Things I Love: Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer
I consider an instant read thermometer an essential kitchen tool. You need an instant read thermometer to correctly answer the question "is it done?". Particularly for meat. Why? Because the most accurate way to check doneness is to take the internal temperature at the thickest part of the meat. That accuracy can be the difference between medium rare and medium well beef, or the difference between juicy and dry turkey breast.
*Is it done? Here's my quick cheat sheet for internal temperatures of meat.
125*F - Beef - Medium Rare
140*F - Pork - Medium
160*F - Poultry - Well done
The Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks is the best instant read thermometer out there. Many thermometers call themselves instant read, but the Thermapen is the only one that really is instant read. You get the temperature in four seconds, instead of the 30 seconds or so that other "instant read" thermometers take.
*Why? The Thermapen has a thermocouple in its tip, instead of a thermistor. Why does that matter? I don't know. I have to rely on the experts: Go here to see what a thermocouple means in performance vs. a thermistor.
The only downside to the great performance you get out of the Thermapen is the price. At $89, it is much more expensive than other instant read thermometers. I've bought a bunch of those other thermometers, looking for a less expensive alternative, and I've been sorely disappointed. If my Thermapen broke tomorrow, I'd immediately pay for a new one, and I'd pay extra for overnight shipping. It's one of the few cooking tools that I bring with me on vacation*, because I feel naked without it. I hate having to guess what's going on inside a roast, when I'm used to being able to check instantly.
*While I believe that adaptability is the key to successful cooking, I do have my "bring if at all possible" list: A chef's knife, a paring knife, a cutting board, a pair of tongs, my Thermapen, and (if I'll be able to grill), my kettle grill and charcoal chimney.
What do you think? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
[Updated 12/8/2009 - The original Thermapen has been replaced by their new splash-proof model. I don't have one yet, but Cooks Illustrated says it is as good as the old one.]
Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen - Instant Read Thermometer
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MikeV @ DadCooksDinner says
I agree - if you're not going to spend the $90 on a thermapen, an analog instant read thermometer is the next best option. I meant to say that in the post...but I forgot. Thanks for mentioning it!
I couldn't agree more that the only accurate and repeatable method to tell if something is properly cooked is to take the internal temperature. And while *I* wouldn't have a problem spending $90 on a Thermapen because of the speed and accuracy, it'd be a hard sell to a non-foodie who thinks the only way chicken can be served (and safe to eat) is when it is drier than the Sahara.
For those people, a $7-$8 analog instant read thermometer is the way to convince them and I've given a number away as gifts. I wish I had known about instant read thermometers growing up ... it would've made for a lot fewer dried out meat dishes in my youth.
Like you, this is one of the tools I keep with me in my "travel pack".
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