So, you’re looking for a quality instant read thermometer… good thinking.
An instant read thermometer is not only the best kept secret of a perfectly done steak, it makes baking, barbecuing, roasting, smoking and cooking almost anything in the kitchen so much easier!
By taking the guesswork out, you’ll have perfectly cooked meats every time and can get the right temperature spot on for yoghurts and yeast.
After all, a good chef, pitmaster or baker knows how to use the right tools well!
But, with so many instant read thermometers on the market, this review will take the guesswork out of buying one too.
We’ve tried and tested a really wide range of thermometers so you don’t have to.
There’s top of the line options, budget-friendly options, fully waterproof options, infrared options and even one that talks.
But, before we get stuck into the best instant read thermometers on the market, a quick note on accuracy…
Yes, being accurate is important. And, you definitely don’t want your thermometer giving readings that are a long way over or under the actual. But, a degree or so out is not going to make or break what you’re cooking.
So, the thermometers that we’re recommending will be accurate within a few degrees. But, we generally don’t obsess over getting things down to a 0.1° of accuracy.
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Quick Picks: The Best Instant Read Thermometers
Don’t have time to read our full review? Here’s our 1 sentence summary. Click the link to shop direct.
Best Overall – Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo
Great mix of quality and functionality and at a hard to ignore price. It’s also BPA free and certified free of any hazardous substances.
Best High End – OXO Good Grips Thermocouple
Fast, accurate, waterproof, great quality and one of the easiest screens to read.
Best Cheaper High-End Alternative – ThermoPro TP620
Gives the speed, accuracy and extra features you get as top of the line product without the high price tag.
Best Budget-Friendly – ThermoPro TP19H
Super popular, a little slower to read but just as accurate and waterproof at a red hot price!
Fastest Instant Read – Thermapen ONE
Instant doesn’t get any faster than this. But, it is more expensive than most justified by it’s high accuracy, waterproof rating and very long warranty.
Best Rechargeable Thermometer – Inkbird IHT-1s
Don’t buy batteries, simply recharge with a USB cord for good speed and good accuracy.
Best Multi-Probe Instant Read Thermometer – Inkbird IHT-2Xp3 3-in-1
With 3 probes, not 1, this instant read thermometer is great for barbecue where you’re cooking more than one type of meat at a time.
Best Infrared – Taylor Dual Temp
Has a regular instant read probe plus a fold out infrared sensor to measure ambient air temp, melt chocolate or similar.
Best Tried and True – ThermoPro TP03
Huge fan favorite that takes a little longer than some. But, works well and is one of the cheapest instant read options out there.
Best Analog – OXO Good Grips Chef’s Precision
Old school option that means you’ll never be out of batteries again.
Table of Contents
Reviews of the Top Instant Read Thermometers
Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo - Best Overall
We’re starting off this list with not what’s the absolute top of the line. But, with an instant read thermometer that’s such a good mix of quality, functionality and price that it’s hard to ignore.
The Lavatools Javelin PRO Instant Read Thermometer has an ultra-sensitive Japanese sensor that gives you an accurate (to ±0.9°F) reading in 1-3 seconds. And, it’s always been on the lower end of that range for us when testing.
The screen is rotating for ambidextrous use.
The backlit display is easy to read in most lights. And, it’s got a hold function so the reading will stay on the screen after you pull the probe out as well.
Lavatools claim that one single battery should get you 4,000+ hours of continuous use (we’ve never changed it!). But, just note that the battery is Lithium, not your standard AA or AAA when/if it ever comes time to change it.
The Javelin PRO is also one of the only instant read thermometers on the market that’s NSF, CE and RoHS certified for it’s superior build quality. That also means the Lavatools Javelin PRO is certified that it’s free from lead, mercury, cadmium and other hazardous substances.
The IP65 splash-proof body can handle a bit of water when it comes to washing. And, the body is made from a BPA-free polycarbonate that’s impact resistant to prevent warping and cracking.
The probe folds away for easy, spike free storage. Plus, there’s a magnetic backing so you can stick the Javelin PRO on your barbecue, oven or fridge to keep it within easy access.
If that’s not enough, the Javelin PRO also has an industry-leading 3 year warranty. Their customer service has a great reputation.
And, it’s available in a choice of eight colours.
It’s pretty incredible how much there is to say about an instant read thermometer!
Basically, The Lavatools Javelin PRO has a lot of features that the top end instant read thermometers have. But, at about half the price.
It’s a clear winner in our kitchen and for most users.
What We Like About the Lavatools Javelin PRO
What We Don't Like About the Lavatools Javelin PRO
OXO Good Grips Thermocouple Instant Read Thermometer - Best High End
Now, if you are reading this to find out which instant read thermometer is the best regardless of price, we can’t go past the OXO Good Grips Thermocouple Instant Read Thermometer.
Marketed as a good choice for left-handed people, because of the rotating probe and screen, this really isn’t all that the OXO Thermocouple’s got going for it.
Accurate to 0.9°F, the Thermocouple will give you a reading within 2-3 seconds.
The pretty unique black screen with white writing is so easy to read, even in really sunny conditions.
You can change it between fahrenheit and degrees celsius. And, set the reading to give you to the nearest 1° or 1.0° resolution for anyone who values being able to see the details.
Use it anywhere in the range of -58°F to 572°F (-50°C to 300°C).
The Thermocouple runs off of AAA batteries.
The probe rotates 225° and the screen rotates with it too.
When it comes to clean up time, the OXO Thermocouple is waterproof rated to IP66 too.
Overall, the extra price you’ll pay for the OXO Thermocouple really does give you that extra quality and durability for a reliable instant read thermometer that lasts.
What We Like About the OXO Good Grips Thermocouple Thermometer
What We Don't Like About the OXO Good Grips Thermocouple Thermometer
ThermoPro TP620 - Best Cheaper High-End
For the speed, accuracy and a few extra features you only get with a high-end instant read thermometer but not the really high price tag, the ThermoPro TP620 is a top product.
A reading will take you between 1-3 seconds with a 0.9 °F accuracy and calibration mode if you ever find that’s off.
But, what we really like about the ThermoPro TP620 is the auto wake and sleep, making things so easy when your hands are full or you’re wearing gloves.
The Intelligent Motion-Sensor turns on when you pick it up or when the probe opens. Then simply close the probe or put it down and it’ll turn off, saving your battery too.
Like most high-end models, the backlit screen automatically rotates depending on how you’re holding it. There’s a magnetic backing and hook for multiple storage options. And, it’s waterproof to IP65 for peace of mind around spills or clean up time.
Overall, the TP620 is a well designed instant read thermometer. It performs well and consistently while the more rugged design is well suited to the rougher life of grilling or smoking, although the high temperature range means there’s nothing stopping you from it inside the kitchen too.
A single AAA battery should see you through about 3000 hours of use (although we haven’t got to the changing the battery point in testing yet).
The ThermoPro TP620 is ideal for anyone who wants the quality and features of the top end instant read thermometers without the super high price tag.
What We Like About the ThermoPro TP620
What We Don't Like About the ThermoPro TP620
ThermoPro TP19H - Best Popular Budget-Friendly Model
This ThermoPro TP19H has been a very popular instant read thermometer buy for years!
It’s not the fastest out there. The TP19H takes about 3-4 seconds for a reading which is a little longer than most newer models.
But, it’s ±0.9°F accuracy with the ability to calibrate it means that you’re getting good data back to help you serve that steak perfectly or ferment your yeast just right.
The display on the ThermoPro TP19H auto-rotates 180° for odd angles or left-handed users. It’s backlit so it reads well in bright light conditions.
When it’s cleanup time, the whole unit is waterproof, rated IP65 so you can run it under the tap safely.
There’s a hook and a magnetic backing to give you storage options that suit your setup.
Overall, the ThermoPro TP19H is a great choice for anyone who wants accuracy and ease at a great price and doesn’t mind that it takes an extra second or two to get it.
What We Like About the ThermoPro TP19H
What We Don't Like About the ThermoPro TP19H
Thermapen® ONE - Fastest Instant Read Thermometer
Unimpressed with the 2-4 second wait time of ‘instant’ read thermometers? The Thermapen ONE is the fastest out there.
ThermoWorks claim that the ONE will give you a reading in no more than one second, but we find it’s more like under two. Regardless, it’s the closest thing to actually being instant and it’s a good product too.
You’ve got accuracy to ± 0.5°F (± 0.3°C), a folding probe, a backlight that automatically turns on in dimmer conditions and a waterproof to IP67 rating.
The screen flips for ambidextrous use and it also automatically turns itself on and off so you don’t have to try to hit the button when you’re wearing gloves.
The Thermapen ONE also has a 5 year warranty for peace of mind which you’ll want because it’s more expensive than most of the other instant read thermometers in this review.
What We Like About the Thermapen ONE
What We Don't Like About the Thermapen ONE
Inkbird IHT-1S Instant Read Meat Thermometer - Best Rechargeable
Don’t want to buy a battery ever but still want digital?
The Inkbird IHT-1S Rechargeable and Waterproof Instant Read Meat Thermometer will give you just that.
Now, this IHT-1S model isn’t as popular as the better looking IHT-1P. But, it’s faster and more accurate with a 2-3 second readout range within 1°F versus 3-5 seconds and a 2℉ discrepency.
You’ve got a backlit display for easy reading, a proper IP67 waterproof rating so you can fully submerge it when washing, and, there’s both a folding probe with magnetic backing plus the hook so you can hang and store this thermometer pretty much anywhere and way you want.
The USB rechargeable Lithium Ion battery lasts about 15 uses on a full charge.
You can calibrate it within 5℉ if it does need any minor adjustments. There’s a hold function to keep your temperature readout on the screen. And, the screen does rotate for lefties or when you’re using it in odd spaces like the smoker.
What We Like About the Inkbird IHT-1S Rechargeable Thermometer
What We Don't Like About the Inkbird IHT-1S Rechargeable Thermometer
Inkbird IHT-2XP3 3-in-1 Instant Read Thermometer - Best Multi-Probe
This one’s ideal for barbecue and smoking.
The Inkbird 3-in-1 IHT-2XP3 Instant Read Thermometer gives you not only the single, folding probe, but, you also get 2 external probes that plug into the side ports.
You get an accurate to the 1°F reading in just 2 seconds on any probe.
And, it’s still around the same price as any other value for money instant meat thermometer. It’s a great deal.
Use it as a regular instant read thermometer. Or, keep the external probes in the meat you’re cooking for a continuous readout. You can even set an alarm to be notified when your target internal temperature is reached so you’ll never burn that brisket again.
The Inkbird IHT-2XP3 body is rated IPX5 splash proof so little accidents don’t ruin your gear.
There’s a hook to hang plus a magnetic backing.
If the IHT-2XP3’s temperature reading is a little out, you can calibrate it within 9.9°F.
The battery is rechargeable. Simply plug it in with the supplied USB cord. One charge should see you through a few cooks at least.
If you’ve got the need for multiple probes with your instant read thermometer, the Inkbird IHT-2XP3 is an excellent all-round choice and incredible value for money.
What We Like About the Inkbird Multi-Probe IHT-2XP3
What We Don't Like About the Inkbird Multi-Probe IHT-2XP3
Taylor Dual Temp Infrared Thermometer with Fold-Out Thermocouple Probe - Best Infrared
The Taylor Dual Temperature is one the best instant read thermometer options with a big extra, an infrared sensor.
So, while the regular, fold out probe works just like any other quality instant read thermometer, the infrared sensor reads the surface temperature of anything you point it at for hands off, mess free testing.
If you’re cooking a brisket, you’ll still need the insert the probe for an accurate internal temperature. But, when it comes to making pizza dough for you Ooni, melting chocolate or even measuring the ambient temperature in your barbecue, the infrared sensor makes life even easier.
In terms of accuracy, the Taylor Dual Function Infrared Instant Read Thermometer gives a fair reading. And, it’s consistent between the probe and the infrared sensor.
Another plus about this choice is that it’s got a really wide temperature tolerance. The probe can measure anywhere between -67°F to 626°F while the infrared does -67°F to 482°F.
In terms of negatives, there are a few to note about the Taylor Dual Temp Infrared Thermometer with Thermocouple Probe.
It’s not backlit so the screen can be hard to read in bright lights. The infrared sensor has a hard time getting an accurate reading on reflective surfaces like a hot light colored frying pan. And, the screen doesn’t rotate so it’s upside down at times.
But, all in all, the Taylor Dual Temperature Thermometer is a solidly performing product that’s got that added two-in-one benefit.
What We Like About the Taylor Dual Temp Infrared Thermometer with Fold-Out Probe
What We Don't Like About the Taylor Dual Temp Infrared Thermometer with Fold-Out Probe
ThermoPro TP420 Two-in-One Infrared Thermometer with Meat Probe - Best Cheaper Infrared
Coming in quite a bit cheaper than the Taylor Infrared is this great, but not perfect one, the ThermoPro TP420 Two-in-One Infrared Thermometer with Meat Probe.
ThermaPro are known for their accuracy and the TP420 hits the mark within a couple of degrees fahrenheit.
And, while you can’t calibrate it, you can change the emissivity emission setting. What this does is adjusts the settings so you can get an accurate reading on both dull items (which will be closer to 1) and more shiny, reflective things (that’ll need to be reduced closer to 0).
For your everyday readings, doing a barbecue, melting chocolate or making sure your yeast is warm, you won’t have to touch it.
But, the innacurate readings on reflective surfaces is one of the biggest complaints with more expensive combo infrared instant read thermometers like the Taylor. So, the ThermoPro TP420 gives you the control to fix it if need be.
The TP420 takes 2-3 seconds to get a reading which is perfectly acceptable at this price point.
But, the negatives are that, one, there’s no laser light on the infrared gun so you can’t pinpoint exactly where you’re pointing it (although it’s not that hard to get it right and you can always take a couple of measurements to check).
And, two, the fixed screen display is almost always pointing the wrong way. It doesn’t automatically rotate so I feel would have been better set to the side. But, a minor complaint for a much cheaper product…
Everything else is pretty standard for a ThermoPro.
You’ve still got the hook and magnetic backing for endless storage options. There’s a really wide temperature range, automatic shut-off to save battery. And, there’s even a little internal meat temperature cheat-sheet on the back of the thermometer to save you time.
Overall, the ThermoPro TP420 is a good 2 in 1 product for the price.
What We Like About the ThermoPro TP420
What We Don't Like About the ThermoPro TP420
ThermoPro TP03 - Best Tried and True
The ThermoPro TP03 has been around for YEARS and has consistently performed as a basic fan favorite (there’s more than 114,000 reviews with a 4.6 star average).
It’s one of the cheapest instant read thermometers out there, is accurate to 0.9°F and has an easy to read backlit display.
It will take you a second longer to get a reading on the TP03 though. Between 3-5 seconds is normal. But, if you want no a performer without the frills and extra cost, this is it.
You’ve still got a magnetic backing to stick it to your barbecue, oven or fridge and a hook for hanging if that works better for you.
The single AAA battery will last A LONG time before it needs replacing. And, there’s an auto-off after 10 minute feature to make sure you don’t accidently leave it on.
Available in either red or black, as a single or double pack, you can’t go wrong with the ThermoPro TP03 for a value for money, does the job well instant read thermometer.
What We Like About the ThermoPro TP03
What We Don't Like About the ThermoPro TP03
OXO Good Grips Chef's Precision - Best Analog
For those who value the reliability of analog, the OXO Good Grips Chef’s Precision Meat Thermometer is a great choice.
It’s one of the cheapest instant read meat thermometer options, you’ll never run out of battery, you can always read the dial even in bright sunshine, and, there’s no electronic components to get broken.
There’s a lot of good reasons to go old school with this. It’s not just an outdated device.
We like the OXO Chef’s Precision because it’s made by one of the best brands out there.
It’s not as fast as a digital instant read thermometer. Expect to be waiting up to 7 seconds for the dial to stop moving. But, the updated, bi-metallic coil does give a faster read than the original analog thermometers.
There’s both fahrenheit and celsius degree’s marked on the face.
It maxes out at 220°F or 100°C so it’s not as versatile as most digital versions out there.
Nevertheless, the OXO Good Grips Chef’s Precision will always work. We keep one on hand as a backup for those times the battery is out on our digital model.
What We Like About the OXO Good Grips Chef's Precision Analog Meat Thermometer
What We Don't Like About the OXO Good Grips Chef's Precision Analog Meat Thermometer
ThermoPro TP15 - Best Fixed Probe
If you don’t like having folding probes to mess around with, the good news is, you can pick up a fixed probe instant meat thermometer pretty cheaply. And, this one is our favorite.
The ThermoPro TP15 is as accurate as their more expensive models (and a lot of top of the line instant thermometers). The reading should be within 0.9°F of it’s actual. And, if it’s not, you can calibrate the probe to read spot on.
Readings do take a little longer than some other options. But you’re still only talking a 3-4 second wait while the probe does it’s thing.
The extra long probe is great for barbecue or candy where you want to keep your hand that much further away.
And, it’ll turn itself off after 10 minutes if you forget to.
With a IPX6 rating, the ThermoPro TP15 is 100% waterproof. Run it under water, accidently leave it in the rain, it should still work just fine.
And, when it comes to storage, hang it by it’s hook, throw it in a drawer or stick it straight to your fridge or barbecue with it’s magnetic backing.
The ThermoPro TP15 is a great value for money, no-nonsense instant read thermometer that’s wide temperature range will suit almost any job.
What We Like About the ThermoPro TP15
What We Don't Like About the ThermoPro TP15
ThermoPro TP02-S - Best Cheap as Chips
Looking for the cheapest but still accurate instant read thermometer?
The ThermoPro TP02-S gives you great accuracy, to ±0.9°F, with the downside of a slightly longer than more expensive models, 4-7 second read time.
The extra long fixed probe length keeps your hand away from the hot stuff. And, it comes with a sheath for safe storage in a drawer.
You can still change the TP02-S between fahrenheit and celsius depending on what you use.
And, the really wide temperature range of between -58 to 572°F means this thermometer should do you for pretty much anything you’ll ever be cooking in your kitchen or in your backyard.
The ThermoPro TP02-S is basic but unbeatable if all you want is an accurate temperature reading with a cheap price tag.
What We Like About the ThermoPro TP02-S
What We Don't Like About the ThermoPro TP02-S
What is an Instant Read Thermometer?
An instant read thermometer is a specific type of temperature probe that’s designed to tell you the current temperature of whatever it is you’re measuring.
Instant read thermometers can be used to give you the internal temperature of meat. But, they also work in water to find the right temperature to rise yeast, to melt chocolate without burning it, to ferment yoghurt safely or check oil temperature before deep frying.
There’s a lot of ways you can use an instant read thermometer.
What Can You Use an Instant Read Thermometer For?
Instant read thermometers are most often used to tell exactly when meat is cooked to your liking without overdoing it and drying out that perfect steak, brisket or pork.
But, using an instant thermometer is also the best way to precisely check if the meat you’re cooking is hot enough to eat safely. Check out the USDA’s recommended minimum internal meat temperatures for up to date information on how hot that chicken or any other type of meat should be cooked.
However, instant read thermometers can definitely be used for far more than just cooking meat!
Instant read thermometers make it easier to make bread by ensuring the yeast is the right temperature to rise, that yoghurt is warm enough to ferment safely, checking that the oil is the right temperature for frying, when melting chocolate, baking a cake, making candy and even candles.
They’re an essential tool that takes the guesswork out of cooking in every kitchen. And, yes, chef’s sure do use instant thermometers too!
Why Buy an Instant Read Thermometer?
Instant read thermometers just make life easy!
You won’t have to cut a steak open to see if it’s done or try to finish it off in the aweful microwave if it’s not. You’re brisket will never be burned again. Your bread will turn out each and every time.
Basically, an instant read thermometer will make you a better cook, griller, pitmaster and baker.
And, it’s not cheating! All chef’s use them. An instant read thermometer is just an extra tool you use to get what you’re cooking exactly right. And there ain’t no shame in that!
Do I Need an Instant Read Thermometer?
If you want to cook restaurant worthy steak every single time, competition grade barbecue, or, just have an easier time in the kitchen, you should buy an instant read thermometer.
They’re not an expensive piece of kit and a quality one as is recommended in this article should last years of regular use.
Are Instant Thermometers Instant?
They’re called instant read thermometers because they’re the fastest way to get an internal temperature reading. But, instant thermometers aren’t in fact instant.
The fastest ones out there can make a reading in under one second. But, most instant read thermometers are more in the 2-4 second range.
Poor quality instant read thermometers might even take more than 10 seconds to display a temperature reading.
Are Instant-Read Thermometers Accurate?
Just like other thermometers and electronic equipment, instant read thermometers aren’t 100% accurate. Most, including those recommended in this review, will show a reading that’s within a few degrees fahrenheit of the actual.
Poor quality instant thermometers can be much further out than this, displaying readings that are 20 or more degrees out from the actual.
How Accurate Do I Need an Instant Read Thermometer To Be?
For general use, we accept that a difference of up to 3-4°F between what your instant read thermometer says and the actual should not really affect the outcome of your cooking.
What's the Best Instant Thermometer?
There’s a lot of instant thermometers out there that we’d say are the best.
And, that’s good for you because you can choose one that suits your budget and needs perfectly. Need a rotating screen because you’re left-handed? Want a backlit display because you’ll be using it to grill outside in the sun? Looking for the fastest instant read thermometer you can buy?
We’ve covered them all in this review so scroll up and look at the titles to steer you in the right direction.
And, if you’re just looking for the best overall instant read theremometer, we can’t go past the Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo.
It’s not the top of the line in terms of features. But, the Lavatools Javelin gives you a great mix of speed and accuracy at a great price. Plus, it’s got a rotating backlit display, magnetic backing, is BPA free and certified to contain no lead, mercury or other hazardous subtances.
Is the Thermapen Worth the Money?
We recommended the Thermapen ONE as the fastest instant read thermometer because it is the fastest option out there as well as being accurate and great quality. But, buying one will set you back considerably more than most of the other options on this list.
Yes, the Thermapen is good. But, it’s definitely not the only great instant read thermometer out there.
So, if you’re questioning the price, check out the Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo which has a lot of the same great features at about half the price of the uber popular Thermapen.
Is ThermoPro the Same as Thermapen?
Everyone is with the ‘therm’ thermometer names in this market. But, no, ThermoPro isn’t the same as Thermapen. They are different companies.
Thermapen make top of the line instant read thermometers while ThermoPro have a larger range of options to suit different budgets ranging from cheaper, high-end thermometers like the ThermoPro TP620 to the budget friendly TP19H.
What’s the Difference Between An Analog and Digital Instant Read Thermometer?
You’ll notice these days that most instant read thermometers are digital. That means they’ve got a battery and display a precise temperature on an electronic display panel.
Back in the good old days, all you could get was analog. An analog instant read thermometer has a moving hand that slowly rises until the internal temperature of what you’re measuring is shown.
Some people say that analog instant read thermometers aren’t instant because they do take longer to give a reading.
Instead of waiting up to 5 seconds on a digital one, an analog one might take 10-15 seconds depending on how high the temperature is.
What Are The Advantages of an Analog Thermometer?
Without any batteries or electronic parts, an analog instant read thermometer is a very reliable alternative to their digital counterparts. They’re also a cheaper option than most fancier models with backlit, rotating displays, alarms, calibration, etc.
That’s why we’ve given you a solid analog option (the OXO Good Grips Chef’s Precision Analog Thermometer) in this review of the best instant read thermometers.
Are Digital Meat Thermometers More Accurate?
Yes. Digital meat thermometers are more accurate than analog versions.
If nothing else, digital displays tell you the degree to the tenth of a degree (the first number after the decimal point) while you’ll just have to eyeball it to read the temperture on an analog thermometer’s dial.
What to Look for When Buying an Instant Read Thermometer
The major things that you should be looking at when buying an instant read thermometer are accuracy, speed, temperature range, the batttery, how easy they are to use, and, the warranty of course.
Remember, every single feature doesn’t have to be top of the line for a thermometer to still be a good product.
So, if you want a good value for money instant read thermometer, look at which areas you’re not so fussed about to save yourself some cash.
We’ll talk about each in a little bit more detail…
An instant read thermometer is pretty much useless if it’s not giving you an accurate reading. You’ll either under or overcook you meat, leaving it pretty average tasting or unsafe to eat.
So, before you look at anything else, check what the manufacturer states is the thermometers degree of accuracy.
Now, for most people using them at home, an instant read thermometer doesn’t have to be 100% accurate.
A lot of decent yet still well-priced instant read thermometers are accurate to +/-0.9°F which is a great accuracy to have. A degree or two out isn’t going to make or break your brisket.
But, the +/-20°F is what you want to avoid. Yes, those thermometers are out there. We, of course, haven’t included any in our recommendations above.
The other feature worth mentioning here is that you can calibrate some instant read thermoemters yourself at home. Doing so usually involves placing them in ice and resetting the temperature.
But, a model that can be calibrated is a good option for anyone who likes exact and wants the power to be able to make sure they’re getting the right readings all of the time.
After accuracy, you’ll want to check out how long you’ll have to wait to see the temperature reading on any given thermometer.
Although most are termed ‘instant’, instant isn’t actually immediate.
Most instant read thermometers will take between 2-4 seconds to find the temperature. More expensive models will be faster and some cheaper models do take longer.
If you’re willing to negotiate on waiting a few seconds longer, there’s some cheap but still accurate models on the market.
Before you buy an instant read thermometer, think about what you’ll most likely be using it for and do a quick check to see if the temperature range of the probe you’re looking at will read that high or low.
For example, if you’re using one for smoking, you’ll need a thermometer that goes up to about 205°F.
Want to do candy as well? You’ll need something that can handle even higher temperatues up to maybe 350°F, depending on what you’re making.
If you’re checking yeast temperature while making bread, your thermometer will need to read as low as 80°F.
And, if you want something that does it all, check both the minimum and maximum temperatures of all the things you’ll be using your thermometer for to make sure the one product will handle them all.
Battery Type and Life
Do you want a rechargeable battery where you can just plug in a USB cord? Do you mind having regular AAA or AA batteries to buy and replace occasionally? Or, do you want absolutely no batteries to mess around with at all?
Instant read thermometers are made with a range of different battery types with different life expectancies. So, check what you’re buying before you buy one.
The good news is, most instant read thermometers use such a small amount of battery (and have features to automatically turn them off after a certain amount of time), that most don’t need charging or changing very often.
From our experience, we find the battery won’t last quite as long as the manufacturer states. But, 6 months worth of pretty regular use is common.
Other Features and Ease of Use
If you’re left-handed, you’ll need an ambidexterous instant read thermometer that automatically flips it’s display.
If you cook in low light, look for a good backlit display.
If you might accidentally leave it out in the weather or get the body too wet when washing, grab one with some sort of waterproof rating.
If you like to make sure there’s no nasties in any of your cooking tools, grab the Javelin PRO that’s NSF certified that it doesn’t contain any lead, mercury, cadmium or other hazardous substances.
Do you want a magnetic backing so you can stick the thermometer to your fridge or bbq?
There’s a lot of extras you can look at when buying an instant read thermometer.
Instant read thermometers aren’t the toughest piece of kit.
So, we think geting a decent one, particularly on a mid-high end thermometer is pretty essential.
You can of course go for a cheapie without a warranty as well. The more expensive instant read thermometers might set you back 4 times what an inexpensive one would meaning you could replace it 4 times over the same period of time and be no worse off anyway.
How Do You Use An Instant Read Thermometer?
You could say that using an instant read thermometer is as easy as sticking it in whatever you’re measuring the temperature of and waiting while it does it’s reading. But, there’s a few useful tips to keep in mind…
Firstly, if you’re using your instant read for meat, stick the probe into the thickest part.
You can even stick it all the way through and slowly back the probe out, watching the temperature rise and then fall again. The highest temperature is your internal temperature. Watch the video below to see exactly what we mean.
If it’s a thinner piece of meat you’re measuring, simply stick the probe in sideways.
And, keep the tip away from the bone because that will mess with your reading as well.
When using an insant read thermometer on liquids, make sure they’re mixed well before inserting your probe. And again, try to insert the probe into the center of the liquid, making sure not to touch the bottom or sides of the container it’s in.
Can You Leave an Instant Read Thermometer in the Oven?
Never leave an instant read thermometer inside the oven.
The plastic casing on an instant read thermometer isn’t designed to handle the high heat and will melt or get damaged.
If you want a thermometer that you can leave inside the oven to take a continuous temperature without having to open and close the oven door all the time, you’re looking for a wireless meat thermometer (you can use them for things other than meat too).
With a wireless meat thermometer, the probe is the only part that stays inside the high temperature area e.g. oven, smoker, grill. That way the body or control part of the theremometer doesn’t get damaged and you get constant readings.
Our favorite wireless meat thermometer is the MEATER. You can read our full review here.
How Do I Know If My Digital Thermometer is Acurate?
You don’t need multiple probes to tell if your digital thermometer is accurate. The easiest way to check if your thermometer is accurate is with an ice bath.
But, you’ve got to do it the right way to make sure you’re getting the temperature of the water all the way down to 32°F, not just creating an inaccurate reading that will make you believe it’s your thermometer that’s wrong.
But, what’s great about using this method instead of boiling water is that an ice bath will always read 32°F at all altitudes and atmospheric pressures.
So, how do you properly set up an ice bath for thermometer testing?
How To Set Up An Ice Bath To Test Thermometer Accuracy
- Fill a glass to the rim with ice
- Add water up to 1/2″ below the level of the ice
- Stir the icy water and let it sit for 1 minute
- Insert your instant read thermometer probe 2″ into the ice water, gently stir and take a reading
Your thermometer should read 32°F. If it doesn’t, your thermometer isn’t accurate.
To see an ice bath in action, watch the full video below.
What Do I Do If My Thermometer Isn't Accurate?
Calibrate your thermometer if it’s a model that can be calibrated.
But, if not, take note of how large the variance is. A thermometer that’s just a few degrees out can easily still be used. Simply remember what the discrepancy is and adjust your readings accordingly i.e. if it’s reading 3°F warmer than the actual, set your cooking target 3°F higher.
But, if your thermometer is reading way off, you might want to scroll up and choose yourself a new one. Or, get in touch with the manufacturer if it’s still under warranty.
Can All Digital Thermometers Be Calibrated?
Not all digital thermometers can be calibrated. Some are cheapies that aren’t built with the extra feature while other digital thermometers are calibrated in the factory and simply shouldn’t need to be recalibrated again.
But, getting an instant read thermometer that can be calibrated gives you the control to check and keep your thermometer in good working order.
If you value accuracy above all else, definitely go for a calibratable model like the ThermoPro TP620 or the Thermapen ONE.
How Do I Calibrate A Digital Thermometer?
To calibrate a digital thermometer, be sure to check and follow the manufacturers instructions. The process will vary between different makes and models of instant read thermometers.
But, it usually involves setting up and testing your thermometer in an ice bath and then pressing the reset button.
How To Clean A Probe Thermometer
Some digital thermometers are rated as splashproof or waterproof. But, regardless of their rating, I always advise that you try to clean the probe only after using your thermometer.
The waterproof rating is always a good thing to have because it is so easy to get water on the body. But, it’s pretty easy to simply wipe down, brush down or soak the probe in a bit of warm soapy water to get any residue off without risking damaging your whole thermometer.
Making sure you always clean your probe after using it will not only help to extend the life of your thermometer, it also ensures good hygine is maintained before using it the next time.
Note – Even waterproof instant read thermometers should not be cleaned in the dishwasher. They’re still hand wash only.
Conclusion to Our Review of the Best Instant Read Thermometers
The market is absolutely saturated with instant read thermometers offering different fancy features at a whole range of price points. And, there’s so many available that the choice will be simply overwhelming for most buyers.
By trying and selecting 13 of our favorites I hope we’ve made your buying decision easier.
At the end of the day, remember that an instant meat probe has one main function, to tell you the temperature of whatever you’re measuring.
There are very budget-friendly models out there like the cheap as chips ThermoPro TP02-S, the well-loved ThermoPro TP19H or even a good old reliable OXO Good Grips Chef’s Precision Analog Thermometer. You don’t need to buy a top of the line Thermapen ONE, although it’s certainly not a bad product if it fits your budget!
But, whatever you’ve chosen, look forward to making perfectly cooked meats, effortless breads and yoghurts or try your hand at your own candy.
An instant read thermometer really is one of the best tools you can add to your kitchen to become a better cook straight away. And, no, it’s not cheating because all the pros use them too! Knowledge is power.