Candy thermometers and meat thermometers differ in that they measure different ranges of temperatures. Each type of thermometer has a specific purpose—either measuring solid meat or liquids. You can purchase both types of thermometers at supermarkets and cooking supply stores.
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A candy thermometer is a large glass thermometer used to measure the temperature of melted sugar. It usually has a clip so that it can be affixed it to the side of a pan and sit in the liquid without touching the bottom during cooking. A candy thermometer measures temperatures between 40 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
A meat thermometer is a metal thermometer used to determine the internal temperature of meat. Meat thermometers measure temperatures between 0 and 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
Determining Which Kind to Use
If measuring the temperature of a liquid, use a candy thermometer if available. Meat thermometers can measure the temperature of some liquids; however, if their boiling point is higher than 220 degrees Fahrenheit, a meat thermometer will not be able to measure it. Candy thermometers usually do not work to measure the temperature of meat because of their bulky design, which makes them difficult to insert.
Using a meat thermometer to measure temperatures higher than 220 degrees Fahrenheit can cause the thermometer to burst or become damaged.
To test the accuracy of either a meat thermometer or a candy thermometer, place the thermometer into boiling water. The temperature should read 212 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is off, your thermometer may not be accurate. Be sure to account for boiling temperature discrepancies due to sea level.