Review: Super Mechanical Range Cooking Thermometer
Not the first company to make iOS-compatible cooking thermometers, Super Mechanical is bringing something different to the table when compared to iDevices, the main competitor in the category. Range ($70) is available in two different versions: with a 3" sharp tip, or a 6" round tip. The former is made for meat, the latter for liquids. Both work the same way: they plug into an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch's headphone port, communicating data over a wired connection to a free app. This means Range doesn't need batteries, and can easily connect to new devices. The thermometer can withstand temperatures from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, but you'll probably want to keep your iOS device at a distance from those extremes.
Range—at least the sharp-tipped “ember” version we received for review—comes cleverly packed like a piece of meat in a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic. We measured the probe at just 0.15” short of the 3” claim. It juts out of a rubber grip, which curls around, forming a hook that clips onto the side of a pot or pan. Coming from the back end is a black cable about 55.5” in length, which should give you plenty of room to work. Some of our editors did question the value of having to keep an iPhone or iPad so close to the oven or grill, though, and said they preferred wireless communication. It culminates in a chunky rubber block and headphone plug. Despite the thick material, we didn’t have any problems connecting to devices in cases.
We tested Range against two different heat measuring accessories: iDevices’ iGrillmini, and a traditional pen-style digital kitchen thermometer. We found some serious discrepancies that really make us question the value of Range. At a base room temperature, all three read within one degree. However, once we started testing higher and lower temperatures, there were big differences. For example, we drove all three into a block of cheese straight out of the refrigerator. The pen thermometer read 37.4 degrees, and iGrill displayed 39 degrees, while Range read 58 degrees. Range was all over the place with a baked chicken breast. It showed 165 degrees, a food safe temperature, when the pen thermometer and iGrill were reading 138 and 147, respectively. Then, when we retested after the meat had been removed from the oven, it read 55 degrees lower than the pen thermometer.
All of the data Range collects is transmitted to its companion app. In portrait orientation, it’ll show the current temperature, and allow you to set alarms. These can either be presets based on different meats, or custom alerts. Flip it over into landscape, and you’ll get a nice graph that charts temperatures over time. It’s a beautifully designed app with a simple to use control scheme, but not as full-featured as iGrill’s.
We’re pretty confounded by Range. At first our major concern was the price — $70 is crazy for a wired single probe thermometer, no matter how cool it may be. Amazon’s best selling kitchen thermometer goes for less than $20, and even the wireless iGrillmini costs $30 less than Range. If the company sold its two thermometer designs in a bundle, that might make more sense. Even if it had worked properly, we wouldn’t be able to recommend it based on the price. The real problem turns out to be reading temperatures though. Range was all over the place. If a thermometer can’t give an accurate temperature reading, it’s worthless. We’re disappointed to have to assign such a low rating, but the results speak for themselves.
Updated May 28, 2014: Super Mechanical sent us a second Range unit for further testing, and this time, we found the results to be much more accurate. In tests of air temperature, a block of cheese, and a steak cooked to medium rare, it was within one degree of of the iGrillmini and pen thermometer. We still find the price objectionably high, but it’s good to know that Range does have the ability to work properly. In most circumstances, we’d still recommend iGrillmini, but this one is a viable option if, for some reason, you prefer a wired connection.