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Turkey Pop-Up Timers: How Do They Work?

By L. Stolpman in Food on Nov 16, 2009 7:00PM

Thanksgiving is coming up and those folks without a meat thermometer in the kitchen, the pop-up timer in your turkey serves as a way to tell you to get that bird out of the oven before it turns to sawdust. (We were once convinced that our host actually cooked a phoenix that had decided to end its life cycle in the oven, thus reducing itself to ash.) And guess what? The inventor, Eugene Beals, was born and raised right here in Illinois. We decided to take a closer look at one of these things to see how it works. Now, a simple google search revealed this completely awesome diagram which taught us exactly how the timer works... but to us that was like looking at a diagram of a DVD player when there was a perfectly good one in front of us we could open up and destroy. Basically, we wanted to cut this thing open. But first, some history.

The simple pop-up timer has been around for roughly 50 years. The California Turkey Producers Advisory Board was well aware of the dry turkey problem and decided to take some action. Former Board Member Leo Pearlstein said, "...People would bitch about it." heh. The brainstorming began for the Board on how revamp the turkey's dry image by getting millions to cook it correctly. During one of those brainstorming meetings, Board Member Goldy Kleaver happened to look up at the ceiling sprinklers - which are triggered by a material melting inside and asked if that same principle could be applied to turkey. Board Member Eugene Beal was inspired and began cooking bird after bird after bird, trying to find the perfect alloy that would melt at the right temperature to trigger the pop-up timer. Follow along in our captions to find out why this was the key issue and learn how these bad boys have saved millions from turkey dust.