Give Now

A Moment of Science

Timers Are Popping Up All Over

We solve yet another kitchen mystery on this A Moment Of Science.

A wild turkey by the road

Photo: Steve Voght (flickr)

Because pop-up timers aren't super accurate, you should probably get a regular food thermometer to make sure your meal is safe.

Today on A Moment of Science, we solve yet another common kitchen mystery. You’ve seen them sticking out of store-bought turkeys, and have counted on them to let you know when they’re cooked to perfection. What are they? Pop-up Timers!

In an effort to take some of the guesswork out of cooking turkeys, pop-up timers are often installed in butchered turkeys to indicate when they’re done. They have four parts: an outer case, a spring, the little red stick that pops up when the meat is cooked and a little blob of metal that’s similar to solder. This soft metal is solid at room temperature, but melts at about 175 degrees Fahrenheit, or 80 degrees Celsius.

So, to begin with, the spring in the pop-up timer is compressed and the little red stick is trapped in the metal. Then, when the turkey reaches a nice steamy temperature, the metal melts and frees the little red stick, and the spring causes it to pop up.

Here’s a tip for the thrifty among you: pop-up timers are actually reusable. All you need to do is boil some water and dip the tip of the timer into it. This will re-melt the metal, and then you’ll be able to push the stick back into position. Once the timer cools, it’s ready to go again.

Read More:

  • Meech

    The article title is misleading. Time has nothing to do with it. The device is heat activated like a sprinkler head.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science