These Kitchen Thermometers Give Me Perfectly Cooked Chicken Every Time

POPSUGAR Photography | Rayna Rossitto
POPSUGAR Photography | Rayna Rossitto
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It's not every day that I pull out a thermometer in the kitchen — it usually happens when I roast a whole chicken or steam the occasional batch of soup dumplings. In fact, I only recently added a thermometer to my utensil drawer. Before, I relied on intuition and touch to see if my food was to temp, often leading to raw chicken thighs and overdone steaks. I didn't do a ton of research before buying my first kitchen thermometer. And it shows: my current one takes what feels like minutes to deliver a reading, and there's a pool of liquid stuck in the display, thanks to an unfortunate attempt at making candy.

ThermoWorks, a company that specializes in temperature-reading tools, recently updated two of its bestselling products: the ThermoPop 2 ($35) and the Thermapen One ($109). According to the manufacturer's website, both thermometers promise speedy, accurate readings without sacrificing durability and usability in the kitchen. However, for the standard home cook, spending $35-plus on what seems like a standard kitchen thermometer may feel like an unnecessary splurge.

Skeptical of how much of a difference a basic kitchen thermometer could make in my basic, small, New York City apartment, I tried out the ThermoPop and Thermapen. Read on to see if these products live up to the hype (and price tag).

What's the Criteria For a Good Kitchen Thermometer?

When it comes to a good kitchen thermometer, I am looking for one that delivers an accurate temperature reading so I don't risk contracting salmonella. It should also give a reading almost instantly; that way, my food doesn't fluctuate in temperature while I'm waiting for the display to load. And finally, I want a thermometer that can withstand the conditions of my kitchen, meaning it can handle any ingredients that it comes in contact with, whether it's hot oil, water, or flour.

How to Use the Thermometers

POPSUGAR Photography | Rayna Rossitto

To put the two thermometers to the test, I did what I consider to be the ultimate challenge: I roasted a chicken to perfection. Since I was dining solo and too hungry to wait hours for it to cook, I opted for a bone-in half chicken laid over a bed of leeks, potatoes, and cabbage.

After 30 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees, I checked the chicken with the Thermapen and ThermoPop. I clicked the power button of the ThermoPop to turn it on and opened the hinge of the Thermapen to wake up the display, then pierced the chicken in the thickest part of the breast. Both thermometers gave me the same reading of 97 degrees. The ThermoPop took about a second longer to come up to the reading, whereas the Thermapen took what felt like a second to deliver the result.

I put the chicken back in the oven for another 30 minutes, and then I checked the temperature in the thickest part of the breast. Again, the Thermapen gave a temperature reading in a second, whereas the ThermoPop took a second or two longer. Both gave the same reading of 156 degrees. Technically, the CDC recommends that chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees before taking it out of the oven. However, to avoid dry, overcooked meat, I pull my chicken from the oven around 155 degrees and let it rise the final 10 degrees while the meat rested. After about 10 minutes of resting, I cut into the chicken, and it was perfect: the meat was juicy yet tender and cooked through, from the thigh to the drumstick.

What I Like About the Thermometers

Both are user-friendly; each shows the temperature, the displays are backlit, and they automatically rotate depending on their positions. I particularly enjoyed these features because the thermometers provide you with exactly what you need, without any distractions, making temperature readings super clear if I'm ever in the throes of cooking.

The tools' ease of use was a huge plus for me as well. Unlike a lot of high-end, modern thermometers, I didn't need a Bluetooth connection or a special app on my phone to set up the product in order to start cooking. For the Thermapen, I just hinged the probe to wake the device and closed the probe to turn it off. The ThermoPop was just as easy to use, and I didn't have to worry about turning it off after I was finished cooking, either, since the device sleeps after 10 minutes of inactivity.

What to Consider Before Trying These Thermometers

Though the ThermoPop and Thermapen reach candy-making temperatures, these thermometers cannot be used hands-free. Meaning, if you're making a caramel or a syrup, it's difficult to stir the mixture on a stovetop, hold the pan, and check the temperature at the same time. If you're someone who often prepares candy or syrups, it's probably more efficient (and safer) to use a thermometer with a separate probe or a clip that can attach to a pot.

Who Are These Kitchen Thermometers Best For?

At $109, the Thermapen is definitely on the pricier side for the average home cook, but with the price tag comes speed as well as a five-year warranty. This device is best suited for those who need accurate readings quickly, like line cooks who are on the hot side at a restaurant or seasoned home chefs that grill or cook over high temperatures.

The Thermapen is also considerably heavier than the ThermoPop — a factor to consider if you're someone who is on the go with your kitchen tools. If you're not at a level where you need accurate readings in a second or less, then the ThermoPop is your best bet. It's lighter, it costs about a third of the price of the Thermapen, and it takes up less space in your utensil drawer.

Where Can You Buy These Thermometers?

You can purchase products directly from ThermoWorks.

Additional Details

  • Both thermometers come in nine different colorways.
  • The ThermoPop has two different probe lengths to choose from: 4.5 inches and eight inches. The Thermapen is 4.3 inches long.
  • Both thermometers are battery-powered. The Thermapen comes with one AAA battery installed, and the ThermoPop comes with a 3V battery installed.