For years I cooked without using a meat thermometer. I was guilty of thinking I didn't need one... perhaps I was just too lazy to get one. Interestingly enough, outside of ribs I would not really cook or smoke any roasts because "it was too much work".
To be frank... I always guesstimated whether my meat was done, and if I had to.. I would cut into it to see. It work I was actually pretty good at telling when my steaks were medium or medium-rare (which is how I like it). But I also didn't take a lot of risks and tried a lot of different cuts.
When it came to spending on a meat thermometer... I just didn't think I needed one... but recently I invested in a smoker, and then decided I needed a meat thermometer. Because if I'm going to smoke a brisket for 16 hours, it better be perfect!
Turns out a meat thermometer is super useful... I now use it constantly and not only when I smoke. It really is the best way to know if the steak is exactly how you want it.
I have also discovered how much damage I was doing to my cooking by "cutting into a steak" to see if it was done. Because cutting into meat not only ruins the look of the steak once served... but it also affects the flavor!
Cutting into a steak or roast means the juices will flow out, and once they do... the flavor profile will change, the meat will be drier.
Meat Thermometers are cheap... you can shell out $100's for a wireless thermometer that connects to your phone and has all kinds of nifty features... but you can also spend $9 on a simple probe and get an instant read.
I like the inexpensive thermometers because I tend to lose them...
- Beef: 145 degrees (medium) Fahrenheit
- Pork: 145 degrees Fahrenheit
- Poultry (Chicken & Turkey): 165 degrees Fahrenheit
Conclusion? Spend at-least $9 and get a meat thermometer. Your cooking will improve.