Here’s the first review written by my husband. I hope you enjoy it!
Ashley has been wanting me to contribute to her blog for some time now and if ever there was something I was excited to review it was the Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen cooking thermometer from ThermoWorks. My only condition for helping out with this review was that I get to use the Thermapen!
I enjoy grilling and most of my food is usually edible and sometimes really good. Lately, though I’ve been trying to really figure out the secrets to grilling and making meals that are consistent and special. A few months ago I made my first big step in that direction with my discovery of AmazingRibs.com, a grilling blog by Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn. I’ve just scratched the surface of the wealth of information that he has put together on his site but the main take-home message is the importance of a fast, reliable meat thermometer and an accurate grill/oven thermometer. With the Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen I can check this first recommendation off my list in a big way. For the second recommendation, ThermoWorks offers products for measuring the grill temperature as well but I have not tried any of them at this time.
If you aren’t into grilling, the Thermapen is a unique gift idea that any serious griller on your Christmas shopping list would absolutely love! And if you don’t have any grillers on your shopping list then keep reading because the Thermapen isn’t just for grilling (far from it!). It is incredibly useful in just about every aspect of food preparation and cooking.
The Thermapen is generally recognized as the fastest and most accurate cooking thermometer on the market. It has more good qualities than just being fast and accurate but these two are essential for grilling and cooking in general. The difference between food being cooked to a safe, perfect temperature and being overcooked can be a matter of just a few degrees and that difference can occur quickly. Perfectly cooked food isn’t the only advantage to a fast thermometer. Being able to quickly check the temperature of several locations of the food and getting the lid/door shut quickly without losing a lot of heat is another thing to consider.
Many thermometers call themselves “instant read” but I know one of my “instant” thermometers that was in the $50 range can take over 30 seconds to come from room temperature up to close to the temperature of the meat. And that is my “nice” one. I have others that are even worse. In stark contrast, the Thermapen gives you the correct temperature to within 1 degree Fahrenheit in 3 seconds or less! That is blazing fast. And what about accuracy? The Thermapen is accurate to within 0.7 degrees F up to 392 degrees F (and accurate to within 1.8 degrees F for higher temperatures up to 572 degrees F). You won’t find a faster, more accurate cooking thermometer that is affordable.
As I’ve already hinted, while the Thermapen is perfect for grilling, this is not just a grilling tool. You will benefit by using the Thermapen for most cooking tasks. You can use it to take the temperature of oil in the deep fryer, the internal temperature of bread or cake, and if you need a candy thermometer there is no need for a separate one–the Thermapen can be used for that too! In fact, they even have a handy temperature guide on their web site for the various types of candy and other foods. The new and improved Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen shouldn’t be submerged, placed in a dishwasher, or placed under the tap but, as its name implies, it is now sealed tight and won’t be damaged if it gets wet so you can safely use it for tasks that could get liquid on it. Due to the thermocouple being located at the very tip of the very thin probe it is ideal for checking the internal temperature of very thin cuts of meat which would be impossible with most meat thermometers. And the Thermapen isn’t even limited to cooking at all. As soon as you open the Thermapen out of the box, the auto-on feature will turn it on and it will start reading the temperature of the air. It is not quite instant in the air and can, in fact take up to a couple of minutes unless the air is moving, but it will give you an accurate reading of the air temperature. And we used ours to check the temperature of our baby’s bath water to make sure it was safe! Just be careful to note that you should not put the Thermapen directly under the tap, put the probe in still water only, or you could damage the thermocouple in the probe.
Having a tool like the Thermapen won’t make you a good cook and the people at ThermoWorks will tell you the same thing. I do agree, however, that having a Thermapen can make you a better cook and, if used properly, will give you more consistent results. In just about any area of cooking there is no better method of measuring the “doneness” of food than temperature. There are other methods used such as pressing a steak, cutting a piece of chicken in half to see if the pink is gone, sticking a toothpick in a cake, or following strict times given in recipes but none of these methods will give you perfectly consistent results like an accurate cooking thermometer (used in conjunction with an accurate oven/grill thermometer). The pamphlet that came with my Thermapen suggests recording the temperature of your favorite food on the recipe so you can note the temperature when it is just the way YOU like it and make that perfect result repeatable.
The Thermapen is very easy to use. You just swing open the probe and it automatically turns on and starts giving you temperature readings. There are no buttons to push or anything. You can change a few things with switches inside the battery compartment if you wish. The default on the large display is Fahrenheit but you can change this to Celsius. The default precision is to the tenth of a degree and you can change this to whole degrees if you want a bit more of a “lock”. Also, it should not be needed since the Thermapen is calibrated (and even comes with the initials and results of the calibration) before it is shipped but you can calibrate it. I wouldn’t recommend this unless you really know what you’re doing and I would call them first. Besides that it just works right out of the box without you having to do anything. You just put the tip of the probe wherever you want a temperature reading, look at the display, and use your noggin to process the information. You can find recommendations of the best location of the probe depending on what you are cooking but in general check the center of the thickest portion since that is generally the slowest to heat up (or cool down).
My first test with the Thermapen was, of course, on the grill. And the meat in question was my nemesis, very thick chicken breasts. For years I have struggled to get consistently good, juicy chicken off the grill and the thicker it was the more difficulty I had. I would almost always end up overcooking it and leaving it very dry. I used Meathead’s technique for cooking chicken breasts using indirect heat on the grill with a target grill temperature around 300 degrees F. I checked the temperature after about 20 minutes and then every couple minutes after that with the Thermapen. The grill lost very little heat with these checks since I was able to get a temperature and close the lid quickly. Once I got the reading at the center of the thickest part of the breast to a bit below 165 F (the temperature will continue to rise a bit as the meat is resting I pulled it off the grill. It rose up to a little over 165 after resting 5 or 6 minutes and the result…well it was, by far, the tenderest, juiciest, and best tasting chicken I have ever made.
My next test was poultry again, Thanksgiving turkey! We traveled for the holidays so I didn’t do the cooking but my mom let me check the temperature of the bird with my new toy. It confirmed what I have known for years, Mom’s turkey was cooked to perfection (right around 165 F in the center of the thickest part of the breast). The ThermoWorks web site has great cooking tips for turkey using the Thermapen so there’s still time to use it for your Christmas bird!
Each Thermapen comes with a handy booklet on the proper care and use of the Thermapen and it is a very informative guide. One section goes through a list of things the Thermapen does not do and what it does do. This was very nice to have as a user’s guide but I think this would also be helpful in determining if a Thermapen is right for you. Here is my abbreviated version.
A Thermapen does not:
- Serve as a leave-in thermometer. I have not tried them (but based on the Thermapen I would love to!), but ThermoWorks does make leave-in thermometers that can be used in conjunction with a grill/oven thermometer and a Thermapen but the Thermapen itself should not be left in a hot oven or have prolonged exposure to high heat.
- Lock in on a temperature. The Thermapen is instant and accurate and the temperatures inside foods are constantly changing so your Thermapen will be constantly changing with them. Some consider this a downside since they can’t stick it in a roast in the oven and pull it out to check the reading since it’s already changed by the time it’s removed. I don’t think this is really that big of a downside because I can see the large display at arm’s length and, since it’s not a leave-in thermometer, it will never be further than arm’s length and since it’s instant you don’t have to hold it there long. A back light could help out with this if you have a dark oven but I still don’t see this as much of a drawback myself.
- Tell you when food is “done”. It only tells you the temperature. Use USDA recommendations, recipe recommendations, and your personal preference to determine when your food is done based on the accurate temperature displayed on the Thermapen.
A Thermapen does:
- Give you the fastest, most accurate temperature you can find in an affordable thermometer to check the internal temperature of your: meats, vegetables, casseroles desserts, candy, breads, doughs, sauces, drinks, and more that you prepare in your oven, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, deep fryer, grill/smoker, and anywhere else you work with food.
- Come in a variety of cool colors. A lot of the color choices are just for aesthetics but originally the color coding was to avoid cross-contamination when the used commercially. I know I enjoy using my purple one!
That is all I’ve had time to test it on so far but it is safe to say that it will be used on just about everything we cook (and all our baby’s bathwater!) from now on. I consider this tool indispensable for anyone who wants to take their cooking to the next level. We got our Thermapen to review but I would have definitely paid the money for one. If I had one recommendation for a change, it would be to add a back light. This time of year if you are grilling dinner you are pretty much grilling in the dark. I had to bring out a lantern to set by my grill to read the thermometer and a back light would have been helpful. My general recommendation though is that if you cook a lot, you need a Thermapen! OK, I’ll pass the blogging torch back to Ashley now, thanks for reading.
This is Ashley now. 🙂 For more information or to snag a Thermapen of your own visit Thermoworks.com. If you are interested in buying one I would suggest ordering now while they are on sale right now for $89 (regularly $96)! Also, the girl in me has to show you all the fun colors it comes in!