In this special episode of the podcat, I interview Kyle Halvorson from ThermoWorks, the industry leader in food therometers. Learn how having a thermoeter can save you money and reduce food waste. We motive those that are on the fence about buying a thermoeter how it can be the greatest tool in their kitchen and the gateway to perfectly cooked and baked food.
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Here is a transcript of the interview.
Eric: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Eat, Shop, Waste Not Podcast. We're here today. I have a special interview. I'm excited to have Kyle here from ThermoWorks. I got to meet him back in Chicago. Um, would be back in March. Um, I was at a food blog conference called Tastemaker. And so if you didn't know, us food bloggers actually have conferences we can go to, um, to get to hang out with other food bloggers and meet different companies.
Um, so Kyle was there representing Thermoworks, so I'm excited to have him on today. So Kyle, welcome to our podcast.
Kyle: And thanks for having me, Eric. It's great to be with you today.
💨 How Fast is an Instant Read Thermometer?
Eric: So I'm a big fan of thermometers. That's what ThermoWorks does. You guys are all about thermometers here. I think they are a wonderful tool. Um, many years ago, when watching, um, Alton Brown and his show, Good Eats. I saw him using thermometers. So he's the one who kind of introduced me to using them for cooking here, and I'm just a big fan of them.
It just makes life easier. It just really does here. Um, so,I kind of wanted you to kind of share with people who haven't heard of Thermoworks, what Thermoworks is and what are some of the products you guys offer?
Kyle: Uh, yeah, absolutely. Uh, ThermoWorksis a professional instrumentation company. Uh, we're the leaders, industry leaders in unique and professional temperature tools. Uh, you may know us by our flagship product, ThermaPen. Or, you know, there's a lot of products that look, try to look and act like ThermaPen in the market.
So it's the, the rotating probe thermometer., ThermaPen was the original. Prior to ThermaPen, in the restaurant industry especially, was, it was really the, the maiden place where digital thermometers were used, uh, for a lot of food safety, uh, concerns. But they would have a meter, that they would hold in one hand, uh, a big box, and then they would have a cable and a probe in the other hand.
And that's how they would do all their temperature checks. And it was a two-handed process and they were slow. And so, um, ThermoWorks, uh, in partnership with ETI in the UK, designed the ThermaPen, which where we can combine that, that meter and the probe all in one with that rotating unit and the display on the body.
And it, it was really the first of its kind. That happened all the way back in 1992. Uh, then in 1997, got picked up by America's Test Kitchen, Christopher Kimball as, their pick for instant read thermometer. And at that point, I believe it was a seven to eight second read time, which now feels like an eternity. But at the time it was amazing. Uh, and then in, in the early two thousands, the ThermaPen got that reduced tip that you're familiar with. They cut that read speed in half. It's down to three to four seconds, which was unheard of. Now, the ThermaPen One is all the way down to one second in response time.
So that, that's our flagship product and that's what we're known for. Um, but we also do a lot of other things. Uh, you know, fridge, freezer, monitors for home and commercial use. Uh, everything that we build is built to survive and is designed for commercial use, whether that's kitchens, you know, food service, food preparation, food processing, uh, or food, transportation, all of those things.
That's our goal. Everything we build is made for that. And because it's not, um, outrageously priced, it's, it's affordable for a home user. Uh, we've become very popular in the home segment as well. And, uh, competition barbecue and professional chefs alike. Uh, so there's a lot of carryover into that home use.
Eric: Yeah. Thanks for sharing. There's, yeah your product's just, did this seem more solid. Like you, there's tons of thermometers, instant read ones, out there. There's tons of, but they, are usually more they're puny, skinny.
They may take up less space, but they just like, you know, you're still kind of like, instant read is kind of a question here. You're definitely sitting there watching, okay, it's going, there it goes. It's kind of going up up still…and you're still kind of waiting a little bit.
So it's amazing you guys have gotten that down to a second, that's just like, that is instant you know.
Kyle: it, it really is. Um, the, the term instant read is kind of a misnomer for a lot of, uh, thermometers in the category, cuz I believe even dial thermometers technically fall in that category cuz it's something that you hold in your hand and you put in your meat or your food. Or you're, you know, whatever you're temping, but it takes a long time for that thing to equilibrate with the food and give you a reading. Uh, so it's not actually instant, even though it falls in that instant read category. So it's important to pay attention to that.
🗑️ How Thermometers Reduce Food Waste
Eric: Absolutely, totally agree with you. Um, so on this podcast we like to focus a lot on trying to reduce food waste. Um, so how do you, how do you think that thermometers can help with that?
Kyle: Uh, that is a great question. I think, uh, illustrate the point and to, to really show the scale at which this can help. Uh, it's good to look at on the commercial side, uh, and then and see how it translates over to home use. Uh, like I mentioned before, we are in commercial kitchens and food processing plants all over the world. National chains, mom and pop shops, you name it. Um, ThermoWorks is represented. Actually, you know, a lot of the health inspectors will carry it as they go to do their inspections at restaurants, uh, because that's how much they trust the accuracy and the quality of our tools, which really says something. But, uh, you look at all the places where food can go to waste, uh, and it kind of, it starts right with the processing. If you're not, you know, getting that cool enough right off the bat, speaking specifically towards meat, uh, you can get some spoilage. So you gotta make sure that you're chilling it immediately.
Uh, you gotta make sure that it maintains below a certain temperature through the processing, uh, and then in transportation. And so, uh, I know refrigerated trucks use our, we have loggers, data loggers, thermometers that will put in the trucks and they record a reading every, you know, 30 seconds, 60 seconds, one minute, whatever their internal process dictates.
And then they'll put it in when they leave the plant and they'll get to the next facility and they'll pull that logger and they download all those ratings and they have a graph and they can prove, this never went above a certain temperature, so all this food is still safe. If they didn't have that, they wouldn't necessarily know and they could potentially be throwing away all of that stuff, all that food, or they could, uh, be risking the health of their customers.
Um, and then to continue down that line when it finally makes it into a restaurant where a lot of this commercial stuff goes, uh, the restaurants use thermometers everywhere. They should be using it as they're grilling your steak or frying your chicken, uh, to make sure that it's safe. For one, it's reached an appropriate internal temperature so you're not getting sick. But also, uh, we hear from restaurants all the time when they come to buy ThermaPens that uh, it's, while it's $99, it's way cheaper than sending out an overdone steak and having a customer send it back. At which point there's nothing they can do with that. They have to get another steak out, cook another one, and that's waste.
So we're eliminating waste in that cooking process. Um, and the hot and the cold holding, uh, with all the sides and toppings and things that go in into a restaurant environment. They're having to temp those all the time to make sure that they're in the appropriate temperature ranges. And if they're not, they have to throw 'em away. Which creates more food waste. But at home the same thing is true. Um, you don't often think about it. Uh, for some things, uh, maybe the best example would be like, ice cream in the summertime. You're very cognizant of how long it's gonna take you to get home when it's a hundred degrees outside and you have frozen ice cream. But, uh, you should also be thinking about those things with, you know, your chicken thighs that you're gonna throw in the barbecue later that day, or, you know, in a couple of days. You don't want those sitting in the car for two hours. On a long drive home or you don't want 'em sitting out on the counter, on the table, you should be very aware of that.
Uh, and the temperatures, One thing we didn't mention on the commercial side, but also translates to home is your refrigerator temperature. Uh, which is key. Um, I mentioned that we sell the fridge thermometers. We have ones that are, you know, $29 that you can set inside the fridge and see when you open it.
Now we go all the way up to, you know, $249 ones that track temperatures every six seconds and provide, you know, graphs with certificates and calibration, which you wouldn't use at home necessarily, but are critical for restaurants that it may have 10 or $15,000 worth of product in the fridge and are subject to health inspections.
Uh, that helps you in two ways, prevent food waste. Because if your food, if your fridge gets too cold, you know, you can freeze your produce and then it's mushy and nobody wants that soggy gross lettuce.
Eric: No. Nobody does. No, I've had that before. It's horrible. Yeah.
Kyle: Yeah. Yeah. It, and it's kind of slimy and gross. Yeah. But then if your fridge gets too warm, you could potentially be spoiling your food and not. Uh, and getting yourself sick, uh, or if you do know it, then you're throwing it away outta a caution, right? So there's, there's two ends on that that you wanna make sure that you're paying attention to, and it's a relatively narrow window.
What Should the Temperature of Your Fridge Be? Cause you want to be between 32 and 40, ideally, you know, probably 34 to give yourself a little buffer room on freezing. So you're talking six degrees. Uh, you wanna make sure that your fridge is right there and operating properly.
Eric: I think that's one point too that people don't think about as much as like, is like they kind of take it for granted thinking like, oh, I put something in the fridge, it's fine. But you know, it depends, you know, type of fridge you have of course too. I mean, Um, I've never had a high quality fridge ever really.
So, uh, I haven't had the experience of. You know, one that I knew what good temperature control could be. You know, most of the time the fridges I've had, they're just, they'll just tell you like, here's a setting. What does that mean? Like, it'll be like, you know, like, oh turn it to an eight. What's an eight?
You know, what's a seven? What, like, what does that even mean? You know, you can't, you don't really even know what they're um, saying. And, so our family, we full-time in our camper. So we have a camper fridge. Um, so that's even more, wondering what that's going on. So it's really important to have something in there.
Cuz you know, we have cases. We're, we're definitely the produce needs to stay at the lower part of the fridge or, you know,you have frozen strawberries, you got frozen lettuce and stuff and that's not good. Um, so, I think, yeah, that's really important to consider that part. You know, we, think of a lot for cooking itself of course, but also making sure your fridge is in good shape and you're not just wasting food or having it spoil on you.
Kyle: That you can't see temperature necessarily. You can see some of the effects of temperature, but you can't, withany sort of accuracy, you can't see how cold it is in your fridge without a thermometer.
Eric: Yeah like you said, you're trying to get that fine line between those two temps. So if you're just slightly over that here, you may not even tell that your, you know, that your chicken's in there is growing bacteria on there cuz it's not as super obvious.
Um, so, cause it still could, still could feel, oh, this feels cold to me, but, you know, 45, 50 degrees is not where you want to be.
Kyle: Yeah. Your finger can't necessarily tell the difference between 45 and and 38.
🧊 Thermometer For Chest Freezers
Kyle: So that, that's key. Um, another kind of, another thing that I hear all the time, and even if you have a high quality freezer, a lot of people have freezers in their garage, um, for, uh, extra storage. Whether that's, you know, they bought a half a beef, uh, and for their family cuz it was more economical and that's what they used through the year.
Or maybe they're a hunter and they've harvested an animal and that's where they store that. But in your garage, you're not there all the time or in your basement. So if that goes down, I've, I've heard the story over and over where a GFI got tripped or a freezer went out and they didn't notice it till three to five days later when the smell drew them out.
And at that point, I mean, you, you're taking the whole thing to the dump cuz you that, that smell doesn't come out very easily.
So having a monitor, like I said, we have some where you can actually hook 'em to your wifi and get text message and email alerts. And they're relatively inexpensive, you know, for, for around a hundred bucks you can get into a setup that tracks that and you get a graph on your phone and you can get alerts and you can prevent a lot of food waste for one, one investment without a monthly cost.
And I'm not trying to be a sales pitch here, but, but I mean, it makes a ton of sense for that situation and for restaurants, uh, where you're protecting a lot of money in food.
Eric: Yeah. Yeah. like you say, if you're buying half a cow or something here, you, you know, went to the, the point of, of going out, you know, buying your, your gun to go shoot a deer, going through all that process and then have it to all go to, waste.
It's just like, that would just be. So difficult to have to deal with here, you know? So I think it's especially really important to, yeah, if you’re committing to having a big freezer full of a lot of things that you're not necessarily going out to and seeing every day or going into every day, then it, yeah, I think it's definitely worth investment to have something that can alert you. You said things could trip by themselves. Things you may not notice. I mean, you're gonna notice probably if your fridge is not working you're gonna notice that, you know, pretty soon afte.
Kyle: Yeah, cuz you're gonna open the door and the light's not gonna come on and you're gonna say, what the heck's going on here? But, um, I, and, and it's true for meat especially because that seems to be the most valuable. Um, a monetary aside, uh, you know, I do hunt on occasion and, but I, I have a lot of respect for the animal itself, right?
Whether you hunt or whether you buy that from a rancher, uh, it, you don't wanna waste it, uh, whether it, whether you can afford it or not. I mean, it just kinda outta respect to that animal too. So,
Eric: Yeah, I think that's a good point.
🌡️ Best Way to Check Your Oven Temperature
Kyle: uh, that, that's a, that's a key thing. For me anyway, personally. Uh, but kind of to move on. Cause you know, we're, we're short on time, but we talked about refrigeration.
Uh, even in your oven, you know, cooking is the act of generally adding heat to something to change the properties of that food, right? So whether you're doing it on the stove top or a barbecue or in the oven, uh, you're adding heat and all of that is, is is temperature. And how do you know how much temperature you've added? So another way to prevent waste is to understand what your oven is doing. Um, we have a product called Square Dot where you can put a probe in the oven, hit the average button, and it will actually take 900 readings over 15 minutes. That's one every second. And it, it's on a rolling basis, so every second is adding a new one and dropping the oldest one.
And it will tell you what your oven is averaging. So especially if you don't, if you've had trust issues with your oven in the past, this is really helpful. Uh, if you get a brand new oven or if maybe it's not the most reliable of ovens.
Every oven fluctuates, you set it at 350. It's just like a thermostat in your house. It'll overshoot and then it'll drop, and then it'll trigger the heat element to come back on, and then it'll drop. Those cycles can be as much as 50 degrees, plus or minus your set temp. And generally the average is not 350. If you set it at 350, it's probably 365 or 370 or, or it could be low.
So if your recipes aren't turning out or if you're burning your cookies, or you're burning your cakes or, or whatever it is you're baking, uh, understanding what's happening in your oven and being able to change the dial to account.
Again, that can prevent food waste because you don't wanna burn the first batch and then adjust the knob until you figure out where it's at. If you can isolate the temperature now you can get it right on the first time and you, and you're not wasting time and, and effort and money.
Kyle: So that, that's another,
Eric: Yeah. Cause you kind of need to learn your oven. like you're almost like your own has a personality at some point.
Kyle: It does.
🥩 Properly Cooked Meat
Eric: it also depends on too, like how clean is your oven? People need to think about that too, if you never clean your oven and it's just like caked on with stuff here, the heat can't really like, It's not reading the right way. Cuz there's gunk over here and the other side's cleaner or something here. That's gonna affect things too. That's one important point, is to keep track, of the actual oven temperature.
And then also as well, you know, when you're cooking your food too, that's why a lot of people will wanna know, how long do I need to cook this for? Well, like a roast, like, well, I can't tell you exactly how long because you're, like I said, the temperature of the oven could fluctuate because you, it's not, you know, perfect, perfect 350 or whatever you're shooting for.
And like the size of the meat changes and you know, does it have a bone, not a bone? Is your oven clean? You know, there's so many factors into that where it's very hard to like pinpoint, like, okay, it's gonna take you exactly two hours and 16 minutes to cook this roast to perfection. So, that's why it’s important to have a thermometer and, you know, you guys also carry probe thermometers.
Eric: um, which I think is the thing that will save your Thanksgiving dinner especially, or even coming up for, Easter.
Actually this interview is probably gonna be shown after Easter, but if you just had Easter and your ham was dry, you probably reheated it too much and it went past the temperature and you lost some of that moisture.
Kyle: Yes. Uh, and it, it's critical. Even though a ham is fully cooked and, and safe to eat, uh, you do wanna reheat all of your food so that it is above that temperature danger zone, that 140 is the recommended temperature, uh, which you should reheat your food. Um, But the Square Dot, like I was talking about also has that internal temperature probe that you mentioned.
And that is, we get a lot of attention at Thanksgiving time especially because people don't wanna screw up their turkey. It's dangerous to undercook a turkey. So people generally error on the side of overcooking it just to be safe. But then nobody wants to eat it without, you know, half a gallon gravy on the plate.
Cause that that's how you get, get it to go down. But, but once you cook a turkey to the, the right temperature and you experience what a, a juicy, safe Turkey can be like and, and to make it more everyday and relatable. Chicken breasts, they're, I mean, people overcook their chicken all the time just to be safe.
But when you have it and it's done right, it's fantastic. And, and it's really quite good. So you, you can prevent a lot of, um, I don't know if you'd say waste. Maybe you don't eat it, and that becomes waste. But you can also avoid a lot of displeasure by having a properly cooked meat.
Eric: Yeah, I know it too. Like people don't want to eat. Like, you know, if you overcook something, you may eat it for that dinner, but like, you know, are you really gonna wanna go like… oh man, I gotta go reheat that horrible chicken I cooked last night that was over dry and rubbery? You end up saying, no, uh, I'll go order pizza.
And then that chicken sits in your refrigerator for a week and you realize, oh shoot, it's bad. Now you gotta throw it out. So like, you know, you got like those kind of things too. I've always been like, you know, if you're gonna have leftovers here. You want your food to be good the first time here cuz you're not likely to eat leftovers that are bad unless you're like super motivated to like, not waste, you know, which people can be too.
But oftentimes it's so easy then to say, I'm gonna go grab some fast food now because I don't wanna eat this again even though I made it, you know? So,
Kyle: After you put in all the time for dinner, you're emotionally committed to this, right? Like, I've, I've wasted all the, or I spent all this time on this. It's, it's overdone, but I'm hungry and I'm tired and I don't have the energy of anything else. I'm. I'm certainly not gonna reheat it tomorrow.
💲 Why a Thermometer is Worth It
Eric: Yes. All right. Uh, so before we go here, we’ve got one last question I wanted to ask you. So,, I've been a big proponent about using thermometers on my blog, but I still find that a lot of people seem to be resistant to using them in their cooking. So, um, what other things would you say to encourage people to try them out?
I mean, I don't know what it is, if it's. if they don't wanna spend the extra money on it, so they need more motivation. Or if it's, you know, almost too nerdy, like, I'm gonna use this science proby thing. Like what am I doing here? So like what, what would you encourage people that are just like, oh, I don't know. You know, like, this sounds all good, but like, I'm still not sure.
Kyle: Um, that, that is a tough one. And I mean, I see it all the time when I talk to people, uh, and it's hard, but once you've used one and you know, you know. It's one of those things that I think. Uh, we didn't, at least I didn't grow up with, uh, for sure. Uh, there's a lot of old, old methods for, you know, kind of poking it or cutting it open.
A lot of non-scientific ways to try and tell if things are done, and that's just kind of what we grew up with. So we're kind of reluctant to leave that. But once you've used the thermometer and you understand the temperature at which things are done, it opens up a whole new world and it makes things so much better. We don't use the abacus anymore to do math. Uh, why would we use some of these antiquated methods?
I mean, in candy making, you would take a drop of that sugar syrup and drop it in cold water and to see what it looked like to judge where you were at on that stage. Oh, by the time that's cooled off and you made that decision, you could be five degrees hotter in the pot cuz you've still got the heat going.
So why not have a thermometer that you can read in one second and understand. because some of those candy ranges, I mean, you're at three to five degrees and you've moved into the next phase of candy. So unless you've done it a hundred times or a thousand times, or you do it every day, uh, and even the people that do it professionally every day buy our products, we know because we sell 'em to 'em in commercial settings.
So why would you say no? Uh, you're not gonna use a screwdriver over a drill to build, you know, a playhouse for your kids. Um, don't, don't, uh, turn your nose up at, at moderate technology and if it's a price issue, there are affordable options, uh, in every range. Our ThermaPen is our flagship. You know, one second read, half a degree of accuracy.
Uh, retails at $99 occasionally on sale. But if that's too much and you don't want to commit to that, um, there are lower price point options in our lineup. That, that we can get you. I mean, you can get a good quality thermometer, uh, and then go to our blog and learn how to use it. Right? I think that is one of the sticking factors too, is once I have this, I don't really know what to do with it.
Uh, so to speak to that quickly. Uh, all of our probes, the sensors are at the very tip of that probe. So where it comes down to a really fine point, and that's where it's gonna read the temperature.
And you as if you're wanting to take a temperature of a steak or a chicken breast on the grill or on in your oven or a roast, you want to kind of slowly move that through the piece of meat or the bread or whatever it is.
And you're gonna see that temperature change. It's not gonna settle in on a temperature, and that's because you're still changing the temperature of your food as you're cooking. That if you think about that, that that makes sense, but you're looking for that lowest temperature and you're gonna see it hotter on the outside. You're gonna see a cooler on the inside, and then you're gonna see it hotter again. Especially if you're on the pan. You're gonna see it real hot down at the bottom. So you're, you're kind of going through there and you're looking through, and your food's only as done as the lowest cook set point. The outside could be done, but if that inside of that chicken's still 100 degrees, you don't want to.
Kyle: So, uh, and then that opens up a whole different conversation. And I know I'm, I'm getting a little off topic here, but a chicken breast is real thin on one end and thick on the other. So if you're just throwing that on a pan, that little skinny tail end's gonna be done way before the thick side. Just the way that the heat moves through that.
So then you're gonna think, oh, well I'm taking the temperature and this thick part's just not getting there. What can I do to fix that? And you're gonna take a knife to your chicken breast next time and you're gonna, you know, butterfly it open and make it even so that it's flat. And then you're gonna put that on your pan. And you're gonna have a nice big flat surface and it's gonna conduct the heat evenly through there, uh, in a uniform thickness as opposed, and you're gonna have better food. So, understanding how this works.
Eric: You are gonna have more brown food too. And we all love, like, you know, that seared part of the chicken's the best. So yeah, that's, there's, it's a win, win, win, win, win.
Kyle: Yeah, it's, it's perfect. You get more salt on there, you get more seasoning, you get more browning. All that crust is the really delicious part, and, and it's evenly cooked all the way through. You don't have dry chewy on the thin end, and maybe, maybe it got almost there on the thick end. So, uh, uh, using the thermometer and under understanding the temperature really changes the game, and it's something that you can't know until you try it.
Eric: Yes, it does. Well, thank you so much Kyle. This has all been, uh, great information. So, um, where can people find your products?
Kyle: Uh, our products are sold at thermoworks.com. Uh, that is the only place online that you'll be able to find them. Uh, we do have a select, you know, we work with a handful of retail partners, uh, that in the, the cooking space and barbecue space. But thermoworks.com or on any of the social media's, Instagram, Facebook at ThermoWorks.
Eric: All right. Thank you so much and I'll also link to you, um, some of the products in my a show notes patients episode. Kyle, it's a pleasure, uh, having you on. Thank you so much for being here.
Kyle: Absolutely. It's been fun. Thank you.
📚 Additional Resources
Here is a list of the thermometers we talked about in this episode: