We've all been there: You follow a recipe to the T, pop your masterpiece in the oven and then you wait (and wait, and wait). Thirty minutes later, it's just barely done even though the recipe cook time calls for 10 minutes.
Or you leave your dish to slow roast for an hour as instructed, only to discover that it burned to a crisp 20 minutes ago. Not only is this incredibly annoying, but it's also a telltale sign that your oven isn't heating the way it should. The result? Blackened cookies and an underdone Thanksgiving turkey.
Luckily, there's a simple fix to playing Russian Roulette with your oven—a humble dial-face stainless-steel oven thermometer.
And while there generally isn’t much discernable difference in the type of oven thermometer, we discovered after testing nine of the leading models on the market, that the KT Thermo Oven Thermometer(available at Amazon) stands out from the pack. Not only is it highly accurate (an obvious must for thermometers), it has easy-to-read and wide-ranging temperature markings, it fits snugly onto oven racks, and it's a compact size.
These are the best oven thermometers we tested ranked, in order:
KT Thermo Oven Thermometer
Cooper-Atkins Bi-Metal Oven Thermometer
Admetior Oven Thermometer
AcuRite Oven Thermometer
CDN Pro Accurate Oven Thermometer
Taylor Large Dial Oven Thermometer
Winco Oven Thermometer
OXO Chef’s Precision Oven Thermometer
Rubbermaid Oven Thermometer
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Like the Goldilocks of oven thermometers, the KT Thermo is just right. The face is large and uncluttered enough to clearly read through a closed oven door. But the body is small enough to be unobtrusive, with a simple hook that snuggly locks it to a rack, and a base that’s just wide enough to allow it to sturdily perch on the grates.
It also accurately clocks temperatures, and ranges from 100° to 600°F, meaning it begins registering at a cool room temperature, and stands up to even the most blistering, pizza-hot conditions.
But if it somehow doesn’t meet expectations, know that the thermometer comes with a 30-day money back guarantee as well as a two-year warranty.
Less than $6 is a small price to pay for the assurance that you won’t burn your cookies. Especially considering that this thermometer doesn’t cut corners with design.
The diminutively-sized dial is simply jam-packed with features, including Fahrenheit and Celsius marks that register temperature changes every 50 degrees. Granted, that makes the face a bit cluttered and potentially difficult to read. But if you love baking on a budget, this is the thermometer for you.
My name is Sarah Zorn, and I’m a professional food writer, cookbook author and recipe tester. Meaning, accuracy is essential when it comes to developing dishes in my kitchen. And this product review was humbling because it revealed just how off my oven is!
This guide was first written and tested by former Reviewed editor Jessica Teich.
To test the oven thermometers, we hung four thermometers at a time from a rack placed in the middle of an oven. We then positioned a separate thermometer (one of our best tested probe thermometers which we use for all our oven testing) in a ceramic dish, oriented so the body of the probe was exposed to the open air near the thermometers.
We preheated the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and let it hold for 5 minutes before turning the oven off. During this sequence, we recorded the temperatures of both the thermometers and the probe once per minute.
We then repeated this process at a 450-degree setting. Finally, we evaluated each thermometers' performance during everyday use.
Why Buy An Oven Thermometer?
Cooking food— most especially baking — is all about chemistry. And many of those essential chemical reactions are dependent on measuring temperature correctly. The problem is, ovens are notoriously idiosyncratic (to put it nicely) and often wildly inaccurate. Each one heats differently.
If you’re following a recipe, it’s pretty much a given that your oven won’t operate in the same way as the oven of the person who developed the recipe in the first place. So if the instructions read “Bake at 375°F for 15 minutes,” using an oven thermometer will let you know when you’re truly at the right temperature.
This set it and forget it tool features an internal mechanism that expands and contracts, which moves a dial to indicate the true temperature of your oven. The heat-proof glass face is surrounded by a steel body, and is fitted with a hook to allow it to hang off an oven rack, as well as a base if you’d rather sit it flat on top of the grates.
What Should You Look for in An Oven Thermometer?
Clearly, accuracy is key, or why bother in the first place? To find a good instant-read cooking thermometer, look for a stainless steel oven thermometer with easy to read markings that you can see through the oven door without having to open it (or risk ruining your perfectly inflated souffle).
The ticks should be large and the face uncluttered. That said, Celsius indicators are helpful if you’re working within the metric system, as are markings that register every 10 degrees if you do a good deal of baking. The thermometer should stay firmly in position, so it’s not easily knocked off the racks if hung, or subject to falling over, if set on its base. And it shouldn’t be so large that it dangles in front of (or prevents access to) lower racks.
Other Oven Thermometers We Tested
Admetior T803BH Oven Thermometer
When we first wrote this guide several years ago, the Admetior was named our top pick and we still like it quite a bit. This no-frills model reported temperatures with impressive accuracy and responded quickly to any changes in heat. It's effortless to hang on the oven rack, and although the face is small, it's easy to read thanks to clear, bold print and distinct tick marks.
A temperature gauge that starts at 50°F ensures that you can see the needle move even at room temperature, but it only reads up to 500°F.
Using a large, dark font on a bright white background, the AcuRite is clear and easy to read, right through the oven door. It did reasonably well monitoring consistent temperatures, and while it didn’t include Celsius marks, the AcuRite features potentially helpful range indicators of Warm, Bake/Roast, and Broil. It also reaches 600°F, but doesn’t start registering temperatures until 150°F.
The CDN had the most accurate readings of any of the thermometers we tried. But the range wasn’t great at 150° to 550°F (although bonus points for Celsius marks). The face is small and dark, making it difficult to read, yet the base is oddly bulky, so it hangs awkwardly between racks, obscuring access to anything stored below.
This thermometer has one of the largest faces of the lot, with big tick marks and a graduated color wheel, that makes it a breeze to read through an oven window. That said, it wasn't the most responsive or accurate model we tested. And it has a very bulky body, so it takes up more than its fair share of space between racks.
The Winco doesn’t lack information, with a big face that boasts a 50° to 500°F range, as well as Celsius marks, “Hold,” “Bake,” and “Roast” indicators, and FDA's HACCP food safety guidelines concerning holding and cooling temperatures for hot foods. It can all be a bit overwhelming to the eye, and occupies a fair amount of real estate, amounting to a big and bulky thermometer that obtrusively hangs between racks.
With a full complement of Celsius marks and 10-degree ticks ranging from 50 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, we had pretty high hopes for OXO. They plummeted as soon as this model hit the oven. The clutter of numbers and semi-opaque face made it exceedingly hard to see. It was awkward to hang, and its extra-large size took up too much space between racks. As for performance, it proved inaccurate and unresponsive. Don't be fooled by the brand notoriety—just put this one back on the shelf.
Like the OXO oven thermometer we tested, the Rubbermaid includes 10-degree temperature ticks and Celsius marks, which are helpful for baking as well as recipes that depend on non-standard temperatures. But like the OXO, that makes for a visually cluttered product. The tick marks are also oddly sized and spaced, adding to how difficult it is to interpret and read.
The Rubbermaid was very unstable when set on its base, and was the most inconsistent temperature reader of all the thermometers we tried, cementing its position at the bottom of our list.
Sarah Zorn is a food writer, cookbook author, and product tester for Reviewed, Wirecutter and the Food Network. She regularly contributes to outlets such as Saveur, Esquire, and Civil Eats, and has very much passed her food obsessions down, as her beloved rescue hound, Rowdy, regularly deglazes his kibble bowl.
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.