After spending a total of two days researching the best candy thermometer, testing the shortlist, then reaching out to our network of Facebook groups, we found the best candy thermometers for at-home use. As you'd expect, some models are better designed than others. We’ll look at the pros and cons of each brand later in this article.
The good news is, there’s more than one use for a candy thermometer so it’s not a tool that will sit in the cupboard unused for months. Fudge, honeycomb, deep frying, taffy, jam, chocolate tempering and even meat can all be cooked with precision thanks to this unassuming tool.
Best budget candy thermometer: Taylor Candy Thermometer at Amazon
“This low-cost thermometer features a helpful clip and easy to read scale”.
Best overall option: Polder THM-515 at Amazon
“A feature packed model without the hefty price tag attached”.
Best premium choice: Lightbeam Digital Spatula Thermometer at Amazon
“A premium 2-in-1 tool with a unique design and many features”.
With many recipes, getting the temperature of the food exact isn’t a big deal – it certainly won’t make or break the dish. Candy making, and most other recipes that involved heating sugar, is different. It requires very precise temperature measurement. As the sugar solution is heated, it reaches milestones like soft crack and hard crack. When recipes call for a solution to reach one of these stages, you need to get it right. That’s where a candy thermometer comes into play. It’s designed to measure very high temperatures with high levels of accuracy.
Quick fact: A candy thermometer can also been called a sugar thermometer, deep fryer thermometer or jam thermometer.
The Best Candy Thermometers 
1. Anpro DT-10 Candy Thermometer
The Anpro DT-10 is a budget digital thermometer which is made from quality stainless steel materials. The beauty of this product is that it offers multi-purpose usage. So, once you finish making candy, use it for roasting the perfectly cooked chicken, brisket or any other cut of meat. With the Anpro, you can test the internal temperature of the protein.
If you’ve ever made candy, you’ll know that the liquid becomes hot – think molten lava hot. The Anpro has a decent sized 4.5” prong so you can keep your prized skin away from potential burns. Of course, a clip to attach to the saucepan would be preferable and it would be an excellent upgrade for future models.
Analogue models can be a nightmare to read when you’re in the heat of cooking. Thankfully, this unit has a decent sized, digital LCD screen - it’s a big bonus. When timing and temperature precision can make or break your recipe, it’s good to know you get accurate, easily visible readings.
Being a multi-purpose thermometer, it does lead to one drawback. It isn’t purpose built for candy making so you don’t get the visual cues of the stages of candy making: soft crack, hard crack, soft ball, hard ball etc. If you prefer to see the various stages on a scale then an analogue thermometer would be your best bet.
Keep in mind that the Anpro is not waterproof so you'll need to carefully wash with a damp cloth.
- Easy to read digital display makes checking temperature easy
- Unit automatically shuts off after 10 minutes to save battery power
- Quality stainless steel materials used
- Measures temperatures from -58°F to 572°F (-50°C to 300°C)
- Warranty is an impressive 24 months with fast response claims
- Safe to use thanks to a long probe
- Readings aren’t instant, there is some delay
- Need to hold with hand as there is no clip
- Not waterproof so need to carefully wash with a damp cloth
2. Polder THM-515 Candy Thermometer
The Polder THM-515 is made by a company that has built a solid reputation in the market for kitchen gadgets. This particular model is made from high quality stainless steel so rust won’t be a concern over time.
The temperature scale ranges from 90°F to 400°F (30°C to 200°C) and reading the temperature is a cinch thanks to a clear, easy to read analogue display. The Polder thermometer also includes helpful information such as when the liquid has reached “thread stage” or “hard crack stage”. Why would you need this? Let’s say you’re making honeycomb and you’re not following a recipe; if you know that honeycomb needs to reach hard crack stage before removing from the heat, you can simply wait for the mercury to rise up to the hard crack line on the thermometer. Easy!
When opening the Polder THM-515, the first thing you may notice is its size. It’s a large unit at 15” in length and weighs over 6oz (181 grams). Some may find it a little too large for their liking, especially if you work with small pots. The problem is that clipping it onto small pots isn’t possible. You’d need to hold it with your hand.
The insulated handle doesn’t retain any heat which makes holding it pain-free and safe; even after it’s been attached to the pan for 10 minutes.
The Polder is dishwasher safe but you’ll need a very long cycle to get it clean if you’re heating sugar. Once it cools on the thermometer it’s incredible difficult to wash off. The best option is to simply use a damp cloth and clean immediately after use.
- Quality stainless steel construction
- Heat resistant handle
- Helpful labels on the scale indicating the stages of heating sugar
- Able to calibrate
- Clip to attach to a large pot
- Difficult to attach if the pan is small
3. Taylor Precision Products Candy Thermometer
The Taylor Candy Thermometer is a good option if you’re looking for an affordable option. This is a simple tool but still effective at helping you make candy, pastry cream, fudge, taffy, tempered chocolate, deep fried doughnuts and much more.
This model includes a useful clip so you don’t need to keep holding it over the pan to get a reading. The clip is adjustable so you’ll find it suitable for most sized pots and pans.
- Established manufacturer with solid reputation
- Dishwasher safe
- Quality stainless steel materials
- Measures temperatures from 100°F to 400°F
- Displays candy making stages from thread to hard crack
- Clip for attaching to pan
- Large 8” face with easy to read scale
- The numbers tend to wear off over time
4. Norpro Candy Thermometer
The Norpro Candy Thermometer is a stainless steel built gadget that is simple yet effective. An adjustable clip allows the user to attach it to any sized pot or pan so there’s no need to worry about the tip touching the pan’s bottom.
The Norco candy thermometer is a basic design with few parts. This makes it super easy when it’s time to clean up. Simply pop it in some hot, soapy water and clean.
Reading the temperature isn’t as easy as a digital thermometer. The temperature increments are oddly spaced out which isn’t ideal for reading if you’re in a hurry. The other analogue gauges on this list included the stages from thread to hard crack. This would be a helpful addition on this tool as well.
- Stainless steel construction
- Adjustable clip for attaching to the side of a pot
- Easy to clean
- Can’t be calibrated if the temperature is out
- Temperature increments are a little confusing to read
5. Gourmia GTH9185 Digital Spatula Thermometer
If you’re looking for a premium candy thermometer that has all the bells and whistles then this is the option for you. The Lightbeam Digital Spatula Thermometer is the ultimate in multipurpose gadgetry; ideal for the professional chef or at home cook. Use this spatula to stir mixtures and take the temperature reading at the same time. This is brilliant for tempering chocolate where stirring is required.
For sugar heating, where you don’t stir the liquid, the spatula can be removed to reveal an impressive looking probe. This can be used for candy making, as well as creams, sauces and even meat.
The Gourmia GTH9185 has a digital display providing reading between -58°F to 572°F. It is battery powered so there is no need for wires which get in the way.
- Accurate and quick temperature readings
- 2-in-1 spatula or probe options
- Sleek looking tool that looks impressive
- Easy to clean although not dishwasher safe
- Comfortable, ergonomic handle
- Perfect for inside use or grilling outside
- Difficult to change battery as the screws are very small
Features to consider in a thermometer
Digital: Like a digital clock, the readings are displayed as numbers. The benefit of going digital is that you’ll get quick readings that are accurate. It’s also easier to read than an analogue scale that takes a little longer to decipher. Another benefit of digital is that some units include an alarm to let you know once you’ve hit the right temperature.
Analogue: These are the old school type of thermometer that have been around since their invention in 1714. As the mercury is heated, it rises up the scale. These gadgets are simple with less complex parts in their design and are often more affordable. They tend to take longer to give a reading that the digital option as mercury is slow to rise. This may not be ideal if you’re tempering chocolate and need very precise measurements.
The scale display on an analogue model will sometimes have the benefit of showing the various stages of heating sugar. Some will consider this a handy feature to have.
Glass: These thermometers are analogue and usually have a clip so that you can attach it to the side of a saucepan. It’s important to check the length to make sure it’ll fit in your saucepan without hitting the bottom. This will give a false reading and should be avoided at all cost. Possibly the biggest down side to a glass unit is that it can easily be broken. When you’re rushing around in the kitchen it’s quite easy to break the glass as it isn’t overly thick. If you can find a brand that includes a protector case that’s a great feature to have.
Metal: This is the type that has a probe that’s useful for measuring meat temperature as well as liquids. A major benefit of metal constructed thermometers is that they are durable. No breakage in the heat of cooking!
Handheld vs clip on
Heating sugar takes time. That’s why a clip-on thermometer is hugely beneficial. Simply attach to the saucepan and start working on another task in the kitchen. The hand held option
Metal will usually outlast glass over the long term. It’s almost impossible not to smash the glass ones if used frequently. Be sure to choose quality stainless steel that won’t rust in a few months.
Ease of cleaning
Most digital thermometers aren’t suited to regular washing or dishwashers because you can damage the componentry. This isn’t really a deal breaker though. No matter what type you use, it’s best to wash the thermometer immediately after use with a damp cloth. Allowing liquid sugar to harden will make it really tough to clean.
Check the length before investing in a thermometer. If you choose a clip-on model and it’s too long it will touch the bottom of the pot. This will mess with the temperature reading and your candy will disappoint.
How to calibrate your thermometer
Occasionally, it’s well worth the effort to calibrate your thermometer. It’s like sharpening your knife set – it seems like a tedious chore but the final result makes it all worthwhile.
Before you start, check that your thermometer has the option to be calibrated as not all models can be.
To calibrate, place the thermometer in boiling water and allow it to give you a reading. If the reading you get isn’t 212°F (100°C) then you know it’s out of calibration. Manually adjust to the correct temperature.
If your thermometer is giving a false reading and there is no calibration option, you’re best to toss it out and replace with a new model. It may cost money up front to buy a new one but it’ll save you a lot in wasted ingredients from failed recipes.
Does candy go off?
Thanks to a low moisture content, candy has a long life expectancy. To find out more take a look at our article on how long you can expect candy to last.
Can I use instant read thermometer for candy?
An instant read thermometer, as the name suggests, gives a temperature reading quickly and can be digital or analogue. Some, but not all, of these thermometers can be used to make candy. You’ll need to check the specifications of the specific model to ensure it can record high readings over 450°F.
Can a candy thermometer touch the bottom of the pan?
A candy thermometer should never touch the bottom of a pan as it will give a false reading. Ideally, the tip of the thermometer should be a ¼” from the bottom of the pan for most accurate results.
Can I use a regular food thermometer for candy?
A regular food thermometer is not suitable for making candy as its temperature range is too low. A candy thermometer is unique because it is capable of reading very high temperatures needed when heating liquid sugar.
What can I use instead of a candy thermometer?
If you don’t have a candy thermometer you can test the sugar liquid by scooping a small spoon of the liquid and dropping it into very cold water. Reach in and feel the ball:
- If it’s a soft, flexible ball then you’ve reached softball stage.
- If the ball holds its shape it’s reached hardball stage.
- If the ball separates into hard, bendable threads, you’re at soft crack stage.
- If the ball separates into hard, brittle threads the sugar has reached hard crack stage.
Can I use a meat thermometer in place of a candy thermometer?
Most meat thermometers aren’t designed to reach the high temperatures required in candy making.
Can I use a candy thermometer in the oven?
Although candy thermometer models could be used in the oven, it’s best to use a purpose-built oven thermometer that’s designed to take the occasional knock and all parts can withstand the heat.
If you’re looking to reward yourself with a premium candy thermometer then the Lightbeam Digital Spatula Thermometer is hard to beat. It looks great, is built with quality materials and has some excellent features. It’s incredibly helpful to be able to incorporate a thermometer into a spatula because that’s one less utensil you need to pull out of the cupboard (and wash).
For the best all-round candy thermometer, the Polder THM-515 is brilliant. It doesn’t have all the features that you get from a Gourmia, but it does what it’s supposed to do well – measure high temperatures.
What’s your all-time favorite candy thermometer? Do you prefer analogue or digital better? Let me know on Facebook or Instagram.