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May 22, 2012 04:04 PM

Instant Read vs. Leave in Thermometer

I looked over some of the threads on thermometers and was unable to find anything specifically related to this question so I thought I would start a new one.

I recently purchased a decent leave in thermometer and i'm pretty pleased with it.

I just wanted to know if it is really necessary for me to have an instant read thermometer as well, or if I can get away with using the leave in thermometer for both purposes. Other then the fact that a leave in thermometer has a probe that extends away from the main unit are there any technical or functional differences between the way these measure temperatures?

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  1. A very good instant-read will be able to read the temperature of something using only the very tip of the probe (1/8" or less in the best instant-reads) versus a probe thermometer where you might have to insert 1" or more of the probe to get a reading.

    Also, the probe tip on a good instant read is typically much smaller than a probe thermometer which means a smaller hole is left in your food. The tip on your particular probe thermometer looks to be pretty small though.

    A good instant-read will almost always be more accurate than a probe thermometer.

    A good instant-read will almost always have a much larger range of temperatures it can measure than a probe thermometer.

    A good instant-read will almost always have a much faster response in reading the temperature than a probe thermometer.

    The most important thing is to make sure the probe thermometer (or any thermometer for that matter) you have is accurate and precise. Accurate in that it gives you the right temperature. Precise in that it gives you the right temperature every single time and doesn't waver each time you temp the same area repeatedly.

    With all that said, if you only have a probe thermometer, you can absolutely make it work for both uses - I did it for years.

    1. Truthfully I use both, just not at the same time. When I'm smoking something or roasting something I'll leave a probe in using my Maverick thermometer. When I''m grilling pork chops or chicken or even a burger I'll use my Thermapen. Yes, I believe there's a need for having both.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jnk

        I agree and I don't think I made that point clear enough in my post. Ultimately, I think it's best to have and use both. They each have their strengths and weaknesses.

      2. Not sure if this question deserves a separate thread or even if one exists, but are there any oven/ranges (high end or not) that incorporate a built in thermometer for insertion into the food and then controls the oven (ala, reducing to keep warm once a set temp is reached)?

        3 Replies
        1. re: njmarshall55

          I don't know if such a thing is commercially available however I imagine one could rig one up without spending too much money. I figure if you ran a simple toaster oven into a PID controller like the one in the link below and then attached a thermocouple to the PID controller you could probably get this up and running for < $200.

          Curious to know if anyone has tried something like that though.

          1. re: njmarshall55

            Yes, my parents oven does this. You can set it to shut the oven off when the probe reaches a certain temp. I dont think the feature has ever been used so I cant comment on how well it works. They don't have a crazy expensive oven either, so I imagine its probably fairly common.

            1. re: twyst

              My old house had a oven with that feature and it worked. It make cooking a lot of things near idiot proof and super easy.

          2. Using a leave-in thermometer in place of an instant read thermometer depends upon how fast the leave-in thermometer reaches the final reading.

            An instant read takes roughly 5 seconds to give a stable reading while some leave-in thermometers can take 15 to 30 seconds.

            I personally use the leave-in thermometer - for roast and as a candy/deep fry thermometer. I rarely use an instant thermometer. I've gotten the hang of gauging doneness by firmness of the meats I'm grilling.

            1. Well, until this afternoon, I made do with a remote probe thermometer. I JUST got my Thermapen today, and it so happens I'm smoking 5 top round roasts. The instant read is coming in very handy because (a) this cut is not as forgiving as, say, short ribs or a pork shoulder - I need medium rare, which means 125, and (b) I can quickly take temps from all the roasts and in various parts of each. I'm seeing some wide swings depending on location in the smoker (even within 1 roast), so relying on one probe in one spot in one roast would have been tough.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sbp

                Have you ever considered the Maverick RediChek remote wireless smoker thermometer? It is the very best purchase I have made regarding smoking of anything I've ever bought for barbecue. One probe monitors the internal temperature of the food and the other probe monitors the air temperature of the smoker. It has a wireless receiver that you bring back in the house with you. You set your high and low temperature alarms on this receiver and whenever the smoker's air temperature gets out of this range the alarm goes off. No more walking outside to check the air temperature. On overnight smokes, I set the temperature range and go to sleep knowing that I don't have to worry about the smoker getting too hot or too cold. Again, it is the very best thing I have every bought for smoking, not to mention it's only $31 and can be used indoors as a normal probe thermometer.


                1. re: 1POINT21GW

                  That's what I have for my remote probe. Works great, but as you noted, the instant read does different things.