Anyone who does cooking in their home should have a high-quality thermometer to ensure food safety and the best results with recipes. An instant read meat thermometer can tell you in just a few seconds how a cut of meat is doing and give you an idea of when it should be taken out of the oven or off of the grill. These instruments use a small probe to determine the internal temperature of meat while making only a tiny puncture, so the juices don’t flow out.While a professional cook might be able to guess on temperatures, even they may sometimes require the best instant read meat thermometer to ensure a dish is cooked to success every time. For beginners or intermediate cooks, a great thermometer can be the difference between serving a perfectly grilled steak and serving one that is raw or overcooked. This simple device can boost your cooking skills in an instant!
Our best pick for instant read thermometers is the ThermoPro TP18 Thermocouple Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer, which offers a vast temperature range, lock, and calibration functions, and an easy to read backlit display.
The Kizen Instant Read Meat Thermometer is our budget pick as a super quick to temp device that is waterproof and comes bundled with a carrying box, batteries, recipes, and Velcro dots for hanging.
Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Instant Read Meat Thermometers
1. ThermoPro TP18 Thermocouple Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
When you're looking for a great instant read thermometer that can get the job done every time, one of the best options is this device from ThermoPro. It has a fast response time and offers up the temperature in two or three seconds. It also boasts an extensive range of temperatures as it can read from 14 to 572 degrees Fahrenheit.This is an easy to store thermometer thanks to its foldaway design and the magnetic backing so it can stick on a refrigerator or other surface. For those with limited vision, it also offers a backlit display with bright digits and turns off after 90 seconds of non-use to keep the battery healthy. ThermoPro also provides a three-year warranty with this thermometer if you go through the process to register it.
2. Kizen Instant Read Meat Thermometer
Another thermometer that could be great in your kitchen is this Kizen model, which takes quick readings and offers temperatures of up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit. It is one of the few thermometers that is waterproof, so cleaning it off in the sink shouldn’t cause any damage to it. It also has a large, bright LCD screen, which is easily read by most.This comes with extras along with the thermometer, including Velcro dots so you can hang it up, a temperature guide, batteries, and a box to store it in when not in use. Also, it comes with a moneyback guarantee over its lifetime in case it doesn't work out as well as you would like.
3. GDealer DT09 Waterproof Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
Another of the best meat thermometers today is from GDealer and offers quick read-outs as well as a vast range of temperatures from between -58 and 572 degrees Fahrenheit. It provides a 10-minute auto-off technology so you won’t run out of battery life and can be used for all sorts of things such as meat, cheese, coffee, chocolate, and candy. This is a foldable model that is compact and easily stored in your kitchen.You can calibrate this model on your own if the temperature is off, and when in use, it has a bright backlit screen so you can easily read the numbers. It also comes with a lifetime warranty, so if it breaks or doesn’t do the job you want it to, it’s simple to get a replacement or a refund.
4. CDN DTQ450X Thin Tip Thermometer
This thermometer from CDN is a bit different from the others we’ve talked about and comes in a long, slender design that is less bulky than most. It offers temperature readings in about six seconds and can handle temperatures from -40 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit to accommodate a wide range of foods. It’s made with durable stainless steel that is shatterproof and waterproof.You get NSF certification with this thermometer, as well as BioCote, which helps prevent the growth of microbes so you can be sure your food is safe as well as tasty. It also has a recalibration feature that can be used if it seems like the temperature is off. It also offers a five-year limited warranty so you can be sure it will last.
5. Palermo Instant Read Digital Meat
This Palermo thermometer offers the ability not only to check temperatures but also to store them in the memory so you can keep track of how quickly a cut of meat is cooking. It’s a tapered model that folds over, so it takes up less space and can easily be transported in your pocket. The instant read meat thermometer is made of a thermoplastic shell that is resistant to impacts and prevents the growth of bacteria.You’ll also experience a long battery life with this thermometer since it has an auto turn-off function whenever the probe is closed. A single AAA battery comes with the device and will last up to 4,000 hours. On top of that, it comes with a 90-day warranty, so if it turns out that the device doesn’t work out for you, you can get your money back and move on.
6. Smak Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
The Smak Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer is waterproof for ease of cleaning and has a probe that is constructed of food-grade stainless steel. It offers readings in as little as two to three seconds and can handle temperatures of as low as -58 and as high as 572 degrees Fahrenheit. The device provides a large LCD screen that is easy to see, as well as a magnet inside so it can be hung on the refrigerator or other metal surfaces.There is an auto-off function in the thermometer that turns on after 10 minutes so you can avoid draining the battery when the item isn’t in use. It comes standard with a 30-day warranty, but you can extend it with minimal effort. As long as you register the thermometer in those first 30 days, you get a new guarantee that covers replacement for up to three years.
7. Maverick PT-100 Pro-Temp Commercial Meat Thermometer
If you’re looking for something durable and made of commercial-grade materials, the Maverick PT-100 is one of the options that will likely work best for you. It has NSF approval to ensure it offers the highest accuracy and performance when in use. It consists of a durable plastic housing and a type K thermocouple with an integral stainless precision micro tip probe, which won’t make large holes in the food you’re cooking.This thermometer is also water-resistant for extra durability and can read temperatures from -40 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a versatile option with several uses. It features a large LCD display, auto-off technology to save battery life, and is shockproof in case it takes a tumble. It’s also simple to clean as you can hand wash it and then leave it out to air dry.
8. Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
This thermometer by Lavatools comes in a wide variety of colors and offers a response time of between one to three seconds for your convenience. The accuracy of the device is within one degree, and you will see the temp read-out on a large backlit display. It also offers a splash-proof design that hits the requirements for IP65 water resistance.There is a read-out hold function on the thermometer so you can track temperatures even easier, and it comes with an integrated magnet so it can be placed on a refrigerator or other metal surface for storage. Also, this thermometer has a three-year warranty and offers NSF certification, which just goes to show the team behind it believes in what it can provide to your kitchen.
9. Polder Stable Read Digital Thermometer
The Polder Stable Read Digital Thermometer features new technology designed to offer the most accurate reading in as little as four seconds. It’s effortless to use and involves inserting the probe, pressing a button, and waiting for a beep along with a digital display of the current temperature. The range of temperatures offered by the thermometer goes from -49 to 392 degrees Fahrenheit.Unlike some thermometers, the reading is kept on the screen until you reset it so you can check on things at a glance. It has a large, bright display that is easy to read and requires no straining or bending to do so. In addition, the thermometer comes with one battery so it can be used straight out of the box.
10. CDN DTW450L Long Stem Waterproof Thermometer
This thermometer from CDN is a waterproof model that comes with a choice of stems, including a 4.5-inch option and one that is eight inches for more substantial cuts of meat and pots. No matter which you choose, it has a temperature measurement range of -40 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, which is enough for most people’s needs. It also is certified by the NSF and includes BioCote technology to keep away microbes and other harmful things.
You can expect a six-second response when using this instant read thermometer, which is designed for use in meats and poultry but can also be used for brewing beer. It’s IPX7 waterproof rated, so cleaning it after use is simple and easy. It also comes with a five-year limited warranty so you can be sure it will last.
Everything You Need to Know About Instant Read Meat Thermometers
The first thing to be aware of with instant read thermometers is how they do their job. The truth is that these thermometers simply use electricity to measure the resistance of a piece of metal. Essentially, the thermometer puts out a voltage through the metal probe that you place into the meat and then measures how much current is present throughout it. Then a microchip in the device takes the resistance and converts it into a temperature that you can read on the screen.
Reasons to Choose an Instant Read Meat Thermometer
Some people might be wondering at this point why you would want to choose an instant read thermometer model when you can use a leave-in model instead. In some cases, such as when you are smoking meat over several hours, a leave-in model will work just fine. However, there are other situations where an instant read thermometer is a better choice, including the following:
- Even if you’re someone who typically enjoys cooking meat on a smoker at a low heat for long hours, you may end up needed to place a steak on the grill once in a while. This is a situation where an instant read thermometer will come in handy.
- Leave-in thermometers do not work as well when you choose to cook thin cuts of meat. They often take longer to read the temperature than an instant read and are best for monitoring temperature over a significant cooking time.
- When you are cooking multiple items all at the same time, an instant read meat thermometer works well. This gives you the option of checking each of the dishes as you go along to ensure all the recipes come off of the heat at the same time and can be enjoyed together.
Since every barbecue, smoker, or oven will have areas that are hotter than others, your steaks or burgers are not always going to be ready at the same time. The best way to ensure that all the meat you are preparing is at the right temperature is by doing a quick internal temperature check before you take things off the heat.
You also want to think about safety and how it affects your cooking. When using an instant read thermometer, you get an easy reading that will make you confident about serving your food. You know that the food is at a safe temperature or can cook it a bit longer if it hasn’t reached the point you want it to.
When you look at the best instant read meat thermometer, it should be capable of providing an accurate temperature in just three or four seconds. It is one of the best tools you can have to ensure all foods are cooked to the perfect level.
The Difference Between Leave-In and Instant Read Thermometers
If you are new to the use of cooking thermometers, we want to go to basics and explain the differences between leave-in and instant read models. An instant read thermometer is intended for use to spot check the temperature of meat or other foods. It is typically best used for thin cuts of meat and work well when you are cooking something over a high heat.
Most instant read thermometers are small and will easily fit into a single hand. These comes with a temperature display and a metal probe, the latter of which is pressed into the meat. In modern times, the screen is often going to be digital and easy to read.
Using an instant read thermometer involves placing the probe into the meat and then waiting a few seconds to get a thermometer reading. The top instant read thermometers you'll find on the market will typically offer a temperature reading in five seconds or less. After you have the temperature, you take out the probe and either continue cooking the meat or take it off the heat if it is finished cooking.
On the other hand, a leave-in thermometer is most often used for more substantial cuts of meat that need to be cooked for more extended periods, such as turkey, brisket, or pork butt. Even when using a high-quality dual-probe leave-in thermometer, it’s handy to have an instant read thermometer to check the temperature at times during the cooking process.
As you can guess by the name, the probes of a leave-in thermometer are left in the meat during the entire time it is cooking. Throughout the process, you can look at a separate base outside the grill or smoker to see the temperature. These are often more complex than a typical instant read thermometer.
The best options will have two or more probes; one of them can be used to pay attention to the temperature in the cooker, while the others will be used to keep track of the temperature of various cuts of meat. Some of them also allow you to set minimum and maximum temperatures and set an alarm that will sound when it reaches those temperatures.
Things to Look for When Choosing an Instant Read Thermometer
There are several things to watch for when you are choosing an instant read meat thermometer, some of which are more crucial than others. We wanted to share some of them so you can make the best decision and choose a tool that will get plenty of use in your kitchen.
Types of Probes
The fastest and most accurate temperature readings are found when using thermocouple probes. These probes consist of two small wires at the end of the probe, and heat causes the voltage to come across the tips, which is then calculated into a temperature using a meter in the thermometer.
You will also find many thermometers that use thermistor probes. These are not as quick to offer temperatures and may be less accurate when showing you the temperature reading of a cut of meat.
Precision and Accuracy
Most people would agree that if your thermometer isn’t giving you an accurate temperature reading, it really isn’t worth having in your kitchen. This is why it’s always a good idea to look at reviews to see how well a device you are considering does when actually in use. Thankfully, even some of the less expensive instant read thermometers are known for offering an accurate reading to about one degree.
Temperature Reading Speed
If you run across an instant read thermometer that takes more than 10 seconds to bring up a reading, it’s likely going to be more of a hassle than a help in your home. Nobody wants to wait for ages to find out what the temperature is when you’re cooking for many reasons. The clearest is that you need to be up close near the heat while getting the reading and that heat can get unbearable when waiting for long periods.
While it can clear your pocketbook to get a top of the line leave-in thermometer with the best features, the same isn’t true for an instant read thermometer. These are less complicated, smaller items, which means you can enjoy a fast and accurate temperature reading for a price that won’t break the bank. Unless you specifically need a leave-in thermometer, instant reads are the best option for the money.
For those who are only going to use their instant read thermometer to check on temps of meat, a measurement range of between 32 and 392 degrees Fahrenheit should be more than sufficient. However, you may find yourself enjoying taking temperatures of everything around you once you get started. If you think that might be the case, looking for an even wider temperature range might be an excellent option.
Quality of the Build
As with any other purchase you make, you’re going to want to be sure that it will last, even if you don’t spend a lot on it. While your instant read meat thermometer might be small and portable, there are other things to consider to be sure it will stay with you for months or even years. The top options are going to be built in a way where they can withstand not just high temperatures but also moisture.
While all the features above are essential to be aware of, don’t be afraid to look for other convenience factors that you’ll use regularly. Inclusion of a backlit screen, automatic shut off to help with battery life, and water resistance are all things that can be useful for someone who needs an instant read thermometer regularly.
Top Tips for Using a Meat Thermometer
To get the most extended life and the best results from your instant read thermometer, there are a few tips you should be aware of.
- Calibrate and Test – While you might be excited to start using a new thermometer, it’s essential first to test that it works properly. This can be done by placing it in ice water or boiling water and making sure it shows the correct temperature, which will be either 32 or 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If your reading isn’t showing the right temperature, it’s time to calibrate the thermometer. This can be a complicated process, so reaching out to the manufacturer might be the best option in this case.
- Don’t Just Poke Anywhere – If you’re new to using a thermometer, just poking it in anywhere and reading the temperature might be tempting, but this isn’t the best option. Instead, experts recommend that you poke all the way through the meat or until you hit a bone in a cut of meat. Once you have done so, pull the probe back toward you and stop when you reach the minimum temperature.
- Clean Up Every Time You Use It – It is probably obvious why you should clean the thermometer each time you use it since it is used in uncooked meat and other foods, and cross-contamination can be an issue if the probe is not cleaned. If you want to avoid this problem, make sure you clean it every time you use it while cooking, as well, for the best safety.
- Avoid Submerging the Thermometer – While cleaning is essential, that doesn't mean you want to place the entire unit underwater for cleaning. Some of the devices are waterproof, and others can resist splashing, but you should still work to keep it as dry as possible. A damp cloth can be used to clean things off a bit without excess water.
By this point, you should understand why an instant read meat thermometer is such an integral part of the kitchen and what features you should expect from the one you purchase. It’s up to you to decide which of these meets the needs of your kitchen so you can cook up all the meaty dishes that your family wants. You have a large selection of options above that will likely meet your needs.The best instant read thermometer is going to be one that offers the features that make it rise above other options. That might mean being quick to temp for some people, or it might mean having a broad temperature range for others. As long as it makes you happy, choose the option that works best for you!