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The Best Instant Read Thermometers of 2020

Everyone who takes cooking seriously knows how important a thermometer is in the kitchen.

You can take plenty of factors into account, like the thickness of what you’re cooking, the weight or temperature, but the only reliable tool that will allow you to make sure that the food is ready is an instant read thermometer.

Choosing the best instant read thermometer is not an easy or obvious task.

They differ in price, features and build, but what to pay attention to exactly? I spent many hours, time and money in order to give you the answer to that question.

Based on my research and own experience, the best instant read thermometers are:

  1. Best Overall: Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo
  2. Best Value: Lavatools PT12
  3. Best Budget Pick: ThermoPro TP03A
  4. The Cheapest Pick: Habor Cooking Thermometer

In the table you will find a short summary of my suggestions.

Comparison Table

MODEL

Read Time

Accuracy

PRICE

Lavatools Javelin PRO

Best Overall

Lavatools Javelin PRO

2-3 seconds

±0.9°F

Lavatools PT12

Good Value

Lavatools PT12

3-4 seconds

±0.9°F

ThermoPro TP03A

Budget Pick

ThermoPro TP03A

4-7 seconds

±0.9°F

Habor Cooking Instant-Read Thermometer

The Cheapest Option

Habor Cooking Thermometer

4-6 seconds

±1.8°F

The Best Instant Read Thermometers of 2020

There’s plenty of different thermometers from many different manufacturers available at stores. I have prepared several suggestions at different price ranges so that everyone can find something for themselves regardless of their needs.

1. Best Overall Lavatools Javelin PRO

It is a suggestion for those who want good quality and great results for the lowest possible price.

When it comes to the accuracy and speed, it is just as good as its more expensive competitive models, and in many cases actually better. 

At this kind of price it is a very good choice which is why it ends up at the first place on my list.

It’s a good idea to replace a cheap $10~ thermometer with something like Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo, I can guarantee you that you will see a huge difference.

The manufacturer declares that durability of the battery is whole 4000 thousand hours which is a good result.

The temperature measuring range is -40~482°F ( -40 – 250 degrees Celsius ). It comes with an option to choose whether to display the measurements in Celsius or Fahrenheit.

The Javelin Pro model comes with a sensor that can measure the temperature in just 2-3 seconds with accuracy of ±0.9°F. It is truly a great result, a brilliant speed and accuracy.

The high-quality display, big, very clear from any angle and distance. The image adjusts to how you’re holding the thermometer and automatically rotates in order to suit you. The display is also resistant to water splashes ( splashproof ).

Javelin PRO comes with an intelligent system that automatically holds a stabilized temperature and sends an audio signal once it does. All it takes is to put the thermometer in water for example and then push a special button and wait for the signal.

PROS

  • Top Accuracy
  • Speed
  • Features & Quality

CONS

  • The rotating screen doesn’t lock

Lavatools Javelin PRO is a great versatile tool for your kitchen that is totally worth the money. 

It will work great when checking low and high temperatures in any food or liquids.

If you don't have this kind of money then you may consider Lavatools PT12 which costs nearly half less.

However, if you want a durable, good and fast instant read thermometer then I really suggest investing a little more money in Javelin PRO.

2. Best Value Lavatools PT12

Lavatools PT12 was chosen by me as a half cheaper alternative for the Javelin Pro Duo model. 

It is also a suggestion for those who want to spend as little as possible on a new good thermometer.

It is a slightly smaller model with a shorter probe, but it’s all due to the low, attractive price.

For this kind of price you get a product that is well made, durable, precise and pretty fast.

The temperature measure time is about 4 seconds on average, and the temperature range is -40~482°F ( -40 – 250 degrees Celsius ) which is the same as with Javelin PRO. But the sensor here measures the temperature with accuracy of ±0.9°.

Javelin Pro vs PT12 , so how do both models differ from each other? 

Javelin Pro is a suggestion for those more demanding. The thermometer was equipped with several useful features such as a slightly bigger Auto-Rotating Backlit Display, an intelligent system of stabilizing and holding the temperature together with an alarm, a longer probe and most of all much faster temperature measuring ( 2-3 seconds ).

These are the main differences which explain the big difference in prices.

Going back to Lavatools PT12, it is a great product for this kind of money. Temperature measurement is satisfyingly fast, and the results are accurate. The display is about 1/3 smaller than in Javelin PRO but it’s still clear and also resistant to water splashes.

PT12 also comes with a good battery that can last for about 4 thousand hours.

PROS

  • Price & Quality
  • Speed & Accuracy

CONS

  • Smaller Display
  • Not the best speed but still good for most people

Despite the low price, it is still a great instant read thermometer not only for regular home cooks but also for professional chefs who need such tools every day.

Temperature measurement within about 4 seconds on a thermometer for this kind of money is truly a very good result. It may lack neat features, but for this kind of price you shouldn’t expect such things.

Lavatools PT12 offers what’s most important for a cook which is simplicity, quality, convenience plus fast and accurate measurement.

3. Best Budget Pick ThermoPro TP03A

Of course ThermoPro TP03A is slower and less accurate than for example Javelin Pro, but also several times cheaper which is its main advantage.

The temperature sensor shows the measurement in about 4-8 seconds. That’s a little long, but I can assure you that for this kind of money you won’t find anything better.

Most competitive models for this kind of money are junk not worth paying attention to.

The display is big and clear enough, whereas the sensor has a big temperature range  (-58°F ~ 572°F ) with accuracy of  ±0.9°F. It is also possible to change the temperature display from Fahrenheit to Celsius.

ThermoPro offers a one year warranty for this product with an option to extend it by another 3 years if you register the product after the purchase.

After 10 minutes the thermometer automatically shuts down in order to converse the battery.

The materials it was made of make it a manual thermometer for a limited time use, it can’t be held for long at higher temperatures.

PROS

  • Low price
  • Good Accuracy
  • 1 year warranty with an option extend to 3 years if you register the product

CONS

  • A little bit slow when compare to top models

ThermoPro TP03A is a very simple thermometer that comes with all the necessary features and provides a relatively fast and accurate temperature measurement ( 4-8 seconds ). 

For a regular cook it is a fully sufficient product, a professional chef might not be satisfied as it makes a difference to them to be able to measure temperature much faster.

4. Cheapest Pick Habor Cooking Thermometer

It is one of the cheapest suggestions by me, a well-built thermometer with a foldable probe that looks like a solid device and for this kind of money it is.

It’s quite a surprise that it can measure temperature pretty fast for this kind of money.

Habor Cooking Thermometer can give an accurate temperature measurement within 4-6 seconds.

I believe that it is a great suggestion for a less demanding cook, not a professional or an restaurant chef who needs a faster device whereas for regular people it is a very good thermometer.

On one hand, you will find a magnet and a button to change the temperature display from Fahrenheit to Celsius and vice versa.

The overall temperature range isn’t particularly very big, but it should meet most people’s expectations. The sensor monitors temperature within the range of -49°F to 392°F with accuracy of 1.8°F, above 212F with accuracy of 3.6°F~.

The display is small, but definitely clear. It has a useful feature of automatic shutdown when not in use for 15 minutes. A good solution that will save you from having to change the battery too often.

Only the probe is waterproof which means you have to avoid exposing the thermometer to water, never wash it with water. Before each use, only wipe the probe with a damp washcloth.

PROS

  • Price & size
  • Good for beginners or people with very small budget

CONS

  • Slow & a little poor accuracy
  • Not the top quality
  • No special features

The Habor instant read thermometer is undoubtedly a very good product in this price range.

The temperature range and accuracy is on a satisfying level which makes this thermometer a great device for temperature measurement when cooking basic meals at home.

I believe that it is a suggestion for people with a very limited budget and lower expectations.

If you’re a professional chef then I advise against buying this thermometer, it was not made for the demanding people ( which at this kind of price should obviously be understandable ). 

5. Thermoworks ThermoPop

It is not as big or fast as Thermapen or Javelin PRO but in many regards it is similar.

Great suggestion for those who need a relatively fast and good quality thermometer from the lower price range.

ThermoPop is also a convenient pocket instant-read thermometer that you can easily fit in a smaller drawer or a pocket of your shirt or pants.

Due to its smaller size and the automatic shutdown feature ( after 10 idle minutes ) the battery is more durable and can last for about 5000 hours.

One very convenient feature is the rotating digital display every 90 degrees. It allows to comfortably read the measurement from every point of view.

I believe that this is a great alternative for the more technically perfected and faster Thermapen Mk4.

The main difference between these two models is the size, speed and accuracy, but it doesn’t matter that much for a regular cook. 

Of course if you have more cash then I recommend Thermapen Mk4, but if you’re looking for something cheaper or smaller then pick ThermoPop, a slightly less accurate and slower, but still a good product for its price range.

Still, one has to admit that for this kind of money ThermoPop is fast because it can measure the temperature within 3-4 seconds which is a very good result.

The probe range is -58 to 572°F whereas the accuracy is +/- 2 degrees F from -4 to 248°F and above 248F the accuracy is +/- 4 degrees F. Of course it is a satisfying result and such measurement is enough to satisfy most of your needs in the kitchen.

If you’re looking for something much more accurate, on the other hand, consider the most expensive version of Thermapen Mk4 or Lavatools Javelin PRO.

PROS

  • Price great for people with small budget
  • Features ( rotating digital display etc ) 
  • Speed

CONS

  • Small LCD display
  • A little too small accuracy.

I believe that ThermoPop is the best inexpensive instant read thermometer.

I really like its convenient size, which makes it possible to even keep it inside the pocket. Another big advantage is not only the display back light feature, but also the rotating feature which makes it easy to read the temperature from every point of view.

It reads the temperature fast and accurately, and all of that at a lower price range that is very affordable for most people. The product is really worth recommending and for this kind of money it’s a good idea to have it in the kitchen as a small, pocket instant read thermometer.

6. Thermapen Mk4

It is the highest quality instant-read thermometer available on the market.

A suggestion for those who not only need a fast and very accurate thermometer, but also a very well-made one with several useful features.

I recommend this model for those for whom cooking perfect food is very important ( especially professional chefs at restaurants where time and accuracy matter a lot ) and for those who want the highest-quality product in many regards.

For a long time, Thermapen Mk4 was number one among instant read thermometers. 

Today, however, the competition is large and depending what you need you can buy a slightly poorer thermometer for a much lower price which for a regular cook is usually enough. 

The greatest advantage of this model is combining accuracy and speed of reading temperature, it is undoubtedly the highest level as of now. Thermapen Mk4 can boast 2-3 second temperature readings with accuracy of ±0.7°F (±0.4°C) within the range of -58.0 to 572.0°F.

A very big back-lit display with a feature of automatically rotating the view depending on how you hold the thermometer, this feature will allow you to read the temperature from every point of view.

Due to the big size of the display, the battery is slightly weaker than in other competitive models although at this size it is still a good result ( about 3000 hours ), it also comes with an automatic shutdown feature activated when not used for a while.

Another big advantage compared to competitive models is the fact that Thermapen Mk4 is waterproof which is rare when it comes to kitchen thermometers.

It has no start button, it turns on when you unfold the probe.

PROS

  • Quality, Durable & waterproof
  • Speed & Great Accuracy
  • Big LCD display

CONS

  • Price
  • Size

Despite the high price, it is a very valuable tool that will become your goto kitchen tool, for someone who values quality in the kitchen the price won’t be that high.

You’re looking for a top-of-the-line thermometer? There is currently nothing better in every regard. Innovative features, great efficiency, durability and many other positive words, and all of that for people who value quality and functionality.

I know that the price is high, but if you’re a professional chef then this product is worth your money.

Buying Guide

buyers guide01

An instant read thermometer is used to instantly read the temperature ( fast and accurately ), it can’t be left, for example, in an oven or a grill. It is also good wherever you need to run few measurements of different pieces of food in a short time.

However there are other types of thermometes, they differ significantly from one another and are made for different tasks. If you’re interested in other thermometers then read separate guides by me on them. ( for example, guide to the best smoker thermometers ).

The offer of instant read thermometers at stores is very big, the price range is usually $10 to $100.

What impacts that price? 

Mainly the speed and accuracy of reading and then different features as well as quality of workmanship and size.

More expensive options could be recommended for more demanding people who need a very fast and accurate thermometer. Those people certainly include professional chefs who cook at good restaurants.

For those who simply need to check meat temperature without hurry and be sure that the food is perfect, I can easily recommend a regular thermometer that is slightly cheaper, like Javelin Pro.

For those with a lower budget, on the other hand, I recommend ThermoPop, a high quality non-expensive instant read thermometer that should meet expectations of most people.

How did I pick the best ones ?

instant read thermometer tests

My first task is always to analyze the potential thermometers at brick-and-mortar and online stores. For most people it is an annoying task because it takes a whole lot of time and nerves. At stores you can find dozens of different products which makes it hard to find time to reliably compare the whole offer.

The next step is comparing the features and gadgets that each of the thermometers offers. They are what has a large impact on whether a particular instant read thermometer is worth its price or not.

I check each one’s quality of workmanship and how it feels in my hand. I especially pay attention to the display and how clear it is and how fast it measures the temperature according to the manufacturer.

All of that allows me to give the initial rating for each of the thermometers, which will get updated after the practical tests.

How did I test?

tests01

I started by testing the temperature measurements, starting with cold water, I took five temperature measurements with each thermometer while measuring the time and I calculated the average for each thermometer.

Next I conducted a similar test, this time with hot oil warmed up to a high temperature. Here I could evaluate which of the thermometers has a long probe and is good at protecting from high temperatures in this case.

The last stage was testing the instant read thermometers while cooking thicker meat. I decided to cook a chicken, a pork shoulder and steaks.

I cooked the chicken in an oven, the pork shoulder in a smoker and the steaks on a standard charcoal grill.

I wrote down the test results once again and moved on to the final analysis of all the notes. I also analyzed all the extra features that are usually present in more expensive models.

What to pay attention to?

If you’ve never used an instant read thermometer before and don’t really know what exactly to look for, let me list few key aspects to pay attention to before the purchase.

Once you read it, you’ll be able to make a decision which one instant thermometer will be the best for you depending on your situation.

  • Accuracy – Precise temperature is very important which is why it is the best for your thermometer to be as accurate as possible. The good news is that for an average price you can find models that provide readings with accuracy of about +/- 0.9-2.0 F. If you wish for very accurate readings then you’ll have to look for the most expensive models.
  • Speed – In many cases speed matters a lot not only because it saves time, but also imagine a situation where you’re waiting more than 10 seconds to get temperature reading for the meat you’re cooking. Holding your hand for so long around where the temperature is significantly higher isn’t exactly pleasant, and there are many situations like this one. That’s why it is the best for your thermometer to not only be accurate but also very fast. Most of my suggestions can fit within the 2-5 second range which I believe is a perfect time range.
  • Features – One can go without extra features but it’s hard not to admit that they have a significant impact on convenience and increase the functionality of a thermometer which also raises its price. Many features, however, are worth the extra charge and if you wish to have a very functional thermometer then you’ll have to spend a little more on it. By useful features I mean a big back-lit rotating display, an automatic shutdown system, alarms, waterproof structure, ability to change units from C to F etc.
  • Quality – The quality mostly depends on the price, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes we overpay for the brand which is why it’s a good idea to pay attention to whether a new thermometer is solid. If you can’t check it out personally at the store then read reviews from other clients.
  • Temperature Range – A bigger range makes your thermometer a more versatile tool. Think about what you’re going to need it for, if it’s meat then a smaller range will be enough but when it’s for checking hot liquids then a bigger temperature range will be useful.