If you make candy at home, you’ll want to invest in a well-designed – and often very inexpensive – candy thermometer to help you gauge when sugary liquids reach the correct temperatures for all types of candy.
We’ve gathered a wide range of candy thermometers options, in terms of features, functions and price. They all measure temperature, but they communicate it to you differently. For example, some have large, easy-to-read, analog numbers along with written notations about candy-making stages, while others have digital temperature readings. And some have temperature labels specific to candy making. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced cook, making homemade candy is easier than it looks. And these candy thermometers can help.
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The Wilton thermometer has an analog design that clearly displays temperatures. Better yet, there are specifically labeled markings for candy creation – Hard Crack, Soft Ball, etc. – to ensure you’ve gotten your bubbling mixture to the right heat. There’s a clip on the back so you can attach it to the pot and small metal parts keep the thermometer from directly touching the pot, which could distort temperature readings. And a plastic handle makes it easy and safe to remove. The Wilton has a few indentations here and there, so you’ll need to spend a few minutes doing clean-up, and it requires frequent recalibration.
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The pen-shaped Maverick CT-03 digital thermometer boasts a host of convenient features. The digital display’s oversized numbers are easy to read, and you can use it to spot-check the temperature of your liquified ingredients. It also includes 14 preprogrammed temperature settings, and it alerts you once the ingredients in the pot have reached a specific temperature. The 8-inch metal probe has a clip to hold it in place, and the LED screen is covered with heat-resistant plastic. The thermometer also shuts off automatically. One drawback: This candy thermometer costs about twice what non-digital thermometers do.
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The inexpensive Taylor 5983N Candy/Deep Fry Thermometer is exceptionally tall at 12-inches, making it great for deep pots. It comes with an extremely big – and insulated – handle, along with several other helpful features. There’s a metal clip on the back to keep it in place on your pot of ingredients, and the Fahrenheit and Celsius readings are on opposite sides of the thermometer. There are also specific candy-making labels on the thermometer, like hard crack, soft crack and thread, as well as a deep fry label. This is a mercury-free thermometer; instead, it uses red alcohol to show temperature readings. Due to its design, this can’t be used as a probe for things like meat, so you’ll only be able to measure liquids.
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If you need a basic and inexpensive candy thermometer, check out the multi-functional and easy-to-clean CDN IRXL400. This thermometer has a large 1.75-inch shatterproof dial, and it has standout notations for specific candy temperatures (hard crack, soft crack, caramelize and thread), so you can see precisely when your liquefied ingredients reach certain stages. This manual thermometer has a 7-inch metal probe and includes a clip to attach it on the side of the pot. It offers no fancy features and must be recalibrated often, but it’s cheap and works for candy, deep frying, jelly and meat, as well as for testing the temperature of dough.
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If you want a candy thermometer favored by many professional chefs, the -grade Matfer Bourgeat 250331 Candy Thermometer might be perfect for you. This French-made thermometer provides accurate readings, and you get a polyamide cage that protects the thermometer tip from breaking. It also has a mercury-free interior (it uses red-colored alcohol instead). There’s a handle that helps you avoid burns if you want to get the thermometer deeper into the ingredients in the pot, and a protector to sheath the thermometer when it’s not in use. This thermometer also works well for making jellies, jams and chocolates. There are some disadvantages for many cooks: The analog measurements are Celsius-only, and retailers often charge as much as $60 or more.
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This basic Polder thermometer is an inexpensive, simple-to-use and simple-to-read device that accurately measure temperature for candy making and deep frying. It enjoys the benefit of being NSF certified, which means evaluated and approved by NSF International, a non-profit group that certifies that products meet strict standards for public health protection. It comes with a 7-inch metal probe that you can also use for registering the temperature of meat, fish and baked items, as well as candy ingredients and hot oil for deep frying. The analog dial display offers good-sized numbers in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. Unfortunately, there’s no clip to attach this to the side of a pot, so you have to gingerly poke the probe into the hot liquid or oil and get the temperature.
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If you’re budget-conscious, the straightforward Winco 2-Inch Dial Deep/Free Candy Thermometer is a good option. Using a probe to measure heat, this simple thermometer gives you accurate temperature readings for candy, meat and baked goods. The dial’s 2-inch face is easy to read, but it lacks indicators for specific candy-making stages. There’s a pointer device that slides around the outside of the dial, and you can move it to point at the temperature you want so it’s easy to see when your ingredients reach that heat level. However, that’s about as technical as it gets. A clip lets you attach this thermometer to the side of a pot and it’s far enough away from the side so you’re measuring the ingredient’s heat, not the pot’s. Good news: This has an NSF rating, which means it meets international health and safety standards.
Image Credit: Winco