What to Do If Your Meat Thermometer Breaks

By Bibiana da Silva

Cooks across America frequently rely on the texture and color of meat to determine it's doneness. "However, recent research has shown that color and texture indicators are not reliable," says the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on its website. A meat thermometer is ideal as it ensures that meat has cooked to the temperature at which dangerous microorganisms cannot survive. If your meat thermometer breaks, there are two key things you should do.

This meat may be undercooked.

Trash It

You need to clear away the broken glass where the meat thermometer broke. If the thermometer broke while it was in food, throw away the food rather than risk eating pieces of glass. Rinse any utensils that were in the cookware when the thermometer broke under the kitchen faucet.

Depending on how the thermometer broke, there may be pieces of glass big and small lying around your kitchen, and not just where it broke. It's better to assume that there are than to find some later in your hands, feet or food. Walk carefully to avoid glass on the floor and put on shoes if you weren't wearing any. Grab a broom, dustpan and two grocery bags on your way back to the broken glass.

Place one grocery bag inside the other to form a single reinforced bag. Since the glass from the meat thermometer is transparent, it can be hard to spot on other surfaces. Sweep any obvious pieces you see into the dustpan and dump them immediately into the grocery bag so they don't fall back onto the floor. Pace the kitchen to look at the floor and counters from different angles; the broken glass may reflect light more at certain angles. Don't forget to check items nearby like fruit bowls and utensil cans, and sweep everything you see.

Start Over

Since the FSIS advises against cooking meat without a meat thermometer, you should buy a new one. Before you do this, consider why your meat thermometer broke. If you hit it against something else, dropped it or heated it past the temperature it could measure, it didn't break with normal use. However, if it spontaneously shattered while you were using it normally to measure the temperature of your meat (or worse, when you weren't using it), the thermometer broke because it was faulty. Return to the store where you bought the other thermometer to purchase the same model if you were at fault. If the thermometer was faulty, buy a different one. Grocery stores tend to carry meat thermometers in their utensils sections.

Start over with your recipe. Avoid hitting or dropping the thermometer, and remove it from the meat if the food reaches heats the thermometer can't measure.