Go Metric: Temperature

Welcome to the first in a series of posts on going metric in a country dominated by Imperial measurements. Thanks to technology we can incorporate the metric system into our daily lives in a way that has never before been possible. The easiest place to start in your daily life is by changing everything around you to Celsius.

Using Celsius

I've found that most products I buy- especially cheap products that get sold to lots of countries- can be changed from F to C, often at the flip of a switch. For example, every thermostat I've seen with a digital display can be changed, usually by flipping a switch on the back of the unit. I've rented a lot of cars over the years, and all of them had some way to change the dashboard display to Celsius. Your phone and computer can display Celsius as well, and most weather sites can be configured to show you Celsius.

Once you've changed all your thermometers you'll find that you don't really understand what these new numbers mean. That's OK! Let yourself be OK with not understanding initially, because that will be a common theme on this journey. Your first few days you will do a lot of converting from Celsius to Fahrenheit so that you can get from the displayed number to a number you understand. This is OK at first, but I urge you to wean yourself off this habit as quickly as you can. Your goal is to internalize Celsius, and you can't do that if you always mentally convert to Fahrenheit first.

If you need to figure out a temperature this rhyme can help you:

Zero is freezing
Ten is not
Twenty is warm
Thirty is hot!


Using Celsius while cooking in the US can be a challenge. I have never had an oven that can display Celsius, I'm not sure such a thing exists here. Your average meat/candy thermometer can, however, so converting recipes to metric is pretty easy. You can use the following list to know what temperature to cook your meat to:

  • Chicken: 75
  • Rare Steak: 52
  • Medium Steak: 60
  • Well Steak: 68
  • Ground Beef: 71
  • Medium-Rare Pork: 62
  • Well Pork: 71
  • Ground Pork: 71


Talking To Imperials

Sometimes you'll need to talk to people who haven't gone metric. In these situations you'll run into social difficulties if you insist on using Celsius. These can be tricky situations to manage if you have to do this often, as getting good at converting temperature between Celsius and Fahrenheit will hinder your adoption of the metric system. Instead of thinking primarily in Celsius and converting to Fahrenheit as needed, you'll never move beyond thinking in Fahrenheit.

To help combat this problem, I recommend taking advantage of how casual conversations about temperature can be. For example, if someone asks you how hot it is outside and your phone says it's 25, you can tell the person it'll be the upper 70's. They'll be happy and you won't have to do an exact conversion. Simply use this handy list to know what to say:

  • 0-5: 30's
  • 5-10: 40's
  • 10-15: 50's
  • 15-20: 60's
  • 20-26: 70's
  • 26-32: 80's
  • 32-38: 90's
  • 39+: 100's


It has never been easier to Go Metric in the US, and starting with temperature is an easy way to dip your toe in the water. Learning to internalize Celsius is easy, as long as you don't get caught in the "always convert" trap.

7 years ago by skully

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