Is the Thermapen worth the money? The Price of Safe BBQ


The world of barbeque is already wrought with millions of expenses. You have to buy a grill, you have to buy a smoker, you have to spices, you have to buy the wood–and let’s not forget the meat. And after all these costs, is it really worth it to buy an expensive Thermapen (the cost can range from fifty to one-hundred dollars), when you can just get a four-dollar meat thermometer off of Amazon?

Yes, the higher-end meat thermometers are worth the extra cost. They are extremely high quality, they are instant-read, and they can even be calibrated. Even if they don’t work as expected, they are backed up with a warranty from the Thermapen company.

There are many types of cooking thermometers, but the Thermapen is the best option. It makes sure your meat is cooked all the way through, which keeps you from wasting money on improperly cooked food, and it keeps a happy meal from turning into a feast of food poisoning.

Risks of going without a meat thermometer

Raw meat is a hotbed for food poisoning, almost like an edible petri dish. According to the CDC, you should never eat raw or undercooked meat (which, you probably already knew) because raw poultry contains Campylobacter, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and plenty other microorganisms that cause nasty food poisoning diseases. Other raw meat (like beef or pork) might be home to cultures of Salmonella, E. Coli, Yersinia, not to mention Trichinella worms.

But still, not everyone uses cooking thermometers. The main argument usually is: “Why should I? I’ve gotten along just fine cooking my food without knowing the exact temperature, so why should I spend money on fifty dollar meat thermometer if I can tell by the smell if it’s done?” As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Great question. But the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) addresses this problem directly. And according to them, the only way to truly get rid of these disease breeders is by “cooking poultry and meat to a safe internal temperature,” but even the most advanced pitmaster “can’t tell if meat is properly cooked by looking at its color or juices.”

So, in order to protect yourself from a colony of little Trichinella worms from starting their own cult in your stomach, it’s best to use a cooking thermometer. And, luckily for you, the Thermapen does more than just keep you from getting sick.

Added Benefits of Thermapen

Getting a cooking thermometer is a good idea and all, but why should you fork out half of a Benjamin Franklin in order to get one? Why buy the Thermapen; why not get something cheaper?

One reason can be boiled down to one word: thermocouple. Most thermometers use what’s called a thermistor as their internal technology that measures the heat of the food with a temperature range of -50 to 250 degrees Celcius. But the thermocouple is a different kind of technology that has a much wider range of temperatures it can measure, from -200 to 1750 degrees Celcius. Your Thermapen can measure anything, and we mean anything. It won’t break if you try to measure hot sugar, which can get really hot, so it can certainly stand the heat of a brisket that’s been cooking all day long. There are pros and cons to each type of technology, but generally speaking, Thermapens are a great choice.

They’re certainly a better choice than the dollar thermometers. Those kinds of thermometers might seem to be working great until they’re jostled around a little bit too hard in the drawer or dropped from the counter, and all of the sudden, they’re not accurate anymore. Only, you won’t know that your trusty 0.99 cent thermometer isn’t accurate until you cook a turkey for Thanksgiving, and suddenly, your entire family is sick with food poisoning when everyone should be enjoying the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special and afternoon football.

Thermapens also take the temperature immediately after being stuck in the food, whether it be pork or turkey or caramelized sugar. They have a very thin probe (which means that there won’t be a huge hole right in the middle of your food), and they don’t have to be stuck in very far to read the accurate temperature. These are designed for quick, healthy cooking, so the meat won’t lose heat from being out of the oven for too long.

Not only can these babies prevent undercooking, but they can also prevent overcooking. Imagine slaving away all day on a Thanksgiving turkey, only to end up with a turkey that has the texture of Velcro in your mouth. Dry turkey isn’t easy to live down, especially if the family’s been waiting all day to stuff themselves on the sweet, sweet, tryptophan. It would be a bummer to overcook your turkey, to say the least. Although, if you do end up ruining it, then maybe they’ll never ask you to cook the Thanksgiving turkey again, which could be an upside.

The reason that the Thermapen is so expensive is because, according to a review site, it’s the “fastest and most accurate instant-read thermometer we tested.” Being accurate is a huge plus; actually, it’s the whole point of thermometers in the first place. Certain foods need to be cooked at very specific temperature ranges in order to avoid being undercooked, overcooked, and to make sure it comes out delicious. And if you want your brisket to come out right and taste the best going down, this is the best option overall.

Other Options

ThermoWorks (the company behind the Thermapen) doesn’t just make the Thermapen. They have a bunch of different options for cooking thermometers, and some of them are cheaper than others.

There are plenty of options, like the ThermoPop (ranging at around thirty-five USD), the ThermoWorks Dot (around forty-three USD), the ChefAlarm (sixty-four USD), and even the LavaTools Javelin Pro Duo, which is made by an entirely different company (fifty-six USD).

But, when it comes right down to it, the best option is the Thermapen. It’s worth every penny, and if you want your smoky brisket coming out juicy, but still with a thick, crispy bark, then just bite the bullet and buy the more expensive one. Your BBQ is probably already great, but it’ll get even better when you’ve got a trusty Thermapen on your side.

Mike Greenly

I'm a big fan of outdoor cooking and try to BBQ any chance I get. My family loves the results just as much as I do so I try to keep up on the latest methods, tips, and tricks to make sure I'm keeping them happy! :)

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