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The Problem with Meat Probes

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2009

Meat probes are one of the best ways to temp meat—or are they?

A meat-probe thermometer is left in the meat as it cooks, transmitting readings to a digital console and, in theory, avoiding the need to continually open the oven to check on a roast’s temperature with an instant-read thermometer. The problem is, before a roast starts cooking, it’s nearly impossible to predict which part of the meat is going to cook the slowest. To illustrate, we roasted four pork loins (two boneless and two bone-in), inserting the probe of our winning meat-probe thermometer, the ThermoWorks Original Cooking Thermometer/Timer ($19), into the center of each. We cooked the roasts in a 350-degree oven until the probes registered 135 degrees. We then removed the roasts from the oven and double-checked their temperatures with our favorite instant-read thermometer, the ThermoWorks Original Super-Fast Thermapen ($89). While the area near the tip of each probe registered 135 degrees, other parts of the loins registered temperatures off between 5 and 15 degrees.