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The Best Instant-Read Thermometers

We've recommended a Thermapen for more than a decade, but there's new competition. Is it still the best digital food and meat thermometer?

By and Updated June 13, 2022
Update, June 2022

After testing five additional instant-read thermometers, we decided that the ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE is still our favorite. We now also recommend the ThermoWorks Classic Super-Fast Thermapen and the FireBoard Spark

Top Picks

See Everything We Tested

What You Need To Know

If you cook or bake regularly, you should have a food thermometer. A good thermometer takes the guesswork out of cooking, telling you exactly what's going on inside your food. The old dial-faced ones are slow and imprecise: Digital is the only way to go.

We’ve highly recommended instant-read thermometers by ThermoWorks for years. In addition to being accurate, intuitive, and maneuverable, the ThermoWorks ONE has a rotating display, a backlight, and a motion-sensored sleep feature with auto wake-up for superior usability. But there's always plenty of competition, and many other options are much cheaper. Could any top our favorite? To find out, we gathered a bunch of different thermometers. We put them through a taxing series of tests, examining accuracy, speed, comfort, visibility, ease of use, and durability.

Accuracy and Speed Are Paramount

Our first tests were all about accuracy—because if a thermometer's inaccurate, what's the point? We used each model to read the temperatures of a 32-degree ice bath, 212-degree boiling water, and a 125-degree sous vide water bath (the temperature of a medium-rare steak), repeating the first two tests three times and the third test 10 times and checking the thermometers against a lab-calibrated reference thermometer. The most imprecise models were off by about 2 degrees—not enough to ruin a dish but not exactly confidence-inspiring. Our top-rated thermometers were within 1 degree of accuracy every time. We also preferred those that gave us whole numbers rather than decimal points, which we found distracting; after all, it doesn't matter if your steak is cooked to 125 or 125.2 degrees.

Speed was crucial, too. The thermometers in our lineup took from 2 seconds to more than 20 seconds to provide a temperature reading. Twenty seconds may not seem like much, but when our hands were hovering over a steaming pot of boiling water or bubbling caramel sauce, it felt like an eternity. The best thermometers read in just 1 to 3 seconds, allowing us to get in, check the temperature, and get away from the heat.

Why Size and Design Matter for Instant-Read Thermometers

All the thermometers we tested have two basic parts: a metal probe that sticks into the food and a handle that houses any controls. The size and design of both played into how comfortable and easy to use the thermometers were. Some models had very small handles with nowhere to rest our fingers; we could only pinch-grip them with our thumb and pointer finger, which felt a bit dainty. Others were slippery or sloped. A few had decently sized handles, but their screens, power buttons, or control panels took up too much space, minimizing the gripp...

Everything We Tested

Good : 3 stars out of 3.Fair : 2 stars out of 3.Poor : 1 stars out of 3.

Highly Recommended


Recommended with reservations

Not Recommended


*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.

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