This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what people in the food industry are eating, drinking, and buying right now. Here, Zoe Denenberg writes about an instant read thermometer that won’t break the bank.
I am not willing to spend $99 on a thermometer. I’m just not, no matter how many people shout at me about the Thermapen. Yes, objectively speaking, the $99 ThermoWorks Thermapen One is the best kitchen thermometer on the market. It reads temperatures faster than you can think, its accuracy is unparalleled, and it doesn’t stop working under pressure. I’ve heard all the fanfare—heck, I’ve used a Thermapen myself, and while it has its charms, I’m still not interested. Because my heart belongs to the Lavatools Javelin thermometer, the $26 Thermapen One dupe I ordered on Amazon.
Before joining the staff at Bon Appétit, I spent three years working as a pastry cook. Every day from 2 p.m. to midnight, you could find me in a basement kitchen, sweating over (but, critically, not into) a pot of boiling sugar. Unlike savory line cooks, who often determine a steak’s doneness by instinct or by probing it with a cake tester, pastry cooks use thermometers religiously: A few degrees can be the difference between fluffy meringue and a sad, deflated pool of gloop. I needed a reliable, speedy, and mind-numbingly accurate thermometer, but I was on a cook’s budget, absolutely unwilling to shell out $99 for the best of the best.
I first found out about this Thermapen dupe from my coworker Sadia, whose Javelin thermometer I borrowed for weeks (thanks, Sadia) before finally purchasing one for myself. The Javelin even looks a lot like the Thermapen One, with its hinged foldaway probe and sleek display screen—and it, too, comes in a bunch of cool colors. But I wasn’t wooed by its design. I needed functionality. I’m happy to report that, after using this budget thermometer day after day, I’ve found a whole lot more to love.
The Javelin thermometer is pocket-size, smaller than the Thermapen and perfect for my little hands. It has a built-in magnet on the back, so I can stick it to the fridge door or range hood while waiting for my custard to come to temp. (You can purchase a magnetic sleeve for your Thermapen, but it’ll cost you an extra $15.) I dropped a Thermapen in a pot of caramel once, and I’m not ready to talk about it—but there’s no risk of that with the Javelin, which has a hole on the end for my finger to loop through. It stays secure even when my hands start sweating.
The temperature reading on the Javelin thermometer is speedy, with a response time of 3-4 seconds, and accurate to ±0.9°F. That’s not quite as fast or precise as the Thermapen One, which responds within a second and has an accuracy of ±0.5°F. But considering it’s a quarter of the cost, I think it stacks up quite well. It comes with a three-year warranty, which I haven’t had to use. This thermometer has truly weathered it all, and it’s never once quit on me at the pivotal moment (a problem I’ve faced with budget thermometers in the past).
Now that I’ve hung up my toque, I still use this mighty little thermometer for all my home baking projects. Thanks to the magnetic backing, I keep it stuck to my range hood for easy access. Maybe one day I’ll be willing to pay $73 extra for two more seconds of precision. But until then, my $26 thermometer and I will be riding off into the sunset.