Best Instant Read Thermometers for 2023

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Looking to nail the perfect doneness? Let’s cover the essential tips and benefits of the best thermometers, like how to buy, use, and calibrate. As a food scientist, I believe this is the most essential tool in the kitchen!

Here are the best instant read thermometers on the market right now to take your cooking to the next level of accuracy.

I genuinely think even the most sophisticated cook should use a thermometer. They’re not super expensive devices. They allow for precision in the kitchen, something vital for both safety and taste’s sake. Furthermore, they’re easy to use. What’s not to like?

I recommend using either a digital instant-read apparatus or a digital probe. You can also use a bulb or a bimetallic thermometer, easily found at the grocery store. However, the latter isn’t as accurate and can take longer to give precise temperature reads.

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My personal favorite: ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE

ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE testing the temperature of a steak.
ThermoWorks

This instant-read thermometer is top-of-the-line. It provides lightning-fast readings, taking less than a second to display the temperature. Additionally, it’s versatile and can be held in any position, with the display automatically adjusting accordingly. I use it to test the accurate temperature of my reverse seared steak.

This thermometer is also impressive in temperature range, measuring from -57 to 572 degrees Fahrenheit. Similar to its predecessor, the MK4, the ONE model features a handy automatic backlit display that activates when picked up and a sharp probe that can deftly measure the temperature of delicate fish.

Best Overall: Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo

Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo thermometer testing the temperature of a cake.
Amazon

The Javelin Pro smart thermometer has a convenient design that includes a motion-activated back-lit display and a fold-out probe that ensures safe storage between readings. The large display is a great feature, as it allows you to easily hold the thermometer and still read the temperature. The probe is also easy to open and grip.

In addition, the thermometer has a loop at the end of its body, which allows for one-finger holding. The integrated magnet is also a handy feature, as it enables easy storage on a metal surface without the risk of getting lost in a drawer. With a temperature range of -40 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit, the Javelin Pro is versatile enough for both smoking and traditional oven cooking.

Best Budget: ThermoWorks ThermoPop Thermometer

ThermoWorks ThermoPop thermometers in a variety of colors.
ThermoWorks

I’m a big fan of ThermoWorks. As a brand, they have gained a reputation for reliability and expertise in temperature measurement thanks to its years of product development. One of its popular products is the ThermoPop, which is affordable and portable enough to fit in your pocket.

The thermometer’s rotating backlit display is handy, as it can be easily read from any angle, even for left-handed individuals. With a temperature range of -58 to 572 degrees Fahrenheit, the thermometer’s probe is easy to grip and has a simple one-button switch to toggle between Fahrenheit and Celsius readings.

Best for Meat: Taylor Dual Infrared/Thermocouple Thermometer

Taylor dual infrared and thermocouple thermometer.
Amazon

The Taylor Thermocouple Thermometer boasts exceptional accuracy thanks to its ability to read temperatures using both infrared technology and an internal probe. With the infrared feature, you can measure temperatures ranging from -67 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit, while the probe can detect temperatures up to 626 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is one of the best meat thermometers and is ideal for various cooking activities, such as grilling, high-heat roasting, and candy-making. Additionally, it has an IP65 rating, which means it is resistant to splashes, and the 5-inch probe makes it effortless to read temperatures of thick cuts of meat.

Best for Grilling: ThermoPro TP19 Waterproof Thermometer

ThermoPro TP19 waterproof thermometer.
Amazon

This instant read meat thermometer is both incredibly fast and accurate, utilizing a precise thermocouple sensor to provide readings within just 2-3 seconds, with an impressive accuracy of ±0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (±0.5 degrees Celsius). With this thermometer, there’s no more need to hunch over a hot grill, as precise temperature readings can be obtained in mere seconds, allowing you to achieve perfectly cooked meals without the risk of overcooking.

The grilling thermometer is also designed with an ambidextrous display, featuring a 2.0-inch large auto-rotating display that intuitively flips right side up, making it the perfect solution for those awkward angles and left-handed users.

Best for Baking: Lonicera Instant Read Thermometer

Lonicera instant read thermometer.
Amazon

The cooking thermometer features an IPX6 waterproof rating, allowing it to be easily cleaned under running water without any concerns of damage. It also comes with a 5.1-inch long probe made from food-grade materials, providing a safe distance between you and hot food. Additionally, the thermometer includes a pocket sleeve clip for added convenience.

With an accuracy of ±1℃ (±2°F) and a wide temperature range from -58°F to +572°F (-50°C ~ +300°C), this water thermometer is perfect for various applications, such as candle making, cooking, and liquids. The digital meat thermometer is also designed for quick and easy use, with a 2-4 second response time and a white backlight for reading in dimly lit areas.

Most Versatile: ChefAlarm Thermometer and Timer

ChefAlarm thermometer and timer from Thermoworks.
Thermoworks

The ChefAlarm boasts of an info-packed display that continuously shows the highest and lowest temperatures reached since the thermometer was turned on or since the memory was reset. This feature is incredibly useful for at-a-glance reminders of the starting temperature, allowing you to track how high your food got after an alarm or during resting. For example, it can help you monitor carry-over heat or temperature drops that may occur during outdoor grilling in cold weather.

Unlike other probe-style alarms that only provide a high alarm, the ChefAlarm alerts you when something has reached the low temperature you’ve set, making it suitable for various chilled techniques, yogurt making, and desserts. Moreover, several commercial food chains use the ChefAlarm to monitor holding temperatures, ensuring that food in a prep or buffet line is kept at optimum serving temperatures for the best quality and food safety.

Types of thermometers

  • Meat Thermometer – ranges from 140 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, which explicitly captures the range of cooking meat.
  • Oven Thermometer – ideal for any kitchen, but especially when using older appliances or cooking with an unfamiliar oven. It can help identify hot spots or an oven that doesn’t keep a regular temperature.
  • Candy Thermometer – ranges from 100 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, which encompasses a wide range of recipe needs. It comes with a liquid gauge, as digital instant-read thermometers like oven and meat thermometers can’t capture the high heat needed for boiling sugar, deep-frying, or making cheese.
  • All-Purpose Thermometer – precisely what it sounds like an instant-read digital tool used for baking, cooking meat, or anything else that would be helpful to have an internal temperature read.

How to use a thermometer

Inserting a digital read thermometer in a piece of chicken.

Using an instant-read thermometer is quite simple. You will want to select the thickest part of the food to plunge the probe into, which is likely to house the least-cooked piece. For meat, do not touch the bone, or you will get a false high reading.

The instructions will tell you to probe at least a half-inch, but you’ll want to go deeper if the meat is thicker than an inch altogether. With digital thermometers, the temperature should continue to drop as you move inward, and you’ll know you’ve gone too far once it starts to rise again.

Give the thermometer time to stabilize. It’s taking average readings along the sensing part of the probe. Some thermometers can read as fast as 2 to 3 seconds, while others need more time.

Degrees of doneness

Cooking temperatures vary by food type—target 165 degrees Fahrenheit for chicken breast and 170 degrees Fahrenheit for chicken thighs. Check large roasts 30-40 minutes before you expect them to be done cooking–thinner and smaller cuts are good to check 5-10 minutes out.

You should shoot for 5 degrees less than your desired temperature and take your meat out of its heat source so it can rest.

How to calibrate a thermometer

Digital is a bit more difficult to calibrate than analog (a mercury thermometer); however, both use the same method. A digital thermometer can be adjusted by a repairman if needed, but you can also keep in mind how many degrees it may be off and do the math in your head.

  • Ice Point Method: Add cold water and ice to a drinking cup. Allow it to stabilize for a few minutes. Insert the probe into the center of the glass. Allow the temperature to stabilize. If it does not reach 32°F (0°C), press “calibrate” on the digital thermometer to 32 degrees or turn the dial-face thermometers to 32 degrees.
  • Boiling Point Method: Boil water to 212°F (100°C). Add that to a glass measuring cup and insert the probe into the hot water. If it does not reach 212°F (100°C), press “calibrate” on the digital thermometer at 212 degrees or turn dial-face thermometers to 212 degrees.
Calibrating a meat thermometer using a glass of ice water.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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2 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Ruth Brentari says

    I have a Thermoworks instant read thermometer. I’m relatively new to cooking. I was cooking 2 bone-in pork chops in a casts iron pan. I measure the first chop at 125 taking the temp from top down. I measured the 2nd chop at 185, taking the temp both top down and through the side. We didn’t cook them any further, let them test 10+ mins. Both were medium rare when we cut into them. I’ve calibrated the thermometer (Thermoworks Mk4), it’s accurate. I’m 90% confident I didn’t hit the bone. I did take the temp on the pan. What did I do wrong with the second chop?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Ruth- Typically the sides cook faster than the center, I’ve always found the edges to be higher in temp then the center. Also if you are measuring from the side you should try to get into the center. You’ll get a more accurate reading if you test it on a plate off the pan, sometimes the tip of the probe can briefly the pan and get a false high.

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