Table of Contents Forums Dictionary Recommended Reading Marketplace Giftshop What I Ate Michael's Blog
Latest Post on Michael's Blog: Fall Television Season 2018 Grid
Equipment & Gear

Kitchen Thermometers

by Michael Chu
Normal view
Next »
« Prev
Since a major aspect of cooking is the heating of ingredients, temperature is an important topic. In cooking, we are primarily concerned in the temperature of our cooking environment (such as deep frying oil) and the temperature of our food (like a roast). With some foods, if the temperature of an ingredient has passed a certain point, it's texture and flavor changes such that we call it overdone. With other dishes, like pot roast, a minimum temperature must be reached to produce the desired effect. With lean steaks and roasts, there is a very small window which enables us to serve the dish as the perfect temperature. A thermometer is an invaluable tool in the kitchen.

What is a thermometer?
A thermometer is a device that measures changes in temperature. (Temperature is the average molecular kinetic energy in a substance.) If a thermometer is calibrated to a known temperature, then it can be used to accurately determine absolute temperature.

Some thermometer types
All thermometers work by measuring a change in a material that reacts to temperature changes.

A mechanical or dial thermometer uses two strips of different metal bonded together. The different metals have dissimilar expansion rates as temperature increases. Because of this, the bimetallic strip curls when the temperature changes. When constructed in the shape of a coil, the curling metal can be used to alter the angle of a needle. A dial thermometer is constructed by placing the needle in front of a static background and marking the background with known temperatures.

Bulb thermometers are based on the expansion of liquids. A liquid is encased in a thin transparent tube with a small reservoir at one end. As the liquid in the reservoir expands or contracts due to temperature change, the level of the liquid in the tube also changes. The thermometer is read by matching the level of the liquid with markings that label known temperatures. Mercury is a common liquid used in bulb thermometers, but should not be used in the kitchen because mercury is a poison and unsafe if the thermometer is broken.
Most bulb thermometers for kitchen use are filled with an alcohol (stained red for easy reading).

Electronic or digital thermometers operate based on an electronic component that reacts to different temperatures. Most digital kitchen thermometers use a thermistor (thermoresistor) - a device whose resistance changes due to temperature. When a current is passed through the thermistor, a voltage drop occurs. This voltage can be measured and a small microcomputer calculates the temperature based on the voltage. The temperature is then displayed for the user to read. Another technique, is to take advantage of the principle that joining two different metals causes a voltage potential between them that is dependent on the temperature of the junction (Seebeck effect). By reading the voltage between two metal wires joined at one end, the temperature can be calculated. Unfortunately, connecting a voltmeter to the thermocouple introduces more thermocouple junctions which alter the readings. By using a technique called cold-junction compensation (outside of the scope of Cooking For Engineers), the voltage can be properly read and temperature accurately calculated. Because of their high accuracy, thermocouple thermometers are popular in engineering and scientific practices, but their high average sales price (well over $100) generally precludes them from home kitchen use.

Many other types of thermometers using other methods of measuring temperature (like infrared thermometers that measure surface temperatures) are available, but not commonly used in a household kitchen.

Instant-read thermometers is a marketing name given to any type of thermometer (digital or dial) designed to be plunged into the food being cooked when it is nearly finished cooking to determine internal temperature. The thermometer does not work instantaneously and usually should not be allowed to persist in cooking temperatures (the thermometer needs to removed).

Probe thermometers are digital thermometers with probes connected to long wires. The probes hold a thermistor and is placed within the food while a connected base station reports the current temperature. Almost all probe thermometers have an alarm facility to alert the cook when a preprogrammed temperature has been reached.

Fry or candy thermometers are designed to measure the temperature of a cooking liquid (usually oil or sugar). The thermometers are partially submerged into the liquid and the temperature monitored during the cooking process.

Speed Test
When using a thermometer, speed is an important factor. Ideally, we'd like to know the temperature of the oil or the roast at this instant. If a thermometer takes a long time to report the temperature, the food could become overcooked or lose a lot of heat while you're waiting for a reading.

I pulled out five different thermometers (3 instant-read, one probe, and one fry/candy thermometer):
I tested the speed and accuracy of the thermometers by submerging them in ice water at 32°F (0°C), ambient temperature water at 70°F (21.1°C), and boiling water at 212°F (100°C). I tested the time it took for the thermometer to produce an accurate reading from (1) ambient to freezing temperature, (2) freezing to boiling temperature, and (3) ambient to boiling temperature. I also recorded the time it took for the thermometer to reach an approximate reading by recording times at 40°F (4.4°C) and 200°F (93.3°C). Two of the thermometers were incapable of indicating freezing temperatures, so I could not record the ambient to freezing time. However, I did place those thermometers in the ice water for several minutes before plunging them into the boiling water for the freezing to boiling times. All of the thermometers reached the reference temperatures as expected.

The tests were run several times and the average times are shown in the following table. The times in [brackets] represent the time it took to reach the ballpark value of either 40°F (4.4°C) or 200°F (93.3°C).

ModelAmbient to FreezingFreezing to BoilingAmbient to Boiling
ThermoWorks Thermapen3 sec [1 sec]3 sec [1 sec]3 sec [1 sec]
ThermoWorks RT-30131 sec [15 sec]24 sec [13 sec]18 sec [9 sec]
Polder Probe Thermometer16 sec [9 sec]32 sec [11 sec]36 sec [10 sec]
Taylor Dial ThermometerN/A80 sec [24 sec]70 sec [22 sec]
Taylor Candy ThermometerN/A45 sec [17 sec]33 sec [14 sec]

The Polder probe thermometer took around four seconds to produce any change in reading. For example, after taking the probe from ice water and plunging it into the boiling water, the base module continued to register 0°C for four seconds before changing to around 60°C. I think the slow update time caused the thermometer to lose a few seconds when it might have been internally registering boiling or freezing when the display was not.

Also, I donned heat resistant gloves while testing the Taylor dial thermometer in the boiling water because it required me to hold the thermometer at the edge to the hot pan. The radiant heat and steam would have been dangerous without protective gloves.

As you can see from the results, there is no comparison between the Thermapen thermocouple thermometer and any of the others. The speed is amazing - about one second for a ballpark value and two more for dead accurate. Three seconds is such a short amount of time that the time it takes to position the probe in the middle of the roast is almost the same time it will take for the Thermapen to take a reading. At $85, it is quite expensive, but compared to other thermocouple thermometers, this device is a bargain. It also had the highest maximum temperature (572°F or 300°C) which makes it capable of measuring the temperature of deep frying oils as well.

The Taylor dial thermometer was so slow that I was afraid that my gloves would start getting too hot for me to hold the thermometer. Its thick probe also makes it useless except for large roasts, except you'll need to open the oven door for a full minute before you could guess if your roast was between medium-rare or medium.

If you only have space for one thermometer, save up and treat yourself to the ThermoWorks Thermapen. It's fast. Very fast. It also comes calibrated with documentation to prove it. You can even calibrate it yourself (which is a feature missing in almost all digital thermometers)! The probe tip is very thin (like a thick needle), so measuring the temperature of a 1/4 in. steak is no problem at all. The temperature range is greater than most thermometers and it's also really easy to read. Recently, I've seen other companies selling unbranded thermometers of similar shape and design to the Thermapen, but at a discounted price. I've heard these thermometers may use thermistors and are much slower, so it's best not to take a chance and buy direct from ThermoWorks.

A fry/candy thermometer is also nice to have around if you do any confectionery or deep-frying in a pot.

The Polder probe thermometer is one of the lower cost probe thermometers I've seen and works like a charm. It is a bit slow so I always set it a few degrees below my target temperature. If you make roasts or anything that cooks for a long time (even bringing a large pot of water to a boil), this is your "fire-and-forget" thermometer.

The others? Save your money.

ThermoWorks Thermapen

[Link to to buy this thermometer]

ThermoWorks RT-301 Low Cost Pocket thermometer

Polder Cooking Thermometer

Taylor Classic Style Meat Dial Thermometer

Taylor Candy and Deep-Fry Thermometer

Next »
« Prev
Written by Michael Chu
Published on March 09, 2005 at 09:22 PM
70 comments on Kitchen Thermometers:(Post a comment)

On January 05, 2006 at 06:50 PM, elal1862 (guest) said...
I think you're completely missing the point on the "meat dial thermometer".
This little critter's sole purpose is to stick it into a large roast and keeping it there during the entire preperation (hint: oven & dishwasher safe).

Its continuous temperature measurement, makes the (sluggish) response time completely irrelevant. In fact, it beats all the others at this point: Split-second peek vs. >2 seconds while-poking-holes-into-your-juicy-roast, letting all those nice juices out.

And with a $10 pricetag, I can live with its single-purpose nature :-/
Just my $0.0268247

On January 05, 2006 at 06:51 PM, an anonymous reader said...
My concern is the accuracy of the themometer. I like the ability to calibrate the device. I assume you use ice water and boiling water as your standard

On January 05, 2006 at 06:52 PM, chennes (guest) said...
Actually, it seems like most people who write up these "thermometer comparisons" stack the deck in favor of the Thermapen. While there is no doubt that is is a great thermometer when speed is the primary consideration comparing it to continuous-read thermometers (all three non-ThermoWorks models in this test) is not particularly useful. For example, I would never use it for a roast because it forces you to open the oven door. In this circumstance the Polder (with its alarm) or the Taylor classic dial are ideal choices. A better test of this type of thermometer is a durability and accuracy test, not a speed test. I personally like to use the analog continuous-read thermometers for oil and sugar because they give a better idea of the rate of change and they are easily mountable on the side of the pan. Speed is only important in a small subset of the things most people cook. I have no doubt that the Thermapen is a fantastic thermometer (I have yet to read a negative review) but most people would be better served by spending the $85 on a candy thermometer, a roast thermometer and a cheap "instant-read" thermometer. And spend the rest on ingredients :).

On January 05, 2006 at 06:52 PM, an anonymous reader said...
My oven door doesn't have a window, so a dial meat thermometer doesn't work so good. I have a model similar to the Polder and I love it for just about everything.

On January 05, 2006 at 06:52 PM, Michael Chu said...
re: meat thermometer usage

You might be right about the usage model of the Taylor Meat Thermometer. The thing is, years ago, my roommate put my meat thermometer in whatever it was he was baking/roasting and it broken because of the oven heat. When I got home, he gave me this thermometer as a replacement. No where could we find the words "oven-safe" and since the last Taylor meat thermometer died (unfortunately, I did not get to see what happened to it), we assumed the thermometer was NOT designed to be used continuously in the oven (which in my mind made it much less useful).

re: Polder probe thermometer
I love my Polder probe thermometer. Truthfully, I didn't use my replacement Taylor meat thermometer for very long because I decided to pick up a probe thermometer. It works great, but you do have to keep in mind that when the meat is at 135°F, the thermistor is not. Nevertheless, I've had great success using the Polder and tried to use it for everything and was quite satisfied. Once I started using a Therapen though, the Polder just sits on my refrigerator as a timer and the probe is wrapped up in a bag in a drawer to be used only when roasts or long barbeques are being prepared (not a common activity for me). Grilling, pan frying, baking (breads and some confections), and deep frying, I use the thermapen now. When I told Tina that I recommended people save their money up and buy the Thermapen, I thought she'd disagree (she's into practicality and efficient use of money), but she said I did the right thing. Watching me use the thermapen, she realized that there is no better instrument in our kitchen for measuring temperature and that it works on a whole different level than any of our other thermometers.

re: Thermapen
I think I might update the article with a section on anecdotal information on what I've found good and bad while using the thermometers (instead of a speed test). After using the Thermapen over and over, it's almost painful to go and use the other instant-read thermometers. If the thermometer is "accurate" (i.e. able to display the correct temperature as time approaches infinity), which all of my thermometers were, then the only thing to compare is speed. The faster the thermometer reacts and displays the reading, the faster YOU will be accurate. The other thermometers will lag - even a thermometer that is inserted into the food throughout the cooking process. For many this lag time won't end up affecting the quality of the meal, but if you're trying to cook a perfect steak everytime, it sure helps to have the best tools around. In addition, you'll find yourself measuring temperatures more often but taking less total time doing it. Often, I just want to know how a meal is progressing (what temperature the scaling milk is, how hot has the chicken breast gotten, what temperature is the oil, etc.) and I'll just pop the thermometer in, read, out, move on. I wouldn't even consider spot checks with any of my other thermometers. The thermapen has opened up a whole new usage model - simply by providing 1 second ball park readings. (This is the whole dial-up vs. broadband argument I had with my parents. They just read basic webpages and send e-mail. Do they need high-speed internet? Not really, but once I convinced them to get broadband - no easy task - they read and send e-mail much more often and actually like popping on and looking something up on the web. Their total data transfer isn't that much more than before, but now they really USE the internet. Having a thermapen gets you to start using a thermometer.) Of course, if you don't have the money - never will have the money - buy the Polder probe thermometer.

re: digital instant-read thermometers
Never leave them in the oven. LCD displays cannot survive oven temperatures. In fact, I don't like the digital fry thermometers either because they can't really survive the constant heat from the oil or candy either.

re: calibration
The Taylor dial thermometer is calibrated to boiling point only. The Thermapen is calibrated to both freezing and boiling. You should be able to alter the temperatures to match your particular altitude. The other thermometers cannot be self calibrated.

On January 05, 2006 at 06:53 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Just a question:

Does the calibration function that uses boiling water as a control take atmospheric pressure into acount? This may not be an issue where I live, but I can see it being problematic in other regions or if you were to calibrate during a period of abnormal weather conditions.

On January 05, 2006 at 06:53 PM, Adam (guest) said...
1) You've missed what is certainly the best value in digital probe thermometers - The DeltaTRAK Professional Test Thermometer. It has a very fast response time, accurate readings, and it's less than half the cost of the Thermapen. This is the workhorse in my kitchen.

2) Most modern ovens will come back up to speed very quickly when you open the door. I think Harold McGee did some tests with this and found very little impact on a roast of opening the door a few times during cooking.

On January 05, 2006 at 06:54 PM, ejm_repost (guest) said...
Adam, we have an ancient electric oven (I'm guessing our stove/oven is from the 1970s) and the maxim of losing 25 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit every time the oven door is opened seems to be about right. I confess I haven't done any timing to see how quickly the oven temperature climbs back up those 25 to 50 degrees though.

To account for this heat loss, I always preheat the oven to 50F more than is called for in the recipe and then as soon as putting whatever it is in the oven, I turn the dial down to the recommended temperature. This ensures that the oven is basically at the correct temperature in the initial stages. (I'm baking bread mostly)

On January 05, 2006 at 06:54 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I have a wireless digital thermometer and it's great. Stick it in the roast and walk away, alarm beeps when it's reached the right temp!

On January 05, 2006 at 06:55 PM, drbiggles_repost (guest) said...
Hmm, seems as though many people have many opinions. Some based on fact and some on personal choice. I've been through many thermometers over the years. Mainly because I either wear them out, loose them or snap them in half when I sit down (in my rear pocket eh).

Having to stick your roast and open your oven door is a fact of life. The trick is to open it, get your business done and close the door. Professional bakers have to open their ovens frequently to turn the cookie sheet 180 degrees. Get over it, it isn't a deal breaker.

Not too long ago I bought a Taylor wireless rig for 30 bux. I thought it was a good place to start. Worse 30 bux I ever spent, here's what I had to say about it:

That being said, Michael suggested spending the money for a good rig. Since I've already blown 30, at least. What's another 50? I NEVER regretted buying the thermapen and suggest others do the same. Besides, you can get them in colors, I got red.


On January 05, 2006 at 06:56 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Calibrating your thermometers to boiling and freezing points of WATER?! What kind of amateur engineers are you? Any true engineer would calibrate his thermometer to absolute zero... at least, that's what a real man would do...

On January 05, 2006 at 06:58 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I agree with the previous post. You need to stick the thermometer in the meat, stick the whole think in the oven and let it beep at you when it hits the preprogrammed temperature. You can’t go opening the oven all of the time poking it with a hand heald. It will take you 25% to 50% longet to cook and you could easily miss your mark!

I have used the Polder as well as a number of similar units (Williams and Senoma, Acu Rite and a few others). Not too sure who the real manufacturer is, but I doubt it is any of the previously mentioned. Basically, these all use the same controller and there are slight cosmetic differences. These units aren’t bad. I have calibrated them against a thermometer used by a Hobart service engineer that is +/- 1F. The units I used that day were pretty close (something like +/- 3F).

To me, this wasn’t the issue. The actual thermometer and lead wire absolutely suck. They can’t take high humidity and I have even overcooked part of the lead wire in the grill. I probably have gone through 7 or 8 of them in 3 years. I use to use them in brewing (where I monitor the temperature of the mash over 1 hour). I submerge the thermometer part but keep the lead dry. This isn’t good enough and on 2 occasions I killed the lead.

A friend of mine has a remote unit from Brookstones (not too sure who the “manufacturer” is). The lead is really sweet and about 5 mm thick (as opposed to the chinsey units with a 2 or 3 mm thick lead). I have not calibrated this unit, but it is really robust. It is also remote where you can have the thermometer in the grill and the controller inside.


On January 05, 2006 at 06:58 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Jim again. The guy posting previous to me is correct - but I don’t know if he/she knows it. Calibrating to boiling water is not exactly 212F (or 100C). It depends on the solid content of the water and the atmospheric pressure. If you are in Denver, you are not going to be close to 212F. Probably more like 205F.

Also, calibrating to freezing is stupid unless you are working in that temperature area. Who gives a hooie if you hit 0C if you want to make sure you are getting medium rare steak? It is in a totally different operating range and it is not a realistic calibration.

2 cents

On January 05, 2006 at 06:58 PM, Michael Chu said...
re: calibration

If you know the temperature that water should boil at in your altitude, then when you calibrate, simply adjust the thermometer to read the appropriate temperature.

Also, calibrating to one known simply guarantees that at that particular temperature, the thermometer will report an accurate value. Usually, thermometers are calibrated to boiling, which is still pretty far from 135°F. Being able to calibrate to freezing as well, can fix any first-order inaccuracies in the thermometer.

On January 05, 2006 at 06:59 PM, drbiggles_repost (guest) said...
If you are opening and closing the oven door repeatedly to check the temperature of a roast or related, you're doing it wrong. You should be able to gauge the cooking time versus temperature guided by the weight of your meat. I usually check the temperature of the roast no more than twice, usually once. My cooking times have never gone up to 50% longer, that's just silly talk. If you open your oven door a few times and your chicken ends up taking 2 or 3 hours too cook, I would look in to a new range.
Even smoking pork ribs, it takes about 4 to 5 hours. Whether I open the door or not. It does not take my smoker 6 to 10 hours to smoke ribs because I open the door a half dozen times. Horse pucky.

On January 05, 2006 at 07:00 PM, lonetexan2 (guest) said...
Adam, I met another guy at a BBQ meet that had the Deltatrak thing from your link. It didn't come close to matching the speed of my Thermapen. I thought Thermapen fans were geeks till one let me try his in my ice water against a couple cheaper models I already had. Now I've got two Thermapens. Most guys tend to defend whatever they've bought and if you spent $30 I'll bet you're in the same boat. I thought the Thermapen guys were just propping up their own wisdom but check-it out, you'll be hooked. By the way, has a $14 model that is just as fast and accurate as that Deltatrak. But, I'd still pay for the Thermapen instead.

On January 05, 2006 at 07:00 PM, Andrew Pimlott (guest) said...
I like the discussion on this page, and want to ask about the other problem (besides speed) with thermistor probe thermometers: Every single model (see eg reviews) seems prone to going wildly out of calibration. Sometimes, this seems to be due to moisture or shock, but sometimes (in my own experience) it's random (dead on one day, reads 150 F at room temperature the next). I have not been able to find information about the cause of this problem. Can anyone explain?

Are there any reliable probe thermometers at a reasonable price? Looking at ThermoWorks's site, I can get a thermocouple unit plus an oven probe for a bit over $100. I wouldn't get the alarm, though. Has anyone tried this?

On January 05, 2006 at 07:01 PM, Horace Bixby (guest) said...
I have used several models of the Polder thermometers with the remote probe. I have also used and have several other brands. My experience using these for homebrewing and barbecue is that the accuracy falls off. I believe that the probe can become contaminated(sugar etc entering junction of probe and wire). They appear to start accurate but later appear inaccurate. Shrink tubing over junction appears to help. I usually turn on several of the thermometers at once then compare room temperature readings to a thermopen that I use and have found fast, accurate and a good household standard for comparison. I also have another thermocouple temperature meter that I use for reference also. My preference is the Thermopen. I wish there was a remote probe version of the Thermopen. My thermocouple meter has a remote probe and works well, but is a bit bulky.

On January 05, 2006 at 07:01 PM, Chef Anthony von Krag (guest) said...
One of the best investment thermometers at home is a Taylor oven model. I have NEVER in 46 years of cooking/baking seen a home oven be consistent in temp with in the entire volume. Just knowing what your oven does in differing spots takes a huge amount of guess work out of baking.

On January 05, 2006 at 07:02 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I haven't yet purchased a Thermopen, but I am getting ready to. I have used the Poulder for a while and agree with all you have said here about it, but I have found that it isn't terribly accurate. (At least mine isn't). I ruined more that a few steaks while the Poulder was fully inserted. Additionally, my wife got a second degree burn on her thumb when she was removing a roast and the wire slid up against her thumb.

No, I am done with "leave in" probes, and am ready to make the jum to a quality "super-fast read" thermometer.

On February 09, 2006 at 12:26 PM, david.mihola said...
Subject: How to calibrate the Thermapen?

since I am new here, first of all my congratulations for your great site!

I just purchased a ThermoWorks Thermapen and am now wondering how to recalibrate it myself - there are no buttons whatsoever on the thermometer and except for the calibration certificate there was no documentation inside the box.

It's not that I would need to recalibrate it now - I am just curious.

Anyway, any information would be appreciated.


On August 16, 2006 at 05:05 PM, an anonymous reader said...
i like the discussion here ... defintely understand the value of the thermopen, but the price has made me hesitate. a tip from Rose Beranbaum led me to check out the model by CDN - the ProAccurate:

(leaning towards the Q2-450 quick tip on a rope model).

it sells for $17, and Rose claims it is just a few seconds slower than the thermopen (in her words, the thermopen was not worth the extra $$$).

anyone else have experience with this? is it possible we finally have a reasonable, mid-level instant thermometer (anything taking more than 30 seconds is utterly useless in my mind).


On October 15, 2006 at 05:08 AM, murky (guest) said...
Subject: What makes the thermapen better than other thermocouples?
Its not clear from the review or responses, which thermometers use thermocouples and which do not.

What advantages does the Thermapen have over other thermocouple thermometers? Most if not all of the praise for it seems to be due to its fast response and accuracy attributable to the the fact that it uses the thermocouple.

On October 15, 2006 at 11:54 AM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: What makes the thermapen better than other thermocouples
murky wrote:
Its not clear from the review or responses, which thermometers use thermocouples and which do not.

Of the thermometers reviewed, only the Thermapen uses a thermocouple. All the other digital thermometers used a thermistor.

On October 31, 2006 at 01:13 PM, Quick Tip (guest) said...
Subject: New thermometer patents and filings
There's a company that has created technology and filed patents addressing thermometer issues we are all discussing here; SPEED, ACCURACY, CALIBRATION.

They have created a thermistor thermometer (Quick Tip), which reads from room temp into boiling water in 5-7 seconds (w/ 1/2 deg. accuracy), a self-calibrating thermometer circuit (SelfSet) and an cool feature call "TLC - Time Left to Cook) which shows estimated remaining time to achieve set temperature on a clock display. They are an OEM manufacturer for many of the known brands (CDN, Polder, et al). Check it out here -

On December 11, 2006 at 11:38 PM, lonetexan2 (guest) said...
Subject: Quicktip vs Thermapen
I tried one of the FOB quicktip units after reading a Cook's Illustrated review. They tested the same thing twice, one from each of two different brands. They have red tips and are clearly the same. Cook's found two very different response times and they still rated the Thermapen the best. The red stuff chipped off the tip of my probe and I found the thermistor was glued into the open end of the metal tube. I guess the idea was to make the thermistor faster by not covering it with metal. The problem is the red paint chips off. I think that water then got into the tip and it doesn't work anymore. Before the chipping happened I tested the FOB unit against my Thermapen in ice water. The Thermapen got to 32 in less than 3 seconds and the FOB thing took 10 seconds. I guess that difference won't matter to some but the chipping red stuff really bugs me.

On December 17, 2006 at 05:10 PM, otrpu said...
Subject: Need Polder User Manual
Hi, been too many years since I used it. Sorta forgot I even had it. Anyone know where I can find a user booklet for the Polder Digital Thermometer Timer? Looks like this one. . .
I use it for breadbaking. Can't attest to accuracy, but after a half hour I poke it in the loaf and leave it, then pull the bread out when it reads 200*F.


On December 18, 2006 at 04:45 AM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: Need Polder User Manual
otrpu wrote:
Hi, been too many years since I used it. Sorta forgot I even had it. Anyone know where I can find a user booklet for the Polder Digital Thermometer Timer?

Luckily, I own this very same thermometer and after digging through my instruction manuals in my filing cabinet for about five minutes, I found the "manual". It was just one sheet of paper.

Here's a scan of my paper in PDF format.

On January 29, 2007 at 11:20 AM, Richard (guest) said...
Subject: To lonetexan2 (guest) - Re: Quick Tip® vs. Thermapen?
It is curious that your response (lonetexan2) to "New thermometer patents and filings" was only to criticize discredit Quick Tip® Technology thermometers. You then compared it to and extolled the virtue of Thermapen - when Thermapen had never been mentioned.

I am in agreement with "chennes (guest)" posting on Jan 5, 2006:
Actually, it seems like most people who write up these thermometer comparisons stack the deck in favor of the Thermapen.

It appears that subsequent postings under different guest names or pseudonyms serve the same purpose.

The purpose of this board, I believe, is the discussion of [u:a691df0fdb]unbiased, substantiated[/u:a691df0fdb] test results, (like Michael Chiu's respectable efforts) and the exchange of authentic informaton. It should not be an arena for self-aggrandizement.

My purpose in posting previously was to inform this community about F.O.B. Instruments Ltd.'s developments in "thermometry".

I am part of the team which developed Quick Tip® Technology, selfset Calibraton™ (patented), TLC - Time Left To Cook/Cool™ and several other patent pending thermometer developments.

I look forward to participation on this board to gain the valuable and informed opinions of engineers who not only use, but understand cooking thermometers.

Are you connected with Thermapen; either as an employee, investor or paid blogger?

Respectfully submitted,

On February 10, 2007 at 11:33 AM, QUICKTIP (guest) said...
Subject: A Question About Response Time
Could anyone explain why the response time of a thermistor thermometer is considerably slower when placed in hot oil than when placed in boiling water?

On February 10, 2007 at 10:02 PM, David (guest) said...
Subject: Thermometers
I use several "instant read" thermometers, similar in size and shape to the cheaper thermapen. They will all read to 220 deg F or more (about 110 deg C). They go from Ambient to about 200 deg. in about 10 seconds. The stems are thin, and you can use a loop in the case to hold them over hot pots. Prices are from $4 to $10 US, so if I break them, no big deal.

The more expensive mechanical ones can be reset (re-zeroed), with a pot of boiling water (or ice water) and a pair of pliers.

One of mine has a long stem for use testing liquids. That one is usually about $30 at restaurant supply houses.

The only advantage I've seen to the small electronic ones is that some read to about 300 deg F, which makes them useful for candy making.

There is a type of infra-red thermometer coming on the market (sometimes called laser). You can use these to read hot surfaces, like a frying pan or grill. There are also mechanical grill thermometers that can be used on a frying pan or grill, but the infra red are nearly instantaneous, and easy to carry in a pocket (for my small one that reads to about 430 deg F)

On February 11, 2007 at 08:05 PM, EngineeringProfessor said...
Subject: Re: Equipment & Gear: Kitchen Thermometers
Cooking For Engineers wrote:
<link rel=stylesheet href="" type="text/css"><div class="goto">Go to Equipment & Gear: Kitchen Thermometers

My device of choice is my Extech "Pocket IR" infrared thermometer with laser locator. It is very easy, non-contact and accurate. I use for the following tasks:

>>>> Oil temp when making falafels or beignets,

>>>> Water temp when making white tea,

>>>> Pizza stone temp when making nan or pitas.

Of course, it is not useful for measuring internal temps of roasts, etc., but a fast read insertion thermometer works fine there.

I have not made any candy with it, but it would be perfect for soft ball, hard ball, hard crack, etc.

On August 15, 2007 at 04:22 PM, poppabear said...
Subject: IR + Probe Thermometer Sale + Low Cost Instant Thermometer
Thermoworks is having a special on their IR sensor with a free probe $99. I can't tell if it is their instant response probe. I don't know if I would use the IR sensor that much, but it looks like a larger display and it has a lot more bells and whistles than the Thermapen for only $15 more.

Cooking Illustrated recommended the CDN ProAccurate Quick Tip Cooking Thermometer DTQ450 ($17.95) as an inexpensive substitute for the Thermapen. Measures in 9 seconds rather than the Thermapen 4 seconds.

On October 02, 2007 at 04:39 AM, firezip99 (guest) said...
Subject: I tried CDN and I have a thermapen
I've got a CDN and my neighbor has one too. We've compared them side by side in ice water and got different speeds. BUT, they ARE faster than other cheap thermometers! I just got a thermapen though and its much faster than the CDN. Well, maybe I'm measuring gnat wings but the Thermapen is 3 seconds and my CDN is 9 seconds. That matters to me though. Thats 3 times slower for the CDN. (My neighbors CDN was a little slower. We can't see why.) I read the earlier posts and my CDN quicktip is not chipping. The one next door has chipped a little though. By the way, I thought about getting the thermoworks IR and probe deal. Its supposed to be the same technology in the probe as the thermapen. But, i like the one-handed use of the thermapen. So I got the IRGUN instead for $69 to add to my thermometer kit. Bottom line for me: CDN is cheaper than Thermapen but I like the Thermapen way better. The numbers are easier to read too.

On October 02, 2007 at 01:19 PM, GaryProtein said...
Subject: Re: IR + Probe Thermometer Sale + Low Cost Instant Thermomet
poppabear wrote:

These look like great deals.

On January 18, 2008 at 07:48 PM, Jay in Denver (guest) said...
Subject: Kitchen Thermometers
My hobby is Competition BBQ: The Denver Cajun BBQ Krewe.
We use and are happy with our Thermapens.
Our team is not sponsored by Thermoworks and I be the other 1800 teams in the Nation are not either; but most of them have one!
Accuracy is important; especially with Chicken; 180 Thighs, 160 Breasts.
For larger cuts such as Briskets, Pork Butts, Rib Roasts a regular probe with an alarm works well and much cheaper.
Thermoworks has a different model where multiple probes can be employed into several cuts of meat within the same smoker using an external connector that a monitoring unit can check the internal temp individually of each cut WITHOUT opening the door and letting the heat and smoke out.
In cooking: Knowing the External temp of a piece of meat is without value.
Maybe you don't have a smoker but I bet you have a grill! Undercook your chicken and send your guests to the hospital. Overcook? Why would they return?
A Thermapen might not be right for YOU depending on what you're cooking. I hope my reply helps.

On April 19, 2008 at 07:52 AM, LoraKay2 (guest) said...
Is the ThermoWorks RT-301 worth buying if I'm not ready to almost $100 in a cooking thermometer?

On April 24, 2008 at 07:05 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I've got a ThermoPen, a neat probe thermometer (also from Thermoworks), and an IR thermometer from MasterCool. The ThermoPen is the fastest of all of them, hands-down...but having to potentially come in contact with really hot stuff (if you're not careful) makes it rank second to the probe deal as far as usage. As an aside: not overcooked anything in the oven since I got the probe from Thermoworks, and that includes various steaks, lamb chops, standing rib roasts, stews, and others. It's God's gift to the kitchen-bound! I've not had any trouble at all with the leads sucking, even though I've been fairly rough with them on occasion as far as cleaning. Like the ThermoPen, it also came with calibration documents.

The IR thermometer is a neat gadget, too. It's great for determining the temperature of oil for frying or the temp of scalding milk after a good stir...and the laser pointer is great for entertaining the dog ;)

On November 30, 2008 at 08:18 AM, an anonymous reader said...
"The Taylor dial thermometer was so slow that I was afraid that my gloves would start getting too hot for me to hold the thermometer. Its thick probe also makes it useless except for large roasts, except you'll need to open the oven door for a full minute before you could guess if your roast was between medium-rare or medium."

I have to agree with the criticism of the above. Typical: An oven underneath a range, with light bulb inside and a glass door cooking say a turkey or a chicken. The rack will be low to fit the turkey inside making bending way over with a probe just enough of a nuisance to discourage regular monitoring. A simple Taylor dial will continuously display a rough estimate reading representing reality about 1 minute in the past, but is light years easier to read often. I would say start with the Taylor dial and use an upscale model if you have the time and need for more precision. I use the simple Taylor way more often than my other better one. For steaks its another matter of course.

On December 04, 2008 at 12:27 AM, CALMOM (guest) said...
Subject: Projectile Thermometer
I was standing in front of my oven Thanksgiving day, while the turkey was in the oven roasting, complete with Good Cook thermometer inserted properly. I was stirring the gravy on the cooktop and all of a sudden a very loud noise emanated from my oven. I stepped back very qucikly, looked to see that the oven door hadn't blown open and that there weren't any flames shooting out from the oven.
I turned the oven off and opened the oven door. The meat thermometer had blown out of the turkey, had either hit the oven wall or ceiling and had landed upside down, intact, in the roasting pan.
Does anybody have a thought ot two as to what might have caused this? I have thought of several. Meat thermometers turning into projectiles are definitely not my specialty or my next favorite thing.
Your comments, input, would certainly be welcome. This is my first experience with flying thermometers and I have been cooking for 50 plus years.

On January 03, 2009 at 09:08 PM, Double M.Sc. Engineer (guest) said...
Subject: Digital dual meat probe AND oven thermometer!
No I don't work for these guys, but I have been looking for something like this for awhile; this looks much better than the analog Polder model that requires you to peer through your oven window to see the temperatures....

Maverick ET-85 Dual Sensor Digital Meat and Oven Thermometer

This is reeking of awesomeness... have a measurement OUTSIDE your oven, of your meat (or bread or whatever) AND your oven temperature at the same time. The Maverick ET-85 will beep if the oven temperature exceeds your setting, when the meat has reached the desired temperature...

And it's cheap too...
Regular price: $39.95Sale price: $28.95

Let me know if anyone finds something better.

On January 04, 2009 at 12:43 PM, kelly said...
Subject: Re: Digital dual meat probe AND oven thermometer!
Sur La Table carries these as well... i just ordered one as I was getting a new toaster oven and picked up a couple knickknacks. have a thermapen too but something you could just look at on the counter would be kind of nice. I'll post a little review once i use it.

Double M.Sc. Engineer wrote:
No I don't work for these guys, but I have been looking for something like this for awhile; this looks much better than the analog Polder model that requires you to peer through your oven window to see the temperatures....

Maverick ET-85 Dual Sensor Digital Meat and Oven Thermometer


Let me know if anyone finds something better.

On January 11, 2009 at 02:34 PM, mick (guest) said...
Subject: Comark Industrial Thermometers
Does anyone have an opinion about Comark (division of Fluke) digital thermometers?
See, for example, this:|2_63||0|10|2|0|0

They are not cheap, run between $100 and $200 at
Supposedly built for industrial abuse.

Are they worth extra money?

On January 11, 2009 at 03:43 PM, Dilbert said...
in a worth, no.

you can get 4-6 probe digitals for that kind of money; and few home kitchens need to measure -200C to +400C.

you know, I'd take the Ferrari to the grocery store, but the trunk is too small....

On January 22, 2009 at 11:10 PM, guest (guest) said...
Subject: use lab-grade thermometers!
I'm surprised more people don't use laboratory thermometers.

VWR sells a fully-stainless digital thermometer with a foot-long stainless needle probe. certified ANSI accuracy +/- 0.1ºC, and capable of temperature fanged up to 500ºF (*perfect as a candy thermometer)

the yellow 'lollipop' version is quite affordable ($20) and a VWR will ship to residential addresses (pick up some beakers while you're at it, eh?)

On April 18, 2009 at 12:22 AM, firezip99 (guest) said...
Subject: Thermapen price reduction?
A few weeks ago thermoworks had a $69 private sale on the Thermapen (normally $89) - I got an email. It wasn't on their website though. It expired now. I called today and the rep on the phone said he couldn't give the price anymore but that if I could wait a few days there would be another offer on the thermoworks website. He said it wouldn't be as low though. I'm wondering if the special pricing might mean a new model on the horizon?

On July 18, 2009 at 04:40 PM, michal (guest) said...
Well, a new splash-proof super-fast model is now featured on the ThermoWorks site.
The specifications include Range (-58.0°F to 572.0°F) and Operating Range (-4 to 122°F), and i was wondering whether someone could kindly clarify what the difference between the two is.
It is priced at $96, whereas the original is now sold for only $74 (but is not splash-proof). Which leads to my next question, how can it be immersed in liquid, while not splash-proof?

On July 18, 2009 at 06:04 PM, Michael Chu said...
michal wrote:
Well, a new splash-proof super-fast model is now featured on the ThermoWorks site.
The specifications include Range (-58.0°F to 572.0°F) and Operating Range (-4 to 122°F), and i was wondering whether someone could kindly clarify what the difference between the two is.
It is priced at $96, whereas the original is now sold for only $74 (but is not splash-proof). Which leads to my next question, how can it be immersed in liquid, while not splash-proof?

I believe the operating range refers to what temperature the device will work in (the entire device). The range is what range it can measure (the tip of the probe). For example, you can measure temperatures well below freezing, but you can't freeze the whole thermometer.

The original is not splash proof and cannot be immersed in liquid. The probe of course can be.

On July 19, 2009 at 01:31 PM, michal (guest) said...
I believe the operating range refers to what temperature the device will work in (the entire device). The range is what range it can measure (the tip of the probe). For example, you can measure temperatures well below freezing, but you can't freeze the whole thermometer.

The original is not splash proof and cannot be immersed in liquid. The probe of course can be.

Thank you, Michael, for your kind reply.
The reason for my asking is that i'm not sure which one i should get. It's not a huge price difference, but i'm just confused about the new "splash-proof" feature, and whether it's worth the extra $22, since the $74 model, i.e., "the original", is the probe you tested, submerged in water...

On December 25, 2009 at 06:08 PM, dhcable (guest) said...
Subject: cooking thermometers probes
I think I want A probe thermometer w/cord so as not to open oven door but, for the life of me I can't understand you saying the PROBE can read between -4 and 122F only. I want to cook my bird to 161F. Thanx

On December 26, 2009 at 12:39 AM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: cooking thermometers probes
dhcable wrote:
I think I want A probe thermometer w/cord so as not to open oven door but, for the life of me I can't understand you saying the PROBE can read between -4 and 122F only. I want to cook my bird to 161F. Thanx

The Thermapen is an instant read thermometer. Try a probe thermometer like the Polder. Sticking a Thermapen in the oven and letting it heat up is a sure way to kill a $90 piece of equipment.

On January 17, 2010 at 11:21 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Probe thermometers: Polder vs. Maverick vs. VWR labs
I'm about fed up with my Polder's probe dying out on me a little too frequently (shouldn't I get more than a year out of a probe?). Looking around led me here. I think one of my problems with the Polder is that I've been running the temperature too high on it -- I've got a number of recipes that call for a 450F oven, and that may be what is killing it (it's rated to only 400, no?)

The Maverick ET-85 mentioned above looks more serious -- up to 536F would definitely cover all my cooking needs (even a paella, should I need to measure that one).

Another poster mentioned VWR Labs, and I have to confess that the VWR Alarm Thermometer looks like it would cover my needs as well -- in a slightly more serious packaging.

If I'm ready for a serious thermometer, should I be giving up on the Polder? The probes seem to give up the ghost a little too easily, and I wonder if I shouldn't be looking at a brand that can tolerate the temperatures that I seem to use on occasion (and one that would stand up to strong washing would be nice, too -- Polder cautions about that, if I remember the brochure accurately).

Any advice is appreciated (though I finally found replacement probes on Amazon, and am considering stocking up on a couple)

-- Tom

On March 04, 2010 at 12:17 AM, an anonymous reader said...
You may find this site of interest. They recommend calibrating a thermometer using a crushed/ice slurry. This link provides further information by two experts in the field of, a) food safety and b) the hospitality industry.

You may also find the following pdf interesting to read. The information on callibration starts on page 4.

On March 04, 2010 at 12:18 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Re callibration

That pdf link would be

On September 08, 2010 at 07:15 AM, gtpnet (guest) said...
Subject: thermometer
I stumbled on a site on Thermometers , and I find it so cool. But I wonder, is this good for cooking too? Thanks for this post.

On September 08, 2010 at 04:39 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: thermometer
gtpnet wrote:
I stumbled on a site on Thermometers , and I find it so cool. But I wonder, is this good for cooking too? Thanks for this post.

These are IR thermometers which measure the surface temperature. They are quite useful, but not very good at telling if meat is done since they only measure the surface temperature. I use IR thermometers to measure how hot my pans are, water temp (surface), etc whenever I need a quick reading that doesn't need to be totally accurate.

On May 30, 2011 at 04:30 AM, Osstabo said...
Subject: Re: thermometer
Michael Chu wrote:
gtpnet wrote:
I stumbled on a site on Thermometers , and I find it so cool. But I wonder, is this good for cooking too? Thanks for this post.

These are IR thermometers which measure the surface temperature. They are quite useful, but not very good at telling if meat is done since they only measure the surface temperature. I use IR thermometers to measure how hot my pans are, water temp (surface), etc whenever I need a quick reading that doesn't need to be totally accurate.

Good idea! Thought I have been surprised by author, I have never done that, go home and try it. thanks!

On May 30, 2011 at 04:56 AM, Osstabo said...
Dilbert wrote:
in a worth, no.

you can get 4-6 probe digitals for that kind of money; and few home kitchens need to measure -200C to +400C.

you know, I'd take the Ferrari to the grocery store, but the trunk is too small....

Thank for Dilbert! I am looking for it, but i don't know to buy what kinds of thermometers.


On November 28, 2012 at 01:44 PM, Michael Chu said...
Starting this year (2012), Thermoworks started an affiliate program and I've signed up. Now, if you buy anything from them through one of my links, a percentage of the sale will go towards the upkeep of this site! [Please note that this review was written 7 years before any affiliate relationship. I've tried a lot of thermometers and whole-heartedly believe the Thermapen is still the best kitchen thermometer available. If I find something that works better, Cooking For Engineers readers will be the first to know!]

On November 29, 2012 at 11:24 AM, Jim Cooley said...
Why not post a link right here to the cheapest/best value Thermapen you'd recommend? I"m not going to spend $100; but something on the order or $10-$20 bucks might just spur an impulse buy...

On November 29, 2012 at 02:08 PM, Dilbert said...
Thermapen is pretty much "the best you can buy" - and they know it.

I've never seen them in the $10-20 range.
I bought a digital when visiting the CIA in NY - paid about $20 for it; glad I didn't pay more.

sometime back they were selling off the beige/light brown ugly color at a decent discount (explained as "it's ugly, nobody wants this color, here's the color cheep) - tried to buy some but could not manage to navigate their site.

my standby is a dial analog Weston model 2261 - it has an 8" probe.
works like splendid for poultry and big roasts. it hasn't lost calibration in 20 years+, then again, it's not tossed / kept in the junk drawer - I drilled a hole in my knife block to keep it handy and properly cared for.

for some oddball reason I actually prefer the analog "see how fast the needle moves" in judging "is it soup yet?" and, put bluntly, the slower response of the analog eliminates the flashing number display making one wonder - gosh, what is the real temp....? the long probe is especially useful for sticking it in and then withdrawing it to check the "depth of temp profile" - a curious solution to the "did I hit a bone?" situation.

On November 30, 2012 at 12:36 AM, Jim Cooley said...
I was just thinking if Thermapens were in the $10-$20 range it might be fun to play with one as you have done.

I guess I'll stick with my (runs to check model #) Weston 2261!

Do great chefs cook alike? :D

On October 01, 2014 at 01:26 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Comark PDT300 as a cheaper alternate
I took a cheesemaking class and the instructor was using a Comark PDT300 digital thermometer. It worked well in class so I bought one from Amazon for less than $20. Read time is about 5-7 seconds. Not as good as the Thermopen but great for the price. It also has the advantage of being waterproof. Handles temps from -58 to +300 so it can't be used for frying.

On November 21, 2014 at 06:27 PM, an anonymous reader said...
My grill themometer go hot and leak out it's not mercury I don't think cause the metal is hard so I'm thinking it's a sodder anyone know if mercury would b use in a grill dial thermometer

On June 22, 2015 at 04:36 PM, Christopher Hale (guest) said...
Infrared thermometers have migrated from the cold depths of the garage and workshops to find themselves as an indispensable part of the cooking process. They take all the guesswork out of the cooking process and will give us more time doing other important things, like eating and breathing.

On June 23, 2015 at 12:25 PM, Dilbert said...
IR devices measure only a surface temperature.

they are not of any use when cooking - for example - a roast to a desired internal temp.

if you do not have a probe type thermometer for internal temps, a IR is not a useable substitute.

On December 13, 2016 at 11:08 AM, naj (guest) said...
Subject: IR thermometers
I am looking for a review of an IR laser thermometer used for candy making. My old "clip on" candy thermometer has to be replaced, and I would like a multi-task thermometer we can also use outside the kitchen. Our query is this - will the IR laser thermometer accurately measure the different stages of syrup for candy making? Anyone tried this before?

On December 13, 2016 at 11:51 AM, Dilbert said...
have not tried it with candy making, but I have worked with IR temp devices in other uses.

I suspect you will encounter two problems:

to be reasonably accurate IR thermometers must be calibrated to the "emissivity" of what you are pointed at. this will change with every pot, light candy, dark candy, etc.

even when calibrated, their accuracy is not the greatest - the plus/minus reading may well be greater than the temperature range you need to measure for various sugar stages.

On January 30, 2018 at 05:33 AM, Simon (guest) said...
Subject: Thermapen
I own the Thermapen MK4 and it was one of the best investments in my home kitchen. Before that I had used a cheaper thermometer but it always took ages until it settled for a correct temperature. Especially when the temperature was changing that was a big problem. I've also used a cheap chinese thermocouple (20 dollars on Amazon) which actually worked quite well! But with the cables it wasn't very practical.
A tip for all Thermapen users: in almost no case there's a need to have the temperature to 1/10 of 1 Fahrenheit. It's easy to change the setting to show whole numbers and the Thermapen will work even faster.

Best regards from Germany,

Simon from

On March 17, 2018 at 01:31 AM, John Sellers (guest) said...
Subject: Thermapen
The Thermapen is the BEST way to go. I have used one for years.

1) The sensing area is only the last 1/8 of an inch of the tip.
2) It takes a reading in 3 seconds.
3) It is accurately calibrated and comes with a certificate of performance within about 1 degree at 32 degrees and 212 degrees.
4) The battery lasts for thousands of hours.

I can put a steak in the pan and check near the top surface, near the bottom surface, and in the middle in about 10 or 15 seconds. Often this informs me if one side is too hot relative to the other side so I know when to flip it.

On any number occasions I have had more than one item in the pan which look exactly the same, and determine that one is done and the other needs to cook a little more.

There are many other cases that I find it very useful. I use it all the time, and also buy ones for gifts, which I might add are appreciated more than most gifts.

Also they are always improving the device. It now has back lighting control by whether there is not enough light to see if well, and the display rotates to vertical or sideways depending on the orientation of the device. It also goes to sleep when you set it down and wakes up when you pick it up, unless your turn it off by closing it.

The newest version which recently came out also has a build in infrared sensor for remote measuring of temperature.

There is no device that is better!

About CfE Contact User Agreement Privacy Policy FAQ's In the Press Write for CfE