Inexpensive Instant-Read Thermometers

Published March 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.

At almost $100 for our favorite instant-read thermometer, a reliable inexpensive option was a necessity.

Overview:

Everybody in the test kitchen fights over our favorite instant-read thermometer, but its near three-digit price tag ($96) demands a cheaper alternative. However, our Best Buy isn't up to speed with its 47-second read time. To find a replacement, we ran core tests on seven new $35-and-under models—temping ice water, boiling water, and pan-seared chicken breasts—to assess their accuracy, response time, and design.

When the last readout flashed on the screen, we had a tie. One model read temperatures accurately in 14 seconds. Its long, narrow probe easily slipped horizontally inside chicken breasts; its head felt comfortable and was easy to grip; and the sturdy buttons impressed testers. However, three flaws must be noted: This thermometer cannot be calibrated, does not automatically shut off, and only reads temperatures up to 302—so no deep-frying with this model. The other winner maxes out at 450 degrees and turns off after 11 minutes. While neither can compete with the speed and design of the Thermapen, both offer a fine… read more

Everybody in the test kitchen fights over our favorite instant-read thermometer, but its near three-digit price tag ($96) demands a cheaper alternative. However, our Best Buy isn't up to speed with its 47-second read time. To find a replacement, we ran core tests on seven new $35-and-under models—temping ice water, boiling water, and pan-seared chicken breasts—to assess their accuracy, response time, and design.

When the last readout flashed on the screen, we had a tie. One model read temperatures accurately in 14 seconds. Its long, narrow probe easily slipped horizontally inside chicken breasts; its head felt comfortable and was easy to grip; and the sturdy buttons impressed testers. However, three flaws must be noted: This thermometer cannot be calibrated, does not automatically shut off, and only reads temperatures up to 302—so no deep-frying with this model. The other winner maxes out at 450 degrees and turns off after 11 minutes. While neither can compete with the speed and design of the Thermapen, both offer a fine alternative at a much lower cost. (Plus, their response times leave the Redi-Chek in the dust.)

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