Best Candy Thermometers
Why Buy a Candy Thermometer?
Having a precise thermometer around is key to success when making candy. We've been researching what makes a useful candy thermometer since 2015 and have found 10 good options. The Wilton candy thermometer is the best bet for most folks. The numbers are relatively easy to read, especially for a manual thermometer. There are some features that make it especially helpful for making candy too – a clip to keep it steady in the pot, a plastic handle that stays cool, and extra metal at the end so the thermometer doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan.
Digital models cost more but are easier to read. If you prefer a digital candy thermometer, we recommend the Maverick CT-03, which is great for candy or deep frying. This thermometer comes with 14 pre-programmed settings to help you get the timing just right for different foods. It can also save you some time because it beeps and flashes when your liquid reaches the ideal temperature.
One good inexpensive option is the CDN IRXL400. It is well regarded and costs less than $10. You can use it for deep frying as well as candy making. Also, color coding helps you know when you are in the right temperature range.
Candy Thermometers: What to Look For
Candy thermometers are calibrated to temperature ranges specifically for candy making, which covers 220 degrees Fahrenheit to around 360 degrees. They sometimes include labelled ranges for different stages of candy making – such as soft ball and hard ball, or soft crack and hard crack stage. This is critical for the very scientific aspects of candy making, because if you under- or overheat your candy, the whole recipe can be ruined, which represents a lot of wasted effort and expense.
When looking at the characteristics and features of a candy thermometer, think about how you’ll be using it. Here are some more specific considerations to keep in mind as you read our candy thermometer reviews:
Digital vs. Analog
There are digital and analog candy thermometers. Digital thermometers read temperatures electronically, and deliver the result electronically as well. Analog thermometers contain mercury or spirits which react to heat – or a lack thereof – to deliver a reading on a dial or scale.
Analog candy thermometers are typically very affordable, and they come in either glass or metal. With an analog thermometer, you may need to wait a bit longer to be sure you’re seeing the right temperature. Digital thermometers offer fast readings, and some are designed specifically for candy making. These digital thermometers can alert you when your pot is reaching a certain temperature, which can be very helpful to a busy cook or to a novice who isn’t used to the demands of candy making. Digital thermometers may also have presets, designed specifically for various types of candy, to alert you at key moments in the candy-making process.
Digital and analog thermometers should be calibrated frequently to make sure they are delivering an accurate reading. Analog thermometers require frequent calibration, while you can often rely on digital thermometers for a longer period of time – check your manufacturer’s advice on calibration for more information.
Since most candy thermometers don’t have a reading for freezing, you have to bring water to the boiling point to check the accuracy of your thermometer. If your reading is inaccurate, you have the option of adjusting the thermometer’s “cage,” if that is the style of thermometer you’re using. Otherwise, get a new thermometer – candy making is an exact science that requires an accurate temperature reading.
Material & Shape
Glass thermometers are tube-shaped and come in a few sizes. They usually come with a clip, similar to the clip on a pen, so that they can easily hook onto a pot and stay there while you cook. Some glass thermometers also come with “protectors” that surround them to help prevent breakage. Protectors also keep thermometers from touching the sides of your pan during cooking; you want to keep the thermometer from touching the pan directly, which would skew the reading of the liquid in the pot.
Some glass thermometers are mounted onto a metal or stainless-steel backing, which serves to protect the brittle glass thermometer and also makes the temperature gauge easier to read. There is sometimes room on a metal backing to include temperature zones for various stages of heat, which can be helpful during cooking. The irregular shape of the braces and bolts holding such units together can make thorough cleaning difficult, however.
Metal thermometers typically feature a 7- or 8-inch probe with a round dial face that delivers the temperature reading. These types of thermometers also have clips for attaching to the pot and can double as meat thermometers – although they may not be oven-safe – or to test the temperature of other foods such as fish or baked goods.
Candy making is a very precise art, so it’s important to have a good thermometer. If you’re dedicated to the art and science of making candy, you’ll know that a good, reliable thermometer is worth a little extra. The best candy thermometers are very handy to have around the kitchen and can almost always double as thermometers for frying, and often can be used to check temperatures on meats, breads and more.