I was prompted to write this post because I found about ten too many articles that were positively precious about instant-read cooking thermometers. One of those articles said it was worth it to pay almost a hundred bucks for a Thermapen (ThermoWorks Super-Fast Thermapen Professional Thermocouple Cooking Thermometer) because otherwise, you might overcook a $25 steak. So, a couple of uses of such a fancy thermometer will pay for itself. To me, this seems to imply that if you were to over-cook an expensive steak you’d throw it out, and therefore having the thermometer to save it will pay for itself after about three uses. I certainly could never get behind such logic. An overcooked steak is still a perfectly edible steak, and some folks actually like their steak well-done.
Recommended Product: Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo Ambidextrous Backlit Instant Read Digital Meat Thermometer
Meat Thermometers are Primarily for Safety
Meat thermometers (whether instant-read or not) are not primarily about preventing overcooking of meats. A better reason to buy an instant-read thermometer is to ensure that your cooked meats and poultry reach a safe internal temperature. Some cooks are fairly confident about this when it comes to roasts, steaks, chops, or burgers, but for a roast chicken or, even more so, a huge roast turkey, a thermometer becomes more important. I’d urge you to check out these safe cooking temperatures for meats and poultry.
Remember that doneness and safety are not the same things. Doneness has to do with your personal preference. You may like a steak cooked to a degree of doneness that does not allow it to reach a minimum safe temperature, for example. A steak cooked to 145° F is considered to have reached the minimum safe temperature. This is generally considered to be a medium steak. Therefore, a rare steak will not have reached the minimum safe temperature, and for this reason, many restaurants refuse to cook steaks below medium or give you a stern warning about undercooked meats. Of course, you can choose to cook a steak or other meat to a higher temperature and therefore a greater degree of doneness. I cannot tell you, however, whether you should disregard this minimum safe temperature. You may have eaten many rare steaks and never had a problem. On the other hand, if you do get sick from meat, it probably was undercooked.
Poultry is simpler since when it is cooked to the minimum safe temperature of 165° F, it should be generally cooked to a degree of doneness that most people would find acceptable. However, when cooking a whole bird, different parts of the bird will reach higher temperatures more quickly, resulting in uneven doneness even when using a thermometer to check. A solution to this is spatchcock chicken.
Other Uses For Instant-Read Thermometers
For deep fat frying, a thermometer can be handy. Otherwise, you’re left guessing or using other tests to check the temperature of your oil, such as the bread test. For candy making, which requires great precision in temperature control, a thermometer may be essential. An instant-read thermometer can also be used for checking the temperature of any liquid such as baby’s formula or water for yeast when baking bread.
The particular thermometer mentioned above is no longer available on Amazon, but certainly, I’m all for a good instant-read thermometer if you feel you need one to cook your meat properly. However, you do not need an expensive one. The Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo will get the job done for about half the price. You can use it not only for meat, but for frying, candy making, and any time you need to test the temperature of a liquid.
Keep in mind that it is not all that difficult to learn to judge the doneness of a steak, but a thermometer can help a lot with roasts, especially that aforementioned turkey, and, in general, can help keep your family safe by ensuring you cook your meats and poultry to the minimum safe temperatures, which you can find here. For roasting poultry, however, it’s best to use a thermometer that can be left in the bird while it is roasting so you will need a thermometer that can go in the oven. This type could be used for any type of roast, of course. An example is the ThermoPro Large LCD Digital Cooking Food Meat Thermometer. Find out more about ThermoPro products here.
Thermocouple Instant-Read Thermometers
A thermocouple thermometer is the fastest instant-read thermometer you can get. This type will measure the internal temperature of food within 2 to 5 seconds. They have a fine tip and such precision that you can use them even for thin foods.
Recommended Less Expensive Instant-Read Thermometer: Thermopro Ultra-Fast Digital Meat Thermometer