Temperature probes for cakes

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Becky, Feb 15, 2018.

  1. Becky

    Becky Well-Known Member

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    My recent problem with an under-baked cake has got me thinking about temperature probes (thanks for the suggestion @Norcalbaker59!). I usually just check whether a cake is done by seeing if the surface bounces back when lightly pressed and also when a skewer comes out clean. However I had a cake recently that passed both tests and was still underdone. It had a high liquid content, so I want to find a better way to check.

    I think I'll get an electronic temperature probe, and I was wondering if many people here use them? If so, what is your experience and are there any particular ones you would recommend?

    My brother uses electronic temperature probes often for cooking meat, but they are the type that you leave in during cooking (they alert you when the temp hits a certain level). I don't think this type would work with baking, but has anyone ever tried it?!
     
    Becky, Feb 15, 2018
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  2. Becky

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    @Becky,

    I have both instant read and leave in probe thermometers. You’re correct the leave in thermometer won’t work since uncooked batter will not hold it up or keep it from touching the bottom of the pan.


    Instant read thermometers come in a variety of price ranges. In the US they start at about $10 and can go up to a whopping $100 for a very accurate professional grade instant read thermometer.


    In the US, Thermopen by Thermoworks is the gold standard in thermometers.


    They make a small instant read thermometer called the Thermopop that sells for about $25 USD.


    Things to consider when purchasing an instant read thermometer are:


    Price: $10 USD - $100 USD is a huge range. So set a budget.


    Speed: some thermometers register temperature in 1-2 seconds. Other instant read thermometer take up to 10–15 seconds.


    Display: consider how the display is oriented when its insert the food and the size of the display. Some displays can be very difficult to read.


    Battery: most instant read thermometer’s use a small lithium battery. So availability of batteries. I always keep a spare battery for each one of my thermometers in my junk drawer. When battery wears out I always have one handy.


    Waterproof: to me this is a very important feature. I ruined three thermometers before I finally switched to waterproof. They’re a little bit more money. Since the probe always needs to be washed and sterilized before use, the risk of water intrusion is very high. For me it made economic sense to spend the few extra dollars for a waterproof thermometer.


    To get an idea of the features to look for in an instant read thermometer.

    https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/the-best-instant-read-thermometer/



    While I’ve used temperature to determine when bread is done, I only recently started using temperature as a gauge for doneness in cake.


    While bread is done at 180°F (82°C) - 203°F (95°C), research indicates cake internal temperature varies depending on the type of cake.


    The only types of cake I have made since I started using temperature are chiffon and sponge cakes. So I can say the temperature range is correct.


    The temperature range for the butter and poundcakes I have yet to test.


    Butter and pound cakes: 200°F (92°C) - 205°F (96°C)


    Chiffon, Foam, and Angel Food: 205°F (96°C) - 210°F (99°C).


    At sea level water will boil at 212°F (98.8°C). So never allowed any cake to go to boiling temperature as the moisture in the cake will significantly decrease due to evaporation. And this I can definitely confirm. I over-baked a cake over the Christmas holidays. That 2° difference in temperature made a dry cake.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Feb 15, 2018
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  3. Becky

    Becky Well-Known Member

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    That is incredibly useful, thank you. I've tried looking for thermometers before on Amazon, but it's flooded with cheap Chinese ones (that always seem to have those fake reviews... "I received this product for free in exchange for an honest and impartial review"... yeah right!) which make it difficult to see the wood for the trees.

    I like the look of the Thermapen 3, and at Amazon it's currenly £30 (~$42) which isn't too bad for a 'good' one. I've checked other places online and that seems to be the cheapest. It would be handy for meat and chocolate too. Sold! I'll let you know once I've had a play with it :D
     
    Becky, Feb 16, 2018
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  4. Becky

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I totally get it. I too am always wary about Amazon reviews for that very reason. And there’s so many counterfeit products on there too.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Feb 17, 2018
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  5. Becky

    Apocalypso Well-Known Member

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    Apocalypso, Feb 18, 2018
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  6. Becky

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    WooHoo! Apocalypso, thanks for the link! I just ordered one. This is the best price I’ve seen on the Thermopop. I almost bought one during a sale they had a few months ago. I felt bummed because I waited and ended up missing the sell. Glad now since that sale was not as good as this deal. :D
     
    Norcalbaker59, Feb 18, 2018
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  7. Becky

    Apocalypso Well-Known Member

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    Oh, I'm glad! I hesitated to post it, wasn't sure it would be acceptable to do so. But I was toying with the idea of getting him the full Thermopen for Christmas, then bought too many things and couldn't justify. Given the fact that I ruined a less-good digital thermometer by accidentally dropping it into a pot of boiling liquid (oops) I feel this one will probably do just fine. :)
     
    Apocalypso, Feb 18, 2018
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  8. Becky

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I was thrilled when I saw your link. I ordered immediately. I’ve been wanting the Thermopen, but I just can’t bring myself to spending that much money for a thermometer.

    I’ve looked at the Thermopop several times. But I have several very good thermometers, so hesitated buying the Thermopop a few months ago during their last sale By the time I decided to purchase it the sale was over. So when I saw the great price on your link I thought I’d be crazy not to buy it now. Thanks so much for posting it!
     
    Norcalbaker59, Feb 18, 2018
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  9. Becky

    Becky Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the link @Apocalypso! Annoyingly it's too late to edit my order so I'll stick with the Therapen. That's a great price for the TheraPop though :)

    I had a look at the price of the Therapens on there and they are way more than here in the UK. How weird! Given it's a US product I would have thought it would have been the other way round.
     
    Becky, Feb 19, 2018
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  10. Becky

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    This is just the thread I was hoping for. I received my instant read thermometer yesterday called a TP101 from here
    https://www.fasttech.com/p/1099401
    But it's so slow, takes about 12 to 15 seconds. Well, not surprising as it's so cheap.

    Norcalbaker, since we've been discussing temperatures for making lemon bars and particularly for tempering chocolate, I'm clearly going to need a fast one. I've done a lot of research and Thermapen and Thermopop seem to be the fastest and most accurate. Looking at a photo you posted in my lemon bars thread, it looks like you have the Thermopop? I'm just wondering how fast you're finding it and if you've found it fast enough for monitoring precise temperature changes on chocolate? The Thermopop reads in about 4 to 6 seconds? I believe the Thermapen does about 2 to 3 seconds. But maybe 4 to 6 seconds is fast enough to read for chocolate tempering?

    I was considering the Thermapen 4 which has rotating display, waterproof and backlight. But I think the Thermopop does all that as well and is about half the price. I'm not sure which to get?
     
    Lee_C, May 2, 2019
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  11. Becky

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I have the Thermopop.

    I’ve gone through half a dozen thermometers. I’ve finally come to the realization that anyone who bakes and/or cooks three or more times a week must invest in a thermometer designed for a commercial kitchen.

    It’s not just about speed of reading; I’ve come to realize there is so much more to thermometer design than speed.

    The Thermopop just doesn’t work for me. The small size and lollipop shape makes it very difficult to hold. The ON button is difficult to depress. And I have to press it a second time to turn on the back light—and it only stays on for a couple seconds. There’s no way to override the auto shut off. Which is a real pain in the butt when I make custards, curds, pasteurizing egg whites for meringues; boil sugar, etc. The thermometer always turns off in the middle of my work. The shape is such if I place it in a bowl it spins around so the display ends up facing away from me. So when I’m monitoring the temperature of my lemon curd I have to keep flipping the thermometer around to see the display.

    So I’ve decided it’s time to buy a thermometer that is really designed for a commercial kitchen.

    The Thermapen Mk4 goes on sale once or twice a year. When it goes on sale again I’m going to purchase it.

    The Mk4 has all the features I now realize I need in a thermometer:
    • 2-3 sec reading
    • Open it and it stays on; Close it it turns off
    • While it’s open, set it down, and it goes to “sleep” mode to save the battery
    • 3000 hr battery life
    • Motion sensor so when you pick it up it wakes up
    • Intelligent back light that senses when the room is dark and turns on the back display light
    • Or any other time you want back light just touch the display and it comes
    • Automatic rotating display
    • Large size and shape for easy grip
    • Waterproof
    • Foldaway probe, so no probe sheath to keep track of like with my Thermopop
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 2, 2019
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  12. Becky

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    I'm glad I asked you then, because I now I can rule out the Thermopop!


    Right, so the Thermapen Mk4 is the one I'm going get. It's streets ahead of the competition with the unique features you highlighted. 2 to 3 seconds is pretty much true instant read, and it would certainly give me confidence to see the actual temperature immediately.

    As it happens, John Lewis sell it here in black for £65, same price as online or direct from Thermapen, and I still have a £40 gift voucher to spend so that's handy. It's expensive but should only be a one time purchase, because by all accounts, it will last years. People with the original classic Thermapen 3 say they've not even had to change their battery in something like 5 years of owning one.


    Things that would have made it better but not dealbreakers.
    A button on the outside to instantly change between Fahrenheit and Celcius instead of a concealed switch in the battery compartment.
    225 degree rotation of the probe arm instead of 180 so that if you held it in left hand, you wouldn't have to hold it completely vertical. The oxo good grip probe does 225.
    Alarm when temperature is reached. The Lavatools PRO Duo has this.
    Magnet on back. Most instant read thermometers have this, but you'd have to buy a glow in the dark silicone case from Thermapen which has a couple of magnets.
     
    Lee_C, May 3, 2019
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  13. Becky

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Yes it would be nice to have a tool that has every single feature that we want on it.

    But I don’t think an alarm is necessary with a good instant read thermometer; a good instance read takes an accurate reading within a few seconds and is done before an alarm can even go off. Do you see the temperature reading going up, and then it suddenly stops. When it stops you know that’s what the internal temperature is.

    OXO designs some pretty good stuff. I have quite a few of their kitchen utensils and tools. I just retired my second OXO scale. I’ve used OXO scale for 15 years. This time I purchased a My Scale KD 8000 because it has a baker’s percentages function. Which makes things easier for me when I scale recipes.

    That’s great that you have a gift certificate for John Lewis. The Mk4 is very expensive. That’s why am waiting for the next sale to purchase it. What color are you going to purchase?
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 3, 2019
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  14. Becky

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    Lee_C, May 3, 2019
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  15. Becky

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Black is very classy. The red is very cool. I’m going to buy the chef oven alarm in red and the Mk4 in lime green. I really hope they go on sale soon.

    The John Lewis store looks really nice. It reminds me of our Williams-Sonoma. Tools for every task. I know a lot of women love shoes and clothing stores. But Im totally about the kitchenware stores:cool:
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 3, 2019
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  16. Becky

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    Oh that Chef Alarm looks a nice piece of gear. If I've been looking at the right one, it has a screen giving lots of useful information.

    Yes, John Lewis is one of the better quality high street stores we have, with very good service from the staff. Though some of their stuff can be overpriced. But they have a good selection of quality kitchenware. I went there yesterday to buy the Thermapen 4 but I have to buy it online. Hmm, it's my birthday this month and I might be getting an Amazon Gift voucher. If so, I'll buy from there and then I can choose my colour. Black is classy, but I think I prefer red or a blue. :) John Lewis has a couple of nice quality Bundt tins that I fancy getting one of, so maybe my gift voucher will go towards those instead.
     
    Lee_C, May 6, 2019
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  17. Becky

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Happy Early Birthday. May is a very popular month for birthdays. We have four birthdays in May in my family.

    You may want to purchase your Thermapen from John Lewis. Looking at the quality of brands that they carry, and the fact that they have brick and mortar outlets, I would assume they are an authorized dealer of Thermapens. But you might want to send an email to Thermoworks to confirm.

    On their FAQs Thermoworks states that they sell their products to the public at the same price that they sell to the commercial food industry and to public health departments. They state the few retailers who sale the Thermapen do not add on “their normal mark-up so thank them if you buy there!”

    Thermoworks also has a warning on the top of their website page stating the products that are sold on Amazon, eBay, Walmart.com, and Sears.com and other just sites are NOT authorized dealers. Thermoworks states these are “unscrupulous sellers“ selling counterfeits. Some are purchasing units from them, then selling them online at inflated prices. so you could end up purchasing a counterfeit Thermapen on Amazon.

    Thermoworks will not honor a warranty on a thermometer purchased on Amazon or any of those other unauthorized online sites.

    The problem with counterfeits is so ramp on Amazon that they are turning away from direct purchase from companies and resell to customers. About six weeks ago Amazon abruptly stopped ordering from thousands of companies. They just simply stopped ordering products. Amazon had always stood behind the products that they sold. So if the consumer purchase a product that turned out to be counterfeit or defective Amazon would refund the purchase price. But with so many counterfeit products Amazon was eating millions of dollars in losses on returns. Amazon won’t assume that risk anymore. In addition it costs Amazon millions of dollars to warehouse and distribute these counterfeit products. Where consumers once had protection with Amazon’s guarantee return, it’s not there anymore. Given the price of the Thermapen I wouldn’t risk buying it on Amazon. I won’t purchase anything from Amazon if it’s from an independent reseller. I purchased directly from the manufacture, or I’ll go to a authorized dealer.

    I really like the specs on Chef Alarm. It comes with a 6” probe. Which is the length probe on my current Taylor alarm. But what I like about the Chef Alarm is I can purchase a second 12” probe. I use my alarm a lot for everything from monitoring the oven ambient temperature when proofing dough; roasting; boiling sugar; pasteurizing egg whites; deep frying; etc. My Taylor Alarm is the second one I’ve purchased in 4 yrs since I burned out the first one. The Chef Alarm is suppose to far more durable—we will see.
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 6, 2019
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  18. Becky

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Norcalbaker for the early birthday wish. How cool you have so many in May. Same here! Both my brothers are 18th and 30th May and I'm in between them, lol. :D

    Some interesting points you raised there. Yes, you're quite correct, John Lewis will undoubtedly be an authorised retailer.

    About buying from Amazon. Yeah, I also had seen the Thermoworks warning. However, I think it's ok to buy from Amazon over here, but it would seem one needs to be careful buying from Amazon in the US.

    After some research, it seems that Thermapen is actually made by a british company called ETI (Electronic Temperature Instruments Ltd). The price on Amazon uk is £64.80, exactly the same as the price direct from Thermapen or ETI. Also, the Amazon page shows it's being listed by ETI Ltd themselves. So I think it should be fine. Here's a few links.

    The main UK retail Thermapen retail outlet:
    https://thermapen.co.uk/content/4-about-thermapen

    The ETI page itself:
    https://thermometer.co.uk/

    The Thermapen price:
    https://thermapen.co.uk/thermapen-thermometers/45-thermapen-professional-thermometer.html

    And the UK Amazon listing:
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/ETI-SuperFast-Thermapen-thermometer-rotational/dp/B01MYQWP1I/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=3BOPOAY22A9YM&keywords=thermapen+food+thermometer&qid=1556933650&s=gateway&sprefix=thermapen,aps,158&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1


    I had been wondering about Thermoworks for a while. I was a little confused as it appeared as though Thermoworks were responsible for inventing the Thermapen. But it seems Thermoworks are the main official American authorised reseller presumably appointed by ETI. I took this screenshot from a youtube video and at the top it says calibrated by ETI for Thermoworks.

    ETI.png
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
    Lee_C, May 7, 2019
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  19. Becky

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    My youngest sisters birthday is on the 25th so I thought I would make her a lavender lemon cake with a blackberry filling. California has just come out of a 5 yr drought, so we’re finally getting some decent crops in the farmer’s market this year. The berries have been so big and sweet, it’s such a treat to have fresh berries that are local and taste like berries. So I’ve been using berries in everything.

    And the other nice thing is that everything is so green and lush. There’s a rose garden on the property I live on and the rosebushes look like they’re on steroids. Not only are the bushes considerably taller this year, but they’re blooming bouquets instead of single roses. A lot of the rosebushes have five or six blooms on the end of a single stem.

    ThermoWorks and ETI are two separate companies that work so closely together that they actually merged some functions. The calibration standards are an example; the Utah lab issues a certificate of calibration and it’s valid for instruments produced by either company. I remember reading that somewhere on their website some time ago.


    ThermoWorks has been producing industrial temperature and humidity gauges for decades in the US. Their business relationship with ETI apparently went back years before thermapen; they design Instruments and contracted with ETI to build them in ETI factories in England.


    But Americans Only learned of these companies seven years ago.


    A cookbook published in 2012 by Thomas Keller recommended a thermapen to temper chocolate. Keller is a famous chef who several owns several restaurants and a bakery here in the Napa Valley. He is so revered in the food world that when he recommends something, major newspapers and magazines also recommend it. So the New York Times, LA Times, for several other publications ended up mentioning Keller and the thermapen.


    Then America’s Test Kitchen did a review of the thermapen and confirmed what Keller said about its accuracy. I had a subscription to America’s Test Kitchen at the time so I got a copy of the review. I was excited as heck about the thermometer, but stopped Dead in my tracks when I saw the sticker price. But the price didn’t deter many people as demand for the Thermopen skyrocketed. Not only was everyone talking about this thermometer, but it was used as a status symbol on people’s countertops.


    ThermoWorks then targeted the barbecue and grill market. A smart move because Americans love their barbecue. They got guys to shell out $99 for a thermometer to test the temperature of a $20 pork shoulder. And that’s when moved into the mainstream. It became every guys thermometer.


    Since ThermoWorks already had a strong business relationship with ETI, and the biggest market growth was happening in the US, it made sense for ThermoWorks to take the lead on all the redesigns since the first generation. So ThermoWorks isn’t a reseller, rather they are a partner.


    I remember a long time ago reading some detailed description about the relationship between ThermoWorks and ETI on their blog. But they have since changed the page about their company description. It’s very vague and general now. Both companies are privately held, so they don’t release much information. Their products have also set the standard for thermometers. All the other companies out there are trying to copy their instruments, so they’re really not inclined to say much about what they do together and how they do it. But there’s definitely a very close partnership on these products.

    If it’s ETI’s actual Amazon’s site you are probably safe. I just don’t trust Amazon for anything but books anymore. About 3 - 4 years ago when Apple said they found that 90% of products being sold as authentic Apple products on Amazon were in fact counterfeit I stopped buying on Amazon.
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 7, 2019
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  20. Becky

    Lee_C Well-Known Member

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    Ah, very interesting, thanks for the info Norcalbaker, I stand corrected! So it's really a collaboration between the two companies.

    My birthday is actually the same day as your youngest sister! :)

    And wow, the rose bushes sound fantastic, as does the thought of tasting your lavender lemon and blackberry cake. Lucky sister! Do post some photos when you've made it, I'd like to see that.
     
    Lee_C, May 7, 2019
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