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Fat Guy

Thermometer trust issues

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Why wouldn't the wire probe work as an oven probe? 

I believe it's just a wire without a needle.

Given the high cost of meat it seems reasonable to pay $75 or so to insure getting a steak just right.

If it's necessary to spend $89 to get a steak done just right, then it's worth it. If you can spend less for a solution that's just as effective, then it's not worth $89. I'm having a hard time believing that the Thermapen is sui generis and can't be replaced by something cheaper. Maybe I'm wrong.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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IMO the value of something like the Thermapen would depend greatly on a conbination of three factors: First, the extent to which something offering reasonably similar performance and convenience can be had for a significantly lower price. Second, whether you perform any cooking tasks that rely greatly upon the fast response time and accuracy offered by the Thermapen. And Third, how often you like to use a themperature probe in cooking.

If, for example, you cannot get a convenient single-hand small temperature probe for significantly less than the Thermapen, and you like to use a temperature probe on a multiple-times-a-day basis, shelling out a hundred bucks for a Thermapen strikes me as money well spent. On the other hand, if you only use a temperature probe a couple of times a month, and/or you don't mind the inconvenience of taking temperature readings via a needle connected to a box with a wire, then you can find satisfiaction at a much lower price point. There is, of course, an almost infinite number of individual considerations relating to these three factors.

One thing that seems somewhat clear is that, if you would like ~1 second response time, resolution to 0.1C and a convenient all-in-one-hand design, the Thermapen may be the only game in town.


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This Comark P250 thing with a street price of $99 has 0.1° resolution and a similar design to the Thermapen (fold-out needle, one-handed operation). I don't know about its response time, though. There are models from a couple of other companies that I was able to find that have similar stats, like the Taylor 9405. Those aren't cheaper than the Thermapen, but they indicate the possibility of other options. We should also just note for those who haven't studied all the models carefully that the regular Thermapen doesn't have 0.1° resolution -- only the "high-accuracy" (which I believe is a misnomer given that it refers to precision not accuracy?) models do.


Edited by Fat Guy (log)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I'm home, looking at my pen-style digital thermometer. I was going to take photos of it, but here it is without my having to shoot, download, post, etc: Taylor TruTemp 3519N Digital Pen-style Thermometer. (The model in question is well down the page; keep scrolling.) I paid less than $20 for it, possibly at Target. The range is -40/+450F or -40/+230C, and you can switch scales with the press of a button. As I noted above, this came up to temperature within 5 seconds and was within 1 degree of the temperature it should have been at freezing and boiling water temperatures. The readout is to 0.1 degree. I don't know whether it's accurate enough to justify that precision. I know my cooking isn't precise to the tenth of a degree.

There's a clip on the back so this will clip to a pocket, much as a pen would. The sheath has to be pulled off using two hands, at least by my hands, in order to put the probe in meat. (The sheath has holes to allow air or water to pass through, so fluids can be measured without removing the sheath. It would be a pain to clean that part later, however.) As much as I love gadgets, I can't see myself spending almost 5 times as much for something that I can unfold with one hand. This is easily good enough for me, given my usage patterns and non-pro status.


Edited by Smithy (log)

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

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In the fwiw department...

In my smoker I use a Nu-Temp 701 with three remotes; one for grate temp and two for meats. I don't know about absolute accuracy and these aren't fast-reading, but for the usage a ballpark reading is sufficient. They'll work in an ordinary oven too.

BTW, as I found when I nuked a probe, higher-temp replacement probes are available for a quite reasonable price.

I've been known to take the receiver in the golf cart (we live in a small community) and do drive-by readings from the Big Green Egg. <g>

The Thermapen...it might be sealed with no switches because it'll probably be handled by wet hands, left in the rain, perhaps even dropped in liquid. Just my speculation, but I've done all three.

The big Nu-Temp probes will definitely conduct heat into the solid (meat), unduly reading a higher temp than in a nearby area; the difference isn't huge but it's at least several degrees F. But if I'm looking for 145F that's what I want, not an actual 140F overall...so when I get the temp I want I have to move the probe to a new spot, invariably finding a lower temp. The Thermapen of course gives a reading right now, but it's not remote, and as the saying goes, if you're lookin' you ain't cookin'.

I first got into this running a photolab years ago; the affordable (a couple hundred dollars vs several thousand dollars) would read in tenths of a degree C or F, but the accuracy was +/- 3F or so and that wasn't remotely good enough; one could either carry on and adjust the process to accomodate the inaccurate therm (uncool) or just continue using the mercury Kodak Process Thermometer which came with certified and warranteed accuracy.

At any rate, we're not building rockets here. These things are convenience tools; we could all wing it without any thermometers at all. However, a convenience tool that's seriously inaccurate isn't much of a convenience, right?

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This Comark P250 thing with a street price of $99 has 0.1° resolution and a similar design to the Thermapen (fold-out needle, one-handed operation). I don't know about its response time, though. There are models from a couple of other companies that I was able to find that have similar stats, like the Taylor 9405. Those aren't cheaper than the Thermapen, but they indicate the possibility of other options.

Right. I suppose I should have said: the Thermapen or other similarly designed and priced options. (The Comark uses a T-type thermocouple whereas the Thermapen uses a K-type. I have no idea whether or how this might make a difference.)

We should also just note for those who haven't studied all the models carefully that the regular Thermapen doesn't have 0.1° resolution -- only the "high-accuracy" (which I believe is a misnomer given that it refers to precision not accuracy?) models do.

The "high accuracy" Thermapen has not only finer resolution, but also better accuracy. The regular Thermapen has accuracy ±1% ±1 digit; the high-accuracy Thermapen has accuracy ±0.8F/0.4C ±1 digit.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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The big Nu-Temp probes will definitely conduct heat into the solid (meat), unduly reading a higher temp than in a nearby area; the difference isn't huge but it's at least several degrees F. But if I'm looking for 145F that's what I want, not an actual 140F overall...so when I get the temp I want I have to move the probe to a new spot, invariably finding a lower temp.

This sort of thing is fascinating to me. No matter how accurate, no matter how precise, the presence of the thermometer itself throws off the reading. Talk about the observer affecting the observed!


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This is one reason it's nice to have a very thin probe. Not only will the thermocouple react more rapidly, but the thermal capacity of the probe will be lower.

In terms of probes conducting thermal energy into the food, this is of course only a concern when one is using a probe that stays inside the meat while it is cooking. In these situations, a leave-in probe can function much like those aluminum potato nails, conducting heat into the surrounding food. When using a hand-held probe, the effect is just the opposite: the food conducts heat into the probe. This is what enables the thermocouple to gauge the temperature, however, so that's okay. The probe isn't in the food long enough to make a significant difference as to thermal energy in the food, and any temperature effect created by a disequlibrium of temperature will be far below the sensitivity of the thermometer.


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What about something like this?

http://www.amazon.com/Bonjour-Laser-Probe-...r/dp/B000JLM6IO

Has both a probe and an infrared thermometer. Looks like Fluke also makes something similar and maybe a little more professional.

http://www.amazon.com/Fluke-Raytek-FoodPro...r/dp/B0006VHWMC

The Bonjour seems to read higher temps, though, which could be nice for grilling situations.

I have no idea how quick these are though. Has anyone used either of them?

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So, I must say, the Comark P250 is pretty cool. Now I have to borrow a Thermapen, and maybe a cheaper thermometer, and do some comparisons.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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For an oven thermometer that might be able to accommodate expansion, I found this cheap thermocouple thermometer for $19.95 on eBay. The vendor has 36 more of the units available if anybody wants one. I should have it soon and will report whether it works.

Okay, now this is pretty amazing. I bought this thing thinking there was a good chance it would wind up in the garbage. Instead, it turns out to be a surprisingly responsive and accurate device. The sampling rate is 2 x per second, and the included probe (which is a bead probe, not a needle probe -- I'm still waiting for the needle probe) is very fast. I've attached a 7-second video here where I stick the thing into a pot of boiling water. You can see the response time is almost instantaneous -- it goes from the ambient temperature near the pot (I was holding it above the pot so I could make a quick video) to an exact 212 degrees F in maybe 1 second. This is from a $19.95 thermocouple with the included probe. It takes any type-K probe. And it even comes with a totally usable, if a bit ugly, aquamarine zippered carrying case with a belt loop.

thermocouple.mpg


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Oh man, I would've never believed it without the movie -- that thing is pretty damn quick! I'd say my Thermapen is only a fraction of second faster, but we all know how much more it costs.

May have to hit eBay...


So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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Best part of the thermopen or any other fast-read thermometer: you can put it into the meat-under-scrutiny and it'll stablize quickly. You can then move it up and down to find the lowest temp. By doing this, you've effectively removed the "placement" issue.

When cooking a roast (usually cylindrical shaped), I only have to insert near the middle and work it up/down once. If I'm cooking a bird, then I check both breasts for doneness. The dark meat gets checked when the white is done.

I have to admit that before I started using the thermopen, my meat cooking was ok but a little random. And I hate hate hate overcooked meat (esp pork). A few years ago, my wife got me a thermopen for the bbq and I rarely overcook anything anymore. Steaks are perfectly MR. Pork (or what we call pork today) is still tasty and juicy. No dry turkey breasts.

Is the 'pen expensive? Yes. Was it worth it in food goodness to pick it up? Yes. Could I have found or jury-rigged something to work just as well? Yes. But I'd rather be cooking/eating :biggrin:

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So the cheapo thermocouple unit is thus far exceeding expectations in every way. The Comark P250, however, while a cool-seeming device, has failed all the basic tests and has been returned to the seller. Still considering my options, but the Thermapen seems more compelling every day.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Hey, all the cool Thermapen colors only come in F. If I'm not mistaken, the only one that comes in C is the ugly gray one. What's up with that?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I would contact Thermoworks U.S. about a special order, because I know they do exist...


So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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I decided to give the thermometers a bath today. Here are the culprits:

gallery_19804_437_25067.jpg

That's a Taylor dial thermometer (limit 220F), a Pyrex candy/oil thermometer (limit 400F) and a Maverick Redi-Chek thermometer (limit 410F). Because I had another wire and probe from a previous Maverick whose sensor fell into a stock pot, I tested that too.

I had suspected that the Taylor was low by 3F based on some previous use over in the Cocktail Temperature topic. That checked out here as well, as it read 209F. It was also speedier than I had expected, getting there in about 10-12 seconds each time. Not instant-read, by any stretch.

The Pyrex thermometer was accurate, as far as I could tell, going to what looked like 212F/100C (it has both scales). The thing clouded up on the inside and water beaded on the outside, however, and the scale was not very fine. But here's the thing: it took over a minute to get to 212F. Yikes.

Next was the Maverick. The probe seen above was spot-on and about as quick as the Taylor, 10-12 seconds. And then there was the other probe from a previous thermometer:

gallery_19804_437_156633.jpg

Yes, that says "248."


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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For an oven thermometer that might be able to accommodate expansion, I found this cheap thermocouple thermometer for $19.95 on eBay. The vendor has 36 more of the units available if anybody wants one. I should have it soon and will report whether it works.

Okay, now this is pretty amazing. I bought this thing thinking there was a good chance it would wind up in the garbage. Instead, it turns out to be a surprisingly responsive and accurate device. The sampling rate is 2 x per second, and the included probe (which is a bead probe, not a needle probe -- I'm still waiting for the needle probe) is very fast. I've attached a 7-second video here where I stick the thing into a pot of boiling water. You can see the response time is almost instantaneous -- it goes from the ambient temperature near the pot (I was holding it above the pot so I could make a quick video) to an exact 212 degrees F in maybe 1 second. This is from a $19.95 thermocouple with the included probe. It takes any type-K probe. And it even comes with a totally usable, if a bit ugly, aquamarine zippered carrying case with a belt loop.

Fat Guy,

I'm in the market for a new probe thermometer. An update of your experience with this fellow would be very much appreciated. The price is right and there are still units available on eBay. I have a few specific questions:

1) Is the included probe oven-safe?

2) Do you (or anyone else, for that matter) have recommendations for a good K type needle probe to go along with this unit?

3) In the past, I've experienced short lifetimes for my oven probes. Whether that is a fault of mine or of poor design is presently a mystery. Are there particular actions that shorten the life expectancy of an oven probe?

Many thanks,

Dave

A brief post script: Tonight I spotted a good number of Polder probe thermometers (didn't catch the specific model) at my local Linens and Things marked down 20% from $25 due to the liquidation. I've been there and done that, but given the price I'm tempted to do it again.


Edited by vice (log)

 

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I would contact Thermoworks U.S. about a special order, because I know they do exist...

Joe, those are examples of the 'straight' Thermapen, not the whizzy "Fast Response" FR version. The US marketing may be confusing, with the FR taking centre stage and being referred to as THE Thermapen, but it would be as well to make absolutely sure before paying out.

There IS a difference.

http://www.etiltd.co.uk/catering_thermomet...CFQaT1QodFHFWrA

And regarding Chris's tests of time and accuracy, I'd stress the value of looking at the testing on Cooking for Engineers http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article...en-Thermometers


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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