Finally, a Good Thermometer for Home Preserving



When home preservers have asked me what sort of thermometer they should use, I’ve never had good advice for them. I teach people to assess the readiness of their jams, jellies, and preserves by various tests: Does the liquid “sheet” off the spoon? Does the jam mound in a chilled dish or show wrinkles when you disturb its cooling surface? Does the syrup “spin a thread” in a glass of cold water?           

Yet I often specify temperature goals for verifying these visual tests. Knowing the temperature really helps, for example, in the case of fruits whose juices gel slowly and so fail to “sheet” when they have reached gelling temperature. But how can you know that your boiling liquid has reached gelling temperature when your thermometer simply does not work?           

Thermometers fail us in many ways. The glass capillary tube of an old-fashioned candy thermometer slips up or down in relation to the scale. The paint wears off the scale. Thermometers that must be left in the pot get in the way of the spoon and fall in the jam. Dial thermometers must be calibrated when you buy them and frequently thereafter. For an “instant-read” thermometer, the “instant” may last ten seconds or more—long enough to burn your fingers.

Digital thermometers often flip out a few degrees beyond boiling. My husband bought an expensive, long-probed thermometer that measured some 30 degrees off and could not be calibrated. He bought another that showed wildly fluctuating temperatures over about 215 degrees Fahrenheit. Even my little digital CDN, the most reliable thermometer I ever had until now, goes blank when the temperature nears 220 degrees; when I remove the thermometer from the heat, the display reappears in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit. And thermometers of all kinds fog up and become unreadable.

So I am extremely happy with my Christmas present: a little digital thermometer called the Javelin Pro. It’s made in the style of the expensive Thermapen: With the probe folded against the handle, these thermometers are small enough to fit in a breast pocket, but when the probe is fully extended the thermometer is long enough — 10.5 inches, in the case of the Javelin Pro — to keep your hand well away from the heat. I like to extend the probe just 90 to 120 degrees, so my hand is outside the rim of the pot while I take the temperature of my jam.

1/19/2016 12:48:33 PM

I have 2 Thermapens and they are amazing. A pretty penny, yes, but as with most things, you get what you pay for. I was made aware of the Javelin a year or so ago but under a different name, the Thermowand. This name change seemed innocuous at the time but other issues surfaced that made me stick to my Thermapen guns. First, it was branded as dishwasher safe and then it was changed to only water resistant. Next they started off by offering a a lifetime warranty but the new pro models are now only sold with a 3 year warranty. Finally, as I looked through the Amazon reviews I saw red flag after red flag. Short life span, warranty difficulties, no physical address to contact or phone number to call, just an email address and a very spotty response rate. I tried to contact them myself and never received a reply via email (or any other means for that matter). The Thermapen on the other hand has been the only Instant Read Thermometer I've ever seen America's Test Kitchen use in their kitchen (at least since I started watching in 2008). ThermoWorks (who makes the Thermapen) has lower cost options near or below the price point of the Javelin. If you need an entry level thermometer before diving into the Thermapen pool I would start there. I have one of their ThermoPops for example and it has been amazing, just a few seconds slower than the Thermapen but for less than $30.

1/18/2016 9:31:51 PM

This is great news for those of us who can't afford a thermapen! I always check Amazon first and found the Javelin for $25

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