I wanted to break up the knife content I have been working with a new blog segment called save or splurge! There are some kitchen gadgets worth having in the kitchen and and some that just aren’t. And there are plenty of tools that are useful that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on. So I thought it would be fun to share my opinions on what is worth the money and what isn’t to help you find the perfect tools for your kitchen.
On this week’s save or splurge I wanted to dive into thermometers. A thermometer is a game changer in the kitchen. One of the biggest benefits of having a thermometer is it takes the guesswork out of whether or not meat is properly cooked all the way through. Before using a thermometer I would over cook chicken every. single. time. because I was so scared that the chicken would come out raw. Nothing is more sad in the kitchen, than over cooked chicken. Now I make perfectly moist chicken every time and I have the peace of mind knowing that is it cooked properly because I use a thermometer.
Besides meat, having a thermometer is great for checking the temperature of oil for frying, caramel and candies, bread and more. You can check the internal temperature of bread to know if it is fully cooked or not! Pretty cool, huh?
So when it comes to buying a thermometer should you save or splurge?
Instant Read Thermometer
This is the most common type of thermometer and the type that I will be focusing on today. An instant read thermometer has a sharp probe that pierces food to get an internal temperature. It can also be used to take the temperature of liquids like oil, boiling sugar, and water.
What to Look For
You will see this as a ± and then a number. The lower the number the better, meaning that there is a smaller window for inaccuracy by degrees F or C. Find a thermometer that has an accuracy no greater than ±1°F. Less is better.
Most thermometers go far above what you need. Most thermometers have a range of -50° to 500+°F. For a bit of reference to make a caramel, the sugar reaches about 320°F, well bellow the max for most thermometers. You will know a thermometer is really cheap if you cannot use it to take the temperature of caramel.
Thermometers will vary in how quickly they can give you a reading. This is very important because you don’t want to be wasting time waiting for the temperature reading while your food continues to cook. An excellent thermometer will give you a reading between 2-3 seconds and an OK thermometer will give you a reading between 3-5 seconds. It may not sound like a big difference but it makes a huge difference when cooking something that is time sensitive like a caramel.
Thermometers will either have a straight probe or a probe that can swing out and be adjusted to various angles. Having a straight probe means that you have to keep your hand resting above hot food while trying to get the temperature. With an adjustable probe, you can keep your hand safely to the side while getting a temperature reading.
Some thermometers will automatically turn on when you pick it up and some have a physical button you need to push to turn on. This is up to personal preference. Keep in mind that having to press a physical button while you cooking something time sensitive can be a nuisance. Both types will automatically go to sleep after a certain period of time not used.
Light up display
Another small detail to keep in mind is having a light up display or not. This feature varies from thermometer to thermometer. Some will have an automatic light up display and some you will need to press a button. A light up display can be really nice for taking the temperature of foods inside a dark oven.
How to Use It
You can use it to take the temperature of anything really, candies, bread, meat etc… The sharp probe is inserted into the center of your food to take the internal temperature. Make sure that the probe is sitting in the center of the food you are checking, being sure to not let the thermometer rest on the bottom of a pot or on bones within meat. This will not give you an accurate reading.
You can use this chart here to look up the specific target temperatures for meat. Keep in mind this is the temperature they need to reach after carryover cooking. So if chicken needs to reach 165°F internally, I pull out my chicken at 160°F knowing that the carryover cooking will take it to 165°F without overcooking it.
Carryover cooking will increase the temperature of your food from 5°-15°F. The larger the food the more carryover cooking will occur. So a chicken breast will only raise 5°F after cooking vs. a whole roast chicken which will rise 10-15°F after cooking.
Calibrating your thermometers means you are getting the most accurate reading possible. Here is a great video showing you how to test your thermometer.
ThermoPro vs. Thermapen
I wanted to compare two different thermometers at very different price points. The first one is one of the highest rated thermometers on Amazon and the second is a well known, reliable thermometer used by many professional chefs.
The ThermoPro is one of the highest rated instant read thermometers on Amazon, and it’s only around $14. I do not personally use this one and I haven’t used this brand in particular but I have used thermometers that are very similar.
Some specs of the ThermoPro TP03; has a reading speed of 3-5 seconds, has a temperature reading range from -58°F to 572°F, accuracy of ±0.9°F, has an adjustable probe, and a physical button to turn the thermometer on and off as well as the backlight.
In my personal experience I have used thermometers like this at my previous teaching job at Sur La Table and the biggest downside is how long these take to get a reading. This can be especially bothersome when trying to take the temperature of something time sensitive like a caramel or a custard. They also need to be replaced more frequently, but they are cheap so it’s not that big of an investment to replace them.
All that said, they still get the job done. They will, in the end, give you a temperature reading which is all you really need it to do.
The ThermoPro would be a great option if you don’t plan on using an instant read thermometer a lot and don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Thermapen Mk 4 – $99
The Thermapen is widely used among professional chef’s and comes from a great brand, Thermoworks. These are also the thermometers the bakers use on Great British Bake Off, and the one that I personally have in my kitchen.
Some specs of the Thermapen Mk4; it has a 2-3 second reading speed, has a temperature reading range of -58°F to 572°F, accuracy of ±0.7°F, is waterproof, automatically turns on and off when you swing open the probe and has an automatic light sensor.
My favorite thing about this thermometer is that it turns on by itself when you pull out the probe. No fiddling with buttons. There really isn’t anything bad to say about the Thermapen except it’s price tag. The Thermapen is $99 and I rarely see it go on sale. But that doesn’t mean it never goes on sale. I have seen it go on sale for 25% off, definitely worth keeping an eye out.
Overall one of the best thermometers you can buy if its within your budget.
You can’t beat the Thermapen Mk 4. It is the fastest thermometer I have come across, is very high quality, and will last you a very long time. A thermometer is one of those things that you want to work properly. I think it is better to spend the money on a quality thermometer that will last you a long time rather than cheap ones you will have to replace more frequently.
Classic Thermapen – $79
ThermoWorks also has a classic Thermapen, the biggest difference between this and the mk 4 is that the classic is not waterproof. Which really isn’t that big of a deal. The classic is $20 cheaper at $79. So if you want to save a little bit of money and still get a great thermometer, the Thermapen classic is a great option.
ThermoPop – $34
I had this thermometer all through culinary school. I loved that I could slide it in my chef coat pocket like a pen. So it was always easy to grab. This model doesn’t read as fast. It reads in 3-4 seconds compared to 2-3 seconds. It has the same temperature range as the Thermapen. What I am not crazy about is the fact that you have to push a button to turn it on. Also the probe does not move which means you have to stick your hand directly over the hot food. It’s not the worst but not very comfortable either.
DOT – $43
I also have this thermometer and I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to have. But it is really nice to have on hand as a set it and forget kind of tool. The DOT allows you to keep a constant temperature reading on food inside an oven or grill. You can set an alert temperature and the thermometer will beep when it reaches that temperature. So you can set it and forget it and get perfectly cooked food and especially meat without much effort. Get a good instant read thermometer first and then get this one if that sounds appealing to you.
I hope you enjoyed this new segment! Let me know if you have any questions about instant read thermometers down below. And let me know if there is any other equipment you would like me review!
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