For the price, you have to either be a really serious cook, or seriously tired of rubbery chicken and overcooked steak to buy one of these industrial-strength, instant-read digital thermometers. But once you’ve got one, you’ll wonder how you ever cooked without it. The Thermapen takes all the guesswork out of the proper time to cook things.
I first saw this used on my favorite cooking show, “America’s Test Kitchen.” It looks very odd compared to the digital cooking thermometers you find in retail stores. But this is THE best kitchen tool I have, (well, maybe second best after my $3.00 spring-loaded tongs).
One of the joys of doing this roundup is the self-correcting way that readers send in better/cheaper tools than the one I recommended. Last week there was a flurry of responses to the Thermapen. Here are some apparently superior alternatives and comments on the original. — KK
This Professional Test thermometer boasts many of the same advantages of the Thermapen, but for less than half the price.
It’s not quite as fast or precise as the Thermapen, but it’s far far better than anything else in its price range, and more than sufficient for a home chef. It does also have one advantage that the Thermapen does not – the cover clips onto the butt end, giving you an extension handle to use when probing into something that’s very hot.
– Adam Fields
Professional Test Thermometer
Professional Cutlery Direct
I agree with the reviewer’s appreciation of the Thermapen cooking thermometer. But for those not having $70+, may I suggest a quick look at OMEGA Engineering’s catalog
They have digital stem thermometers at prices starting below $20, making them viable replacements for the classic chef’s pocket thermometer.
– Milan Merhar
This update appears in the January, 2000 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. — Buck Thighmaster
In our July/August 1997 issue, we rated instant-read thermometers. The top three models were the Owen Instruments Thermapen 5, the Taylor Digital Pocket Thermometer Model 9840, and the Polder Cooking Thermometer/Timer. Hundreds of additional test kitchen hours later, we stand by our ratings but have a few comments to add. Since our original testing, the top-rated Owen Thermapen has been redesigned so that it shuts off automatically. (It has always turned on when the probe is swung out. Now it shuts off — randomly, we might add — after anywhere between three and eight minutes if the probe is not folded back in place.) We find, to our frustration, that it always shuts down when you need it most. Innovation failed to deliver improvement here.