An oven-safe (or leave-in) meat thermometer has two components: an oven-safe probe and a separate digital console. The two are attached by a long wire; more expensive versions are wireless. The probe is inserted into the meat before cooking, allowing temperatures to be monitored without opening the oven or grill. That makes this type of meat thermometer a good choice for roasts or whole poultry, since you need a decent portion of meat to support the probe.
Some leave-in thermometers also have audio alerts that emit from the unit when the desired temperature is reached. Meat thermometers with two probes can monitor the cooking progress of two different cuts of meat simultaneously, which can be particularly helpful while cooking a holiday meal. According to Cook's Illustrated magazine, the probes on leave-in thermometers are more prone to defects and should be tested for accuracy in boiling water before cooking meat. To help prevent probe failures, meat thermometers should be hand washed so moisture doesn't enter where the wires connect.
The Brookstone Grill Alert Talking Remote Thermometer (*Est. $70) is expensive, but has pretty much every feature: It's wireless, with a 300-foot range and an audio alert that lets you know when the target meat temperature is about to be reached. There's also an out-of -range alert. ConsumerGuide.com editors say the backlit display on the receiver is very easy to read. On the Brookstone website, about 200 user reviewers mainly give it high scores. The majority say it's easy to use, although it doesn't register temperatures as fast as an instant-read thermometer. Owners say the wireless range is good, and the voice alert is more pleasant than a beeping alarm. However, a minority of owners complain that the thermometer stopped working after less than a year. But the probes are replaceable (at a cost of $15 each). Another complaint is that temperature settings are preset USDA-recommended levels based on the type of meat and level of doneness selected. While you can't customize the temperature, the unit does display both the actual temperature and the target temp. (Some cooks say the USDA recommendations can overcook meat and they like the freedom to select the temperature.) A few owners say they had problems establishing a wireless connection between the monitor and the transmitter.
A less expensive remote cooking thermometer is the Maverick RediChek Remote Cooking Thermometer ET-72 (*Est. $40), which Bon Appetit magazine editors pick as their favorite meat-probe thermometer. With a wireless range of 100 feet, this model has a shorter range than the Brookstone version, but it does have one other advantage -- you can set any target temperature you want, instead of being limited to USDA presets. It has a maximum temperature rating of 410 degrees Fahrenheit, and can be set to display temperatures in Celsius as well. Both the transmitter and receiver operate on two AA batteries, which are included.
Maverick offers a 90-day warranty, a lot shorter than the one-year warranty offered with the Brookstone version. In the user reviews we read at Amazon.com, the overall score is mixed, with quite a few complaints that the transmitter stops working after a few uses or never worked to begin with. So, although it's cheaper than the Brookstone meant thermometer, durability seems to be an issue.
For cooks who don't use a meat thermometer often enough to justify buying an expensive wireless thermometer, the Polder Classic Cooking Thermometer/Timer is inexpensive and highly rated in professional and owner reviews. With this model, a wire connects the probe and the console. This thermometer has a maximum readout of 392 degrees and a switch on the back allows users to display readouts in either Fahrenheit or Celsius. Two magnets on the back allow you to attach the thermometer to the front of the oven or a grill, and the display tilts up and down so it can be viewed at different angles. Additionally, a clip on the wire makes it easy to attach the probe to a pot. One foodie magazine compliments this thermometer's ability to display a countdown timer and temperature simultaneously. Editors there also prefer the flexibility of setting target temperatures rather than having the USDA-recommended temperatures programmed for various types of meat. This thermometer has an audible alarm that can be turned on or off to alert the cook when the desired temperature is reached. It comes with a one-year limited warranty that excludes the probe.
We also consulted owner-written reviews on the Polder Classic Cooking Thermometer/Timer at Amazon.com, where it receives more than 160 reviews. Many owners say they have been using this thermometer for three years or more and find it easy to use. Several advise washing the probe carefully because if water gets in at the point where it attaches to the wire, the sensor could become damaged. Replacement probes are available for $10. At Cooking.com, the Polder Classic Cooking Thermometer/Timer gets a higher rating of 4.5 stars out of five from nearly three dozen owners. Their only complaints: it doesn't have a power switch, and it's a hassle to remove the batteries.
The Polder Dual Probe Thermometer THM-360 (*Est. $30), which can monitor the temperature of two meats at once, which is handy for cooking a large holiday meal. Some cooks might just like the option of having a backup probe in case one probe stops working. Unlike the single-probe Polder meat thermometer, the double-probe version has a power switch and a stopwatch in addition to the countdown timer. This thermometer receives mixed reviews at Amazon.com, however, where about 30 owners give this thermometer an average rating of 3.4 stars. A handful of owners say the probes never worked or stopped working after a few uses, while others complain that the display doesn't display information about both probes simultaneously. This Polder thermometer has a one-year limited warranty that excludes the probes.
If you want a less expensive thermometer that still has a voice alert, Good Housekeeping recommends the Maverick Voice Alert Anticipation Thermometer ET-84 (*Est. $20). Editors like the incremental countdown alerts, and there's a "don't forget to baste" alert for poultry. For added versatility, a voice alert that sounds when the target temperature is reached can be set to beep or be turned off. Target temperatures (either Fahrenheit or Celsius) can be set manually or using pre-programmed temperatures. This thermometer earns only a handful of user reviews at Amazon.com, however, making it difficult to judge long-term performance. One owner applauds the easy-to-read display, which shows both the current and target temperature simultaneously.
One leave-in thermometer that didn't fare well in expert or owner reviews is the Maverick Roast Alert Oven Roasting Thermometer ET-83 (*Est. $25). Although it is very inexpensive, one consumer-review publication gave it the lowest rating for accuracy. The manufacturer says it's safe to use up to 410 degrees Fahrenheit, but owners posting to Amazon.com say it failed at much lower temperatures than that. It has magnets on the back, which one owner says melted when attached to a grill (although, as the product name says, this product is intended for use in ovens). Although some owners have been using it for years without a problem, others complain the probe stopped working after a few uses and the replacement the company sent was no better.