4 Best Candy Thermometers, Tested by Food Network Kitchen
The best candy thermometers are sturdy, accurate and easy to read.
Our Top Candy Thermometer Picks
- Best Overall: Williams Sonoma Easy Read Thermometer
- Best Value: Polder Candy Thermometer
- Best Clip-On: KitchenAid Candy and Deep Fry Thermometer
- Best Digital: ThermaPro TP510 Waterproof Digital Candy Thermometer
Tested by Laura Denby for Food Network Kitchen
Making candy at home sounds like a daunting task, but it can be made considerably easier with the help of a candy thermometer. Unlike meat thermometers, candy thermometers are designed to sit on the edge of a pot or pan and monitor the temperature of liquid throughout the cooking process. While many people don’t often make their own candy at home, this genius tool is more versatile than the name implies — it’s a fantastic way to monitor the temperature of hot oil, boiling water or melted sugar. That means it’s a simple way to make some of the messiest tasks, like frying chicken, much more precise and efficient. It takes the guesswork out of frying foods by telling you exactly how hot your cooking liquid is at a given time, thereby ensuring you won’t have to bite into pale, soggy drumstick any time soon.
When searching for a candy thermometer, consider how often you plan to use it and for what types of tasks. Because they’re meant to sit on the edge of a deep pot, these handy tools are typically longer and larger than most meat thermometers. The best candy thermometers should be sturdy and strong, with a clip to attach it to the edge of your cookware. Whether you opt for digital temperature reading or analog, the best candy thermometers should have a precise and accurate temperature gauge that’s easy to read.
If you find yourself dreaming of homemade confections or warm caramel to drizzle on your ice cream every night, a candy thermometer is a great way to achieve restaurant-quality caramel, spun sugar or fried foods at home. In search of the most accurate and easy to use candy thermometers, we put 10 of the leading models to the test. Read on for the best candy thermometers we could find.
Out of all the candy thermometers we tested, this model was easiest to use, with a sturdy clip and consistent, accurate temperature readings in both boiling water and melted sugar. We found this thermometer to be reliable and easy to clean by hand, with a large helper handle that made it easy to grab even when using high heat.
Clip-on thermometers are perfect for tasks that require keeping a consistent temperature for longer periods of time, like deep frying batches of arancini. As a result, they should be sturdy and secure enough to hold your thermometer in place despite the agitation from bubbling oil or boiling water. Throughout our testing we found the Williams Sonoma Easy Read Thermometer to be a fantastic option because the clip is made from strong silicone, which means it won’t slide around or scratch the back of your pan. Unlike the metal clips we tested, the silicone clip stayed securely in place, even when wet. While some other thermometers moved around with the boiling water, this thermometer stayed exactly where we clipped it, and delivered a quick and precise temperature reading in a matter of seconds. In fact, it was one of the quickest thermometers to deliver the temperature of boiling water, and did so in just 11 seconds. The heat-proof helper handle is extra-large, which makes it easier to grab and maneuver than some of the others we tested.
This is a stainless steel thermometer that displays temperatures from 100 degrees F to 400 degrees F.
This sleek, simple candy thermometer is easy to read and use, and we love that you can get it for a fraction of the price of some of the other thermometers on this list. This is a clip-on style thermometer that proved to be extremely accurate during our testing — it delivered quick, precise temperature readings both in boiling water and while making peanut brittle. The insulated handle is easy to grab and stayed cool to the touch, and the clip was sturdy and easy to use.
The simple thermometer has six temperature zones printed on the side, so you can easily reference what temperatures are best for each. Zones like deep fry, soft ball, hard ball, soft crack and hard crack make it easy to see how sugar will react in different temperatures. It can read temperatures from 90 degrees F to 400 degrees F, which is particularly useful when measuring lower temperatures (most of the thermometers we tested do not measure below 100 degrees F.) Additionally, this is one of the only thermometers on our list that is safe to put in the dishwasher. In general, most of the thermometers we tested should only be hand washed.
When making large batches of candy, having a thermometer that can sit securely in place is essential — it helps free up your hands while taking an accurate reading of the liquid inside the pot. When a thermometer doesn’t have a sturdy clip, it can slide around the pot, meaning the temperature gauge might not be in the best place to get a precise reading. That’s why we love the KitchenAid Candy & Deep Fry Thermometer — the silicone clip is sturdy and strong, so it holds the thermometer in the liquid without causing it to move around, fall down, or give an inaccurate reading. This thermometer is strategically curved to hug the round sides of your cookware, so it frees up your hands while staying upright throughout the cooking process. The silicone clip is easy to move up and down, so you can quickly adjust it depending on the size of your cookware.
This stainless steel thermometer has a plastic stay-cool handle that makes it easy to grab even when using high temperatures. The face is easy to read, and we found that it delivered consistent, accurate temperature readings throughout our hands-on tests. This thermometer should not be put in the dishwasher, but it’s easy enough to clean by hand with a damp cloth. It reads temperatures ranging from 100 degrees F to 400 degrees F.
Digital thermometers are a fantastic option because they deliver quick, accurate temperature readings that are easy to monitor as heat rises or falls. Digital thermometers also make it easy to monitor exact temperatures, because they deliver clear readings to the tenth of a degree. Our testers love this option because it delivers results quickly when measuring temperature in both boiling water and melted sugar. Most importantly, the large, backlit digital face was easier to read than any of the others we tested. The orange lighting on the back of the face makes it easy to see the temperature reading even when you’re looking through billowing clouds of steam on a hot stove. The large numbers are easy to see, and the metal clip helped keep the thermometer in place during our testing. That way, it was easy to gather quick, accurate temperature readings while keeping our hands free. It rotates 90 degrees, which means the face is easy to see from any angle, even if your stove is crowded with extra pots or pans.
This thermometer also is also one of the more versatile options we tested. The wide temperature range — it can read from 57 degrees Fahrenheit to 572 degrees F — means it’s great for using with fried foods, grilled proteins or even smoked meats. It also comes equipped with a temperature guide on the front for quick, easy reference.
What to Consider When Buying a Candy Thermometer
A good candy thermometer should have a wide temperature range and easy-to-read display. They should also have a sturdy clip that doesn’t slip, and the face should be easy to read while it’s clipped to the side of the pan. Additionally, the best candy thermometers should have a safe, heat-resistant place to grip in case you need to move it around during the cooking process. Finally, candy thermometers should be easy to clean.
To make candy or jelly at home, it’s essential to have a thermometer that can process particularly high temperatures. Though a meat thermometer might seem like a convenient substitute, it doesn’t have the ability to read and process temperature to the same extent that a candy thermometer does. For best results, make sure your thermometer can read temperatures ranging from 100 to 400 degrees F. This is the standard temperature range that most candy thermometers can accommodate, and this range is ideal for making things like caramel or peanut brittle.
Depending on the type of cooking projects you do, you’ll also want a thermometer that can read temperatures below 100 degrees. Though not as common, some more precise candy making tasks — like crystallization — require temperatures to drop, so you may need a thermometer that can effectively read below 100 degrees F.
During our testing, we found that digital thermometers with a backlight are the easiest to read. When a thermometer didn’t have a backlight, the temperature reading was difficult to see through the billowing steam coming off the pot. If you opt for a digital thermometer, consider choosing one that has a backlit face, like the ThermaPro TP510 Waterproof Digital Candy Thermometer. Keep in mind that digital thermometers require a battery, so you’ll have to keep battery life in mind when using this tool over time.
Some candy thermometers come with a vertical temperature display with markings printed from top to bottom, that way you can easily see the change as the temperature starts to rise or fall. This type of analog display is a classic style that’s easy to read and monitor, and can be a great option for both candy making and deep frying.
As is the case with any kitchen gadget, candy thermometers should be easy to operate and understand. One feature that makes them easier to maneuver is a convenient clip that keeps the thermometer in a standing position against the side of your pot, and prevents it from falling into the cooking liquid. A clip-on thermometer helps keep your hands free while monitoring the temperature of your liquid as it rises and falls.
How We Tested
In search of the best candy thermometers, we put 10 of the leading models through a series of real-world tests. To start, we evaluated each thermometer’s style and ease of use by observing size, material and cleaning and care instructions. We also observed any features that might make one thermometer easier to use than another, assessing whether or not each thermometer had a clip or helper handle.
Next, we tested each thermometer’s functionality and speed by placing it into a pot of boiling water and noting how long the thermometer took before reaching the boiling point — exactly 212 degrees F. Lastly, we whipped up a batch of peanut brittle and used each thermometer to determine the temperature of the sugar. Making peanut brittle requires patience, and the proper temperature must be used in order to create smooth, caramelized brittle. This test allowed us to evaluate the precise functionality of each thermometer. After the brittle cooled, we tasted each batch to determine if there were any differences in the flavor. If a batch tasted burnt, that was a good indication that the thermometer didn’t operate as it should.