If you don’t already have one, you should seriously consider getting a meat thermometer. It’s the only way to know —not guess—when your meat is finished cooking. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always use mine—I’ve cooked so many steaks in my professional career that I know the temperatures by feel. But, I use a thermometer—like our winning ThermoPop(available at ThermoWorks for $34.00)—each and every time I cook poultry, smoke a brisket, or throw a roast in the oven. Those items will come out juicier and more flavorful if I get them to a precise temperature!
Some of the internet’s top-rated thermometers can have a pretty hefty price tag—up to $100!—and we were curious if those thermometers performed that much better than the less expensive versions. So, we put the best thermometers through a series of tests to see how successful the devices were at temping meats, making candy and measuring fryer oil. After putting them through the ringer, we came out with some solid favorites.
Here are the best digital meat thermometers in order:
The ThermoPop immediately impressed us with its super quick, accurate readings and its beautiful appearance. It averaged a mere 3 seconds to reach final temperatures, which was second only to the significantly more expensive Thermapen MK4. The probe was long enough to reach the center of a roast while keeping your hands safely away from the hot steam, yet the super-thin tip didn’t allow for many chicken juices to escape after probing.
It clearly aced the precision and speed tests, but it really pulled ahead of the pack with its aesthetic features. With a click of a super soft button, the display rotates 360 degrees for ease of viewing. Another click and the backlight illuminates the large numbers. These small characteristics helped make it the clear choice for best overall.
Some of the thermometers we tested cost up to $100, so when the Habor Instant Read aced our tests with a $10 price tag, we were impressed! It’s not as fast as the top three thermometers and the display is a bit on the small side (which could make it difficult to read for some), but it didn’t falter on any of the accuracy tests. Of all the thermometers, it had the longest probe (5-inches) keeping your hands safely away from hot steam. The buttons were soft and easy to access, and overall, we liked this inexpensive thermometer enough to give it our best value rating.
Hi, I'm Lindsay Mattison, a trained professional chef. Throughout my career, I’ve found that precision and speed are critical in a fast-paced restaurant environment, but they're no less important at home. This is especially true when it comes to your digital instant-read meat thermometer. It can really make a difference if you want to cook up the best meat, candy, or fried foods. Since I'm pretty picky when it comes to my personal thermometer, I wanted to help you pick the perfect one!
We chose eight digital thermometers—six foldaway models and two long-probe models—and put them through a variety of tests designed to assess accuracy, speed, and overall feel.
We started with accuracy because a thermometer's main function is to display the correct temperature. A cup of ice water should read 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a pot of boiling water should register 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level. We also measured 350-degree Fahrenheit fryer oil to see if the thermometer had a versatile enough temperature range to make candy. To make sure they were able to take consistent temperatures, we repeated each test three times and averaged the results.
While speed might not seem like an important factor for a thermometer, just consider this: when you’re throwing a Thanksgiving dinner and trying to coordinate a million side dishes (and the personalities of all your guests, too), hovering your hand over the turkey for an extra 10 seconds can feel like an eternity. Some of the thermometers only took 2 or 3 seconds to determine final temperatures, while others lagged behind at 15 to 20 seconds!
Finally, we looked at the thermometer’s overall feel. We cooked up some chicken thighs to assess the length and width of the probes. We also wanted to know if it was awkward to view the display or if the thermometer was comfortable to hold as we took the temperature of hot food.
Other Thermometers We Tested
The Lavatools Javelin nearly made it as the top pick, but it was just a bit slower than the ThermoPop. While it was just as accurate, it averaged 5 seconds in its temperature readings — which is still very fast! I love the minimalistic packaging and the super-compact size of the thermometer itself, and it has some really nice features like an auto on and off as you open the probe. The built-in magnet makes it easy to store on the fridge and the display is one of the largest of all the thermometers we tested. Our only knock is this: The 3-inch probe may not be long enough to hit the center of a large roast, and you have to remove the battery panel to change from Fahrenheit to Celsius.
This was the most expensive thermometer we tested, and for good reason. The Thermapen Mk4 had the fastest temperature readings—only 2 seconds!—while also being the most accurate thermometer of the group. It’s the largest thermometer we tested, but that actually worked in its favor, making it the most comfortable to hold. The price tag really earns its merit with the user-friendly features: the backlight automatically turns on in dark temperatures, the display rotates 360 degrees as you move it, and it quickly turns on and off as you extend the probe. Yet in our testing, the ThermoPop scored slightly higher because of some small aesthetic features and its value. While I personally wouldn’t spend $100, it was the only fully waterproof model and definitely the one to get if you’re looking for a super-fast, super precise thermometer.
The GDEALER was very middle-of-the-pack in almost every way. It wasn’t slow, but it wasn’t fast. While it wasn’t the most accurate, it also wasn’t the least accurate. It has some user-friendly features (like auto on and off as you swing it open and a large display), but some that are less friendly (like removing the battery case to change from Fahrenheit to Celsius and stiff, hard to push buttons). For the price, though, it’s really not a bad deal if you’re looking for an inexpensive foldaway model.
Taylor 9306N Splash-Proof Dual Temperature Thermometer
The heavy-duty Taylor Infrared was the only thermometer we tested that had dual temperature functions. Use the foldaway probe to take the internal temperatures or click “scan” to take surface temperatures with the infrared sensor. While we liked the packaging, unfortunately the results weren’t up to par. The display was small, and this thermometer was neither fast nor accurate. While it was super precise at low temperatures, it was the only thermometer that didn’t register the correct temperature of boiling water (missing the mark by more than 4 degrees).
If you type “meat thermometer” into Amazon, the ThermoPro TP03A Instant Read will be one of the first on the list. It has over 5,500 reviews with a positive rating, but it wasn’t our favorite from the group. The foldaway probe locks into place so you need to press a button to release it, and it doesn’t have an auto-on function. The thin, cheap plastic construction is harder to hold than the others and it takes almost 15 seconds to reach its final resting temperature. It’s an inexpensive model, but the GDEALER and Habor are certainly better tools.
I have to admit, I started out annoyed with the Surround Point Digital Thermometer—it was the only product that didn’t come with batteries included! Once I found some spare AAAs, this one didn’t really wow me with results, either. The buttons are stiff and hard to push, and the probe is a little awkward to remove from its locked position. It was the slowest of all the thermometers, too. The only saving grace—it will speak out the temperature on display, making this product the best option for those who are visually impaired.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.