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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.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

            1. The wonderful thing about probe thermometers is that they get your attention when you are doing several things at once, as is often the case during a major dinner.

              A regular thermometer is all you need when you're dealing with just two or three sides, but when you are juggling a big meal, the probe will enable you to remember the main course and then go on to the supporting characters in the extravaganza. Probe thermometers are truly worth the small investment.

              1. It's really nice to be able to check the temperature of a roast without opening the oven door. The new ones are wireless.

                1. I have four meat thermometers and needed to find one in the back of a drawer last night, first time in 10 years.

                  Placed an oven stuffer in the oven and estimate 1 hour 45 for doneness. After 2 hours, the thingy did not pop and my belly told me it was done. So I grabbed a thermometer and shoved it into the breast. A perfect 180-185. Out the bird came.

                  After so many years, you get a feel for the shape and size and know your ovens pretty well.

                  To say that you NEED it for safety reasons means you are really pushingthe envelope on the raw end of the spectrum. Things get "clean" way before the recommedned temp.

                  1. Thanks for all the great responses. You've definitely given me some food for thought, so to speak. I think I'll stick with my thermometer and intuition for now, I don't make a whole lot of roasts so an extra gadget might not be that necessary. When my themometer becomes unreliable I'll definitely change it out for the digital instant read or a wireless model. Maybe by that time I'll have a new oven that has one built in!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                      Tracy, I also work in the food business and I have no interest in buying a remote probe thermo. I have a drawer full of the dial thermos, but my favorite thermo is a Thermapan probe.

                      The Thermapan probe isn't cheap, but I received it as a gift. I used to have a $15.00 Polder digital probe that did everything the thermapan did, but the batteries weren't changeable when they died.

                      1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                        I usually make a roast only once a year, but that's 10-15 pounds of Niman prime rib, which costs at least ten times what the probe did. Good investment to make sure it doesn't cook one degree higher than I want it to.

                      2. I'm lazy and stupid :) So I just use my Polder when making roasts and such. Set it and forget it until it beeps.