Are probe thermometers all that?
I have an ancient meat thermometer that works great. A friend thinks for food safety reasons I need a probe thermometer with timer and alarm. I've been cooking for about 20 years and used to bake for a living and as a result I have become a good judge of doneness and have yet to give anyone food poisoning. Aside from the issue of already having a great thermometer it seems like those probe thermometers with timers/alarms seem awkward to use because of the wire. I am open to new technology and I am wondering what other chowhounds think.
Polder makes a wonderful probe type thermometer. It's both a timer and a thermometer. You can insert the probe and set the temperture you want. When it reaches that temp it will beep. Have had my for several years and it works great. I wouldn't do a rib roast without it.
To be honest I am not the one to put a turkey, a beef roast, a meat loaf, or anything else on telemetry. ;-)
Best bet is a when you feel it is close enough to be done, probe it till you get a good temp, or cook longer as needed.
If you don't have one, you're on stand by with the meat--have to check it before the time it might be done, just in case, and then keep checking until it's done and every time you open the oven, the heat changes and you have to approximate the heat loss and how long it will come back up to temp and how much longer the meat will take. And, then there's either removing the meat from the oven to check which is hard if it's a bigger cut, or leaving the oven door open while the thermometer comes to temperature and losing more heat. With the Poldar, you plug it in, have the remote (a good feature), and it beeps when done, no guesswork, plus you can be anywhere, socializing, doing laundry, etc. It's great for the barbecue, too. Sometimes it's too hot to be outside that long. I wish I could use it for cakes, quick breads.
If you can "eyeball" things you probably don't need it and I doubt you'll make anyone sick. The pros of a probe seems to be convenience. You can set it and not think about it until you get the signal. The wire does seem weird to me as well but friends swear by it and it does provide a fail safe. If you can afford it (some are like $25ish) it's a nice tool that might make life a little easier...if you don't like it, re-gift it.
If I cooked roasts or chickens more often I'd consider getting one. Given I might do mabye 2 a year I just time it and use a digital instant read thermometer (which is really a hi-tech version of what you have). For food safety reason an instant read will work fine.
They're very convenient (especially at a steep discount), but no, the idea that you "need" one for food safety reasons is paranoid silliness. As you've figured out for yourself, a little experience obviates the need for a thermometer in a home kitchen 90% of the time in the first place. In my experience, the Polders are no more accurate than any other home device, so there's no reason on for it on that score either.
On the other hand, it's nice to set it and completely forget about what's in the oven until it goes off - I set it for about 5-10F below my target temp and then start paying attention at that point.