In this multi-part series we talk about the best grilling tools out there for men. Grilling is sacred ground, where one hones his skill in the ancient tradition of cooking over a fire. Gone are the days of rocks and sticks to prepare our meal, but the tradition of grilling lives on.
Our ancestors developed the method of cooking over fire. Surely there were few chosen ones that could detect the perfect time when their meat was ready to be devoured by the tribe. Today, that gene lives on in few men. For the rest of us lusting after grill master status, we could use a little help from modern technology. A meat thermometer is essential to make sure you serve a deliciously cooked steak, and not beef jerky.
The ThermoWorks ThermoPop has changed the game in meat thermometers. While it serves as a great meat thermometer on the grill, it is versatile and useful with other types of cooking. It has a temperature range from -58F to 572F allowing you to use it for types of cooking including freezing and deep frying. The accuracy of the ThermoPop is guaranteed to 2F +/- which means you can be sure the internal temperature is actually what it displays. With a back lit screen, the ThermoPop is great for those all day smokers who start, and end, with no sunlight left. Before you scoff at the price and run down to the local discount store for a $9 analog thermometer, consider how much money you will spend on chicken, steak, ribs and various other cuts of meats over the next few years.Do you really want to cheap out on an investment that ensures proper cooking of your favorite cuts?
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Although there are less precise ways of determining the doneness of steak or pork chops, for best accuracy you’ll want a thermometer. When asked, both of our experts agreed that the only real way to tell if your meat is cooked is by checking the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Based on dozen of hours of research and testing for our guide to instant-read thermometers—as well as the input of our grilling experts—we highly recommend the $30 ThermoWorks ThermoPop Digital Thermometer.
Cheaper thermometers take 10, 15, or even 20 seconds to take accurate readings, but the ThermoPop gets you there in seven or less. Its probe is so precise that it reads within two degrees Fahrenheit up to 248°F, and within four degrees up to 572°F—high enough for anything you’ll cook on your grill or in your kitchen. That accuracy is due to the thermocouple sensor inside the long, thin probe. Generally, you’d have to spend at least twice the price for a thermocouple sensor, as you would for the much-revered $96 Thermapen. Cheaper models are nowhere near as accurate because they don’t have this technology. So the ThermoPop strikes a great balance of performance and price.
The ThermoPop is particularly suited for outdoor cooking, thanks to its large, brightly-lit LCD display that’s easy to read in the dark. The numbers on the screen rotate with the push of a button, so you can take readings from any angle. It’s highly rated for dirt and water resistance with an IP66 rating. Most instant-read thermometers have IP65 ratings, meaning they’re less water resistant. Should anything go wrong with the hardware, the ThermoPop is protected by a one-year limited warranty.
As an added bonus, the ThermoPop comes with a laminated guide to cooking temperatures. The guide (PDF link) covers every level of doneness for beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and seafood.
A lot of trusted sources love the ThermoPop. J. Kenji López-Alt, managing culinary director of food site Serious Eats, wrote it up as “the best inexpensive thermometer on the market.” A Newsweek reviewer found the ThermoPop “no sloppy seconds” and “a bargain at that price.” Good Housekeeping tested the ThermoPop for a travel cooking gear round-up, citing it as “super accurate.” Many cooking, (fancy) coffee, and barbecue blogs also endorse the ThermoPop, though most were also provided free models as part of an outreach program. And with 258 reviews as of this writing, the ThermoPop is averaging a 4.8-star Amazon rating.
If you’d prefer a probe thermometer for slow-cooking roasts like brisket, we like the ThermoWorks Chef Alarm ($59). It’s not cheap, but the probe and cord will withstand up to 700° (most probe thermometers only withstand up to 400°). It has an IP65 rating, so it’s slightly less water-resistant than the ThermoPop. We’ve been longterm testing the Chef Alarm, using it roughly once a week for the past year, and it’s proven very durable. It receives 4.8 average stars over 424 Amazon user reviews.
Our previous pick, the $16 ThermoWorks RT600C, came recommended by, among others, Buffalo chef James D. Roberts, who bumps things and can’t afford to break a $100 thermometer; serious barbecue nerd Chuck Falzone; and Cook’s Illustrated, in a tie with the CDN DTQ450X. Its thin probe is useful, as are the splash-proof buttons. Negatives: The range is only to 302° Fahrenheit, the automatic shut-off is at one hour, and it lacks a clip to protect or pocket the probe.