The Thermapen's price just about kills me, it really does. I like to review products that are genuinely useful in the kitchen, but I hate any trace of brand snobbery or implication that you must have some expensive tool in order to cook. So, let me just state up front that I am not saying you need the Thermapen to cook well. But, nevertheless, this incredibly useful thermometer sure will help you out. Depending on how you cook, this pricey little tool may be worth every single penny.
The Thermapen next to a traditional probe thermometer. The Thermapen is significantly larger, but folds back up and is easy to fit in a drawer.
So, what is a Thermapen and why is it so great? A Thermapen is a different kind of thermometer; it uses a different technology to read temperatures. Unlike cheaper, more traditional thermometers (which use thermistor sensors) the Thermapen uses what's called a thermocouple sensor. These are used in professional kitchens and other places where getting faster, more accurate temperature readouts is very important. The Thermapen condenses this technology into a relatively small thermometer probe.
What's the difference between this and an "instant-read" thermometer? Well, an "instant-read" thermometer is never actually instant; the display updates instantly, but it takes 20 to 30 seconds to get an accurate reading of the temperature. This is eons, in cooking time, when the oven or grill is open, and heat is escaping. The Thermapen truly does give an instant read. It also has a much thinner probe; you don't have to put a huge hole in your bread loaf or steak. It also doesn't need to be very far inside a piece of meat or pan of hot sugar to get a read.
This flexibility and truly instant read-out make the Thermapen the ideal kitchen thermometer. The only drawback is the price.
Here's the thing, though. I have gone through at least a half dozen thermometers in my adult cooking life. They seem to break frequently — candy thermometers in particular. I have been using the Thermapen now for a few months, and it on the other hand is built like a tank, and the batteries are easy to swap out. It's not fussy or overly-complicated (unfold the probe to turn it on; fold back to turn off. It turns off automatically after a certain amount of time, too). You can use it for very, very hot things (sugar, for instance), as well as moderately-hot foods like meat. You can use it to test the temperature of your oven or your grill. And it has all the advantages listed above.
It's a kicker to spend so much on a thermometer when you can buy cheap dial thermometers at the grocery store for $9.99. But given that they usually need to be supplemented by a candy thermometer (if you work with hot sugar), and their frequent breakage, I would argue that it's worth it to invest in a Thermapen up-front.
If, though, you rarely take temperatures in your cooking, and you never work with hot sugar, well, perhaps an inexpensive thermometer is a better choice. It really depends on how much you cook, and how often you use a thermometer. If it's a daily or even weekly tool for you, I would personally recommend one of these great little gadgets.
• Find it: Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen, $93 at Amazon
Do you use a Thermapen? Has it earned back its cost for you? Or is this just too much to spend on a thermometer?
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Faith Durand)