Nailing proper meat doneness is tricky enough without having to worry that your thermometer is full of baloney. This easy technique will help ensure accuracy.

The goal is to get your thermometer to verify a temperature you can already recognize without even using it—namely, freezing point (32°F) or boiling point (212°F). Testing a liquid close to either state should get you within a few degrees of the actual temperature, but I always get confused with the boiling technique.

Are we talking a full rolling boil? Or just some bubbles? Rather than do the research, or wait for the water to heat, I usually opt for the cold method. It's easy:

The Easiest Way to Calibrate a Meat Thermometer

1. Fill a drinking glass with as much ice as you can.

2. Pour in some cold tap water.

3. Give it a few minutes—you're looking for that happy point where the water has reached it's peak chill, but the ice hasn't really started melting.

4. Plunge the thermometer into the iciest part of the water. It should register somewhere in the 32°F range, or a few degrees above. If so, you've found yourself a loyal thermometer. If not, simply adjust to this temp by turning the dial or screw in the back.

When it's time to poke that meat, remember to insert the thermometer into the thickest part, away from the bone or excess fat, for an accurate doneness reading. For particularly thin meats, like burger patties, insert it sideways.

About the author: "Sue Veed" is an editor at a Manhattan-based food magazine and a current culinary student who's trying to learn it all so she can cook it all. She'll take us along for the ride as she makes the journey from home cook to professional. Among things she may never master: looking natural in a chef's hat, and acting demure whenever a pork product hits the table.

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