If you’re a pro on the grill or like to make a lovely roast, deep fry, or baked food, an instant-read thermometer can be just the thing you need to ensure that your cooking turns out just right, especially for those who like their meat to be cooked to a certain level.
With many instant read options out there, some costing $50 plus, it can seem a lot of money for something you may only use a few times a year, and the only way to know if these will be of any use to you is if you have in-depth testing done on it.
That is why we have collated five instant-read thermometers that have different designs and can offer something to any type of cook.
We also run through aspects of an instant-read you may want to consider before purchasing one.
Overview Of An Instant Read
You might be thinking that a probe thermometer can be just as effective, but with an instant-read, you can take a quick temperature reading of an item which can give you a reading a few seconds faster than a probe one.
They can be used during the end of the cooking process to determine the final temperature, so your food is cooked correctly and is sanitary for consumption, and this method means you don’t have to clean your device as much once finished with it.
You can find these used in professional kitchens, to campsites, and are even used by health inspectors to determine high food standards in any food service industry.
But how do you know which is the most effective thermometer for you?
You can find our top picks below and the pros and cons of each to make your decision that much easier.
Our Top 5 Instant Read Thermometers
We start with an instant read that can give you a reading in 3-5 seconds, and the readout locks when the probe is removed from your meats and cooked goods, so it is excellent for those who are cooking multiple items that need instant readings.
It is fast and accurate, with a plus or minus tolerance of 2 degrees Fahrenheit and an upper limit of 572 degrees, so it is effective for more extended periods on the barbeque or roasting a turkey for that special occasion.
- The thermometer has a magnet on its back, so you can place it on your fridge or other magnetic surfaces to ensure it doesn’t get lost, whether cooking inside or outside.
- The casing is waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about liquids like soups or brews damaging the parts inside, and it has an easy-to-read display with a bright backlight.
- If you don’t place the rubber cover on the charging port, there is a chance some liquid could enter, but as it’s a small port near the end, this shouldn’t be a big issue for most users.
- It isn’t suited to be used in an oven, so you will have to remove the food and take the temperature, which can be a hassle on its own and is a slight downside with most instant reads made of plastic.
This instant read looks more familiar, as it ditches the digital readout for the traditional gauge, which can measure boiling or frozen items, and has a convenient clamp near the meter to hold it in position so it doesn’t fall into your cooking container.
The stainless steel construction is durable, does well if your cooking spills, as it simply wipes off, and is corrosion resistant, so it can be left outdoors without any weather damage.
- The analog dial might look old-fashioned, but it can be great for those who have difficulty seeing certain types of reading and don’t want any overcomplicated settings or modes with their instant read.
- The dial surface is made of glass, making it more heat resistant when you are cooking for long periods of high heat and want to get your timings spot on.
- The probe on the gauge is 12 inches, which might be longer than what some users need from a gauge, so knowing how deep to place the probe could be challenging to determine in some instances.
- The measuring lever on the gauge might not be as instant as you like, but this gauge could better demonstrate parts of the cooking that are warmer than the rest, so you might have to weigh these aspects up.
Another great option is if you need a reliable and easy-to-use instant read that is budget-friendly, as you get bright LED numbers to read it in brighter areas, and the hold feature means the air around your cooking won’t affect the reading on display.
It also has a 3-4 second readout and can turn off by itself after 5 minutes, so you need not worry about having to charge it often, and the charge can last you for the duration of your cooking and even longer.
- It Has a nice scale on the back, which gives you the recommended internal temperatures, so you have an excellent reference point to which you can determine how well done your cooking is.
- The thermometer tip easily folds into the casing, so you don’t need to get a slide-on tip protector, and this device can easily fit into your pocket, so you can quickly go between your cooking areas.
- The temperature reading can jump slightly after using it, but it settles down quickly, and you can simply calibrate it if you need to.
- If there is a problem with the battery, it’s a good chance that you’ll have to take it apart, and that is if you know what battery to replace it with, so you might have to replace it altogether.
Here is a great instant read for those who want a sleek-looking device that fits the aesthetic of your home, it is made even better by having an accuracy of 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit and an easy-to-use interface.
There is also the nice feature of a rotating dial, so you don’t need to touch the dial after use, and it has a notch that is easy to access and clean if your probe gets any residue on it, and this is a guarantee however you cook, so is an excellent touch to have with this instant read.
- The rotating dial means this can be used by both left and right-handed people, so you can have a comfortable grip on it whatever your preference.
- It has a thermocouple tip, meaning you don’t have to insert the probe very far into your cooking to get a fast and accurate reading, so you no longer have to second-guess yourself.
- It is operated using AAA batteries, so this might be an inconvenience to those who want a simple plug-in device and might drain them quicker if left on before to turns the display off.
- For those who don’t have very good eyesight, the switch to change from Fahrenheit to Celsius is behind the device, and the hole to switch it is pretty small, which is a minor issue if you don’t need to use this feature.
This alternative is a way to have an instant read that you can monitor from your phone, and no wires mean more freedom to use it freely as long as you are in range.
The probe has two sensors that can monitor internal meat temperatures up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit and external temperatures up to 527 degrees simultaneously.
The app can give you alerts based on the temperature and the time, and you can set up custom alerts to make the process easier for you.
- This instant read is great for those who want to achieve a specific temperature and finish and can adjust for any type of meat and use it in multiple dishes at the same time.
- The sensor on the probe means you can use it in an oven and can alert you when it reaches the maximum temperature so you can remove it safely.
- As good as this device is, it isn’t recommended for use in liquids as it is only waterproof up to a certain point, as the ambient end needs to remain untouched to give an accurate temperature reading.
- Connecting the probe to your phone may not be a desirable task for some, as in some instances, you may have to close the app when taking the probe from the meat to get an accurate reading so that some adjusting may be needed.
Best Rated Instant Read Thermometers Buyers Guide
We have here a nice range to select from, and while you want ease of use and accuracy, there are some factors that you might overlook, and these could determine how successful you are in finding an instant read that is perfect for your cooking style.
You can find some of these considerations below, which could help you make a better-informed decision.
How Often You Use It?
There may be certain users who only need to use an instant-read for turkeys or other meats for events such as thanksgiving or a celebratory barbeque, and if this sounds like you, you don’t have to break the bank to find a reliable device.
The Inkbird instant read and the KT thermometer are the most reasonably priced in our view, as they do exactly what they describe without any extras or features that a seasoned professional is likely going to get more use out of.
LED Or Gauge Display?
Getting the most accurate reading is what you’re looking for, and if you use an instant-read, you want one that has a dial that you can read if you need to take a quick reading and is visible even in bright areas that may obscure the screen.
That is why the MEATER smart thermometer is a great choice as you get a simple view, and you can see how much time is remaining in your cooking process, and it can be made into any preset.
So this flexibility is possible without too much effort, and you’ll see the result from your cooked goods that are made exactly as you like them.
We’ve seen the upper limits for some of these instant reads to be somewhere around 572 degrees Fahrenheit, which is equivalent to 300 degrees Celsius, which is usually the higher limit to what standard grills can achieve.
So unless you are working in a professional cooking setting, you don’t really need to find an instant read with a higher limit.
But be aware that many of these thermometers aren’t recommended for use in an oven, though you might be able to use them here as long as the probe doesn’t sink too far into your cooking or doesn’t touch the sides of the dish to avoid an inaccurate reading.
Ease Of Cleaning
Many of these devices have simplicity in mind, but some with casing might be a bother to clean, as a lot of bits and grime can get stuck onto the device, which could run the risk of causing damage to the internal components.
Look for an instant read that doesn’t need to be completely dismantled to clean and can be wiped clean easily, but be sure not to submerge them in water, as USB types can get ruined by the opening if it’s not sealed correctly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is An Instant Read The Same As A Meat Thermometer?
These are two different tools that give you a reading in different ways, as a meat thermometer is meant to be left inside of the meat while it cooks and will have a display on the end of the probe.
Whichever one you use, you can expect there to be about a degree above or below the accurate temperature, and you can calibrate each by using the water test, and should measure somewhere around 32 degrees Fahrenheit if at room temperature.
How Do I Effectively Use An Instant Read?
For the best results, if you use an instant-read, you want to insert the probe at least half an inch into the center of the thickest part of the food without touching any fat or bone, and you should get a reading within 5 seconds.
For thinner meats, it is best if you insert the probe into the side if you are using a gauge instant read, as you can get an accurate reading, which can take up to 20 seconds to register.
Be sure to periodically check the readings of your cooking at the beginning and the end of the process to ensure that it is cooked to the correct temperature.
Ground meats should be cooked to 160º F, poultry and fowl for 165º F, and fresh meats, steaks, roasts, and chops to 145º F.
Are Instant Reads Worth It?
In general, they can be, as while you may use a thermometer and the fork in the middle trick, this may not be an effective way to take a reading, as you might have some undercooked parts, especially for roasted meats that have layers.
Even though instant reads aren’t exactly instant, we think there is some value in using one of these as you can take a reading as you wish, as you want to avoid food poisoning caused by harmful bacteria.
This is especially the case for chicken, pork, beef, and turkey.
Even if you like your meat rare or medium rare, it has to have a minimum internal temperature of 125º F to 135ºF.
It should be left to stand for about 3 minutes before it is consumed to allow it to set accordingly and give you the consistency you expect.
While there is a lot for you to consider, you can make this easier by having a list of all the features you need for an instant-read, so as long as you keep your purchase inexpensive, it won’t seem like a waste of money to only use it occasionally.
When looking for one of these, especially with digital types, there are options to find some that have wire probes, so you can simply plug them into your device, which can beep to alarm you when your cooking has reached its optimal temperature.
This might not be applicable to every type of user, but it ensures that you have more places where you can use it, and not having to be stood in one spot can also be convenient for you, allowing you to get on with other preparations if you need to.