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 how it feels. But, I use a thermometer—like our winning ThermoPop(available at ThermoWorks)—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 devices can have a pretty hefty price tag—like our best upgrade pick, the ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE (available at ThermoWorks)—and we were curious if those thermometers performed that much better than the less expensive versions. So, we these necessary kitchen accessories through a series of tests to see how successful they were at temping meats, making candy, and measuring fryer oil. After putting them through the ringer, we came out with some solid favorites.
These are the best digital meat thermometers we tested:
ThermoPop by ThermoWorks
Thermapen ONE by ThermoWorks
Habor Instant Read
OXO Good Grips Chef's Precision Digital Instant Read
Lavatools PT12 Javelin Instant Read
Kizen Digital Meat Thermometer
GDEALER Instant Read
Taylor Precision Products Dual Temperature Infrared/Thermocouple Thermometer
ThermoPro TP03A Digital Instant Read
Surround Point Digital Thermometer Talking Instant Read
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 ONE. 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.
The Thermapen ONE was the most expensive thermometer we tested, but it was also one of the best. It boasted the fastest temperature readings—averaging 2.3 seconds—while also being one of the most accurate thermometers in the test group. The ONE came with a certificate of calibration that ensured accurate readings, so we weren’t surprised when it registered accurate temperatures on all our tests. We also appreciate that this device can be re-calibrated if it ever happens to stray.
While the Thermapen ONE was one of the largest thermometers we tested, we actually thought that worked in its favor. It wasn’t heavy despite its size, and the exterior was lightly textured, making it comfortable to hold. The long probe kept our hands well away from the heat of the pan when measuring fryer oil.
For the price, you also get several other user-friendly features, like a backlit display that makes it easy to view in a dark kitchen and a display that rotates 360 degrees as you move it. It automatically turns on when you extend the probe and auto-shuts off without use to preserve the battery life. It's also one of the only models we tested that’s fully waterproof.
Our only complaint here was that the settings for calibration and changing from Fahrenheit to Celsius are hidden behind a screwed-in battery panel, so you’ll need to locate a Phillips head screwdriver to make any changes.
Put it all together, and we have no qualms naming this thermometer our best upgrade pick.
Very fast readings
Can be calibrated
Larger than other models
Battery panel needs to be removed to access settings
Some of the products 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 a few other products on this list 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. Among everything we evaluated for this guide, 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 model 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 a digital instant-read meat thermometer. It can really make a difference if you want to cook up the best cuts of 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 10 products to test—eight 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 products only took two or three seconds to determine final temperatures, while others lagged behind at 15 to 20 seconds!
Finally, we looked at the device'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 it was comfortable to hold as we took the temperature of hot food.
How to Use a Meat Thermometer
There are several different types of cooking and kitchen thermometers. You'll want to use an oven thermometer, which you leave inside the oven door at all times, to ensure the cooking environment is accurate.
Then there are probe thermometers, digital thermometers designed to monitor real-time internal temperatures. They’re inserted into the thickest part of meat like whole chicken or a roast while it’s still raw, allowing you to pinpoint the exact moment your food reaches its ideal temperature.
Meat thermometers, on the other hand, are used are only necessary when you're ready to check the food’s temperature. We love the digital models because they’re quicker and easier to read than analog thermometers. The keys to your cooking success will be having the right tool that's accurate (usually to a tenth of a degree), easy to read, has a long battery life, and is simple to store while not in use.
Know which temperature you're aiming for. For food safety reasons, it's recommended that red meat, pork and fish, be at 145℉; while poultry such as chicken and turkey start be at165℉.
Measure the thickest part of the food item.
Submerge the entire tip of the probe. It should be easy to determine the tip part of the thermometer, but if not, make sure at least a half-inch of the metal probe is submerged.
Measure multiple times. Check the temperature of the meat a minute or so before it should be done to see if you need to let it cooking longer than the recipe calls for. Then keep measuring every few minutes until it's reached the desired temperature. At that point, you can pull the item out of the oven, or off the grill.
Clean after each use. To ensure your thermometer remains safe to use again and remains accurate, clean after each use with hot water or wipe with a hot cloth.
Other Digital Meat Thermometers We Tested
OXO Good Grips Thermocouple Thermometer
If our best upgrade pick is out of stock, you won’t be disappointed with this OXO Good Grips thermometer. Like the Thermapen ONE, the OXO was quick and accurate, registering boiling water and cooked chicken in just three seconds. It has a very thin tip, too, so it didn’t poke large holes into the chicken when we used it, either.
Our two major complaints with this model were centered around aesthetics. For starters, its sleek design made it a little hard to hold over hot items, as the steam coated the smooth surface to make it slippery. We also didn’t like that the settings for changing Fahrenheit to Celsius were also hidden behind a battery panel, which required a Phillips head screwdriver for removal.
The Lavatools PT12 Javelin nearly made it as the top pick, but it was just a bit slower to register temperatures. While it was just as accurate, it averaged five seconds in its temperature readings—but the ThermoWorks and OXO models only took two to three seconds.
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 models we tested. Our only knock is this: The three-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.
The Kizen was a best seller on Amazon at the time of this review. We liked several features of this handheld thermometer, including large, easy-to-read numbers, a bright backlit display, and an auto on/off feature when you open it.
The soft buttons were easy to press, and there was a small guide for meat temperatures on the face that could be helpful for new cooks. That said, it wasn’t the most accurate, reading temperatures a few degrees higher than it should on boiling water and cooked chicken. It wasn’t the slowest in the test group, but it wasn’t the quickest, either.
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 didn’t register the correct temperature of boiling water (missing the mark by more than 4 degrees).
If you search "kitchen thermometer" on Amazon, the ThermoPro TP03A Instant Read will be one of the first on the list. At the time of this review, it had over 102,000 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 —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 products we tested, 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.
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