The Best Meat Thermometers for Instant Measures 2022 (Tried and Tested)

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I was at my parents house for dinner one night and my dad made grilled chicken thighs out of that watched amazing – crispy, bronzed skin and TV-worthy grill marks. But when I cut them in, they were wildly undercooked. My dad showed me the thermometer he used to temper it, which was oh, about 20 years old. He used the same thermometer every Thanksgiving while I was growing up – clearly it was time for a more accurate upgrade.

My go-to instant-read thermometer was the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 for years, but the company has phased it out for a newer, even faster thermometer in its place: the Thermapen ONE.

Of course, this upgrade meant it was time to do some testing. I wanted to try out the new model (and so many other options I could get my hands on!) to find the best instant read thermometers. After extensive testing and many temperature measurements, I found out. Let’s start with a brief overview of the winners.

The best instant read thermometers

Best Overall Instant Read Thermometer: ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE

The thermometer from ThermoWorks (which replaced the long-standing Thermapen Mk4) is everything the company promises: lightning fast, incredibly accurate, and a joy to use. It’s the fastest of all the thermometers I’ve tested, giving readings in, often, just ONE second (do you know the name now?), making it the “first true one-second instant-read thermometer.” It has motion-activated automatic wake-up and sleep functions, an auto-rotating screen for left and right-handed people, a large screen and a bright backlight. If you want a premium thermometer that does its job perfectly, this is a no-brainer. You can read our full ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE review here.

Who is it best for: Anyone who wants an incredibly accurate, incredibly fast instant-read thermometer. It’s definitely worth the investment, even if you don’t cook meat that often.
Good to know: It comes with a five-year warranty and is waterproof. There are 10 fun color options. It can also be recalibrated for accuracy, a service ThermoWorks provides under its warranty.

Best Budget Instant-Read Thermometer: ThermoWorks ThermoPop

For anyone not ready or unable to invest in the Thermapen ONE: The Thermoworks ThermoPop is the best budget-friendly instant-read thermometer I’ve tested. The ThermoPop is incredibly accurate and while it’s slower than the Thermapen ONE, it’s still fast, averaging 3 seconds per reading – which isn’t very long in real life! It lacks some features of its pricier sibling, such as motion-activated wake and sleep, and you have to press buttons to activate the rotating display and backlight. However, it has an easy-to-read display and a cap that can be hooked onto your pocket, chef’s jacket or apron. The main thing is that it works incredibly good. For the price and accuracy, you can’t go wrong with a ThermoPop. The Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo is also a good budget-friendly option, but I’d consider it more mid-priced and think the ThermoPop offers better value.

Who is it best for: Anyone who wants a great instant-read thermometer that won’t break the bank.
Good to know: It is “splash proof” and comes in 10 colors, just like the more expensive Thermapen ONE.

Best Instant Read Thermometer for Left Hands: OXO Good Grips Thermocouple Thermometer

This OXO thermometer is incredibly accurate and almost as fast as the ThermoPop, with readings in 3 to 4 seconds. It also has plenty of useful features: a large screen, an auto-rotating screen, an auto backlight, and auto sleep and wake functions when the probe is opened or closed. I also like that it comes with a carrying/storage bag. But the reason this thermometer is so good for left-handers is because it has straight sides (the Thermapen has ridges) that make it comfortable to hold with either hand. The temperature probe also opens 225 degrees (versus the Thermapen’s 180), so you can read it from more angles. Two minor concerns? The exterior is a bit slippery, and while OXO claims you can open the probe without touching it via the large dial, the dial is stiff and much more difficult to use than if you were to pull the probe out yourself. Overall, though, it’s still a fantastic instant-read thermometer.

Who is it best for: Those who are left-handed or just want a thermometer probe that rotates more for a comfortable reading.
Good to know: It is water resistant.

How we tested the best Instant-Read thermometers

How We Evaluated the Best Instant-Read Thermometers

I rated all thermometers on the following criteria, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst and 5 being the best):

Why Do You Need an Instant-Read Thermometer?

Serving or eating undercooked meat is one of my biggest culinary fears, so I’m never without my instant-read thermometer. And I don’t think anyone should cook without it either – including my dad!

And while these types of thermometers are often referred to as “meat thermometers,” they’re good for more than just chicken, steak, or pork: a great instant-read thermometer helps you bake bread, make caramel sauce, and check the temperature of meats . an ice base prior to churning, and much more.

What to Look for When Buying an Instant-Read Thermometer

How accurate (and fast) is the thermometer?

If a thermometer isn’t accurate or fast, I don’t want it. I ran a few basic accuracy tests, using different water temperatures, and repeated each test three times to check the consistency of the thermometers.

For my first test, I filled a cup with crushed ice and topped it off with water, letting it sit for a few minutes, according to these ThermoWorks instructions — at which point the water would be 32°F. Then I took the temperature of the ice bath and noticed that the thermometers started at around 70°F (the room temperature of my kitchen). The most accurate thermometers read 32°F in about 5 seconds, the fastest clocks in about 2 seconds and displays the same reading every time. The slowest models took more than 44 seconds and read different temperatures after each use.

And with the boiling water, I looked for temperatures around 212°F, or the boiling point of water. The best thermometers reached that goal quickly, but again, the worst models took over 21 seconds, which was extremely uncomfortable for my hand.

I also used each thermometer to measure the temperature of baked salmon to help me determine which models were easiest to use in real-world situations.

There are some important features that distinguish the models. To begin with, the temperature probe should come loose or be easily pulled out of its resting position. Some models have probes that need to be pulled open quite hard.

I also appreciate a large screen that’s easy to read, has an automatic wake-up and sleep function (turning it on and off when you pull the probe out and put it back down), and has a backlight. The latter was extremely useful for reading the temperature when bent over and checking the salmon in a shaded oven or when grilling outside at dusk or at night. My favorite models also have rotating screens, making them suitable for both right and left-handed cooks.

Why you should trust us

I am a professional kitchen appliance tester and former tool editor here at Kitchn. I previously worked at America’s Test Kitchen and my reviews on topics such as stand mixers, induction burners, toaster ovens and multicookers have been published in Cook is illustrated, The land of the cook, and on the America’s Test Kitchen website. My work has also been featured on America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country television programs.

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We’ll do our homework and go wild with our tests. But we’ll condense the information into easy, light-hearted summaries so you can see what we chose and why, then move on with your life. Because we know you’re busy!

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