Thermoworks’ Thermapen has long been the be-all, end-all of cooking thermometers, so what could possibly make it better? It turns out, an IR thermometer.
Note: We originally published this in February of 2018, when the Thermapen IR first went on sale. It mysteriously vanished from ThermoWorks’ site a few months later, but has now been re-released in 2019.
The new Thermapen IR is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a Thermapen, with an IR thermometer built in. It’s the same size as and only slightly heavier than the regular Thermapen, and at $139, it’s about $40 more expensive, but its probe is just as accurate and fast, its display still rotates to match whatever orientation you’re holding it in, and it still turns itself on and off automatically. The IR’s only real shortcomings compared to the original are a non-backlit screen (a baffling omission), and its lack of splash proofing (understandable, given the IR electronics inside). Otherwise, it’s still the platonic ideal of a kitchen thermometer, at least of the non-leave-in variety.
But probe thermometers aren’t really designed to tell you how hot a cooking surface is, or say, detect air conditioning leaks. For those tasks, you want a non-contact infrared thermometer. At the bottom of the Thermapen IR, you’ll find a lens. Just point it at any surface from about five inches away, hit a button, and you’ll get an instant temperature reading on the screen. Unlike most temperature guns, this one doesn’t project a visible laser, which is no fun from a dicking-around-and-measuring-the-temperature-of-your-dog perspective, but not really a huge deal if you’re using it for cooking.
The Thermapen was already at a wedding/birthday/holiday gift price point, rather than something average people might buy for themselves, so if you’re going to ask for one, go ahead and ask for the IR model. It’s arguably twice as useful, and not that much more expensive.