How To Read A Good Cook Meat Thermometer

What Do The Readings On A Good Cook Meat Thermometer Mean?

Good Cook meat thermometers are quite a common kitchen tool and are a great analog method of testing the heat of different meat products.

They became so popular due to their accessibility and high quality, this is why you find them in so many kitchens even if you do not even think you own a meat thermometer. 

These classic meat thermometers have a lot of different readings on quite a small interface and while the main information you need may be relatively easy to see, you may be left wondering what the rest of the visible information means.

How To Read A Good Cook Meat Thermometer

There are lots of different symbols and readings at the bottom and knowing what they mean will let you know how to use this tool significantly better.

While the internal temperature on the top half of the thermometer is relatively easy to understand the black and red bars on the bottom half may leave you with more questions than answers.

The red row which is nearly always on the bottom will have beef, pork, and lamb grouped, while the black row which is nearly always above it will include ham and poultry.

These readings are there to indicate to the cook when a different type of meat is finished cooking.

So when the needle on the bottom half of the thermometer points to or is past a different type of meat that means that it has been properly cooked and is safe for consumption.

This has been made slightly more confusing with recent updates with the newer varieties of Good Cook meat thermometers as they have taken away the color-coded needle tips to differentiate the different readings.

The newer versions of a Good Cook meat thermometer will have both ends of the needle being black and the bottom end of the needle will be a bulbous shape.

The temperature of the inside of the meat is still on top and the degree of how well done the meat is on the bottom half is a good concept, however, it is not always completely accurate and if you want to cook the meat to a specific temperature there are some more accurate ways of measuring this recommended.

So now you know what the different readings on a Good Cook meat thermometer mean, now we will cover how to use one!

How To Operate A Good Cook Meat Thermometer

If you use your Good Cook meat thermometer quite often, you may have noticed that it takes a slightly longer time than other meat thermometers (especially electronic alternatives) to give you its final temperature.

This is because unlike some of these other meat thermometers that give you a reading for a specific point on the meat probe, the Good Cook meat thermometer will be giving you a measurement of the average internal temperature along the entire length of your probe.

Most commonly owned Good Cook meat thermometers are more than 4 inches in length which is quite a long area to be measuring the temperature of and is not the best device for giving a specific measurement.

This is accredited to the bi-metallic style measuring process used by the probe.

A bi-metallic method of measurement means that your thermometer will have a bi-metallic style strip inside of the end of the probe.

This means there are two different types of metal inside of it, usually for Good Cook meat thermometers being copper and steel.

These two metals will expand and grow based on the different temperatures they are exposed to and this will make the strip they are in twist.

When you heat your meat thermometer, this bi-metallic element of the strip will slowly begin to turn moving a shaft that has the needle joined to its end.

This is why the temperature reading takes such a significantly longer amount of time to read than other alternative meat thermometers that can get sometimes more accurate readings in a much faster time. 

This is why a lot of people now prefer using digital alternatives to more classic meat thermometers as they give a more accurate reading for a specific part of the meat, not just an average.

This helps get a better understanding of when the meat is safely cooked but also stops it from getting dry.

Another reason that analog thermometers have fallen out of their previous popularity is that looking at exactly at where the thermometer’s needle is pointing is quite difficult.

Where digital thermometers will clearly and brightly display a specific number usually with an accuracy of half a degree, sometimes even more accurate than this, an analog thermometer usually works in 2-degree increments, depending on the thickness and the accuracy of the needle even this can be hard to read.

This is made even worse if you are elderly or have limited sight as getting a more accurate reading could cause a lot of visual strain.

Working at such a wide margin can be the difference from having lovely juicy perfectly cooked meat, and dry unappealing meat. 

On top of this, the meat doneness scale on the bottom half of its dial causes a lot of confusion which is largely unnecessary and is also seen as overly general and too broad to accurately be able to say when meat is properly cooked. 

In-Depth On How To Read Your Good Cook Thermometer

In-Depth On How To Read Your Good Cook Thermometer

Because of the significant differences between the older editions of the Good Cook meat thermometer and the newer versions, knowing how to read them can lead to noticeable confusion.

As previously mentioned, the main difference between the newer and older versions of this thermometer is that the newer version has removed the distinguishing red tip , and instead it is also a black tip using a bulbous shape.

Keep this difference in mind when reading this guide as it will make sure there is no confusion.

When the thermometer is in room temperature the upper half of the needle will rest on the left side but when you use the thermometer the heat will rise and its needle will begin to turn clockwise towards the temperature it is supposed to be on.

Because the two ends of the needle are attached, this means that they move simultaneously. 

This means that when the top needle (black end for older and pointed end for newer) is pointing at the temperature it is reading, the bottom half of the needle (the red end on older thermometers and its bulbous end on newer ones) will indicate how well cooked the meat it is measuring is. 

The best way to display how this works is by using an example, for example if you are roasting a steak. If you want to cook the steak to medium you would be aiming to cook it at 160 Fahrenheit.

So when you insert the probe into the meat you will be looking for the top half of the needle to be indicating 160 degrees and the bottom half of the needle will indicate the medium setting of doneness indicated for a cut of beef.

However, this is not a perfect system and if you cook the meat until it shows up as 160 degrees it is likely that your beef will be significantly overcooked.

The main issue with this system is that Good Cook have grouped together too many varieties of meat with beef being lumped together with pork and lamb which all have varying levels of doneness, but they are all measured as if they work the same.

This measurement also assumes that all cuts of the same type of meat will cook equally at an equal temperature, but anyone who knows even a little about meat knows that different cuts of the same meat will cook differently at different temperatures. 

This is part of the reason why so many people recommend against using the recommended temperatures on the thermometer as it generally leads to an overcooked meat.

There is an exception to this being the poultry setting for 165 degrees which is good for most cuts of chicken, but still this is not perfect as a cut like chicken thighs is actually better to have at 180 Fahrenheit. 

But for other meats it is recommended to avoid using the recommended temperatures for them. Pork is a good example of this with 160 being indicated as medium doneness but by most other metrics this is well done for pork.

And with the inaccuracies that can be caused by using analog thermometers it could go well over this, and you would end up with a thoroughly overdone and unenjoyable cut of pork.

The best advice for if you are dedicated to using a Good Cook Classic meat thermometer is to mostly ignore the bottom half and its recommended temperatures and to instead only look at the readings on the top half.

While these are usually a little inaccurate, at least they will not recommend severely overcooking your meat and instead encourage cooking to an accurate temperature.

How To Read A Good Cook Meat Thermometer That Is In Your Oven

Using your Good Cook meat thermometer in your oven can be quite difficult as it is quite difficult to see inside the oven, and it will make it, so you are constantly having to open your oven door to check on the temperature.

And on top of this you still have the issue of getting just an average reading of temperature rather than a more accurate reading of a specific point.

With just a length of 4 inches it also limits the options of how big the meat you can use the probe on is.

If you want a more accurate reading of something that you want to keep closed in the oven, you will avoid a lot of trouble by investing in a digital thermometer.


The Good Cook meat thermometer is a commonly used tool, it is officially licensed by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) and can be used inside of an oven for as much of the cooking process as you want.

But there are now significantly more helpful options for very reasonable prices.

These options can be easily calibrated which the Good Cook thermometer can not as well meaning it is also hard to tell when this thermometer is no longer useful.

If you know you are using a meat thermometer often, upgrading from a classic meat thermometer is recommended.

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