Over 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.