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Thermometer Validation – It’s Really That Simple

By Lee Davis

I recently attended a webinar hosted by Bill Eggers, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Distribution for Cooper-Atkins. Along with introducing new items from Cooper, Bill talked about the importance of “validation” when it comes to using thermometers in the kitchen.

Validation is different from calibration. Calibration is done at the Cooper factory. Calibration, according to Bill, is the formal comparison of an item to a known standard of higher accuracy. It is basically the factory process of setting the thermometer to read correctly.

Validation, on the other hand, is confirmation that the instrument is accurate within acceptable tolerances. In other words, validation is checking to make sure that the original factory calibration is still correct.

Why should you routinely validate a factory-calibrated thermometer? Well, thermometers get dropped, banged around and thrown in drawers. Abuse and misuse can lead to faulty readings, and left unchecked, faulty readings can result in improper food handling and foodborne illness. It’s really important to know that your temperature readings are correct … for the sake of both safety and quality.

So how do you validate a thermometer? The best method, according to Bill, is to use an ice bath. In a properly constructed ice bath, a thermometer should read 32°F. But Bill warned that all ice baths are not created equally. Depending on variables such as the type of ice used and the ice-to-water ratio, temperatures in an ice bath can vary by as much as 4°.

Addressing this issue, Cooper-Atkins has just introduced the ValCup (short for “Thermometer Validation Cup”).  It is an inexpensive, yet invaluable tool that is a MUST for every kitchen. The ValCup is imprinted with instructions and fill lines that show exactly how to make the perfect ice bath for testing any thermometer. Using the ValCup your thermometer test conditions will always be consistent and repeatable, ensuring the highest level of reliability in your tests.

The ValCup should be a standard item in every kitchen if for no other reason than to discourage kitchen personnel from relying on thermometers that they “think” are correct and to remind them that anyone can run a quick, simple, standardized test to make sure that their thermometers are correct. It’s really that simple.

Oh and by the way, if you find a Cooper-Atkins thermometer that has fallen out of calibration, send it back to the factory for a free replacement. For an advertorial on the ValCup from “Today’s Dietitian”, click here.

Ever wonder if your thermometer was correct or not? Ever roast a turkey with a “pop-up” thermometer that didn’t pop up? How long did you leave it in the oven until you realized the pop-up thermometer was defective, and how dry was the turkey when you finally served it?