The 7 Best Instant Read Thermometers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Home cooks and professionals alike rely on this kitchen essential for precise temperature readings.

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Whether making a favorite weeknight grilled chicken recipe or prepping a Thanksgiving 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 for home cooks. 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 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 a thermometer. He uses one when he needs "something to reach a precise temperature in order 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.

The Thermapen is easy to use and accurate within a degree.

The screen is not as easy to read due to the lack of contrast.

"My favorite, by far, is the Thermoworks Thermapen One," says Gillespie. The ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE outperformed the competition, only falling short of a perfect score due to its price point. The price is still worth it since the construction means it should last a lifetime. 

Thanks to its fold-out to power-on function, we found the Thermapen One incredibly accurate, fast, and easy to use. It was only one degree off during our sous vide and boiling water tests. The Thermapen includes a backlight controlled by a light sensor when opened. Unsurprisingly, many professional chefs and members of our staff also use this thermometer. It is an industry-standard, despite the lack of bells and whistles, proving accuracy is paramount.

Price at time of publish: $105

Due to its wide temperature range, this thermometer is suitable for many tasks.

If the hinge is not closed during storage, the probe could break or get stuck.

We loved the easy-to-read blue backlit display on the Lavatools Javelin PRO Digital Instant Read Thermometer. Its readability is what scored high marks with this probe-style thermometer. Even though it took longer than desired to come to temperature, the thermometer's accuracy was a big plus, with readings within only one degree.

We wish its design were less fundamental since there is no backlight on the otherwise clear display.  Its display rotates based on how you hold it, but the probe only comes out to a certain angle, blocking its usefulness for lefties. The thermometer is exceptionally light, and some of us felt it was cheaply made. However, it is incredibly accurate and does its job well.

Price at time of publish: $56

The thermometer is fast, waterproof, and suitable for use in both residential and commercial kitchens.

This thermometer does not have a rotating display.

We found the Maverick PT-55 Digital Meat Thermometer a solid choice for "green-eyed starter cooks to professional chefs to serious culinary enthusiasts." The Maverick is easy to use and takes fast and accurate readings every time. It's comfortable to hold and got high marks for its overall performance and design.

Given that it is sold as a thermometer well-suited for cooking, grilling, and smoking, it is a good choice for meat lovers looking for accuracy and speed in high-heat situations. We thought this product can be used for simple home cooking tasks to professional restaurant kitchen tasks, and minor food competitions. Even though it doesn’t have a rotating display, it is a fine product we’d recommend to friends and family.

Price at time of publish: $39

This thermometer features an easy-to-read temperature display with an auto-rotate feature.

The smooth exterior might pose a problem with wet or greasy hands.

The Oxo Thermocouple Thermometer has a helpful auto-rotate display that shows white digital numbers against a black background. While there is no backlight, we didn't miss it during testing. The length of the thermometer makes it easy to handle, though the handle's material might be problematic for some.

The Oxo was super accurate within 2 degrees, and we found it similar to the Thermapen in terms of features. There is no backlight, but that doesn’t detract at all from the overall ease of use. It's a little bulky for a professional setting, so commercial kitchen chefs should steer clear. This would, however, be a great addition to anyone's home kitchen. While there is no backlight, the easy-to-read display, coupled with incredible accuracy, makes this a fair value for the money.

Price at time of publish: $88

The thermometer is super accurate within a degree and is incredibly easy to read.

There is no rotating display feature.

The Kizen Digital Meat Thermometer earned a top spot on our list because it has many of the same features as the more professional-style thermometer in this lower-priced model. If special features aren't important, and the need is for something that works well and is durable, the Kizen is a great budget-friendly choice. We think it’s a good value, even though there isn’t a rotating display, and we think it could be used for any application.

This may not be the best for professional chefs due to its construction, but it’s great for home cooks. It even has a list of target temperatures printed on its side. The thermometer gets to temperature very quickly and is consistent among readings. We love its readability and the large digital numbers illuminated by a blue backlight. The design of the thermometer makes it easy to hold and maneuver, even with more awkwardly shaped cooking vessels.

Price at time of publish: $22

This thermometer is easy to use and has an automatic power-on feature.

It takes longer to get up to temperature, which is a downside with items that need to test quickly in the oven.

The Alpha Grillers Instant Read Meat Thermometer is a perfect dupe for the pricier Thermapen and performs just as well. The thermometer includes a helpful feature that makes it turn on and off by simply unfolding and folding the probe. We love how it feels in hand; the handle materials and the added loop are protective while holding the thermometer over hot substances.

It comes to temperature quickly but tends to hover a beat before reaching a final temperature, which can be troublesome with hotter items. The thermometer feels nice to hold in hand with good gripping material, so it doesn’t slip during use. This is a great gift for someone just getting into grilling since it is a nice price and performs well. It operates like many top-of-the-line models, but it is much more affordable. 

Price at time of publish: $16

This thermometer provides an incredibly fast temperature read.

There is no rotating display, making it difficult to read from certain angles.

The Cuisinart CSG-200 Infrared Thermometer is the only thermometer on our list that is both a probe and an infrared thermometer. The buttons are clear and intuitive for anyone, even beginner cooks. The swivel probe, large display, and dual functionality also add versatility you won't find on many other instant read tools. Though this thermometer looks high-end, it's water-resistant and durable enough to be thrown into a drawer after cleaning.

This thermometer is incredibly easy to use. It does not have a rotating display, but it does have a backlight, which makes it easy to read. This thermometer could be used in the oven, stovetop, grilling, and kitchen calibration purposes, such as making sure your oven is accurate. It is incredibly precise within a degree, so we trust it for tasks such as candy making. Its ease of use means it would work great for even the most basic-skilled cooks, but its upscale features (swivel probe, backlight) tell us that seasoned cooks would also appreciate it. 

Price at time of publish: $32

Our Best Overall pick, the ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE, performed better than the other 22 thermometers on our list for every task. We love its accuracy, speed, and feel it's an excellent choice for home cooks and professionals.

In order to test which instant read thermometers give accurate readings, we put each one through three rigorous tests. First, we used a sous vide water bath to test how quickly and accurately each thermometer is in a controlled-temperature environment. We then measured a rolling boil of water (212 degrees Fahrenheit) to measure how accurate each thermometer is when reading and the speed of the thermometer readout. Finally, we used chicken thighs to see how easy the thermometers are to use in an oven and test their usability features, such as their backlight and rotating display.

Taylor Precision Products Thermocouple Thermometer ($98 at Amazon)

The thermometer is incredibly accurate and a bit expensive for a thermometer. The interface is not intuitive, but the grip makes it nice to hold.

Lavatools Javelin Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer ($27 at Amazon)

The Javelin is a very basic design and feels cheaply made. There is no backlight or auto-rotating display. The display is very clear, but there is nothing special about this particular thermometer

Weber Instant Read Meat Thermometer ($18 at Amazon)

The Weber can be difficult to maneuver above boiling water or under a heat source because it has no hinge.

All-Clad Instant Read H2O Proof Grill Thermometer ($50 at Williams Sonoma)

The handle is not ergonomic or grippy, so we were concerned about it slipping out of your hand if you're using an oven mitt or kitchen towel.

Many of the instant-read thermometers we tested did not perform well enough to make our list. There were models from BBQ Dragon, Venigo, and even ThermoWorks that just barely missed the mark. Others from brands such as OXO Good Grips and Precision-Pro need some more tweaking before they are recommendable.

Find the thickest part of the food being cooked (especially important with meat) and insert the thermometer in 1-2 inches. If cooking bone-in proteins, avoid touching the bone because it will give a false reading. Most instant-read thermometers should take the temperature within 10-20 seconds. This is not the kind of thermometer to leave in the oven, and it should be removed immediately after achieving a reading.

Instant read thermometers come in the probe or infrared styles. The probe type inserts into the food item in question. The infrared thermometers do not need to make contact with the food to take the temperatures and are easier to clean.

Most instant-read thermometers do not need much maintenance or calibration, and each manufacturer will have calibration instructions, if any. Some purport they are self-calibrating models. However, if an accuracy check is required, measure boiling water (212℉) and ice water (32℉). To care for most thermometers, wash the metal part with hot soapy water to sanitize the probe and dry well before storing.

Yes, but it depends on the style. Infrared versions are best because they measure the higher temperatures required for candy-making and deep frying. Plus, they make less of a mess, so there's no need to insert anything into the food in question or clean it.

If you have vision problems, the display is an important consideration. Some thermometers have rotating displays, making it easier to take temperature readings in odd positions, and it is helpful for left-handed people as well. The contrast of the display is also something we evaluated in our tests, and when the contrast is too low, it can make reading temperatures difficult.

For a thermometer to be versatile, it must have a wide enough temperature range, as certain foods like bread, pizza, and candy require much higher cooking temperatures.

Since cooking often occurs next to sinks or liquid ingredients, a thermometer's water resistance is essential so it will last for a long time. Many of the picks on our list are either water-resistant or waterproof.

Even within sub-categories of instant read thermometers, some separate themselves with design and unique features. For instance, some probe thermometers offer fold-out versus stationary probes. Fold-out is always best because most also turn on the unit when unfolded and have automatic shut-off functions to save the battery life.

Jennifer Zyman is a Senior Commerce Writer for Food & Wine and a recovering professional restaurant critic with a culinary school degree and 15 years of food writing experience. Her work has also appeared in Atlanta Magazine, Bon Appetit, Eater Atlanta, The Kitchn, Local Palate, National Geographic, Southern Living, and Thrillist. To write this story, she used our test results, her culinary expertise, and expert advice from chef Kevin Gillespie of Red Beard Restaurants.

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