut under the head of the thermometer and turn the head so the arrow reads 32 degrees F.

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