This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see our affiliate policy.
Are you often unsure whether your meat is cooked to a safe temperature? Does it sometimes come out tough or too raw in the center? For perfectly cooked meals without the stress, take a cue from Meggan and go for one of the Best Instant Read Thermometers.
To narrow down the best choices, she and I researched the top sellers, looking for features like speedy readouts and large displays. While Meggan relies on the ThermoWorks Thermapen One instant read thermometer, we also found other great options to add to your arsenal of must-have kitchen gadgets.
Our Top Picks:
1. What’s in Meggan’s Kitchen: ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE – $99.95 at ThermoWorks
2. Also Great: Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo – $56.99 at Amazon
3. Best Budget: ThermoWorks ThermoPop – $15.99 at ThermoWorks
Reviews of The Best Instant Read Thermometers
1. What’s in Meggan’s Kitchen: ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE
Meggan swears by the ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE, which she’s owned for 20 years (and counting). With readouts in one second or less, it’s her go-to for quickly checking temps when preparing meat dishes like her smoked turkey or when she needs to scald milk—her old-fashioned technique for making fluffier bread and pastries. “I love the Thermapen One because it’s super-fast (ready in seconds) and super accurate,” Meggan says.
Plus, it’s incredibly reliable, with an accuracy spec of plus-or-minus .5 degrees F (the most precise option we found). Along with doing its job extremely well and quickly, this cooking thermometer’s readings are easy to see, thanks to the bright backlight. Whether you’re grilling in the rain or cooking in the dark, this shockproof, dustproof, and waterproof thermometer is the ultimate trusty sidekick. For fun, it comes in several colors, so you can match it to your kitchen’s color scheme.
- Range: -58 to 572 degrees F
- Automatic backlight and light sensor
- Auto-rotating display
- Motion-sensing sleep and wake mode
- Ultra-fast readings
- Extremely accurate
- Durable and waterproof
- Comes in several colors
- 5-year warranty
- Larger than some other models
What Others are Saying:
Buy the ThermoWorks Thermapen One:
2. Also Great: Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo
This handy thermometer has a similar style as our top pick with a retractable probe and long-lasting lithium battery, however, its temperature and accuracy ranges are slightly less. Thanks to its large rotating backlit display, the numbers are a cinch to read from any angle. Featuring an integrated magnet, the device can be stuck to the fridge or the oven when not in use. Another perk: it’s splash-proof for times when you’re cooking outdoors.
- Large, auto-rotating backlit display
- Readout hold function
- Range: -40 to 482 degrees F
- Accuracy better than ± 0.9 degrees F
- 1- to 3-second response time
- 3-year limited warranty
- Designed for both right or left-handed people
- Magnet for easy storage
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Slightly less accurate than the Thermapen One (only by a tiny bit!)
- Also on the pricey side
What Others are Saying:
Buy the Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo:
3. Best Budget: ThermoWorks ThermoPop
For an affordable and reliable thermometer, try the ThermoPop, another great option from the ThermoWorks brand. In fact, the ThermoPop is one of Meggan’s favorite gift items to buy for friends and family because it’s a helpful (and impressive) kitchen tool — especially if they’ve never used an instant read digital thermometer before. It gives readouts within 3 or 4 seconds that are accurate within ±2 degrees F. Although it’s a touch slower than some of the others, it’s also a fraction of the price and the lithium battery lasts for ages.
Plus, because of its slim profile, you can easily fit this digital thermometer in your shirt pocket. “The clip makes it so easy to use,” adds Meggan. Despite its small size, the display is large and the backlighting makes reading the numbers even easier. Since this pick is splash-proof, it’s great for checking water temps and you can also take it outside.
- Range: -58 to 572 degrees F
- Automatic shut off after 10 minutes
- Small and portable
- Easy to read
- Comes in multiple colors
- Not as quick as other products
- Not as accurate as other products
- No retractable probe
What Others Are Saying:
Reviewed found the ThermoWorks ThermoPop to be the best instant read thermometer they tested, and this product has a 5-star rating from more than 2,000 independent reviews on ThermoWorks.com.
Buy the ThermoWorks ThermaPop:
Other Instant Read Thermometers to Consider
With a sleek modern look, this speedy and reliable pick also gets points for style. Thanks to its rotating probe and automatic screen rotation, it’s just as easy to use whether you’re left- or right-handed. As with our other top picks, this thermometer is waterproof, so feel free to take it outdoors if you’re grilling. To save battery life, it has a sleep mode that kicks in after 3 minutes of inactivity and will power down completely after 10 minutes without use. The Oxo Thermocouple Thermometer is available at Amazon for $64.99.
If you’re looking for a versatile thermometer that can take the temperatures of food items and cooking surfaces, go for this infrared pick. The Cuisinart has two distinct types of readings: the touchless infrared to get the temperature of skillets, ovens, and grills, or the probe for meats and other food items. With its backlit LCD screen, the numbers are easy to read. Although this device is not as quick as some other thermometers, it’s still fairly speedy and accurate. It’s also small enough to tote and store in your pocket and is a moderately priced option. The Cuisinart Infrared Grill Thermometer is available at Target for $31.99.
This top-rated grill thermometer is ideal for outdoor cooking enthusiasts, with a convenient, recommended temperature chart right on the handle as a quick reference for cooking certain types of meats. Since it’s waterproof and features a blue backlit display, you can use it when grilling on dark rainy nights. When you’re not using it outdoors, just hang it with the built-in hook or stick it to the fridge (it’s magnetic). The thermometer can be lightly rinsed under running water (but not submerged in the sink). As an added benefit, this top pick is budget-friendly. The Alpha Grills Instant Read Meat Thermometer at Amazon for $15.99.
In business for more than 170 years, Taylor Precision Products is known for its measurement tools — like this instant read thermometer. Small and lightweight with a “lollipop” design, it can read from -40 to 450 degrees F. It’s also designed to be waterproof, so you can take it outside or hand wash it under running water. The display has a design that’s ideal for viewing from above — although it can still be read from other angles. As the lowest-priced device on our list, this pick is easy on the budget. The Taylor Antimicrobial Instant Read Thermometer is available at Amazon for $9.99.
Originating from a well-established product line that’s trusted by professional cooks, this small, pen-style thermometer is a solid choice for cooking meat. It’s also waterproof and easy to attach to your clothing thanks to the included lanyard and pocket clip, and the price tag is easy on the wallet. However, the temperature range is a bit lower than other options, and the read time takes longer. Displays are easy to see, plus, you can lock the temperature readout with the hold function. The antimicrobial sleeve is an added perk. The Taylor Pen-Style Digital Meat Thermometer is available at Target for $14.59.
Why You Can Trust Us
I’m Dina, a lifestyle writer and the author of six cookbooks. I worked on this roundup of the best instant read thermometers with Meggan, the Executive Chef of Culinary Hill who frequently uses digital thermometers when preparing her recipes.
To determine the best instant read thermometers, we began in Meggan’s kitchen with the thermometer she owns and loves (the Thermapen ONE). From there, we considered other popular products from top retailers and combed through trusted reviews and buying guides from culinary experts. We compared each side-by-side and considered the key features, price points, and performance attributes to hone our list down to the best instant read thermometers.
Everything to Know Before Buying an Instant Read Thermometer
What is an Instant Read Thermometer—and Do You Really Need One?
An instant read thermometer takes temperatures in seconds. Although you don’t technically need one, this kitchen tool makes it much easier to determine whether food (such as meat) is cooked to the right temperature. Otherwise, you’ll need to use other methods, like cutting into meat to check that it’s cooked through in the center or feeling meat to make sure it’s firm enough. Although you can use strategies like those, they’re more challenging and time-consuming, and less precise than using an instant read thermometer.
As Meggan says, “My instant read thermometer is like an extension of my arm when I’m cooking meat or poultry. I prefer to cook to temperature, not by time. A good thermometer takes all the guesswork out of food safety.”
What Are Some Key Instant Read Thermometer Features?
When choosing an instant read thermometer, look for the fastest readout times and the greatest accuracy. Also, seek out tools with easy-to-read displays. Water resistance is also important, especially if you plan to use your thermometer outdoors.
How Do You Use an Instant Read Thermometer?
You can use an instant read thermometer when cooking, grilling, baking, or deep-frying. In most cases, you stick the probe into the middle of a food item, then wait a few seconds for the temperature readout. With infrared thermometers, you hold the device over the cooking surface.
How Accurate Are Instant Read Thermometers?
Instant read thermometers are very accurate. The products we recommend here guarantee accurate readings to within ± 2 degrees F or even ± 0.5 degrees F.
When Should You Use an Instant Read Thermometer?
You can use instant read thermometers for a variety of recipes, especially with those involving poultry and other meats. Meggan always uses a digital instant read thermometer to get her popular dinner recipes like roast turkey, pork roast, and barbecue chicken to perfect temps because she trusts its accuracy.
Prices were accurate at the time of publication.
Dina Cheney has authored six cookbooks, including The New Milks, Mug Meals, Meatless All Day, Year-Round Slow Cooker, Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Salads, and Tasting Club. In addition, she has written hundreds of articles and recipes for publications, including Health, SELF, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health, Parents, Diabetic Living, Fine Cooking, Weight Watchers, and more. She graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University (Anthropology/English Literature) and The Institute of Culinary Education (Career Culinary Arts Program).