A lot of us, home cooks and even professional chefs, have a hard time “eyeballing” or estimating the temperature of food, especially when grilling. Grilling may seem like a simple lunch activity, but roasting a thick slab of beef or a fat pork brisket is more complicated than you think.
When cooking in an open fire like a bed of charcoal, you cannot control the heat, so you do not know how the inside of the meat is cooking. Luckily, a good instant read thermometer can perfectly tell you when your steak is already nicely seared!
An instant-read thermometer is a thermometer with a metal probe that is usually 4.5 inches long. It records the temperature of the food in a couple of seconds. Just like your brisket knives and pans, quality and a reliable thermometer is always worth buying, no more wasting a good piece of rib-eye or filet mignon by overcooking it or risking yourself to salmonella because of undercooked chicken!
The Top 8 Instant Read Thermometer
Buying an instant read thermometers also affirms your dedication to cooking, grilling, and barbecuing for your family and friends. Now, read our list of the eight best instant-read thermometers out there and what makes them great.
Read this article to have a glance at our picks’ brand, features, and warranty. These thermometers come from different price brackets, but all are capable of home kitchens and, some, even in professional ones.
Learn the features of each thermometer and choose which one is suited for your cooking. We also listed a couple of pros and cons and our final verdict for each thermometer.
|THERMAPEN MK4||ETI||Motion-sensing sleep mode allows fast operation and also saves power||2-year warranty|
|THERMO POP||ThermoWorks||Almost the size of a ballpen but still precise||2-year warranty|
|JAVELIN PRO DUO||Lavatools||Can confirm the stabilized temperature within seconds||3-year limited warranty|
|Maverick PT-100||Maverick||Certified by two organizations in terms of food safety and accuracy||1-year warranty|
|ThermoPro TP19||ThermoPro||One of the most affordable yet versatile thermometers out there||1/3-year warranty|
|Cooper Atkins DFP450W||Cooper||Temperature alarm will repeatedly blink when the set temperature is achieved||Lifetime|
|ThermoPro TP03||ThermoPro||One-click Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion feature||1/3-year warranty|
|Habor 022 Meat Thermometer||Habor||Premium design at an affordable price without losing functionality||18-months warranty|
1. Thermapen Mk4
While this list is not ranked, the Thermapen Mk4 is first on this list because of how fast and accurate it is. It can provide an actual temperature reading to ±0.7°F in just two seconds. This is the right choice if you are overseeing a fast-paced kitchen.
A good thermometer is an intuitive thermometer. First, the Mk4 has a rotating screen to show the display whatever the orientation of the thermometer’s body is. This way, the reading is shown on any angle. It also has an automatic backlight — no need to grab your phone’s light to see the temperature.
Lastly, it has a native motion sensor. The thermometer will automatically turn on when you move it and turn off if left unmoved. This feature will also help to save battery. It is powered by a single AAA lithium battery, which is marked to have a battery life of 3,000 hours.
A durable polymer body houses the electronics inside. Meanwhile, the metal probe snaps shut on the body. This technique avoids unnecessary snagging and any accidents given the probe’s sharp tip.
Checking the temperature has never been this quick and easy. Using this is an excellent start to streamlining your kitchen workflow with an impressive IP67 waterproof rating. This one is going to withstand the stressful demands in the kitchen.
The Thermapen Mk4 is the 4th reiteration of the model. You know the company listens to its customers when they regularly upgrade a product that is already a staple in both professional and casual kitchens. The brand has a loyal following from casual cooks to professional chefs. Its overall aesthetics will tell you that the thermometer is made for its customers and not just for sole profit.
It comes with a two-year warranty, which is usual for thermometers this price. Also, when you buy it brand new, there is a certificate of calibration in the box. It shows the result of a calibration test like the test temperature and what the thermometer recorded.
Keep it light and fun with the ThermoPop: a pen-like thermometer with a design as good as its function.
You can stick the probe up to 4.5 inches, which is long enough to dig deep into thick meat, an important aspect when roasting a pig’s leg. The temperature is in degrees Fahrenheit and rotates to whatever angle you are using it by clicking the button. The backlit screen will also avoid misreading the temperature.
Despite its small size, it has a high-temperature range for high-heat operations. This product can be your only food thermometer for making a sourdough loaf to even Beef Wellington. It is as capable as “serious” thermometers available in the market.
For those looking for the best “bang for the buck” thermometer, this one cannot be beaten. It is just significantly faster and accurate compared to other thermometers in its price range. This product is also a perfect tool in your home kitchen without the need to shell out lots of dollars to get a reliable and crowd-favorite thermometer.
The body is a circular plastic that resembles a lollipop, hence the name. ThermoPop, vs. ThermaPen Mk4, can be stored in its cover, which you can clip on your shirt. You need not worry about repair as it also comes with a two-year warranty. Overall, the ThermoPop is the top pick of Wirecutter, a leading review website.
3. Javelin PRO Duo
If you already own a probe thermometer and want to upgrade, the Javelin PRO Duo is a good start. Just by looking at it, you know it is already meant for serious cooking.
To begin, this feature-packed thermometer is designed for long-term use. It has an IP65, which makes it splash-proof (this is different from submerging the item). The 4.25-inch probe is specially made from 18/8, food-grade stainless steel. Indeed, it is a professional thermometer for professionals.
However, what makes this thermometer a cut above the rest is the Intelligent Stabilization feature it has. Above a live fire, a food’s temperature will fluctuate. The thermometer will get the average temperature for you.
It has a minimum and maximum temperature of 40°F and 482°F, respectively. Meanwhile, the error margin is just at ±0.9°F and can quickly and accurately deliver results in two to three seconds.
The thermometer will also ring an alarm you if it reaches a specific temperature. The other feature it has other thermometers do not have is it can display the minimum and maximum temperature of the food you are cooking.
Even in the build quality, the thermometer is an upgrade to others. The plastic used feels durable, and the screen is clear. Even the hinge that pops up the probe is not made with cheaper materials and shoddy engineering – something that a lot of cheap thermometers do.
The best part here is that this thermometer can also be magnetized to your refrigerator’s door. You do not need more scrambling in your cluttered drawer to find it. It can also be attached to a carabiner. The 4.5-inch probe can be folded shut to avoid injuries. And since it is meant for industrial use, the two-inch display does not just auto-orients itself but is also anti-fog.
While it is a midrange thermometer with robust construction, you should not let it lean on a heating pot to record the temperature of the content. It might melt the body and ruin the electronics.
4. Maverick PT-100
The Maverick PT-100 is an industry-standard thermometer that is rugged, both form and function. It is double the price of the thermometers mentioned above in this list for a reason.
First, it is a National Sanitation Foundation or NSF-certified. Its accuracy is also certified by the National Institute of Standard and Technology. It is an accurate commercial-grade thermometer that can last the rigors in the kitchen!
Further, this product is only IP44 and not IP65. It is only splash-proof but may receive damage from water streams coming from a nozzle. It is also shock-proof, meaning it can withstand multiple drops on concrete, which is a usual case in professional kitchens.
The probe is 5 inches, which means that it is longer than most thermometers on this list. It uses a type K thermocouple with a micro-tip probe just like all thermometers in this list.
Aside from the LCD, it has a conversion table of Fahrenheit and Celsius values. Given the certifications this temperature, it is safe to assume that this one is intended for international customers or chefs who might be cooking in countries oriented to the metric or imperial system.
The battery indicator is helpful too. You do not want to be preparing for a family feast and have your thermometer lose charge in the middle of it.
It uses 3 AAA batteries, so expect a long battery life and easy replacement. When you hold it, it has a heft to it and feels solidly engineered. Its size is also perfect for gripping on – not too small that it might slip out or too big that it can be fatiguing.
Whether you are a professional or enthusiast, you will appreciate a thermometer that is rugged, industry-approved, and accurate. A food will undergo a lot of changes when exposed to heat, knowing the precise temperature will help you control what meal you will serve to your customers or family.
5. ThermoPro TP19
There are two reasons why the ThermoPro TP19 is one of the best-selling thermometers in the market: it is waterproof, and it is half the price of thermometers with the same feature set. You can wash not just the probe but also the body.
It has the usual features most digital thermometers have. It also has a rotating display for weird angles and an ambidextrous body to accommodate left-handed customers. The best part is it can give you the final temperature in 3 seconds max with a margin of error at ±0.9°F or ±0.5°C.
The motion sensor also reduces the steps in using this by opening, sleeping, and shutting down automatically. It automatically sleeps after staying put for 90 seconds and powers up immediately the moment it is moved. It can also be magnetized on metal surfaces, which avoids losing it during fast cooking operations.
The two-inch display is a pleasure to look at. It does not glare much that you cannot see what is displayed. It is also sharp when you look at it from different angles.
If you are a barista that wants to achieve minute perfection up to the last degree in your water and the coffee itself without breaking the bank, this is the right choice. Also, it has a lock function, so the probe cannot spring out accidentally and poke someone. A useful feature if you are always bringing this with you.
There is nothing more to say as all its features say it all. This product is a simple and affordable thermometer that works excellent in the kitchen. We will be surprised if you can find a cheaper thermometer with the same level of design and functionality as this one.
6. Cooper Atkins DFP450W
If another family member loves to help around in cooking, the Cooper Atkins DFP450W is a bright yellow thermometer that has some extra features to improve your kitchen experience.
The thermometer might look more “fun” compared to its competition, and it does not lack certifications. It is certified by the NSF, Conformité Européenne (CE/European conformity), Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), and Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS). Not just a capable tool but also a safe one for you and your family.
The best thing about this tool is its temperature alarm. Set the temperature you want, and when it reaches that particular temperature, the visual alarm will blink. Of course, you should not use this inside the oven but on stovetop operations only. This product will avoid overcooking or even burning of the food. This mode is a feature that differentiates a good thermometer from a great one.
It also has a lifetime warranty. Yes, most items with lifetime warranty have a lifespan of more than five years. Thanks to its IPX7 waterproof rating (can be submerged up to 30 minutes underwater up to one-meter depth), this item will last long in your kitchen despite daily use.
It also has an Accurate for Life guarantee. Meaning, you do not need to worry about your thermometer going faulty all of a sudden.
However, it is not the fastest nor most accurate thermometer. Its margin of error is ±2°F and delivers the reading after 5 seconds max. Other thermostats in this list have a maximum response time of three seconds and a margin of error of ±1°F. Also, compared to other thermometers on this list, the display on this is on the top.
With a lot of certifications and features, it is obvious why this thermometer is quickly becoming a best-seller in online stores.
7. ThermoPro TP03
When talking about the best instant read thermometer, people usually associate price with quality. The ThermoPro TP03 is here to prove you wrong. It is a slim thermometer that you can put in your bag or pocket.
It is priced below 30 USD but has the same functionality (and even more) with other keyboards in this list and above its price range. If you are frustrated with thermometers that let you do the conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius or vice versa, this thermometer will quickly convert it to you with just a click of a button.
The temperature range is from -58°F to 572°F. The accuracy is marked at ±0.9°F for temperature 32°F to 212°F. The probe length is short at only 3.9 inches and made of food-grade metal. A thermometer of this value will be used for regular meals, so a more extended probe is not necessary.
This product is the right choice if you have multiple staff or even teams involved in the kitchen. Buy one for each, and there will be no reason for them to undercook or overcook a dish. You can also buy in bulk and get a discount.
Just like the ThermoPro TP19 mentioned above, it is a value thermometer for those looking for a simple thermometer for simple cooking. It is a straightforward thermometer with an accessible price.
8. Habor 022 Meat Thermometer
Cooking steak is an art. An 80-dollar piece of meat can be made into a delicious and juicy steak. There are times where we do not adequately heat the pan that when we sear the meat, the insides get cooked too. The Habor 022 Meat Thermometer will save you from ruining your steak.
While it takes extra time to deliver the final temperature, it makes sure you get a precise reading. A piece of meat does not react uniformly. Even if you already have years of experience of cooking steak, you still need to use a thermometer to check.
It can measure temperatures from -58ºF to 572ºF(-50 °C ~ 300 °C). Usually, steak is cooked at 160ºF to eradicate any food-borne bacteria without cooking it throughout thoroughly. There is a button to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit and back.
A pen-like case encases the 4.7-inch probe. The overall silhouette looks premium – from the silver body, clear font, large display, and jet black case. The case’s clip and keyhole also help in storing and handling the item.
The Food and Drug Administration also approves it. Important for tools that are regularly in contact with food served to people.
Could this be the best instant read meat thermometer in its price range? You can only know if you try it. You cannot go wrong with this one. With its CE certification. 45-days money-back guarantee, and 18-months warranty, it is a smart purchase for less than 20 dollars.
Why Should You Invest in a Good Instant Read Thermometer?
Simple – because it is not 100% accurate when you eyeball a food’s internal temperature even if you slice it up. Food’s chemistry changes a lot when exposed to heat. For example, a cooked egg has 180% more protein content than raw eggs.
When making bread and pastries, the thermometer inside only measures the external temperature. You need a probe thermometer to know how hot is the inside of the food.
Also, it is proper training for budding home cooks. If you regularly use a probe thermometer and usually cook a particular dish, you will know the internal temperature just by looking at the outside of the food. Eyeballing a food’s heat is a risk that requires years of skill and experience before you can master.
If professional chefs still use a probe thermometer every day despite their training and experience in the industry, you should too!
Instant Read Vs. Leave-in Thermometer: What’s the Difference?
Instant read or probe thermometers is used when you want to measure the temperature of a mood immediately. This item is suitable for cooking a slab of steak since it records the internal temperature, not just the external. You will know its doneness without slicing it up only by using an instant-read thermometer.
It also has a faster response time, right for a kitchen that is serving 20+ plates every hour. Also, its temperature range is narrower compared to oven thermometers. After all, an instant read thermometer is meant for stovetop operations and quick checking, not long-term measuring.
A leave-in thermometer is used for long-term cooking, usually in a BBQ smoker or an oven. Let us say you are smoking a brisket for four to five hours. Unless your smoker has a built-in thermometer inside, you will need to use a leave-in thermometer to monitor the temperature in real-time.
Since it will be left inside an oven or a pot, it is not made of plastic but usually of glass. It is not digital since the heat will fry the electronics inside. It looks like the speedometer of a vehicle.
Of course, it is slower to read the temperature than the probe type. You can use both since each has a different purpose, but for the beginner home cooks, better to still use a leave-in thermometer. Not that you will monitor temperature, it will also train you how a particular food reacts and look like at a specific temperature.
We recommend owning both. Use the instant read for cooking steak on a pan and the leave-in for baking brownies. Also, make sure you always check the accuracy of your thermometers over time. Try to measure boiling or ice water with a separate thermometer and see if both get the same reading.
What Makes an Instant Read Thermometer Good?
Here are some characteristics of a quality instant read/probe thermometer:
A probe thermometer should have a maximum margin of error of ±2°F. Of course, leave-in thermometers are more accurate since it measures the temperature in real-time. A probe thermometer delivers acceptable readings (especially internal temperature) in a short time.
While almost all thermometers have a temperature range from ~40°F to 500°F, you must test it. For cooking that involves higher (or lower) temperatures, such as using a brick oven, you are better off using a dedicated oven thermometer.
You should not wait more than five seconds to find out the temperature. If it takes too long, it might be that the temperature inside is fluctuating, and the thermometer cannot get a final value.
While we usually recommend to let the thermometer stay probed inside the food for a few more seconds for accuracy, thermometers now are capable of delivering results in just three seconds — an essential feature in a restaurant serving 50 plus people on peak hours.
3. Robust and safe
Your thermometer must be up to the standards of specific organizations that deal with food-grade materials. You will be probing the thermometer into the food regularly, and the thermostat will be exposed to heat. There might be injuries if you buy a cheap one with the questionable build quality.
If you are a home cook, no need to buy thermometers that are water and shock-resistant, given the mild environment of a home kitchen, of course, it will help, but your money is better spent elsewhere than a feature you do not need.
When you are under time pressure and handling multiple dishes, your tools should not hinder you but assist you. Features like auto-power and auto-rotate will help you a lot by reducing the steps to get a final value.
Another thing you should consider is the display. A slight misreading of the temperature can be the difference of an award-winning meal to a highlight of a criticism.
5. Reasonably priced
This dilemma is usually what makes us decide if we are going to purchase a specific item: the price. Of course, your expectations of a thermometer’s capabilities should be based on its price range. However, all eight thermostats here offer a functionality that is found even in thermometers double its price range.
You should not pick the cheapest one but rather the one with the best price-to-value ratio.
Now that you have knowledge of what a good thermometer is and specifically what models should you be considering, it is time to buy or replace an old one!
What we have listed are not necessarily the cheapest nor most popular thermometers out there. Instead, we listed, based on our evaluation of thermometers of the different price range that has just enough features to keep it affordable but still functional. Apart from that, the pros and cons of each product are based on actual experiences of us and the customers.
We trust that you will make the wise decision of picking among these eight instant read thermometers, especially that the holiday season is fast approaching. We wish you all the best in your culinary journey!
I spent most of my life fascinated by food, and the outdoors. I can’t think of a more fitting combo that leads to mastering the art of BBQ one day. I ended up decent enough to grill the perfect burger and choose the best equipment after years of improvement. I create this website for outdoor cooking enthusiasts, who are fueled by interest but lacking in help, feel educated when they leave because I see my past clueless self in them.