The Best Candy Thermometers, According to An Expert

It’s no surprise a digital icon like the ThermoPro TP03H Digital Instant Read Thermometer outpaces the old-school options.

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Govee Bluetooth Meat Thermometer
Photo: Amazon

Decades ago, choosing a thermometer was an easy task. The only consideration was what you were cooking. Were you roasting meat or making sweets? The answer determined which of the two thermometers in your kitchen you'd use. Today, regardless of what you may have on the stove or in the oven, the choices are endless. Thermometers for the modern kitchen can be made from many materials, come in dozens of forms, measure temperature with different kinds of technology, and offer home cooks and professionals plenty of reasons to own more than one or two.

Home cooks looking for a thermometer that registers an accurate temperature quickly will find our top pick eliminates the need for additional thermometer options in most instances. But that doesn't mean you won't yearn for an old-fashioned glass model when it's time to whip up your grandmother's signature holiday fudge, or that a Bluetooth thermometer won't come in handy while roasting a turkey.

We researched the best ten thermometers and spoke with experts to help you make great candy at home, including Joanne Sundell, co-owner of Dark Forest Chocolate, an organic bean-to-bar chocolate shop that's collected numerous awards since its opening in 2015, including three Good Food Awards. Review our top thermometer picks — including our all-around favorite, the ThermoPro TP03H Digital Instant Read Thermometer — and the considerations we've noted to help select the right thermometer for you.

Our Favorites

Best Overall: ThermoPro TP03H Digital Instant Read Thermometer

ThermoPro TP03H Digital Instant Read Thermometer
Amazon

Also available at Walmart and Target.

Why It's Great

  • Fast and accurate
  • Great for meat or candy
  • Easy to clean and store

Grain of Salt

  • Requires a battery

The handy ThermoPro TP03H really hits all the marks for being both accurate and incredibly practical; everyone needs an instant-read thermometer. Its 3.9-inch stainless steel probe allows you to temp meat, candy, or anything else. A high-precision sensor computes the temperature in under 4 seconds and is accurate to 0.9 degrees F. The temperature (in C or F) is shown on an easy-to-read backlit display. The probe folds against the handle for easy storage, and the whole thermometer is waterproof, allowing for simple cleanup. A magnetic back means you can store ThermoPro on a knife rail or refrigerator for easy access.

"I use my thermometer to turn sugar into caramel," says chocolatier Sundell, who uses a special machine to gently temper the chocolate she creates from cacao beans. "An analog candy thermometer just can't do that for me, not with the speed and accuracy I need."

The only con with this thermometer is that it uses batteries, as all digital thermometers do. Frequently, a cook doesn't discover their thermometer needs a new battery until they are just about to temp something that's already cooking. For this reason, some of our pros choose to keep a manual thermometer as a backup.

The Details: Measures 1.57 x 1.04 x .8 inches; available in orange, red, and black; digital display

Best Basic: Taylor Precision Products Candy & Deep Fry Stainless Steel Paddle Thermometer

Taylor Precision Products Candy & Deep Fry Stainless Steel Paddle Thermometer
Amazon

Also available at Walmart and Target.

Why It's Great

  • Broad temperature range
  • Made of sturdy stainless steel
  • Good for deep-frying and candy making

Grain of Salt

  • Better for bigger batches

This is the workhorse of our thermometer options. You'll find this Taylor thermometer in professional kitchens and home kitchens. It's efficient, sturdy, and reliable. Like most paddle thermometers, its old-fashioned analog bulb is protected by a stainless steel backing and a sturdy nylon handle.

Featuring a temperature range spanning 100 degrees F to 400 degrees F, the Taylor Precision Products Candy & Deep Fry Stainless Steel Paddle Thermometer is a superb tool for making fried chicken and fudge.

The con with this type of thermometer is that the glass bulb doesn't start at the very bottom of the thermometer, meaning you'll need at least .75- to 1-inch of liquid to get a reading, making it a poor choice for anyone cooking in smaller batches.

The Details: 12 x 2 x .75 inches; analog display

Best Budget: Taylor Precision Products Classic Candy/Deep Fry Thermometer

Taylor Precision Products Classic Candy/Deep Fry Thermometer
Amazon

Also available at Walmart and Crate & Barrel.

Why It's Great

  • Affordable
  • Wide temperature range
  • Adjustable clip

Grain of Salt

  • Delicate

It's likely your mother, grandmother, or even great-grandmother made her holiday treats and best confections using one of these glass thermometers. Widely available, this iconic design and its signature clip have made it the first choice for generations of beginning cooks.

If you only need a candy thermometer once or twice a year, this might do it for you. Measuring temperatures spanning from 100 to 400 degrees F, and for under $8, this reliable retro thermometer is a steal. Even though the gauge doesn't illustrate the stages of candy making, the protective sleeve that accompanies it does.

There is one major shortcoming with the style of the Taylor Precision Product Candy/Deep Fry Thermometer: It is very breakable, even with its adorable protective sleeve. Finding a safe place to store it can be challenging for people with modest kitchen storage.

The Details: 14.49 x 4.33 x 1.02 inches; analog display

Related article: The 10 Best Meat Thermometers to Help You Cook Meat Perfectly Every Time

Best for Big Batches: Polder Candy Thermometer

Polder Candy Thermometer
Amazon

Also available at Walmart and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Why It's Great

  • Oversized
  • Easy to read
  • Dishwasher safe

Grain of Salt

  • Limited batch size

Polder is another very reputable maker of candy thermometers. Like Taylor Precision Products Candy & Deep Fry Stainless Steel Paddle Thermometer, the Polder Candy Thermometer features an analog alcohol bulb with a sturdy stainless steel backing and an insulated nylon handle. Its large print provides a clear view from a safe distance, and its temperature range of 90 to 400 degrees F offers great flexibility for deep frying and candy making.

Its pot clip attachment and 12-inch height may impart a sense of security, decreasing the likelihood this thermometer could slip entirely into your vat of hot oil, but its size is also its downfall. It's an all-around poor option for anyone cooking a small portion of anything.

The Details: Measures 12 x 2 x .5 inches; analog display

Best Easy-Read: Williams Sonoma Easy-Read Candy Thermometer

Williams Sonoma Easy-Read Candy Thermometer
Williams Sonoma

Why It's Great

  • Easy to read
  • Sturdy
  • Adjustable pot clip

Grain of Salt

  • Pricier

Like our other paddle thermometers, the Willaims Sonoma Easy-Read Candy Thermometer features an analog glass thermometer backed with stainless steel marked with large, easy-to-read numbers. The nylon handle makes it safe to remove from a hot pan, and the distance between the base of the stainless steel bottom and the tip of the thermometer means it can rest on the bottom of your pot without it skewing the temperature reading.

Also, like some of the other paddle thermometers included here, this thermometer cannot be submerged in water or placed in the dishwasher and, therefore, must be cleaned and handled with care — making this option not worth the price for some.

The Details: Measures 12.5 inches; analog display

Related Article: The Best Kitchen Torches for Everything From Creme Brulee to Steak

Best Bluetooth: Govee Bluetooth Meat Thermometer

Govee Bluetooth Meat Thermometer
Amazon

Also available at Govee.

Why It's Great

  • Ideal for multi-taskers
  • Foolproof alarm

Grain of Salt

  • Corded probes

If you're tech-savvy and looking for an upgrade, this Bluetooth thermometer allows you to monitor your stovetop from 230 feet away. With an app that connects your thermometer to your phone, an alarm sounds when the temperature exceeds the range you've set. And you can bet it's accurate. This Govee Bluetooth Thermometer records temperatures within an accuracy of 1.8 degrees F and spans a range from 32 to 302 degrees F.

Backed with a one-year warranty, a magnet, folded stand, and a hanging hook, it's built for the grill but could create efficiencies for a busy candy maker. The one downside is the corded probes, which make it complicated to take a measurement in a pot of boiling hot sugar without burning your hand or accidentally dragging the probe's cord through scalding hot sugar.

The Details: Measures 7.08 x 5.51 x 2.55 inches; available in black; digital display

Best Long Probe: Taylor Adjustable Head Digital Candy Thermometer

Taylor Adjustable Head Digital Candy Thermometer
Amazon

Also available at Walmart and Target.

Why It's Great

  • Unique combination of digital and a pot clip
  • Extra-long probe
  • Swiveling display

Grain of Salt

  • Requires a battery

Light as a feather and quick as can be, this digital thermometer does its best to combine the best attributes of modern thermometers with the benefits of the older analog models. This digital display thermometer offers versatility by sporting a 9-inch probe and a good pot clip. With a temperature range of -40 to 450 degrees F, there are many tasks this thermometer can tackle.

An oversized 1-inch display and its adjustable head mean you can swivel it for easy reading once you've clipped it to the pan.

Like our top pick, the ThermoPro TP03H Digital Instant Read Thermometer, this thermometer uses batteries, which you generally don't know you need until you're in the middle of cooking something. The other downside is that this thermometer's odd shape can make it unwieldy to store.

The Details: Measures 13.12 x 3.42 inches; available in white; digital display

Best Extended Probe: CDN Digital Candy/Deep Fry Programmable Thermometer

CDN Digital Candy/Deep Fry Programmable Thermometer
Amazon

Also available at Walmart.

Why It's Great

  • Extra long
  • Dual digital display
  • Pre-programmed candy stages

Grain of Salt

  • Pot clip isn't great

Making sweets using the CDN Digital Candy/Deep Fry Programmable Thermometer provides a speedy and accurate result. This thermometer can set you up for success as it is pre-programmed for all the candy stages and is equipped with an alert that sounds when it is within 3 degrees of its programmed temperature. Its dual display shows the temperature that's been preset and the current temperature. This tool is useful not only for making candy, but also for deep frying.

Its pot clip proved challenging for some, slipping off the pot, not meeting the pot at the right place, or not fitting over the pot's edge. This is important to keep in mind with a top-heavy thermometer that's 12-inches in length.

The Details: Measures 14 x 1.25 x 0.75; available in white; digital display

Our Takeaway

It's hard to go wrong with our favorite digital thermometer, the ThermoPro TP03H Digital Instant Read Thermometer, especially when it's about the same price as the analog version that's topped our list.

And, when it comes to analog thermometers, our most popular model, the Taylor Precision Products Candy & Deep Fry Stainless Steel Paddle Thermometer, is our second favorite choice. It's a reliable, heavy-duty, tried-and-true model; a thermometer that's convenient to store and works well for cooks who are both deep-frying and making candy.

How to Choose a Thermometer

Before you add any of these thermometers to your digital shopping cart, review the important factors and significant options that differentiate candy thermometers. Read on to understand the considerations you may need to weigh when it comes to temperature range, size, type, and more.

Temperature Range

As mentioned earlier, not every meat thermometer can be a candy thermometer, and not every candy thermometer can be a meat thermometer. That's because the ideal temperature ranges for candy are often higher than for meat, and yet they often don't reach the temperatures necessary to properly deep fry something.

Digital thermometers frequently measure below 0 degrees F and above 500 degrees F. That's a great range for deep-frying, candy making, and meat cooking. Analog thermometers don't register temperatures below 100 degrees F or above 350 or 400 degrees F, but they can often top out at around 200 degrees F. Be sure to look at the analog gauge carefully before you choose the best thermometer for your household.

Type

As mentioned in the introduction, we have a fondness for the analog glass thermometers used throughout the 20th century. Whether they are made of glass entirely or consist of a glass tube mounted on stainless steel, in both instances, the glass tube is a bulb filled with mercury or alcohol. They feature temperature scales printed on either side of the gauge. In most cases, unlike their more modern digital cousins, these thermometers' scales typically include a handy guide to temperature ranges, so you know both the temp and where it falls within the range of stages, such as a soft ball or hard crack. As handy as this stage gauge can be, as chocolatier Sundell explained, the challenge is getting the reading as quickly as you need it when working with temperamental substances like caramel.

Digital thermometers are instant-read devices that give you an accurate temperature reading in a matter of seconds. They can also be easier to store and more versatile. More advanced digital thermometers may come with programmable settings, longer probes, backlighting, timers, and Bluetooth options.

A digital display, particularly one that is backlit, can be easier for cooks to read and yield speedier results. This takes a lot of guessing, estimating, and finger-crossing out of candy making.

Size

Both digital and analog thermometers come in both small and large sizes. In this case, newer technology doesn't necessarily translate to a thermometer being more compact. When considering size, think about both storage and what you'll be measuring with the thermometer you choose.

Above, we've suggested a thermometer that's best for deep frying and another that is ideal for cooks who make candy in big batches. Both would be too large for someone working with small volumes of liquid, but since these larger thermometers are flat, they are arguably easier to store than a smaller, round, delicate glass bulb thermometer more suited to smaller batches.

Make sure you have a safe place to store whatever style of candy thermometer you buy. Disrupting the bulb or hitting the probe frequently could reduce or eliminate the thermometer's measuring capabilities.

When it comes to probe length, the probe on the thermometer you choose can make a difference in both your confidence and your final result. Long probes allow for distance. The average probe is less than five inches, but certain long-probe thermometers can be seven to nine inches in length. This extra length allows you to keep your hands, arms, and even torso farther away from the bubbling cauldron of hot oil or sugar on your stove. This can also be the time when you want to consider the clip-on analog thermometer, where the temperature display runs constantly while you're cooking without any support from you.

Handheld vs. Clip-on

Whether or not you need your thermometer to be clipped to the pot is another important consideration. If you don't want to hold a thermometer the whole time, you may prefer a clip-on analog thermometer, but an instant-read digital one may eliminate that concern entirely.

Clip-on candy thermometers have heavy-duty metal clamps or pins that attach and hold thermometers to pans. Most clips are adjustable, which allows you to ensure the tip of the thermometer isn't touching the bottom of the pan.

For less experienced cooks, this may have hidden benefits. The gauge on an analog thermometer, marked with the different stages of sugar, can help someone who has not yet memorized the order or temperatures at which these stages occur.

Handheld thermometers are typically instant-read thermometers, and they take quick and accurate readings. Since they aren't designed to be left in a pan, they may not be ideal for a recipe that features precise temperature ranges.

Common Questions

How do you use a candy thermometer?

Many candy thermometers feature a gauge that illustrates the stages achieved as sugar is heated.

230-234 degrees F is thread stage. At this stage, the sugar becomes syrup and, when poured or stirred, forms a thin thread.

234-241 degrees F is soft ball stage. Once this temperature is achieved, the sugar forms a sticky ball that can be flattened. It's most often used to make fudge.

242–248 degrees F is firm stage. Here the sugar becomes firm and flexible. This is the stage needed to make caramel and nougat.

250–266 degrees F is hard ball stage. In the hard-ball stage, sugar forms a firm round shape; it is used to make everything from marshmallows to rock candy.

270–289 degrees F is soft crack stage. To make butterscotch and saltwater taffy, sugar needs to meet this temperature range, where it forms firm threads.

295–309 degrees F is hard crack stage. At this stage, cooked sugar becomes easily breakable and can be used to create spun sugar or brittle.

Can you use a meat thermometer as a candy thermometer?

The only limitations are the thermometer's shape and the range of temperatures it can measure. If your meat thermometer doesn't read up to 200 degrees F, it isn't suitable for reaching even the baseline thread stage of candy making. Also, keep in mind that if you are considering using an old-fashioned spike thermometer meant to be stabbed into a piece of meat, it is too short to hold over a pan of boiling hot sugar and cannot be clipped to the side of the pan, rendering it useless for candy making.

Should a candy thermometer touch the bottom of the pan?

Any thermometer, whether analog or digital, hand-held or clip-on, cannot read a temperature accurately while its probe or bulb tip is in direct contact with a hot pan or another source of heat. This is why it's important to check your thermometer's position frequently.

How do you clean a candy thermometer?

A quick wash with hot water and soap is the simplest way to clean a candy thermometer. Avoid submerging it if you can, and be careful with how you handle and store the thermometer. Even if your thermometer is dishwasher safe or waterproof, being gentle with it will keep it in good condition.

Why Take Our Word For It?

After speaking with a candy expert and researching the best candy thermometers on the market, food writer Christa Glennie developed this list of top-rated options. Christa also thanks her mom for all the times in grammar school when she allowed her to play with her circa 1967 glass bulb thermometer despite her clumsiness.

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