Best Instant Read Thermometers for 2021

Written in 2024
by Adam

    If you want to become any good at grilling and barbecue then you need an instant-read meat thermometer.

    It is an essential tool to ensure that your meat is perfectly cooked when served, even the most experienced chefs would agree.  

    Extensive testing of many instant-read digital thermometers has enabled us to conclude that ThermoWorks ThermoPop is the best option.

    The Best Thermometer- ThermoPro

    This accolade goes to the ThermoPop due to its rapid and accurate read times coupled with a user-friendly design and great value for money.

    ThermoWorks have excellent pedigree when it comes to designing thermometers for professional pitmasters. This is evident in their large range of products.

    Some features include a rotating screen making it easy to read, the ability to measure both °C and °F and a backlit screen which is visible in low light.

    Most importantly the ThermoPop has a range of -58 - 572°F and is accurate to 2°F and reading is given in 3-4 seconds.


    • Intelligent Design - The rotating screen and backlit display make it a product that is very easy to use.
    • Battery Life - It has 5,000 hours of battery life and the battery is included.
    • Splash-proof - It has an IP66 which very helpful when working with sprays, sauces etc.


    • Thermistor Technology - Thermocouple tech in Thermapen Mk4 is faster and more accurate.
    • Probe Housing - A separate case for the probe means that there is an extra part to worry about losing.

    The probe is 4.5 inches long and you get the choice of 9 different colours.

    The Best Thermometer for Enthusiasts- ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4

    This thermometer is the obvious choice for people that are serious about grilling, again this product is produced by ThermoWorks. The price for this product is definitely much steeper however it really is the best in its class.

    It can be used for grilling as well as general kitchen tasks. It has some brilliant features including motion-sensing sleep and wake mode and an automatically rotating backlit display. The rotating screen means you can check the meat from a few angles and the temperature can be displayed to either 0.1 or 1-degree Fahrenheit or centigrade.


    • Incredible accuracy and speed due to thermocouple probe tech - It measures temperature to ±0.7 °F and within 2-3 seconds.
    • Automatic light sensor - This means that it can be ready without any other light source but will conserve battery when not being used.
    • Large Screen- The screen is 1” X 1.54” meaning you can quickly check the temperature.
    • Build Quality - It has an IP67 waterproof standard and also has extremely thick casing making it very durable.


    • Price -  The only problem with this product is its price, however that is not to say that it isn’t worth it.

    The product is available in 10 different colours and also come with a battery that is said to have 3000 hours of life.

    The price is steep however this product certainly doesn’t compromise on quality.

    The Best Budget Thermometer - Lavatools Javelin 

    This thermometer has lots of similar features to the ThermoPop, however, doesn’t boast the backlit, rotating screen. 

    The accuracy of this thermometer is very impressive, reading is within 0.9 °F and the speed is reasonable at 4 seconds.

    The Javelins battery life is slightly lower than the ThermoPop but still comes at 4,000 hours. Its probe is also slightly shorter but it does have a tapered design with means that the puncture in the meat is minimised. Its silver-ion coating means that bacteria cannot grow on the probe.

    The Javelins temperature range is -40 - 482°F. Finally, it is easy to store due to its magnetic case and foldable probe.


    • Value for money- This thermometer is very accurate for such a reasonable price.
    • Splashproof- This thermometer is safe around liquid meaning it is incredibly practical.


    • Lack of features- The absence of the rotating backlit screen means it is slightly less usable.
    • Short probe- This can be a problem when cooking with larger cuts of meat.

    The Javelin may be less flashy than the ThermoPop however it is still a very useful budget thermometer.

    The Best Budget Waterproof Thermometer - ThermoPro TP15 Digital Meat Thermometer

    This thermometer is an upgrade on the TP03A model and has an IPX6 waterproof rating. This enables this product to be easily washed.

    It has an LCD Backlight display that will turn off within the 90s to conserve battery and accuracy of ±0.9 degrees Fahrenheit, its probe is an impressive 5.36 inches.


    • Great value- This product is comparable to others on the market at a fraction of the price
    • Waterproof- You can easily wash it under running water which is very convenient when cleaning it.


    • Fairly slow- Its read time is 4 seconds, which is not the best.

    The build quality of this product is understandable considering just how cheap it is.

    Other Options

    Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo - An upgraded version of our best budget pick the Javelin, it is roughly 1 second quicker and has a 2” auto-rotating backlit display. However when you consider the price the Thermapen Mk4 is a better option.

    Maverick Pro-Temp PT-100 Commercial Thermometer - This thermometer lacks some of the features found on other products whilst being more expensive. However, it has some attractive commercial features such as +/- 1°F accuracy.

    How do they Work?

    Instant read thermometers are very interesting. They send a voltage through their probe and measure how much current flows through it. The resistance in the probe is then converted into degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, this is done using a microchip.

    Why Should You Buy One?

    Many people believe that a leave-in thermometer is the only piece of equipment that you need, however, there are times when an instant-read thermometer is necessary.

    For example, when cooking thinner cuts of meat that cook fairly quickly a leave-in thermometer may not have enough time to read the temperature. This situation would better suit an instant-read thermometer. Also if you are cooking multiple cuts at once you may want to quickly check them all at once, you would not be able to do this with a leave-in thermometer.

    Barbecues have hot spots meaning the different cuts that you are cooking will cook at different rates so to serve them at the perfect temperature you need to check each one individually. Most instant-read thermometers will allow you to check within 4 seconds.  

    Instant-Read vs Leave-in

    Instant-read thermometers are best for thin cuts on high heat. They quickly check the internal temperature of your meat. They are usually hand-held and have a probe and a digital display.

    To use them you simply stick them into the meat until you have a reading, this should be within 4-5 seconds. Once you have done this you can remove the probe until you have to use it again, it does not need to be left in the meat.

    On the other hand, leave-in thermometers are used over a long period of time on larger cuts of meat. They give you a reading of the temperature through the duration of the cook and mean that you can adjust the conditions accordingly. Unlike the instant-read thermometers, the temperature is displayed on a separate unit that is not in the cooker.

    They can often check the internal temperature of the meat and the air surrounding it using two probes. What’s more, you can set alarms to tell you if the temperature reaches a certain point. This means that they can be more complex to set up.

    The best thing to do is have one of each as they are both very useful in different situations.

    Instant-Read Thermometers: What to Look for?

    Build Quality:

    In order for them to last they need to be able to withstand high moisture and temperature otherwise they could break.


    Speed is important as you don’t want to be leaning over a grill/cooker for too long! Remember that you are the one that has to apply and remove the probe so having a slow thermometer makes the whole experience more unpleasant.

    Temperature Range:

    32 - 392 °F is a great range if you plan to only be cooking meat however and wider range will enable to experiment more in the kitchen.

    Probe Type:

    The two main types of the probe are the thermocouple and the thermistor. The thermocouple is the better option as it is faster and more accurate.

    The thermocouple probe has two tiny wires at the tip of the probe that carries a voltage when heated. The Thermapen Mk4 uses a thermocouple probe.


    People are quick to dump lots of money into a leave-in thermometer however it must be said that instant-read thermometers are smaller, less complicated and much more affordable.


    The main purpose of the thermometer is telling you the temperature, so you need to be able to trust it. 

    Lucking the majority of thermometers have at least a 0.9°F level of accuracy.

    Is my Instant-Read Thermometer Accurate? How to Check

    The boiling water and ice water tests are the two easiest ways to check the accuracy of your thermometer.

    You should check this straight after purchase so that you know that it has been calibrated properly, you should also check it every year or after it has been potentially damaged by water, for example.

    The Boiling Water Test:

    It is important that you check the boiling point at your location as it can differ, this can be done using this calculator.

    First, you need to pour 4” of water into a wide-mouthed pot and bring the water rapidly to a boil.

    Then put the thermometer 2” into the water and stir the water with the probe for 10s before taking a reading.

    Remember the level of accuracy that your thermometer is rated at when considering your results. Make sure that the reading is within this level of accuracy compared to your boiling point.

    The Ice Water Test:

    Fill a tall glass with ice cubes, make sure that the glass is filled to the top. Then fill the rest of the glass with chilled water. 

    Stir the bath for 20 seconds so that the temperature is the same all over and insert the probe 2” into the glass and stir it for 15s.

    The reading should be at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or within the level of accuracy for your thermometer. 

    What if my Thermometer is not Accurate?

    It is not unusual for even the highest quality thermometers to be a couple of degrees Fahrenheit out. There is no need to complain to the supplier or manufacturer if this is the case, just factor the difference in when taking readings.

    Old or cheap instant-read thermometers can even be +/-5°F out. If for you, this is becoming a problem then you will need to put a bit more money in and upgrade to a better model.

    If this is not the case and you have bought a high-grade thermometer and it is way out, then you should consider contacting the manufacturers as they may well re-calibrate the instrument for you. The owner’s manual will most likely provide you with some information.

    Huge levels of inaccuracy are more of a problem in cheaper models as re-calibration is less likely to be available, but checking the warranty is a good call.

    To Conclude

    If you are a huge grill enthusiast and have the disposable income we think that the best instant-read thermometer available is the Thermapen Mk4.

    However, compromising a little bit on quality would be an awful idea if you decide to go for the ThermoWorks ThermoPop. Which is why we believe, for the average user, ThermoWorks ThermoPop is the best instant-read thermometer when you take into account quality and value for money.


    Written by Adam

    Adam is the creator of the SmokeGuys website, running it since 2016. Hater of coriander, lover of all things meat... Adam currently works in marketing with a dream of being able to make food his full-time 'job' in the longer term.

    Top linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram