Pop-up meat thermometers are less accurate than traditional or digital meat thermometers, according to tests conducted by Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports recommends using an instant-read digital thermometer for the most reliable temperature reading.
Pop-up meat thermometers use soft metal that melts at approximately 165 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the recommended internal temperature for a properly cooked turkey. The pop-up component of the thermometer is embedded in this soft metal; when the metal reaches the proper temperature and melts, the thermometer pops up to indicate that the turkey is cooked.
Some pop-up thermometers in the Consumer Reports test pop up at much lower temperatures than intended. The lowest pop-up temperature in this experiment is 139.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not a safe temperature for a turkey. Dangerously low cooking temperatures increase the risk of food poisoning from bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter. Cooking a turkey to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit minimizes the risk of food poisoning.
A leave-in thermometer is an intermediate solution that combines the convenience of a pop up timer and the accuracy of an instant read thermometer. Leave-in thermometers are inserted into the meat before it cooks and transmit the temperature wirelessly to a base unit or smart phone. An alert sounds when the meat reaches the correct temperature. The primary disadvantage of leave-in thermometers is their high price.