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The Best Digital Meat Thermometer

Updated


Eyeballing your food isn’t the most effective or safest way to gauge doneness. Digital kitchen thermometers offer quick and easy cooking data. We conducted over 45 hours of research and performed a series of tests to determine which of 12 top products is worthy of being crowned best digital meat thermometer. All-around excellence earned the Lavatools – Javelin PRO Duo our top pick: Its speed, accuracy and design make it the best food thermometer for everything from grilling the perfect cut of meat to confecting candy. After four years of long-term use, we still love it.

Our Top Choices

Best Overall


Lavatools

Javelin PRO

Best Oven Thermometer


Taylor

Programmable Thermometer

Budget Pick


ThermoPro – TP19

Best Wireless


ThermoPro

TP21

Eyeballing your food isn’t the most effective or safest way to gauge doneness. Digital kitchen thermometers offer quick and easy cooking data. We conducted over 45 hours of research and performed a series of tests to determine which of 12 top products is worthy of being crowned best digital meat thermometer. All-around excellence earned the Lavatools – Javelin PRO Duo our top pick: Its speed, accuracy and design make it the best food thermometer for everything from grilling the perfect cut of meat to confecting candy. After four years of long-term use, we still love it.

Table of contents

Compare the best digital meat thermometers

javelin digital food thermometer

Instant read thermometers

Instant-Read ThermometerPriceAvg. Read Time (Seconds)Avg. Calibration Error (°F)User Calibration?Waterproof?
1. Lavatools - Javelin PRO$$4.80.50NoRinse only
2. ThermoPro - TP19$2.70.10YesRinse only
3. ThermoWorks - Thermapen Mk4$$$$4.60.47YesFull immersion
4. Alpha Grillers$6.80.35YesRinse only
5. Taylor - 9867B$4.60.62YesNo
6. Lavatools - Javelin$7.61.00NoRinse only
8. CDN - ProAccurate$9.91.83YesNo
9. ThermoPro - TP03A$5.81.78NoNo

Digital oven thermometers

Oven ThermometerPriceMax. Temperature (° F)Avg. Calibration Error (° F)Wireless?
1. Taylor - 1470$3920.5No
2. ThermoPro - TP21$$700-2.2Yes
3. iDevices$$$5722.8Bluetooth
4. Supreme Home$4721.8No

1. Best overall: Lavatools – Javelin PRO Duo

The best instant-read digital kitchen thermometer is the Lavatools – Javelin PRO Duo. In our kitchen tests, it was consistently accurate and very quick — though more and more new models can now match it in those tests. Backed with a three-year warranty, this is a thermometer you can rely on with a few extra perks that help it stand out from a competitive crowd.

This thermometer really shines with its features; they’re simple to figure out and easy to use when cooking. The anti-fog and water-resistant screen is easy to read from almost any angle, though the new LED-lit ThermoPro – TP19 manages to take away the Javelin Pro’s rank as easiest to read.

One feature we particularly loved during testing is the “hold” button, which sounds a beep to let you know when the temperature stabilizes. You’re letting the thermometer decide how much of a change to ignore, but if you go crazy watching numbers dance around when you’re checking a roast or turkey it’s a great feature to have.

Top Pick: Lavatools - Javelin PRO Duo

Fast, accurate, feature-packed and easy to use, this digital meat thermometer excelled in our series of tests.

The Javelin PRO also has the ability to show maximum and minimum temperatures since you’ve turned the unit on.

This thermometer is water-resistant enough that you can safely rinse it off, and its magnetic back makes it easy to store. It goes into sleep mode after an hour of inactivity, but it wakes right up if you move it. You can easily turn it off by folding down the probe, but we love the way this sleep mode saves batteries if you forget.

Priced at under $50, it comes with a three-year warranty as well as an easy-to-read manual with accuracy test instructions and a troubleshooting guide.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Lavatools – Javelin PRO Duo is a quick, accurate thermometer with some great features that make it easier to use.
  • The Javelin Pro has one of the best LCD screens we’ve seen, and you can use it without pressing any buttons.
  • The stabilization indicator takes some guesswork out of readings.
  • The Thermapen is quicker and the ThermoPro is less expensive.

2. Best oven thermometer: Taylor – 1470

Javelin and Taylor digital food thermometers

Pair the Javelin PRO Duo with the Taylor – 1470 Digital Cooking Thermometer with Wired Probe for optimal accuracy in all your cooking tasks. The Taylor thermometer functions as an easy-to-set timer and thermometer. We like that it’s versatile and conforms to your needs. Stand it up on your counter or stick it to the oven door, use the recommended meat temperatures, or set your own to suit your recipe.

At around $16, we were surprised at how well it performed. The Taylor was very accurate in ice and the most accurate oven thermometer in boiling water tests, where accuracy matters most for roasting and baking.

The response time on oven thermometers is usually slow, and this one is no different: It took about thirty seconds to stabilize after an extreme temperature change.

The display includes the basics: a timer, the set temperature you’re waiting for, and the thermometer’s current temperature reading. There are no presets for meat temperatures, but that means no extra buttons to get in the way.

A Simple Oven Thermometer

Taylor makes thermometers of nearly every size and type, but this easy-to-use magnetic model is perfect for checking on roasts or other oven duties. We've tested two diffent units and found them very accurate, but they won't take grill-flame heat.

The timer buttons for setting hours and minutes won’t let you reduce time without pressing both buttons to reset from zero, but it’s handy to have if you like to keep your kitchen smartphone-free. (Or if you like to keep your smartphone kitchen-grease-free.)

You can also set the Taylor to alert you when it reaches the set temperature, or leave the alert off and simply observe the temp. All the important option switches like temperature scale and alert mute are physical toggle switches, so they don’t reset when you turn the thermometer off.

Even setting aside price, the simplicity of this thermometer is just hard to beat. You could spend more on a wireless unit like the ThermoPro or something with calibration options like the Thermoworks – ChefAlarm, but for a simple oven thermometer we think the Taylor is just about perfect.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Taylor – 1470 has all the features you need to monitor roasting, baking, or smoking.
  • In boiling water, this thermometer was the most accurate oven model we tested.
  • With an easy to read display and simple, reliable controls, there’s nothing about this thermometer to get in the way.
  • An added timer function is basic, but handy to have.
  • The maximum temperature on this model is 392 °F, so it’s not a good pick for a grill.

3. Budget Pick: ThermoPro – TP19

ThermoPro is newer than most of the other manufacturers represented in this lineup, but the TP19 instant-read thermometer is the latest in a steady stream of always-improving designs. We’re not yet convinced these thermometers are going to survive as much abuse as a Thermapen, but at less than a third of the price it’s competing on a totally different playing field.

The TP19 checks off all the right boxes for features: excellent accuracy, excellent speed, a new LED-lit easy-to-read display, and a magnetic storage feature. If you’re looking for a collection of top performance and essential features in one affordable thermometer, this is it.

The most obvious improvement of this thermometer is the display. Instead of a low-contrast LCD, the TP19 has bright red LED-lit digits. Older LCD screens can be hard (or impossible) to read from one side or the other, though the Javelin Pro is better than most.

ThermoPro even managed to imitate the ThermoWorks shake-to-wake feature and the auto-rotating display, just like Lavatools did on the Javelin line. Also, the TP19 powers on and off when you open and close it, instead of relying on a button press like most $10–20 thermometers.

We don’t want to overstate this result, since all the top choices are so accurate and quick, but ThermoPro has squeaked out a faster read time and closer calibration accuracy than the market leaders. For about two decades ThermoWorks enjoyed a huge lead in accurate calibrations and quick response with their thermocouple-based designs, but this model now delivers those specifications at a price of less than $30.

Budget pick: ThermoPro - TP19

This thermometer is an affordable instant-read design that aced our calibration and speed tests, and it features a red LED-lit display that's easy to read from any angle. It's not as waterproof as the advertising claims it is, though.

So, now that we’ve established that this ties up or wins the performance comparisons and core features, what’s the drawback to buying the TP19 over the Javelin Pro or Thermapen?

For starters, the “100% waterproof” claim ThermoPro uses in their advertising is a misleading exaggeration. Their product manual explicitly states: “do not place the unit in dishwasher or immerse in any liquid.” That’s more waterproofing than some other affordable designs like the Taylor and CDN, but the $100 ThermoWorks you’ll probably compare this with is actually designed and tested for full submersion.

Next, there are the handy functions on the Javelin Pro that you’re missing. The TP19 has a lock button to stop the display from changing when you get the reading you need to keep track of, but the “stabilization alert” on the Javelin Pro is far more useful in most actual cooking tasks. The Javelin Pro also gives you minimum and maximum history, though they’re tricky to access with only one button.

The TP19 allows you to re-calibrate the freezing-point reading, which is great if you’re working somewhere that requires verification of calibration on a regular basis, but most people should not re-calibrate a digital thermometer unless something is very wrong with it.

This is an excellent $30 thermometer, and if your biggest frustration with past designs is that the LCD screens are difficult to read then this will probably be your new favorite. But if you’re looking to match the Javelin or Thermapen for less money, those still have durability and functionality advantages.

Key Takeaways:

  • The budget-friendly ThermoPro – TP19 includes most of the features we love on top-tier thermometers.
  • In terms of raw speed and accuracy, the TP19 leads the pack in our tests.
  • The red LED display is bright and easy to read.
  • ThermoPro’s waterproofing claims are exaggerated.

4. Best wireless oven thermometer: ThermoPro – TP21

The ThermoPro – TP21 is a reliable, feature-packed wireless thermometer that’s still pretty affordable. The probe is also rated for grill temperatures, up to 700 degrees compared to the 400-500 degree limits of other oven thermometers. That makes it our pick for the best wireless oven thermometer.

After testing a Bluetooth wireless thermometer in our first roundup and being dissatisfied with all the complexity that comes along with that, we were relieved at the simplicity and reliability on offer here. It’s not just a bare-bones device, either: The ThermoPro has a display backlight that changes color as your food gets closer to the temperature you set.

The ThermoPro’s wireless range is impressive. We had to go to the other side of a neighbor’s garage before it started having any trouble updating the temperature reading consistently, a line-of-sight connection was strong well past the 300-foot listed range.

Best Wireless for the Grill: ThermoPro - TP21

With a rugged probe that will survive up to 700°F and a 300-foot wireless range, this is a good upgrade for anyone grilling in the backyard. The color-change screen backlight is a helpful feature, too.

The wire hook/stand is handy for hanging the probe transmitter base on your oven or grill handle, but a magnetic backing would have made it even better. This model doesn’t allow calibration (which would be handy if the probe ever needs replacing) but it was within a few degrees of perfect in all our tests, which is close enough for just about anything you’ll be doing in the oven.

The timer on the ThermoProP21 is also less intuitive than the Taylor Oven Thermometer’s, since you have to cycle through all the temperature presets to find it. You also lose your seconds count on the TP21 when you set hours and minutes, where the Taylor always shows a seconds counter.

ThermoPro’s new probe style is a nice upgrade over typical fare, and They will replace it if it stops working in the first year, or for four years if you register on their site.

Key Takeaways:

  • The ThermoPro – TP21 is a wireless thermometer that will give you reliable connection all the way to your neighbor’s house.
  • Color-changing backgrounds on the screen warn you when you’re close to the set temperature.
  • This grill-friendly design reads all the way up to 700 degrees.
  • Accuracy isn’t the ThermoPro’s strong suit, but it’s close enough for most of us.

Other products we tested

all nine digital food thermometers

A premium upgrade: ThermoWorks – Thermapen Mk4

ThermoWorks has a great line of thermometers that covers every need — from basic instant-reads to a wifi-connected BBQ pit monitoring system — but we think the ThermoWorks – Thermapen Mk4 is where their attention to detail really shines. This hand-built thermometer is the gold standard against which all other kitchen thermometers are judged, even if it is the most expensive.

ThermoWorks includes a certificate that demonstrates exactly how many decimal points off each unit will be across its entire temperature reading range, always within ±0.7°F and traceable just like a laboratory or engineering instrument..

We’ve tested the Thermapen twice now, and we did see an unusual result on one boiling-water test. After averaging out the results of all the tests we’ve performed this model is still in the top three most accurate.

This decimal-precision readout on this (and other) thermometers is nice to have for work like tracking insulation performance in a beer koozie review, but for kitchen use it’s nice that ThermoWorks lets you turn off the decimal readout and just worry about one-degree precision.

ThermoWorks pioneered the folding design now imitated by the Javelin, ThermoPro, and nearly every other $30–50 meat thermometer. They also invented the rotating display and shake-to-wake sleep mode, and those features do make it easy to use. The instruction manual is a detailed 21-page lesson in operation, care, and getting accurate readings when cooking.

The Ultimate Thermometer: ThermoWorks – Thermapen Mk4

ThermoWorks gets industry awards for this thermometer all the time. It's fast, accurate and lets you change nearly any of its fancy features with buttons inside the waterproof battery compartment. There's only one drawback: the price.

For most home cooks, though, removing the battery cover with a screwdriver to push a combination of small buttons for adjusting settings is just too much. It’s great that this thermometer is out there for the most demanding gear nerds, but most of us don’t want to change the display settings on a thermometer, let alone calibrate one.

If the display on the Thermapen were higher-contrast—even if we had to give up the 4-way rotation—it would rank higher. A minimum-maximum or stable reading indicator would also knock the Javelin off its pedestal. But even then, the Thermapen’s price would be hard to swallow.

If you want to find out more about the features of this amazing tool, check out our detailed Thermapen instant-read thermometer review.

Runner-up: Taylor – 9867B Turbo

Eatsmart thermometer reading water temperature

The Taylor – 9867B Turbo, also formerly sold under the EatSmart brand, was a close second of the instant-read thermometers. In our tests it was accurate, fast, and reliable. You can calibrate it as well as change it from Fahrenheit to Celsius with the push of a button. It also has the widest temperature range of the models we tested: -40°F to 572°F.

Affordable Accuracy: Taylor - 9867B Turbo

Within half a degree of perfect, the Taylor matched the ultra-expensive ThermoWorks in overall accuracy and came close in speed. The lack of waterproofing and a mediocre LCD screen are the only things holding this thermometer back.

While the Taylor was quick and very accurate, it’s not waterproof, and doesn’t have the Javelin’s user-friendly features like the stabilization beep and shake-to-wake power-saving mode.

If you find this thermometer for less than $25, it’s a great pick. But for more than a $30 investment, we think you should get a thermometer that’s guaranteed to survive getting wet. For that reason, we chose the ThermoPro – TP18 over the Taylor.

AlphaGrillers

AlphaGrillers is a small company selling a lot of thermometers. The AlphaGrillers – waterproof instant-read digital thermometer packs a lot of features into an affordable package, and they’ve worked hard to stay ahead of the pack in this very competitive price bracket.

This thermometer is not as sophisticated as the Javelin Pro or ThermaPen. Its display doesn’t rotate for easy reading, and it doesn’t notify you when the temperature is stable. The AlphaGrillers also takes a pretty consistent six-to-eight seconds to read a change, much longer than the Javelin Pro and two seconds longer than the EatSmart.

The AlphaGrillers doesn’t disappoint for accuracy, though. The unit we purchased was dead-on for the boiling temperature calibration, which is exactly where accuracy matters most for a meat thermometer. The ice bath test wasn’t as close, reading almost a full degree low. That’s still well within the tolerances required for most of our cooking needs, and a lower error than most of the other thermometers had in their boiling-point read. If you do find that’s you’ve got an inaccurate unit, you can also manually calibrate this thermometer.

Waterproof just in Case: AlphaGrillers

AlphaGrillers designed this to be a reliable thermometer that's easy to clean. We still don't recommend dropping it in the sink, but they've got your back if water ever gets inside. Ours was also perfectly calibrated for hot items, which is exactly what you need in a meat thermometer.

The edge this thermometer has over our other runner-up, the EatSmart – Precision Elite, is that this is waterproof. Now, if you’re skeptical about the waterproofing on a $20 thermometer, we don’t blame you. We ran it under the tap for a full minute and didn’t see any sign of water ingress into the battery compartment. AlphaGrillers also has a good track record replacing failed or malfunctioning units for users who complain about faulty models. In a world where there are 20 or 30 listings for exactly this same thermometer with different labels, that’s worth seeking out.

AlphaGrillers

AlphaGrillers is a small company selling a lot of thermometers. The AlphaGrillers – waterproof instant-read digital thermometer packs a lot of features into an affordable package, and they’ve worked hard to stay ahead of the pack in this very competitive price bracket.

This thermometer is not as sophisticated as the Javelin Pro or ThermaPen. Its display doesn’t rotate for easy reading, and it doesn’t notify you when the temperature is stable. The AlphaGrillers also takes a pretty consistent six-to-eight seconds to read a change, much longer than the Javelin Pro and two seconds longer than the EatSmart.

The AlphaGrillers doesn’t disappoint for accuracy, though. The unit we purchased was dead-on for the boiling temperature calibration, which is exactly where accuracy matters most for a meat thermometer. The ice bath test wasn’t as close, reading almost a full degree low. That’s still well within the tolerances required for most of our cooking needs, and a lower error than most of the other thermometers had in their boiling-point read. If you do find that you’ve got an inaccurate unit, you can also manually calibrate this thermometer.

The edge this thermometer has over our other runner-up, the Taylor – 9867B Turbo, is that this is waterproof. Now, if you’re skeptical about the waterproofing on a $20 thermometer, we don’t blame you. We ran it under the tap for a full minute and didn’t see any sign of water ingress into the battery compartment. AlphaGrillers also has a good track record replacing failed or malfunctioning units for users who complain about faulty models. In a world where there are 20 or 30 listings for exactly this same thermometer with different labels, that’s worth seeking out.

Lavatools – Javelin

The Lavatools – Javelin was quite slow to stabilize compared to other thermometers in its price range. That made it tricky to use in the steak test, reading 150°F when the other thermometers were reading under 100°F. It did, however, read accurately in the calibration tests, and we liked the simplicity of the design.

Like the Lavatools – Javelin PRO Duo, this compact model is magnetic, turns on when it’s opened and off when it’s closed, has a wide temperature range and measures to the tenth of a degree. Another benefit is its lifetime warranty. But unless you really need something this compact we think waterproof thermometers with faster read times and better displays are a better choice.

CDN – ProAccurate Thermometer

Designed similarly to an analog thermometer, the CDN – ProAccurate Thermometer has a face that looks up instead of out, making it difficult to hold and read at the same time.

Since the initial reading of ice water was off by 1.9°, we tried to calibrate it by the instructions printed on the packaging, but we got an error message. It does have a five-year warranty, though, and we liked the pen-like protective case for the stem.

ThermoPro – TP03A

At less than $15, the ThermoPro – TP03A is a best-seller for obvious reasons. The response time is right in the middle of our tested results, but the accuracy was worse than average by quite a significant margin. It’s a usable thermometer, but if you pay around $7 more you can get a thermometer that’s much quicker and more accurate in the EatSmart.

Polder – Stable-Read (discontinued)Digital Instant-Read Thermometer

Polder’s Thermometer was a super-simple tool that got the job done. Like the Javelin PRO Duo, it had the ability to beep when it stabilized, but it took longer to do so.

Other oven thermometers

iDevices – Kitchen Thermometer

The iDevices – Kitchen Thermometer is the most complex of the top nine, but it’s also the most interactive and fun. The box comes with a quick-start guide, but most of the instructions can be found in the manual within the app.

Recommended temperatures come pre-programmed in the app, and the user is notified on his or her smartphone when the temperature reaches the minimum setting, which is 165°F for chicken. You can also search for recipes, track the rising temperature of your dish, and share the results through the app.

The body of the iDevices – Kitchen Thermometer is magnetized for an oven or fridge, but it can also stand on a counter. And, with two wired probes leading back to the body, it’s the only thermometer we looked at that allows for simultaneously testing two locations.

That means you can monitor two separate dishes or different locations of the same dish — think turkey legs and turkey breast. It was also perfectly accurate in ice water right out of the box.

Once it’s set up, the iDevices app gives you a lot of information and it’s pretty cool to have full control from a touchscreen. But the time, complication and monetary investment (about $80) may turn away some shoppers.

The real weakness of this system is Bluetooth itself: different smartphones will have better or worse Bluetooth antennae, but the claimed range of 150 feet must require the planets to be in alignment as well as a clear line-of-sight path between your phone and the thermometer. Range and synchronization problems are the big complaints in every user review of the iDevices and Weber iGrill thermometers.

Weber has taken over the iDevices line and is now responsible for the app, and they’ve expanded the line with new iGrill models targeted at their core grilling and barbecuing customer base.

If you’re a devoted smartphone user who wants an app for everything, this will get you one step closer to your dream. Most of us are better off with a stand-alone thermometer.

Supreme Home Cook – Oven & BBQ Touchscreen

The Supreme Home Cook – Oven & BBQ Touchscreen Thermometer was very accurate in the ice water test. That’s about all it has going for it, though — we didn’t have many favorable interactions with this device.

The instructions (on one sheet of paper) help the user decode the meanings of the one-letter labels on the touchscreen buttons and select the pre-programmed temperatures for poultry, fish, or red meat. That’s not a big problem by itself, but a typo made it very difficult to figure out how to change the taste setting of our rib-eye steak to medium-rare. Another quirk is that this device is programmed to set poultry at a surprisingly high 174°F.

Just setting a temperature manually requires awkward steps. You have to hold down the S-S button for two seconds. That’s not to be confused with the S-T button, which changes from Fahrenheit to Celsius scale. Also, each time it’s turned on, it automatically reverts to Celsius, which might annoy some.

The Supreme Home Cook’s screen, which gives you the alert temperature and the current cooking temperature, is slightly difficult to read at certain angles, and its flip-out kickstand doesn’t stabilize the body as well as the other thermometers.

How we selected products to test

To narrow the many options to just nine top-notch digital thermometers, we began by looking at more than 50 sources and chose the 15 most credible to base our research off of. We read consumer reviews and subreddits, including r/Cooking, home and technology publications like Good Housekeeping and Wired, and blogs like Wise Bread and Lifehacker.

Our research indicated that the best digital thermometers feature accurate temperatures in hot and cold foods, wide temperature ranges that convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius, easy storage options, user-friendly interfaces, and helpful instruction manuals.

Some of the top nine are built specifically for the oven and feature small digital displays that sit outside the oven while a connected probe reads the temperature in the middle of the food.

These oven thermometers have alarms that alert you when the food reaches a specific temperature, which is helpful for the busy cook or someone who’d rather not set a timer to check for doneness.

Others, called instant-read thermometers, are made for taking the food’s temperature as quickly as possible. Within just a few seconds, they display an accurate reading — some down to a tenth of a degree.

After extensive research, we narrowed the many digital thermometer choices down to nine, which were all easy to use in a variety of foods, display temperatures in Fahrenheit and Celsius, and have a manufacturer’s warranty.

Updates

When it came time for our first update, we were hard pressed to find any real flaws in our top picks for new competitors to improve on. We focused on testing a new crop of bargain-priced instant read thermometers. We also checked out a fresh design for a wireless thermometer that doesn’t have the drawbacks of Bluetooth.

For a second update in 2020, we tested a new thermometer that adds both waterproofing and calibration functions to a low-cost thermocouple design. We also re-tested the calibration and speed of the entire lineup.

How we tested

Once we found the top thermometers, we dove into the testing process, creating qualitative and quantitative criteria on which to compare them:

Accuracy, calibration and tolerances: A perfectly accurate thermometer would give you a temperature reading with no error — you could trust every reading fully. But in the real world thermometers have to be designed and calibrated to consistently display within a certain “uncertainty” range on either side of the true temperature being measured.

To be more certain, you’ll have to spend more to get a more precise calibration, and additional calibration points to add certainty across a wider temperature range. ThermoWorks includes a certificate of calibration with the Thermapen, which adds to the cost but tells you exactly how reliable the readings are at which temperatures.

Speed: Certain types of thermometer sensing elements, like thermocouples, respond to a changing temperature within seconds. Other types, like the bi-metal strips used in the oven thermometers we’ve tested, can take minutes to show even a large change. We tested the fastest thermocouple thermometers against less-expensive thermistor types to see how much quicker they are.

Functionality and usability: We didn’t just test in ideal conditions. Certain functions, like meat doneness reminders and stable temperature notifications, are only effective if they’re easy to use and understand. Even the power button on a thermometer can make a bigger difference in day-to-day use than technical features like decimal-precision displays.

Over ten hours of testing in the kitchen, we tested the top nine thermometers in ice water, boiling water, tempered dark chocolate, a whole roasted chicken, and a thick rib-eye steak.

Accuracy Tests

Instant-Read ThermometersIce Error Avg. (°F)Boiling Error Avg. (°F)
ThermoPro - TP190.10.1
Alpha Grillers0.60.2
ThermoWorks - Thermapen Mk40.10.8
Lavatools - Javelin PRO0.11.0
Taylor - 9867B0.40.8
Lavatools - Javelin0.41.3
ThermoPro - TP03A1.52.2
CDN - ProAccurate1.52.2
Oven ThermometersIce Error (°F)Boiling Error (°F)
Taylor1.00.3
ThermoPro - TP211.81.9
iDevices0.02.2
Supreme Home0.01.2

Test 1: Melting ice

Since not all thermometers can be calibrated by the user, the first test was designed to see how accurately these were calibrated at the factory.

Top Pick: Lavatools - Javelin PRO Duo

The fast and accurate Javelin PRO nailed the temperature in our ice water test.

Accurate thermometers should read within the specified margin of error (usually plus or minus a degree) of 32°F in a bath of melting ice. We followed the NIST guidelines for preparing a calibration bath, with small ice cubes in a 3:1 ratio with deionized water inside an insulated water bottle. Each probe was submerged one inch into the water, stirring gently to find the temperature of the slowly melting ice. The uncertainty of this calibration is less than 0.02°F if you follow standard procedures and use deionized or distilled water.

Only the least-expensive thermometers had more than the standard-tolerance one degree error. The very closest was our top pick, which was within a tenth of a degree with both of the test units we bought.

If you’re buying a meat thermometer for more than $20 it will likely be very accurately calibrated at this temperature, but it’s an easy test to set up yourself if you feel like double-checking.

Test 2: Boiling water

We followed the ice water test with a boiling water test. This test can be tricky since water boils at different temperatures depending on altitude. At sea level, look for a temperature of 212°F, but the boiling temp drops with elevation gain. Thermoworks has a calculator here: Since we tested at 400 feet above sea level, at a pressure of 30.06 inHg, we were looking for a reading of within a degree of 211.53°F.

All of the thermometers were within five degrees of the actual temperature, which is good enough for the toughest kitchen tasks. Most read within 1°F of the true temperature, but the inexpensive Javelin, TP03A and CDN had 1.3–2.3 degrees of error.

Test 3: Instant-read speed test results

ThermometerAvg. Speed, IceAvg. Speed, BoilingAverage (Seconds)
ThermoPro - TP193.02.32.7
ThermoWorks - Thermapen Mk43.33.83.6
Taylor - 9867B5.23.14.2
Lavatools - Javelin PRO4.04.94.7
Alpha Grillers7.04.55.8
ThermoPro - TP03A9.54.06.8
CDN - ProAccurate9.78.18.9
Lavatools - Javelin11.39.510.4

We timed how quickly each of the instant-read thermometers came up to their calibrated temperature in both of the accuracy tests.

Response speed is difficult to test with any certainty, since just moving a thermometer around in boiling water or an ice bath can cause the temperature to shift and change the reading time. Response speed in something like a roast chicken or a pot of tempered chocolate are more difficult to be certain about, but the speed in freezing and boiling water is a good benchmark to compare with.

Test 4: Roasted chicken

For the three oven thermometers we performed a test on roasted chicken to see how they stacked up against each other. Since these conditions are more complicated than simply reading the temperature, and because we already gauged their accuracy with the calibration tests, we ranked them on ease of use and overall effectiveness.

Best Oven Thermometer: Taylor - 147821

An accurate, inexpensive and reliable complement to oven cooking that's also easy to set up.

Straight out of the box, the Taylor – 1470 is the easiest to set up and start using. It doesn’t have pre-programmed temperature settings for different types of meat, but it does have a temperature guide on the back of the device for reference. Taylor, ThermoPro and iDevices use the USDA-standard 165°F for a “cooked chicken” temperature, while the Supreme Home preset is all the way up at 175.

Test 5: Thick rib-eye steak

three thermometers in steak

In our first testing roundup, we used all nine thermometers to track the doneness of a rib-eye steak.

We inserted the probes of the oven thermometers horizontally into the middle of the raw steak, put the steak in a pan on the stove, and started tracking the rising temperatures of all three. We set the oven thermometers to medium-rare to see how useful the presets were with a real steak.

We also used the instant-read thermometers throughout the cooking process to test for speed, trying several different depths and locations in the steak as the temperature grew close to the USDA’s recommended internal temperature of 145°F for medium-rare beef.

All of the thermometers worked well for this test, but the optional notification of stable temperatures made the Javelin PRO our favorite in this test.

2020 Updates

For our two updates, we’ve added some new budget-friendly options as older models were discontinued. We’re still very happy with the Javelin and the ThermaPen as the top instant-read thermometers on the market, but we wanted to see if a waterproof budget option could keep up.

The Taylor is also still our favorite oven thermometer, but we tested a new budget-friendly wireless option that’s more reliable that the Bluetooth design we tried in 2016.

The benefits of using a kitchen thermometer

For such a small tool, a kitchen thermometer can significantly improve the quality of the food you prepare. It makes cooking more efficient and more accurate, while giving you peace of mind that your meal is cooked to perfection.

With a digital kitchen thermometer, there’s no need to cut open a piece of chicken, stick a toothpick in a cake, carefully observe the consistency of candy, or set a timer and hope your food is perfectly cooked when it goes off.

Kitchen thermometers are essential when cooking raw meat, so anyone who grills, roasts, or fries benefits from owning one, and if you have an old analog thermometer, the speedy accuracy of digital will be a step up.

Digital vs analog thermometers

Thanks to digital thermometers, food temperatures are more accurate than ever. While analog thermometers have traditionally been used in kitchens, they haven’t offered much more than an approximate temp range, which can make cooking to medium-rare a challenging feat.

Analog and digital food thermometers

Digital thermometers, on the other hand, offer precise readings so you can hit the USDA’s minimum temperature recommendation to kill bugs like salmonella and e. coli, but not overcook your chicken breast. They’re also much more helpful than analog thermometers when facing finicky kitchen projects, like tempering chocolate or making cheese, which can easily go awry if the temperature reading is off.

Like most of today’s technology, digital kitchen thermometers have a range of features. Some of the thermometers we tested, like the Lavatools – Javelin, were as simple as opening up the package and inserting the probe. Others were more complex, like the iDevices Kitchen Thermometer, which involved downloading an app that uses a bluetooth connection to track the temperature on your phone or tablet from as far as 150 feet away.

Important features to consider

With so many thermometers on the market, it’s helpful to know what to look for to suit your kitchen needs. We recommend using the following metrics when shopping for a digital kitchen thermometer.

Accuracy

Above all, a digital kitchen thermometer should give you confidence about how you’re using heat. Accuracy in measurement is the key to learning control and hitting the perfect temperatures for the results you want. Still, it’s important to know just how much certainty you really need — going 10 degrees over might ruin some dishes, but just about nobody needs to know a temperature within tenths of a degree while cooking.

Speed

Speed is an important factor with a thermometer that claims to be instant, but it’s much less of an issue with oven-probe thermometers. An instant-read thermometer should stabilize within 5 seconds at boiling-water temperatures. You’ll need the speed when reaching into a hot oven, over a grill, or into a pot to measure temperature.

Extra functionality

A thermometer’s special functionality can enhance your cooking experience, but sometimes extra buttons or busy displays get in the way. Know what you’re looking for before you start shopping.

  • The ability to switch easily from Fahrenheit to Celsius can come in handy for cooks who venture into global recipes.
  • Some thermometers display to the tenth of a degree. We like thermometers that give the option to display whole degrees only, or keep the decimal digits small.
  • A good backlight that’s easy to turn on, like the shake-to-wake lights on our top recommended picks, makes it much easier to read a temperature.
  • Some digital displays rotate, depending on the angle they’re held at, like the ThermoWorks – Thermapen Mk4.
  • Our top pick can beep and hold its display when the temperature stabilizes. This makes taking readings from a roast much easier.
  • Roasting thermometers usually come pre-programmed with meat temperature targets and alert you when your meat is done.
  • Most roasting thermometers include a timer, and they’re often more reliable than wind-up timers.
  • A magnet helps you keep the thermometer — roasting or instant — ready to use. Holes or rings for hooks are also nice.
  • Waterproof construction keeps you from drowning a thermometer accidentally while you’re washing it.

Temperature range

A wide temperature range is better if you plan to use a thermometer for more than just meat. A meat thermometer won’t usually need to read temperatures below freezing or above boiling, but if you want to use a thermometer to monitor a grill or make ice cream you’ll need something with a wider range.

thermometer temperature range

Manufacturer’s warranty

Check out how long the warranty is good for, especially if you plan to get a lot of use out of your thermometer. The brands we tested range from one to five years.

The bottom line

Using both an instant-read along with an oven thermometer can help the accuracy and timing of your recipes, especially when cooking meat. The oven thermometer allows you to get close to your target temperature while the instant-read lets you take quick internal temperatures in several different locations of the food.

If you’re not roasting or baking with time-sensitive recipes, an instant-read thermometer alone should typically do the trick. Even though the ThermoPro – TP19 had a faster average reading time in our testing, the Lavatools – Javelin PRO Duo was easier to use overall thanks to its excellent stable-reading-hold feature. After clearly standing out in our tests, it has kept up in long-term testing, too, maintaining its accuracy and functionality in four years of additional usage. Lavatools also offers a 3-year warranty, longer than any of the less-expensive competition.

For monitoring a bird or roast, we like the simplicity of the Taylor – 1470 oven probe thermometer. It’s affordable and accurate, but most importantly its large buttons and switches are easier to use than other models. That said, the ThermoPro – TP21 is a better choice for grilling or smoking, since it’s wireless and able to monitor preheat temperatures up to 700°F.

For more on thermometers, check out our review of the best indoor outdoor thermometer.

Top Pick: Lavatools - Javelin PRO Duo

Fast, accurate, feature-packed and easy to use, this digital meat thermometer excelled in our series of tests.

Daniel Jackson, Writer

Daniel is a Canadian farm boy who grew up to be a nerd with a literature degree and too many hobbies to count. He emigrated from Canada to California in 2013, and now writes for Your Best Digs full-time. Daniel remains unapologetic about Canadian spelling, serial commas, and the destruction of expensive travel mugs.