Novice cooks, new homeowners outfitting a kitchen for the first time and people who don't mind a little less precision in their culinary efforts may not want to pay more than their meal to find the temperature of roasts and steaks. There is a range of inexpensive instant-read meat thermometers that still offer speedy, accurate temperature readings and cost less than $20.
The CDN ProAccurate DTQ450X stands out in the $20-or-less crowd as a top performer. Taking just six seconds to read temperatures on its waterproof display, it's far quicker than many of the more expensive models on the market. Additionally, expert reviewers on cooking gear websites such as SweetHome.com, ManMadeDIY.com and ReluctantGourmet.com all praise the accuracy of the CDN ProAccurate.
However, the trade-off for a lower-priced meat thermometer is durability. Though none of our top models receives an overwhelming number of complaints, the negative comments we did find regard display malfunction, battery life, and inaccurate or inconsistent temperature readings. To combat that, however, the CDN ProAccurate comes with a five-year limited warranty. Some of these quality issues can be avoided by opting for an inexpensive analog meat thermometer like the Taylor Classic 1-inch Instant-Read Thermometer 5989N ($10) . While this Taylor model is slower than most digital thermometers, it's less sensitive to water damage, doesn't require batteries and is easily recalibrated by users if the temperature readings become inaccurate. This is also one of the least expensive meat thermometers available. It has an estimated price of $10, but can often be found on sale for half that.
Another inexpensive instant-read thermometer that shouldn't be ignored is the Oxo Good Grips Digital Instant Read Thermometer ($20) . Aside from the usual durability complaints, this Oxo thermometer receives above average reviews for accuracy and is widely praised for being a quality no-hassle, easy-to-use digital thermometer.
With such attractive pricing, avid chefs often pick up one of these budget options as a backup or as part of a barbecue kit for camping.