We conducted over 30 hours of research and performed a series of five tests to determine which of the nine best digital meat thermometers on the market were worthy of your purchase. The winner of our tests (and your consideration) was the Lavatools Javelin PRO, which also held up to 12 months of additional use. Its speed, accuracy, and design make it the best food thermometer for everything from grilling the perfect cut of meat to confecting candy — and everything in between!
Top Pick: Lavatools Javelin PRO
Fast, accurate, feature-packed and easy to use, this digital meat thermometer excelled in our series of tests.
Digital kitchen thermometers not only offer quick and easy access to cooking data, but also ensure your cooking process goes smoothly. We researched the benefits of using a digital thermometer and learned that eyeballing your food isn’t the most effective or safest way to gauge doneness.
Read on to learn more about how we tested our nine finalists over the five tests and how we determined our winner.
Table of Contents
- How we found the best digital meat thermometer
- The nine best digital meat thermometers
- The benefits of using a kitchen thermometer
- Digital vs. analog thermometers
- What to look for before purchasing
- How we tested the finalists
- The best instant-read digital kitchen thermometer
- Other great instant-read models
- The rest of the thermometers we tested
- The bottom line / long-term notes
How we found the best thermometer
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 the following nine, which were all easy to use in a variety of foods, display temperatures in Fahrenheit and Celsius, and have a manufacturer’s warranty.
The nine best digital meat thermometers
- Lavatools Javelin
- Lavatools Javelin PRO
- iDevices Kitchen Thermometer
- ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4
- Supreme Home Cook Oven & BBQ Touchscreen Thermometer
- Taylor Programmable Thermometer + Timer
- Polder Stable-Read Digital Instant-Read Thermometer
- CDN ProAccurate Thermometer
- EatSmart Precision Elite Food Thermometer
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.
Digital thermometers, on the other hand, offer precise readings so you can hit the USDA’s minimum temp recommendation and not overcook your meat. 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.
What to look for before purchasing
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.
- Temperature range
- Manufacturer’s warranty
Above all, a digital kitchen thermometer should be accurate. Accuracy is the key to a tool that helps you cook food to the perfect temperature.
Speed is an important factor with a thermometer that claims to be instant, but it’s much less of an issue with oven thermometers. Look for an instant-read thermometer that stabilizes within three to 10 seconds. You’ll need the speed when reaching into a hot oven, over a grill, or into a pot to measure temperature.
A thermometer’s functionality can enhance your cooking experience. Know what you’re looking for before you start shopping. Whether you’re a cook who craves a simple, easy design or one who’s fascinated by the latest technology, there’s a thermometer for you.
The ability to switch from Fahrenheit to Celsius can come in handy for cooks who venture into global recipes. Some thermometers display temps to the tenth of a degree. Some digital displays even rotate, depending on the angle they’re held, like the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4.
Thermometers can come pre-programmed with minimum meat cooking temps and alert you when they’ve reached it. Others beep when they’ve stabilized, and some can even double as a timer if you’re monitoring time and temperature.
A wide temperature range is better if you plan to use a thermometer for more than just meat. A meat thermometer may run from about 32°F to 392°F, but an all-purpose one should have a wider range on the low end.
The top nine thermometers we reviewed came with a variety of accessories like storage cases, magnets, detachable probes, and more.
Check out how long the warranty is good for, especially if you plan to get a lot of use out of your thermometer. The Lavatools Javelin has the longest of our top nine: a lifetime warranty. The rest of the top nine’s warranties range from one to five years.
How we tested the finalists
Once we found our top thermometers, we dove into the testing process, creating qualitative and quantitative criteria on which to judge them.
- Temperature range
Over eight 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.
Test 1: Ice water
Since not all thermometers can be calibrated by the user, the first test was designed for straight-out-of-the-package use. This was done to see how accurately the thermometers were calibrated in the factory.
Thermometers should come pre-calibrated and read exactly 32°F in ice-cold water. We filled a pot with an ice-to-water ratio of 3:1 and tested each probe by submerging it two inches into the water, stirring it gently without it touching the bottom.
The Lavatools Javelin PRO nailed it, with a reading of 32.0°F. While others displayed 32°F, the Lavatools Javelin PRO’s tenth of a degree was spot-on.
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. Since we tested at 400 feet above sea level, at a pressure of 30.06 inHg, we were aiming for a reading of 211.5°F.
Test 3: Tempered dark chocolate
This timed test was designed specifically for the six instant thermometers. Tempering chocolate — heating and cooling it to create a smooth texture — requires constantly observing the state of the chocolate and regular temperature readings.
We tested each of the thermometers at various stages in the tempering process: initial heating to 120°F, cooling to 82°F, and reheating to between 88°F and 91°F. Since the temperature of the chocolate is constantly changing — heating or cooling — the thermometers took longer to stabilize than they did with icy or boiling water.
The Lavatools Javelin PRO came up with the fastest read, at a mere 3 seconds, followed by the Lavatools Javelin at 5.9 seconds.
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 thermometers are a bit more complicated than unfolding and reading the temperature, and because we already gauged their accuracy with the first two tests, we looked at ease of use and overall effectiveness.
Each oven thermometer includes a body, which displays the temperature and sits outside the oven, and a cord linking it to the probe, which reads the internal meat temperature.
Our recipe predicted that a non-convection oven set to 350°F would have our chicken properly roasted in 1 hour and 15 minutes. This gave us the opportunity not only to test the thermometers against each other but also to verify the recipe.
An accurate, inexpensive, and reliable compliment to oven cooking.
Straight out of the box, the Taylor Programmable Thermometer + Timer is the easiest to set up, program, and start using. It doesn’t have pre-programmed temps for food, but it does have a minimum temperature guide on the back of the device for different types of meat.
It’s up to the user to set the temperature and turn on the alert — in this case, the recommended 165°F for poultry. The instruction manual includes general operating guidelines, a diagram of the components and features, and more detailed cooking temperatures as recommended by the USDA.
The body of the Taylor thermometer is well-designed, with an adjustable screen and stand, as well as a magnetic back. The display is easy to read and shows the set temp and the current thermometer temp.
The Taylor thermometer took one hour and 35 minutes to reach 165°F.
The Supreme Home Cook Oven & BBQ Touchscreen Thermometer takes a bit more time to set up. The instructions come on one sheet of paper and decode the screen buttons so the user can select the pre-programmed temp for poultry, fish, or red meat. This device sets poultry at 174°F. Each time it’s turned on, it automatically reverts to Celsius, so it should be changed to Fahrenheit if appropriate.
The Supreme Home Cook Oven & BBQ Touchscreen Thermometer’s screen, which gives you the alert temp and the current cooking temp, is slightly difficult to read at certain angles, and its stand doesn’t stabilize the body as well as the Taylor thermometer.
The Supreme Home Cook thermometer took 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach 174°F.
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.
The iDevices thermometer took one hour and 30 minutes to reach 165°F.
Test 5: Thick rib-eye steak
For the steak, we tested all nine thermometers for ease of use, and we tracked speed, one final time, for the instant-read thermometers.
We inserted the probes of the oven thermometers horizontally into the middle of the raw steak (see Tips and tricks section), 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 and tested for usability.
We inserted 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.
The quickest response among the instant-read thermometers was the Polder Stable-Read Digital Instant-Read Thermometer, which stabilized at 4.8 seconds. Following that, the EatSmart Precision Thermometer gave a reading at 6 seconds and ThermoWorks at 6.8 seconds.
The best instant-read thermometer
The best instant-read digital kitchen thermometer is the Lavatools Javelin PRO. In our kitchen tests, it was consistently accurate and quicker than most. It’s simple to use, easy to store, and works perfectly without needing re-calibration. It was the most accurate in the ice water test, down to a tenth of a degree, and it was the fastest in the chocolate test.
This thermometer really shines with its features; they’re simple to figure out and easy to use when cooking. One we particularly loved during testing is the ability to add a beep when the temperature stabilizes, so you don’t have to wonder if the thermometer has found the current temp yet. It then keeps displaying the temperature as it rises or falls.
The Javelin PRO also has one of the widest temperature ranges, from -40°F to 482°F, and also has the ability to show maximum and minimum temperatures within your current cooking session.
The probe is made from food-grade stainless steel, and its magnetic back makes it easy to store. It features an anti-fog, LCD backlit screen but also has a power-saving mode, which can turn the backlighting off. It goes into sleep mode after an hour of inactivity, and you can easily turn it off by folding down the probe.
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.
Pair the Lavatools Javelin PRO with the Taylor Programmable Thermometer + Timer for optimal accuracy. Since the Taylor thermometer functions as a timer and an oven thermometer, it can cover all your bases. 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 temperatures, or set your own to suit your recipe.
You can also set it to alert you when it reaches the proper temperature, or leave the alert off and simply observe the temp.
It was accurate in the ice and boiling water tests, it’s easy to shift between Fahrenheit and Celsius, and the display includes a timer, the set temperature, and the thermometer’s temperature. At around $16, we were surprised at how well it performed.
Other great instant-read models
EatSmart Precision Elite Food Thermometer
The EatSmart Precision was a close second of the instant-read thermometers. We found that it was accurate, fast, and reliable for every test. 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: -40°F to 572°F.
While the EatSmart Precision Elite Food Thermometer was quick, it wasn’t as precise as the Lavatools Javelin PRO in our testing. It also doesn’t have the Lavatools Javelin PRO’s user-friendly features, like the stabilization beep and power-saving mode.
iDevices Kitchen Thermometer
For oven thermometers, we also liked the functionality of the iDevices Kitchen Thermometer. The dual monitoring system can come in handy in a busy kitchen, and the smartphone alert is a lifesaver when you have to leave the room while your meal finishes in the oven. It was also perfectly accurate in ice water right out of the box.
Once it’s set up, it can be useful, but the time, technology, and monetary investment (about $75) may turn away some shoppers.
The rest of the thermometers we tested
The Lavatools Javelin was off by quite a lot in the steak test, reading 150°F when the other thermometers were reading under 100°F. It did, however, function quickly and accurately in the other tests, and we liked the simplicity of the design.
Like the Lavatools Javelin PRO, it’s 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.
ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4
A simple and accurate choice, the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 has a similar design to both Javelin thermometers and uses the same fold/unfold function to turn it off and on. Its instruction manual is a detailed 21-page lesson in operation, care, and suggested uses. But we didn’t like that the user must remove the battery cover with a screwdriver and push a combination of two small buttons to adjust the settings.
Supreme Home Cook Oven & BBQ Touchscreen
The Supreme Home Cook was very accurate in the ice water test.
However, the one-page manual is hard to follow, and a typo made it difficult to figure out how to change the taste setting of our rib-eye steak to medium-rare.
Polder Stable-Read Digital Instant-Read Thermometer
Polder’s Thermometer is a super-simple tool that gets the job done. Like the Lavatools Javelin PRO, it has the ability to beep when it stabilizes, but it does take longer to do so.
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.
The bottom line
Using both an instant-read along with an oven thermometer can help the accuracy and timing of your meal, 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 cooking meat, an instant-read thermometer alone should do the trick. Even though the EatSmart Precision Elite Food Thermometer had a faster average reading time in our testing, it didn’t have the accuracy, functionality, or features of our best recommendation, the Lavatools Javelin PRO. After clearly standing out in our tests, it stood out in long-term testing, too, maintaining its accuracy and functionality in 12+ months of additional usage. For more on thermometers, check out our review of the best indoor outdoor thermometer.