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Digital Instant-Read Thermometers

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

Top Picks

Winner

Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4

Best Midprice Option

Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo

Best Inexpensive Option

Thermoworks ThermoPop

See Everything We Tested

What We Learned

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 the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 ($99.00) for years. In addition to being accurate, intuitive, and maneuverable, it has a rotating display, a backlight, and a motion-sensored sleep feature with auto wake-up for superior usability. But recently, competition has emerged, and many of the new options are much cheaper. Could any top our old favorite? To find out, we gathered 11 digital thermometers priced from $11.95 to $99.95, including the Mk4 and the ThermoWorks ThermoPop ($29.00), our top-rated inexpensive model. 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 just under 12 seconds to provide a temperature reading. Twelve 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 2 to 3 seconds, allowing us to get in, check the temperature, and get away from the heat.

Size and Design Matter

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...

Everything We Tested

Good Fair Poor 

Highly Recommended

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.

Reviews you can trust

The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.

Hannah Crowley

Hannah is the Executive Editor of ATK Reviews and co-host of Gear Heads on YouTube.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.