I have had an instant-read food thermometer on my mental wish list for a long time, but I have a perfectly good dial meat thermometer that just won't die. It also won't accurately tell me the temperature before my meal is overcooked, but it's been doing that for so long I just mentally adjust the desired temperature down enough to compensate. I know we all do that - hang onto something that is cheaply replaceable even though it doesn't quite do the job, and I'm mostly even okay with having a few quirky imperfect tools. But that doesn't mean I'm not happy to let them go when something better comes along.
Via Tomoson, I was able to get my hands on the Kuuk Ultra Fast Digital Thermometer. Currently available on Amazon for $17.95, this little gadget comes bubblewrapped in a nice little box with a small manual pamphlet explaining how it works.
The thermometer probe is on a hinge, so it tucks away when not in use, avoiding the death trap of coming across it unexpectedly while rooting through the utensil drawer, and lightly snaps into the open position as needed, so it doesn't try to fold up while using it. If you prefer to hang tools in easy reach, it also comes with a magnet that can be glued onto the back so you can pop it on your fridge door to always have at the ready.
The digital face is large and easy to read and I experienced no fogging over while inserting it into food in a hot, steamy oven.
There are three small buttons on the handle: an On/Off button that turns it on or off (though it automatically shuts off if you forget that part), a C/F button that switches the read-out from Celsius to Fahrenheit, and a Hold button that freezes the read-out so you can remove thermometer from the food to read without the temperature immediately descreasing.
I really liked the idea of the Hold feature, but unfortunately I can't really make use of it. All of the buttons are quite small and not easy for me to click (rheumatoid arthritis makes such fine motor skills tricky for me). I am able to if I press down with my fingernail, but I am pretty sure that if I do that too often, I'm going to dent and possibly break the buttons.
This isn't much of a problem with the On/Off and C/F buttons, because I can take a moment to get them pushed. But the Hold button is meant to be used while food is in the oven, and the whole point of getting a fast read is so you aren't letting all the heat escape.
Fortunately, that nice big read-out means that as long as I take care to put the thermometer into the meat so that I can see it, I don't need to hit Hold at all, and that's working out fine for me.
This time of year, mealtimes tend to be lighter foods, but I have been able to use it on some chicken and on a large uncured ham roast, both of which can quickly go from just-right to dried out sawdust if you're not paying attention to the meat's temperature. The Kuuk Thermometer handled each job just fine, and everything came out tender and neither overcooked or undercooked. Also, unlike my old dial thermometer, I don't have to remember to stick it in at the beginning or worry about placing it so it doesn't bump into things.
One thing I did wish had been added to the product was a chart on the back showing proper meat temperatures.
I've gotten so used to my dial thermometer giving me that information, that the first time I used the Kuuk Digital Kitchen Thermometer, I had it tucked into the chicken, got my reading and then realized I had no idea what number I was looking for - and then there was a scramble to find a cookbook that showed me, hoping I wasn't overcooking dinner with my lack of planning.
And then I almost did it again! I remembered to look up the correct temperature for pork just before I opened the oven to check it (and found I'd let it go a little too long before I checked, but that was me, not the thermometer)
The lack of a reference chart is hardly a deal breaker, but I'd love if they'd tuck a little peel off sticker into the box along with that magnet for us flaky cooks. Meanwhile, I plan to make a small chart for my own reference and put it on the fridge door for next time.
Since this is my first instant read cooking thermometer, I can't compare it to others of its kind, but I enjoy it and think it's good value for the price. I plan to use it often and recommend it as a good option for anyone seeking an alternative to the dial thermometers.