When you turn on a burner on the stovetop, you have a pretty clear idea of what’s happening. You can see the gas flame or feel the heat emanating from an electric or induction coil.
Ovens are different. You have to take the appliance’s word that it’s really at 350 degrees and not secretly sneaking up to 400 degrees and about to scorch a batch of cookies.
That’s why you need an oven thermometer.
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You have to shop carefully though. When I tested oven thermometers, many of the models were terrible. They dangled precariously off the oven rack or had teeny bases and fell over each time we shut the oven door. When they tumbled, some cracked or melted.
Worst of all, many thermometers were inaccurate. When we checked their readings against a lab-grade thermometer, we were stunned to see that some were consistently off by 10 to 25 degrees. The CDN Pro Accurate Oven Thermometer was one of the only models worth buying.
At less than $5, the CDN is also an absolute bargain. But as with all traditional oven thermometers, there are some downsides to it. You have to peer at it from outside the oven door. It’s a little slow to respond to temperature changes. It only performs one function.
If you cook or bake regularly, I recommend buying a sturdier, more user-friendly, and more versatile gadget: the Thermoworks ChefAlarm.
Unlike most oven thermometers, you don’t actually put it inside the oven. Instead, you rest it on the countertop (or stick it to the oven door via the magnet on its back) and connect a thin wire. At the other end of the wire is a probe, which connects securely to the oven rack via a small clamp. Not only do you not have to open the door to read the temperature, you don’t even have to be very close to it. The ChefAlarm has a big digital screen that’s bright and easy to read from several feet away. It also reports the lowest and highest recorded temperatures so you don’t even need to be in the room while it works. When you return, you can see how the temperature fluctuated over time.
The ChefAlarm is hands down the easiest and most convenient way I’ve found to assess the accuracy of your oven. It’s what our test cooks use during recipe development and what I use at home.
Thermoworks ChefAlarmMost oven thermometers can only do one thing. If you cook or bake regularly, we this sturdy, user-friendly, and far more versatile gadget.
And when you’ve gotten a read on your oven, you can put the ChefAlarm to use in a dozen different ways by simply changing out the probe. You can clip the probe onto the side of a Dutch oven when you’re deep frying or making caramel. You can insert the probe into a cut of meat and monitor the temperature as it roasts in your oven—or on the grill. In all of these applications, you can set an alert so the thermometer beeps when you reach the target temperature. And did I mention that there’s a timer?
You’ll spend more for the ChefAlarm than you would on a regular oven thermometer, but I think it’s worth it for a kitchen tool that quickly becomes indispensable.