Thermoworks makes some of the most popular thermometer products on the market today. Whether you're talking about their wireless in-oven pit style thermometers or their lighting fast instant read probes, you can count on Thermoworks to provide an incredible product.
Most of the SMS pitmasters keep some type of Thermoworks product in regular rotation, so when it came time to compare the Thermopen vs. the Thermopop, there was no shortage of opinions to lean upon.
At the end of the day, everyone on the SMS staff agrees, both of these digital thermometers are great measurement tools that can help you achieve a new level of consistency in your barbecue, smoking, or grilling process.
Thermopop vs Thermapen: A Meat Thermometer Showdown!
To get a feel for how these thermometers stack up against each other, we sent both models to one of our pitmasters and asked them to put them through a day of smoking meat and compare the results.
While there are many Thermopen options available to choose from, we decided to match the Thermopop up against the Thermpaen Classic. The Thermpen MK4 and its successor, the Thermapen ONE, are absolutely incredible thermometers, but in terms of specs/price point, the Thermapen Classic and the Thermopop are a better match.
Thermapen Classic Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks
What we Liked!
- Sturdy, folding probe design
- Great battery life
- Quick readings
- High-Quality K-type Thermocouple probe sensor
What needs improvement?
- Uses a button cell battery
- Doesn't have a backlit screen
- The screen doesn't rotate
Look and Feel
The Thermapen has become the standard for Instant read thermometer design. With a rectangular thermometer body, a centrally located LED display, and absolutely no buttons or controls, the Thermpan looks like many other thermometer models available today.
While the Thermapen design may be often copied, not many companies nail their designs as completely as Thermoworks has.
When you pick up a Thermapen, it feels sturdy in hand, with a rugged construction, and tight seals all around. The battery panel is secured by a small screw on the back, and because of the button cell power supply choice, the compartment is relatively small.
These construction choices allow the Thermapen to be water-resistant, which is nice when cooking outdoors! While we're not talking about a total waterproof rating, the Thermapen is splash-proof.
The step-down thermocouple sensor is relatively thin and folds into the body of the thermometer when not in use. Opening the probe acts as an automatic on/off button and closing the probe again will turn it off.
There is an automatic shutoff feature that helps conserve battery life, which is convenient because, with button cell batteries, a dead battery can be a real frustration.
Using the Thermapen Classic.
We test every thermometer we review at SMS under real-world conditions during actual barbecue cook sessions to get the most accurate understanding of each thermometer's capabilities.
To test the Thermapen Classic, we used it extensively during a 12-hour brisket cook session.
Smoking larger cuts of meat like brisket require the ability to accurately monitor the internal temperature of the product and make adjustments to the process along the way.
One of the most integral parts of smoking texas style brisket is the stall. Because of its size, brisket goes through a period of evaporative cooling, which means the meat will start to sweat at 160°f, effectively cooling the outside of the meat down and "stalling" the cooking process.
The easiest way to beat the stall is to wrap your brisket in butcher paper or tin foil at the 160-170°f point. This keeps the brisket cooking while avoiding a ton of moisture loss, helping you reach the ideal brisket texture sooner.
Throughout the day we spent testing the Thermapen classic, it became clear why this thermometer is one of the most universally beloved barbecue tools available.
It's incredibly simple to use, and it takes super-fast internal temperature readings.
Throughout our testing, we found that, on average, the Thermapen Classic delivered temperature readings in under 4 seconds. Compared to some of the more expensive Thermapen models like the MK4 or the One, this is pretty fast, but certainly not a 1-second temperature reading like some of the other versions.
The only real frustration we encountered during our testing was the lack of a rotating display. While the more expensive Thermapens come with auto-rotating displays, the Thermapen Classic has a static display that does not move. While not a deal-breaker, the ability to rotate the display when taking temperature readings from a more significant cut of meat like a brisket can be convenient, especially when trying to get readings from an inconvenient angle or position.
While you cannot calibrate the Thermapen, it comes with a NIST traceable calibration certificate, which means it's accurate out of the box. Thanks to the Thermocouple sensor, it will stay accurate for years to come.
What we liked!
- Super small design fits easily in drawers or toolboxes
- The screen rotates 360° with the touch of a button
- Quick readings
- Low price
- Backlit screen
- Thin probe
What needs improvement?
- Probe cover can be easy to lose
- Uses button cell batteries
- Thermistor sensor
Look and Feel.
The Thermoworks Thermopop digital thermometer is a pretty steep departure from the well-known Thermapen line. While Thermapens are folding probe style instant-read thermometers the Thermopop more closely resembles the straight style thermometer design.
With a super-thin, inline thermistor probe, topped with a colorful, circular body/readout, the Thermopop has a fun, almost cartoonish design.
Available in a range of colors, it's easy to match the Thermopop with whatever color scheme or aesthetic you are looking for.
The generous, centrally placed display is crisp and easy to read. The backlight is a nice feature in a thermometer this small and can be activated by pressing the power button that is located directly above the display.
Unlike the Thermapen the Thermopop requires a button-based operation, but it does have an auto-shutoff feature that helps preserve your battery life. The auto-shutoff feature is convenient in this model for the same reasons as the Thermapen Classic. With button cell batteries, a dead battery can be disastrous if you don't have a spare so any battery-saving features are certainly appreciated.
There is one more control located on the back of the thermometer that allows you to switch easily between Celsius readings and Fahrenheit temperatures.
Lastly, the Thermopop comes with a probe protector which helps keep the probe safe when not in use. Like many other thermometers with probe protectors, the sheath is equipped with a clip to secure the when placed in a pocket like those found on aprons or chef coats.
Using the Thermoworks Thermopop.
We put the Thermopop to work alongside the Thermapen during a 12 hour brisket cook session, and to be honest, the results were pretty impressive.
Everyone at SMS thought that the Thermopop would suffer from a thermistor probe, versus the super senistive Thermocouple sensor in the Thermapen but we were wrong.
Over the course of the 12 hour smoking session the Thermopop continuously produced readings in the 4 second range and often in as little as 3 seconds.
The Thermopop has a really nice design overall, and one of the features we all loved was the ability to rotate the dislpay 360° depending on the angle you need to take a temperature reading. The only draw back is that the screen rotation is not automatic, and you need to use a button located at the back of the thermoemter to change the oreientation.
One distinct drawback to the Thermopop model is the lack of a decimal place reading on the display. This thermometer only deals in whole digits and wont provide a fractional reading. While this isn't a huge deal for most cooks, if you are doing something beyond BBQ that requires very precise readings, this might not be the thermometer to use.
Overall, the Thermopop is a great little thermoprobe. It provided quick, accurate readings every time, and at some points it was faster than it's far more expensive cousin. While we all wish it was a thermocouple probe versus a thermistor sensor, it definitely held its own throughout our tests.
Which of these meat thermometers is right for you?
Honestly, that question is hard to answer without knowing more about your specific situation. Everyone at SMS agrees that both of these thermometers are incredible temperature measurement tools that can significantly improve your barbecue process. That being said, these thermometers provide two very different experiences.
The Thermapen is about as simple to use as a thermometer can be. Though we all agree that we like the AA battery options used in the more expensive models, The Thermapen Classic is absolutely a pro-level product, with the kind of accuracy you need if you're producing great food every day.
The Thermopop is more of a "prosumer" product. It's very sensitive and gives quick, accurate readings, but it's not constructed to the same level as a Thermapen. With a highly sensitive thermistor-style probe, you're going to get consistent and quick readings every time. However, thermistor technology is overall less accurate than a thermocouple sensor, which is why the Thermopop is less than half the price of the Thermapen Classic.
If you're looking for a high-quality but inexpensive thermometer and you like the Thermoworks line of products, the Thermopop is an excellent option. It's a great option for a primary thermometer if you're just getting into barbecue and don't want to break the bank. Still, it's also a fantastic backup option to keep on hand should your primary thermometer run into issues.
The Thermpaen classic, on the other hand, is a pro-level thermocouple thermometer that will provide accurate readings for years to come. It's a price jump from the Thermopop, but it is also a step into the world of highly precise thermocouple temperature measurement.
If you've wanted to get a Thermapen, but the price point of the more advanced models is a sticking point, the Thermapen Classic provides the same outstanding performance of all Thermapen products, but by omitting features like a rotating display or backlight, Thermoworks can keep the price point on the lower side.
Whichever of these Thermoworks instant-read thermometers you choose, you can be sure they will provide years of quality service in your pursuit of BBQ excellence!