The 5 Best Instant Read Thermometers of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

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The 5 Best Instant Read Thermometers of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Whether making a favorite weeknight grilled chicken recipe or prepping a turkey feast, an instant-read thermometer is an essential tool for home cooks. Although more experienced chefs might be able to gauge the internal temperature with nothing more than the touch of a finger, an instant-read thermometer ensures safety and accuracy. And using one is pretty simple when it comes to meat. A thermometer helps ensure ingredients are cooked to a food-safe temperature and not overcooked.

James Beard Award-nominated chef and restauranteur Kevin Gillespie of Red Beard Restaurants and Top Chef fame says speed, accuracy, and size are all factors he considers when looking for the best instant-read thermometer. He uses one when he needs "something to reach a precise temperature for a chemical reaction to take place, like in candy."

To evaluate the best instant-read thermometers, we tested 23 different infrared and probe models in our labs to measure accuracy, speed, and consistency in controlled temperature environments such as sous vide cooking. Here are the picks that we trust in our kitchens.

The Thermapen ONE is easy to use, quick to measure, and quite accurate.

It's very expensive, and the backlight isn't as bright as we'd like.

"My favorite, by far, is the Thermoworks Thermapen ONE," says Gillespie. It's the choice of many professional chefs and it proved itself worthy in our testing. The simple and well-built thermometer outperformed the competition in almost every category. It gave us identical readings each time we repeated each test, and was off by a single degree in the sous vide and boiling water tests. The brand says it's accurate to within half a degree, so this is within the rounding error.

The Thermapen ONE was the fastest at delivering its readings, too, settling on a final temperature within 2 seconds in our tests. Over six months of long-term testing, we haven't run into any problems — or, notably, had to replace the single AAA battery. Our only real quibble with performance is that the Thermapen ONE backlight is weak. If you're checking temps on a huge grill when it's dark outside, you might need an additional grill light.

And then there's the price. The Thermapen ONE is one of the most expensive instant-read thermometers on the market. Nonetheless, it still gets our highest recommendation.

Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.7 x 0.74 inches | Probe Length: 4.3 inches | Temperature Range: -58°F to 572°F | Power: 1 AAA battery

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

This thermometer is compact, fast, and reasonably priced.

It's a bit less accurate than some models we tested.

The folding probe and compact shape of the Maverick PT-55 make it great to drop into the pocket of your kitchen apron as you move from stovetop to oven to outdoor grill. It's well-suited to a range of indoor and outdoor uses, especially for lovers of steak who want to nail the doneness every time.

In testing, the Maverick's readings were consistent from one measurement to the next, but it wasn't quite as accurate as some of its competitors. On the other hand, it was off by only 2 degrees at most, which shouldn't affect any kitchen uses. It might not be the right meat thermometer for laboratory-level precision, but it's not intended for that. Its price is average for the models we tested, and its performance is worth a lot more.

Dimensions: 6 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches | Temperature Range: -4.0°F to 572°F | Power: 2 CR2032 batteries

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

This inexpensive thermometer delivers accurate readings with a bright backlight.

It's somewhat awkward to hold, and the probe doesn't swing out smoothly.

The Kizen has all the features you need, at a fraction of the cost of other models on this list. Its bright backlight and large LED display are easy to read, and its readings were fast and accurate in testing — a single degree off with sous vide and dead-on with boiling water, delivered in less than 3 seconds. There's even a convenient list of temperatures for different meats and doneness levels printed right on the body.

The shape of the Kizen is theoretically designed to fit your hand comfortably, but we found it a little awkward to hold in testing, which interfered with sticking it into a chicken thigh in the oven to get a correct reading. In long-term testing, we also noticed that the rotating probe started to stick a bit, needing some manual help to get into position. All in all, though, neither of these is a serious problem, especially given this thermometer's low price.

Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.99 x 0.2 inches | Probe Length: 4.3 inches | Temperature Range: -58°F to 572°F | Power: 2 CR2032 batteries

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

This highly accurate thermometer has a bright backlight and auto-rotating screen good for anybody and anywhere.

It takes a comparatively long time to get a temperature reading.

For left-handed cooks, it can be annoying to use most instant-read thermometers: If you stick the probe in with your left hand, the screen winds up upside-down. The Javelin Pro fixes this problem, with a screen that automatically rotates the numbers to appear right-side-up no matter how the thermometer is oriented. The numerals are also large, with a powerful backlight that makes them visible in the back of the oven, or for a cook with less-than-perfect eyesight.

We got accurate and consistent test readings with the Javelin Pro, with everything coming in at less than a single degree off. But its readings were less than instant, taking up to 7 seconds to stabilize at a final temperature. Its maximum temperature is also 482°F, almost 100 degrees lower than standard. That will still cover almost all home-cooking settings, but you might not want to use this thermometer under the broiler or on a full-blast gas grill.

Dimensions: 6.25 x 1.8 inches | Probe Length: 4.5 inches | Temperature Range: -40°F to 482°F | Power: 1 CR2032 battery

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Two thermometers in one, this model is fast and accurate in both of its modes.

The display doesn't rotate and can be hard to read from certain angles.

The Cuisinart CSG-200 is a multipurpose tool. Its swivel probe gave us 100-percent-accurate readings in the sous vide and boiling water tests, in around 2 seconds each time. It also incorporates an infrared thermometer that can measure temperatures without touching the surface directly. You can point the infrared beam at your cast iron skillet to make sure it's fully preheated for searing steak, then use the probe to measure the doneness.

The screen on this thermometer doesn't rotate, however, so it'll be upside-down if you insert it the wrong way. And we found the backlight a little weak and wanting. As an infrared thermometer, it's also just okay; the pen shape is harder to target accurately than a model with a full grip and trigger mechanism. But the whole thing costs less than lots of single-purpose probes and infrared thermometers, and it does the job of both.

Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 1.25 inches | Probe Length: 3.9 inches | Temperature Range: up to 572°F (probe), up to 932°F (infrared) | Power: 1 AAA battery

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Food & Wine / Russell Kilgore

Our top pick, the ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE, performed better than the other 22 thermometers we tested, on every task. We love its accuracy and speed, and we feel it's an excellent choice for home cooks or professionals. For a budget alternative, we like the Kizen Digital Meat Thermometer, which delivers solid performance at a fraction of the price.

We chose a total of 23 different instant-read thermometer models to test side-by-side on an identical series of tasks.

After completing these tests, we revealed the retail prices of the thermometers to compare and consider value for money. To evaluate long-term performance, we continued using the thermometers in everyday cooking, checking in after two and six months to note any issues.

Taylor Dual Temperature Infrared/Thermocouple Thermometer (Amazon)

This thermometer has both probe and infrared, and both are incredibly accurate. Its grip makes it nice to hold, too. However, the interface isn't intuitive, and it's awfully expensive.

Lavatools Javelin Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer (Amazon)

This cheaper version of the Javelin Pro above feels, well, cheaper. It has a very basic design and lacks a backlight or rotating display. The display is very clear, but we think it's worth a few extra dollars for the upgraded model.

Weber Instant Read Meat Thermometer (Amazon)

The compact "lollipop" shape of this thermometer is a popular design for cheaper models. The Weber is accurate and inexpensive, but you have to hold your hand directly over the heat to measure something like simmering water, melted sugar, or frying oil. A model with a rotating probe is safer.

All-Clad Instant Read Digital Thermometer (Williams Sonoma)

This tiny cylinder uses its size very efficiently and can stow away easily in a drawer. It was accurate — if a little slow — in testing, but our major issue is that the perfectly round shape doesn't offer much grip. We're concerned about it slipping out of your hand if you're using an oven mitt.

OXO Good Grips Thermocouple Thermometer (Amazon)

This thermometer is very accurate, has a rotating screen, and rotates a full 270 degrees to access almost anywhere. But it's extremely expensive, and for this price, we prefer the Thermapen ONE.

Alpha Grillers Instant Read Meat Thermometer (Amazon)

This model looks, works, and is priced almost the same as the Kizen we named our best value pick. But it takes longer than the Kizen to reach its temperature readings.

None of the thermometers we tested were more than 2 or 3 degrees off, but the least accurate ones lost a lot of points. The main performance issue we ran into was thermometers that took a long time to give a reading or ones that did perfectly well but were too expensive.

*Editor's note: Our tests also included models from Saunorch, BBQ Dragon, and Fresnwel that have been discontinued.

For meat or baked goods, insert the thermometer an inch or two into the thickest part of the food. You want to be sure it's not touching any bones, or the surface of pans or oven racks. To measure the temperature of liquids like water, liquid sugar, or frying oil, simply submerge the probe into the liquid without touching the side or bottom of the pan. Once you get your temperature reading, take the thermometer out; you should never leave an instant-read thermometer in the oven or on the grill.

Instant read thermometers come in probe or infrared styles. A probe thermometer has a long, straight probe you stick in the food to measure temperature directly, while an infrared thermometer analyzes the thermal radiation coming from an object to take its temperature from a few inches away without actually touching it.

Besides wiping off the probe with a sponge and some soapy water after each use, there's not much maintenance you need to do on an instant-read thermometer. Though most models have at least some degree of water resistance, you shouldn't put the battery-containing part of a digital thermometer underwater and can just wipe it down if it gets dirty.

If you're worried about your thermometer's calibration, you can test it with a bowl of ice water (which should read 32°F) and a pot of boiling water (which should read 212°F). Some higher-end thermometers will let you reset their calibration, but if a cheap model loses its accuracy, you may just have to replace it.

Yes. Candy-making requires high temperatures, but even the darkest of caramels stay under about 400°F, well within the safe range for the models we tested. However, an instant-read thermometer is only meant to measure temperature for a few seconds at a time; you're not supposed to leave it sitting in the pan. For serious candy-makers, it's probably more convenient to clamp a candy thermometer in place and not have to move it around all the time.

No matter how accurate the thermometer is, it's useless if you can't actually read the screen. Most models use LCD displays, which don't consume a lot of power but can't show anything more complicated than letters and numbers. A larger screen is easier to read, of course, but we found that a bright backlight made a big difference, too.

Before you start using an instant-read thermometer, make sure to check the temperature range it can measure effectively. Most models can handle nearly any kitchen temperature, but you should be careful not to exceed the limit with super-hot broiling, grilling, or live-fire cooking. Too much heat can permanently damage a thermometer.

The 5 Best Instant Read Thermometers of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Cnc Woodworking Different models of thermometer claim to be waterproof or water-resistant, but those terms mean different things to different brands. Check your model's manual for details about just what it can handle, but it's generally a bad idea to submerge any electrical appliance in water.