November 20, 2006

New Thermapen Models

Thermapen Model 3Over the years, Cook’s Illustrated has repeatedly heaped praise upon the Thermapen, a digital thermometer known for its speed, accuracy, generous probe length, and convenient folding design. Recent episodes of Good Eats have shown Alton Brown using the same thermometer, so clearly it is a device to be reckoned with. Every serious cook should have an instant-read thermometer, especially at Thanksgiving, when the internal temperature of a roasting turkey is the only reliable way to know when it’s done. Those in the know consider Thermapen to be the crème de la crème of such devices.

For the last several months, ever since the company introduced their new super-fast tip, I’ve been seriously itching to own one of these babies, but have been put off by the $85 price tag—as good as they surely are, I know I can buy half a dozen average thermometers for the same price. Now, however, an even newer design just might put me over the edge. The Thermapen models 3 and 7 feature the same overall shape and features of earlier models, but now offer a wide array of plug-in probes. The super-thin needle probes promise to measure the internal temperature of your roast or steak in as little as a second. You can choose a thicker probe for tougher meats, a plastic “airline-safe” probe (which sort of blows my mind), or specialized probes for measuring the temperatures of liquids, gases, flat surfaces, and more.

Although the wide variety of probes suggests this could be the last digital thermometer you’ll ever need, there are still choices to be made. First, you must choose between the model 3 (which has a resolution of 1°) and the model 7 (with a 0.1° resolution). Then you have to choose whether you want a version that displays in Fahrenheit or Celsius—annoyingly, for those of us who must use both systems, these thermometers lack the usual control for switching between scales. And finally, you must select one or more probes. The thermometers themselves are $79 (model 3) or $98 (model 7); probes range from $24 to $52. So you’re looking at a serious investment. Plus, you know that the week after you buy one, they’ll come out with a color you like better (today, models 3 and 7 come only in white, whereas other models come in a wide range of colors). All in all, I wonder if the Thermapen isn’t becoming the iPod of kitchen gear. No matter how great any model appears to be, you’ll always have to keep upgrading to stay in style.

6 Responses to “New Thermapen Models”

  1. Johanna said:

    I’ve had good results with the digital timer/thermometer I got at IKEA.

    It looks like a digital timer, but it has a switch on the back to display the temperature reading ( in Celcius or Fahrenheit). It has a removable wire with a probe on the end that you leave in the bird while it’s cooking. You set the temperature you want, stick the probe in the bird, put the bird in the oven, and set the thermometer on the kitchen counter. When the bird reaches the temperature you set, the alarm beeps.

    The great thing is that you don’t need to keep opening the oven and losing heat to check the temperature, and watching the numbers rise reassures you that it’s really working.

  2. Joe Kissell said:

    Johanna: I used to have one like that too. They’re great as far as they go, and really nice for roasts. The problem, for whole turkeys, is that the white meat and dark meat cook at different rates. So if your thermometer tells you the breast is done, the thigh might still be undercooked. There’s also the stuffing to consider, if you stuff your bird – unless you check its temperature too and make sure it’s high enough, you run the risk of chowing down on a thriving bacterial colony. That’s why my preference for roasting turkeys is instant-read thermometers. I can check three separate spots in less than 30 seconds.

  3. colin said:

    I’m a fan of Thermapens but I have a problem with the knew plug in models.

    The probes on the other models fold against the body of T’pen which protects the probe, protects any hands reaching into a drawer with the T’pen in it, makes the T’pen easier more convenient to carry.

    The new models only fold to a 90-degree so either the probe sticks straight out or you have to disconnect and reconnect it every time you use the T’pen.

    I imagine they’ll change this in the future, but unless you need to use a large number of probes the cost in durability, safety, and convenience outweighs the flexibility of the plug in model.

  4. Mike K said:

    I decided against the new one last year and went with the “traditional” thermapen. The advantages seemed not to make up for the downside, at least for my use (and I use it a lot). Not to speak about price.

    As to the problem with birds that Joe Kissell has, I’d suggest checking out Alton Brown’s show about the subject. He’s addressed the problem and worked on solutions (including one that allows stuffing which he had previously been solidly against due to the rest of the bird being cooked when the stuffing still is below a safe temperature). I have a way of making the entire turkey entirely tender, moist, and completely cooked (to safe temperature), but stuffing not allowed and it’s somewhat of a pain to do (albeit required of me thanksgivings for the last ten years or so).

  5. Derek said:

    They started delivering their newest model today. Luckily, that also means they dropped the price on their original super-fast tip model.