When you're roasting a whole turkey or chicken, or a large cut of beef or pork, one of the most useful tools to have at your disposal is a good kitchen thermometer. It's especially useful for pork, because the instructions in many recipes use the old doneness temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit rather than the current 145 F. Probe thermometers are the most convenient, because you can monitor the roast's temperature without opening your oven and letting out its heat.
Pork and Doneness
Cooking pork until it's well-done is a relatively simple undertaking, but with lean pork, it often results in a roast that's dry and uninteresting. The traditional stricture against less-cooked pork reflected the risk of trichinosis, a distinctly unpleasant condition caused by a parasite in the pork. That's no longer a threat, thanks to improved hog-feeding standards, and commercial pork can now be cooked to 145 F, like other meats. This requires more finesse and careful timing than traditional cooking, and a thermometer -- especially a probe thermometer -- can make it a lot easier.
The Built-In Probe
High-quality ovens and kitchen ranges often include a programmable probe thermometer, offering the maximum in convenience and flexibility. Start by preheating your oven to the recommended cooking temperature. While it's heating, insert the probe into the middle of your pork roast in a spot that's free of bones or pockets of fat. Slide the roaster into your oven, and connect the probe thermometer to its jack. Close the door, and program the oven with the desired end temperature. The oven's display shows the roast's temperature as it cooks, and sounds an alarm -- or shuts off, or both -- when it's ready.
Standalone Probe Thermometer
If your oven doesn't have a probe thermometer of its own, you can enjoy much of the same convenience with a separate battery-operated thermometer. It has a long metal probe on a wire, like the built-in variety, but that wire feeds to a battery-operated receiving unit that sits outside the oven and displays your roast's temperature on its display. Set your display to sound an alarm at the correct degree of doneness, than make sure you're near enough to hear it as the end of your cooking time approaches. Some models broadcast the temperature and alarm to wireless receivers, giving you more flexibility to roam as you make the rest of your meal preparations.
A Few Notes
It's important to recognize that the metal probe itself conducts heat into the pork, so it might read slightly higher than the true temperature. Sophisticated models sometimes correct for this, but you won't know until you check it against a good instant-read thermometer inserted into the same section of the roast. Bear in mind as well that your roast will gain 5 to 10 F after it comes out of the oven, so if your goal is 145 F you should remove it at 135 F to 140 F and allow it to rest.
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