A dependable thermometer is an essential tool to have in any kitchen, whether amateur or professional. It not only allows you to gauge the temperature of your cooking appliances, such as ovens and stovetops but also helps you monitor the progress of your dishes for their doneness.
Here at Healthy Kitchen 101, we've recently completed an exhaustive evaluation of various kinds of kitchen thermometers on the market. In this comprehensive review, you’ll find our top choices for 2023, categorized to help you easily select models that suit your needs and budget.
Why You Need a Thermometer
An IR thermometer is as essential as a meat thermometer in any modern kitchen. Its uses are many, allowing you to immediately measure the temperature of stovetops, ovens, grills, and frying pans during preheating and cooking. Beyond that, it’s great for verifying that your dishes have reached the proper temperature.
It also proves its value beyond the kitchen. You can rely on your IR thermometer to check your HVAC system's performance. And it’s handy for automotive maintenance, enabling you to monitor engine temperatures and diagnose problems effectively.
Different Types of Kitchen Thermometers
In the kitchen, chefs use numerous different kinds of thermometers to ensure that the temperature of their cooking equipment and their food is perfect. From IR thermometers to remotely sensing the temperature of pans and pots’ surfaces to meat thermometer probes to check the internal temperature of roasted chickens, these tools come in all shapes and sizes and are extremely versatile.
Here are a few kinds of thermometers that you’ll see in a well-stocked kitchen.
Infrared (IR) thermometers allow chefs to measure surfaces from a distance without making direct contact with them. This ability is super useful for remotely sensing cooking surfaces, such as pots, pans, and the interior of cooking appliances like ovens and microwaves. For pitmasters, the best infrared thermometers are also useful for measuring the temperature of your grill without you having to get very close to the fire. IR thermometers can also be used to measure the surface temperature of liquids and foods (like the outer skin of a grilled chicken.)
The main downside of an IR thermometer is that it is often time inaccurate (most kitchen-grade IR thermometers have a margin of error of around ±2°F.) Additionally, it can only measure an object’s surface temperature, not its internal temperature.
A thermometer probe consists of a metal spike that you insert into a piece of meat. Once inside, it measures the meat's internal temperature, helping you know precisely when the cooking is complete.
There are two main types of thermometer probes: instant-read thermometers and meat thermometers. If you need quick and accurate temperature readings right after cooking, an instant-read thermometer is your go-to.
On the other hand, the best meat thermometers can help you monitor the internal temperature of the meat throughout the cooking process. It comes with a probe that is inserted into either the joint or the center of the meat. Unlike instant-read thermometers, the probe can be left there until the cooking is finished. It’s connected to a gauge or an easy-to-read LCD screen on the outside via a heat-protected wire.
You can find probe thermometers in either analog style, featuring a classic mechanical gauge, or digital with a user-friendly LCD screen.
The temperature knob on your oven's exterior isn't the most dependable way to gauge the internal temperature. When you select, let's say, 400°F on the oven's settings, the actual temperature inside could vary by as much as 25°F to 50°F. Moreover, certain spots in the oven might be hotter or cooler than others. Such spots can greatly affect cooking performance. This is why an oven thermometer becomes a must-have kitchen tool, especially for those who are particular about cooking at precise temperatures.
Most oven thermometers are designed like clocks that you can place directly on the oven rack or hang on a hook inside the baking area.
When setting the oven temperature, refer to the thermometer to check if the internal temperature matches your preference. If not, you can easily make the necessary adjustments for a perfectly cooked dish.
Things to Consider When Buying a Thermometer
While shopping around for a new thermometer, here are a few things to remember.
Accuracy is critical for a thermometer. Many of the thermometers available today claim to provide precise temperature readings within a range of 1°F to 2°F (you can usually find this detail in the user manual or product description).
However, it's often challenging to truly verify a thermometer's accuracy without carrying out benchmarking tests. This is precisely why Healthy Kitchen 101 is doing these reviews!
Build Quality and Durability
Kitchen thermometers — from IR to meat thermometers — must be built to be sturdy and durable so they don't get damaged if they're accidentally dropped, splashed, or exposed to high temperatures.
Many kitchen-grade thermometers, particularly the more affordable ones, are constructed using impact-resistant plastic. On the other hand, the pricier options are crafted from stainless steel, offering greater longevity and the ability to endure much more wear and tear compared to the typical plastic thermometers.
Ease of Use
Simplicity is key when it comes to usability. For example, some thermometers like IR models are incredibly user-friendly. Just point them at what you want to measure, press the trigger, and the reading pops up on the screen within 1 to 2 seconds.
On the flip side, there are thermometers like meat thermometers that might seem a bit more complicated to use. However, even with these, it shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes to grasp how they work.
A good thermometer, for us, shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes to figure out how to use.
Number of Functions
Beyond their primary temperature measurement feature, many thermometers come with extra functions. Take the ThermoPro TP-20 wireless thermometer as an example. It includes a timer setting and an alarm function, allowing you to precisely time your cooking process down to the seconds.
The greater the number of functions a thermometer offers, the more adaptable and useful it becomes.
Lastly, let's talk about the price. This will vary based on the type of thermometer you're considering. Inexpensive IR thermometers usually range from $10 to $30, with higher-end models reaching around $40. On the contrary, meat thermometers cover a wider price spectrum. Instant-read types can cost between $10 to $15, while wireless, multi-probe models can reach higher prices of $75 to $100.
Before making your decision, carefully consider what you need from your thermometer. If you only cook occasional small meals, opting for more affordable options is sensible. However, if you like to cook elaborate, large meals, the pricier options will give you more features and improved accuracy.
The Best Thermometers in 2023
1. Best to Buy: SOVARCATE HS980E Digital Infrared Thermometer
Our Rating See all our test results ↗
- Performance (70%)7.1
- Design (20%)9.8
- Usability (10%)8.3
Things We Like
- Fairly accurate and reliable temperature readings.
- Rugged, industrial design
- Extremely bright laser emitter
- Color LCD VA screen panel
- Comes with a good selection of measurement modes
- Very loud speakers
Things We Don’t Like
- Measurement accuracy can be better.
Out of all the models we tested, the Sovarcate HS980E achieved the highest overall score across all three test sections.
In terms of performance, it received a score of 7.1. This makes it accurate enough for most kitchen applications. However, though the Sovarcate HS980E performed well, it is not the most accurate thermometer on our list. The Wintact thermometer, for instance, got a higher accuracy score.
So, why did the Sovarcate HS980E claim the top spot? Its design and usability are exceptional.
Our reviewers were very impressed by the sturdy build quality of the thermometer. There’s no doubt that it can withstand strong shocks and impacts. The Sovarcate HS980E also stands out with its bright laser emitter and vibrant colored LCD screen.
In terms of usability, the Sovarcate HS980E ranks among the top percentile. It features a comfortable handle and an intuitive control panel. Additionally, the thermometer comes with three measurement modes plus a speaker for its audible alarms.
So, while the Sovarcate HS980E may not be the most accurate option available, its combination of solid design, usability, and performance easily makes it our top pick in today’s listing!
Read our full SOVARCATE HS980E Digital Infrared Thermometer Review.
Read our full SOVARCATE HS980E Digital Infrared Thermometer in-depth review
2. Best Value: Eventek ET312 Infrared Thermometer Gun
Our Rating See all our test results ↗
- Performance (70%)8.2
- Design (20%)7.9
- Usability (10%)8.0
Things We Like
- Great IR sensor that returns accurate readings
- Well-built outer housing and parts
- Bright laser emitter
- Handling experience is decent
- Decent complement of measurement modes for the kitchen
- Loud speakers give off audio cues when the thermometer has finished scanning
Things We Don’t Like
- The product looks and feels cheap
- The handle isn’t textured, which can make it slippery on wet hands
This Eventek may not boast the same level of design and usability as the Sovarcate HS980E, but it excels in one important aspect: measurement accuracy.
Among all the thermometers we tested, the Eventek achieved the highest performance score—an 8.2 out of 10. As such, if your priority is absolute measurement accuracy, then the Eventek is the logical choice.
In terms of design, the Eventek is relatively basic. The housing is functional but looks and feels cheap due to the choice of materials and a nondescript design. At the back of the device is a basic black-and-white backlit LCD screen. The laser emitter is serviceable but not the brightest we've encountered.
In terms of usability, the Eventek receives a respectable score. Its handle molds well to the palm of the user's hand, giving you a comfortable grip. And with four different measurement modes, it shares the title of the most versatile IR thermometer in our database alongside the Wintact model. Additionally, the Eventek emits a loud beep when the trigger is released.
Overall, the Eventek doesn’t possess the same robust design or extensive features as the Sovarcate HS980E. But considering the price, it’s still an excellent choice, particularly when you consider its outstanding measurement accuracy.
Read our full Eventek ET312 Infrared Thermometer Gun In-depth Review.
Read our full Eventek ET312 Infrared Thermometer Gun in-depth review
How We Test the Best Kitchen Thermometers
We have just finished testing and scoring 13 infrared thermometers. More reviews will be done and uploaded when we receive newer models in the lab. In the meantime, we’re testing and scoring other kitchen thermometers to diversify the listing further. These articles will be uploaded in the coming weeks.
But how were these thermometers assessed? We judged each model using three criteria.
Measurement accuracy plays a crucial role in our evaluation process, accounting for 70% of the total score for each model.
To assess accuracy, we tested each thermometer’s measurement of an ice bath and a hot pan of cooking oil. We took measurements from two distances: 12 and 16 inches. The actual temperature of these substances was verified using a thermal probe.
By comparing the thermometer readings with the verified probe readings, we determined the accuracy of each model. The closer the thermometer readings were to those of the probe, the higher the score in this section.
You can read our detailed scoring guidelines for the tests here.
IR thermometers are known for their durability, as they are commonly used in more rugged places than just kitchens. While we don't expect these thermometers to endure significant impacts or immersion in dust or water, we still evaluate each model to gauge its overall build quality and durability.
This assessment allows us to determine how well the thermometers are constructed and how long they’re likely to last under ordinary use.
Ease of Use
IR thermometers tend to be very straightforward. Most people can intuit how to use one without reading the user manual. However, some models with more unconventional designs (the Klein Tools IR1, for example) will need a deeper look.
In this segment, we take a look at how easy each model is for the average person to use.
Why Trust Us
At HealthyKitchen101, we prioritize user-led reviews and assessments. Our dedicated Research, Testing, and Review (RTR) Team conducts hands-on evaluations of every product we review, utilizing in-house testing tools and a unique methodology designed to identify the top thermometers in the market.
To ensure transparency and reliability, we document all our tests through photographs and video recordings, allowing you to have complete confidence in the results. Our methodology is carefully crafted to be easily replicable at home, enabling you to follow the same steps and ideally achieve similar outcomes.
This comprehensive guide gives you access to all the data necessary to make an informed buying decision independently. We empower you to take charge and confidently select the best thermometer that meets your specific needs.
Matthew Lee, a seasoned reviewer for Healthy Kitchen 101, has been part of the team for over two years. He’s taken on numerous project as a member of the Research, Testing, and Review (RTR) team, ranging from waffle makers to water filters and now, to thermometers.
For the latest project centered around thermometers, Matthew, in collaboration with the Research, Testing, and Review (RTR) Team, comprising Lap Vo and Luna Regina, benchmarked a variety of thermometers (both infrared and probe-style.)
To ensure accuracy and thoroughness, the team dedicated an extensive amount of time, surpassing 200+ working hours, brainstorming and finalizing the details of the testing methodology.
Matthew, personally conducting the hands-on testing for each model. The testing process took two weeks to complete and was meticulously photographed and recorded.
The entire thermometer review project took around 2 months to complete, from its inception at the drafting table to the eventual publication of the initial review article. It would take another half a month before all of the review articles are published and the scores finalized.
We expect that most people will be happy with the Sovarcate HS980E, which strikes a decent balance between performance, design, and usability. But depending on your needs and your budget, the other infrared thermometer on this list will also do a nice job measuring temperatures in your kitchen!
About your guide
Matthew Lee is a writer and editor for HealthyKitchen101. With over 8 years working for various outlets and agencies, specializing in tech review and other subjects of note, such as current affairs.
Lap is Head of the Research, Testing, and Review Team (RTR Team) at HealthyKitchen101.com, where he directs and supervises the testing of kitchen gadgets and appliances.