My wife recently bought me a thermapen and I have used it a number of times to achieve perfectly roasted chicken and turkey, but I have trouble whenever I pan sear meat.
For example, tonight I tried to pan sear a NY strip using a cast iron skillet while basting with butter and herbs. I cooked the steak for about 10 minutes and the thermapen never registered a temperature above 105 degrees. When I cut the steak open it was dry and very well done.

I've also had this problem with chicken breast. I can pan sear it, flip it after 6 minutes, observe a beautiful golden brown crust and when I insert the thermapen just below the surface of the chicken it reads less the 100 degrees. Surely the chicken is not cooling down rapidly?

If I wait until the thermapen registers 160 to stop cooking the chicken, it's totally dry inside. The fact that this happens with both chicken and steak makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong. I've followed the technique from Grilling Perfect Steaks Every Time, Every Steak , and I've also observed that the temperature will drop continuously as I pull the thermapen through the meat after it's been flipped once.
In other words, the minimum temperature is not at the center but on the side of the meat not in contact with the pan, even if it looks perfectly seared.

I know it isn't possible for the meat to cool down that quickly, so I don't understand what's happening. What's going on? Does anyone have any suggestions or know what I might be doing wrong?

  • How are you inserting the probe?
    – Catija
    Dec 3, 2017 at 4:58
  • Have you ever actually tried just always checking in the center? Why are you checking just below the surface?
    – Cascabel
    Dec 3, 2017 at 7:54
  • @Jefromi the link suggests this. Measure slightly deeper than the middle, pull slowly back to find the lowest reading - which will be the relevant temperature.
    – Stephie
    Dec 3, 2017 at 8:45
  • @Stephie But earlier in the answer it just says "insert the thermapen just below the surface".
    – Cascabel
    Dec 3, 2017 at 9:02
  • 3
    When measuring thin layers you do need to make sure enough of the thermometer is inside the food, otherwise you're measuring some sort of weighted average of the food temperature and the air temperature. Thermometers designed for stabbing into meat aren't as bad for this as some other foods thermometers but it's still a real effect. You may need to insert it diagonally.
    – Chris H
    Dec 3, 2017 at 11:46

1 Answer 1


I don't have enough reputation to put this as a comment.

Have you checked the calibration on your thermopen?

The instructions are here


  • in ice water your thermopen should read 32F

  • in boiling water your thermopen should read about 212F (depends on altitude)

Additionally, very thin meats will be difficult to measure.

  • 1
    I think in this case this may actually be an answer, thanks for posting it. If it were just the things about top vs center vs bottom, maybe not, but the OP managed to cook a steak to well-done with temperature readings never crossing 105F, which seems impossible with a correctly calibrated thermometer.
    – Cascabel
    Dec 9, 2017 at 18:16

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