Thermapen: The Best Instant-Read Thermometer

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Getting a precise temperature of the ingredient you’re cooking — whether it’s on the stove top, in the oven, or on the grill — is especially important for reaching the right internal temperature. The Thermapen instant-read thermometer is my constant companion while cooking. I’m proud to say, with its help, I no longer overcooked the chicken.

There’s nothing worse than serving dry overcooked or dangerously under-cooked meat to guests at your dinner party. It has sadly happened more than once in my kitchen. It doesn’t matter how much of an eye you keep on the oven, inevitably a few extra minutes pass before you check it and there’s no going back.

I used a couple of pretty awful meat thermometers before I found the Thermapen. Inevitably they’d stop working after a few uses and start telling me lies that led to both under and overcooking a few things before I learned my lesson.

If you want to be 100% sure of the temperature of the meat or whatever else you’re cooking, the Thermapen is an absolute must in the kitchen.

Thermapen mk4

Thermapen Features

The Thermapen MK4 has so many great features. There’s pretty much nothing this thing doesn’t do. Where other themometers fail, the Thermapen excels.

Here’s a quick list of the features:

  • 2-3 second readings
  • High accuracy to ±0.7°F (±0.4°C)
  • Foldaway probe
  • Patented auto-rotating display
  • Use in either hand
  • Motion-sensing sleep & wake mode
  • Intelligent backlight
  • Waterproof to IP67
  • 3,000 hour battery life (AAA Battery)
  • 10 colors
  • Display temps in °C or °F
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Battery Life

I have to say that the most impressive feature is the battery life. I’ve had my Thermapen for 5 years now and it’s not yet run out of battery. I use it 2 or 3 times per week to check the temperature of a roast, steak, or even the temperature of oil for frying.

Orientation

Another super handy feature is the auto-rotating display. I am right handed while my husband is left handed. It’s simple for both of us to use in a way we’re comfortable with. The display reading tips vertical or horizontal, depending on how you hold it.

Accuracy

While I love the more superficial highlights of the Thermapen, the most important thing is always accuracy. I’ve used a few different types of thermometers and, while they always work really well at first, they tend to get more finicky and less accurate over time. When the difference of a few degrees really makes a difference between medium and medium well, it’s important that the probe is accurate. I’ve never had an issue with the Thermapen in the 5 years I’ve had it.

I’ve tested it alongside other thermometers to gauge its accuracy, but the real demonstration is how the food comes out. It’s spot on most of the time.

A another situation where the temperature is extremely important is when making cheese or ricotta on the stove top. I use the Thermapen to measure the temperature of the milk. It’s convenient to set the pen in the pot and watch as the temperature climbs.

When making Ricotta Cheese, it’s necessary to heat the milk to 180 degrees F before adding acid. The Thermapen has always shown an accurate temperature when testing the milk. It turns out perfect each time I make it.

testing the temperature for milk

Temperature Range

Most home cooks use a food thermometer for a few different purposes in the kitchen. You can use it to measure the temperature of cold water, hot water, oil, meat, chocolate, etc.

I’ve used mine to make sure water is the right temperature to allow yeast to bloom. I’ve used it to temper chocolate. I’ve used it to make sure oil remains at the right temperature for frying. While I don’t tend to use it for cold, a good thermometer should function well across a wide temperature range.

The Thermapen can reach as low as -60 degrees F and as high as nearly 600 degrees F. That’s a huge range. It should be sufficient for just about any usage in the kitchen or on the grill. For the record, it has both the lowest and highest measures of any instant-read thermometer I’ve tried.

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Versions & Variations

The Thermapen Classic is the one consumers most typically purchase. It costs around $79 and is one of the best instant-read thermometers on the market. Rated #1 by Cook’s Illustrated / America’s Test Kitchen It has the following features:

  • 2-3 second readings!
  • High accuracy to ±0.7°F (±0.4°C)
  • Includes NIST-Traceable calibration certificate
  • Water-resistant design
  • °F to °C reconfigurable
  • Auto on/off—no buttons!
  • 1,500 hour battery life

The Thermapen Mk4 is a higher-end thermometer that costs $99. This is the version with the features listed above. It’s more expensive, but it’s worth the extra $20 for a much longer battery life, backlight, and auto-rotating display (among other things).

Conclusion

In the end, I think it all comes down to accuracy, convenience, and price. The Thermapen might be one of the more expensive options for cooking thermometers, but it’s also the most accurate and convenient to use. The fact that the battery lasts so long makes it that much more valuable for the money. When the other thermometers give out after while, the Thermapen will keep working long into the future.

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