The best kitchen timer is not your smartphone. When you have crispy rice on the stovetop, glazed salmon under the broiler, and recipes for both open on your phone, it’s a nuisance to toggle between browser and your alarm clock app—not to mention risky. Thirty seconds can be the difference between shatteringly crisp, golden brown sourdough crackers and burnt shingles destined for the trash can.
A digital kitchen timer with a user-friendly interface takes the guesswork out of cooking whether you’re a home cook or a pro chef. Take Bon Appétit’s test kitchen, for example. On any given day, you’ll find our food editors hustling between prep stations, walk-ins, and ovens, the cheerful beeps of their kitchen timers setting the pace. Below, you’ll find the ones they swear by.
The Best Inexpensive Kitchen Timer
There’s a reason that the CDN TM8 Timer is a mainstay of the Test Kitchen as well as a top pick for baristas everywhere: It’s pocket-sized, user-friendly, and it’s less than $20—cheaper than many of its competitors.
Its key features include a precise stopwatch, easy-to-read display, strong magnetic back, loud alarm sound (with a beep clear enough for a bustling kitchen), and a kickstand for more stationary endeavors.
“This is the best inexpensive kitchen timer,” says food director Chris Morocco. “The buttons are large and easy to press, the count up and count down features are incredibly helpful, and it’s cheap.”
What’s more, the CDN TM8 cooking timer is water-resistant, and you can keep track of multiple cooking projects or brew times at once. The memory function will record the cook time of a recipe—particularly helpful for batch baking. You can clip it to an apron, or you can pop out its retractable stand for propping up on your countertop. And, it has a unique alarm sound that counts down to zero and then rings for a minute; once it sounds its alarm, the kitchen timer will begin counting up, so that you know how much time has elapsed.
The Best Professional Kitchen Timer
If you’re looking for a commercial-grade investment piece with adjustable volume and a large display, senior cooking editor Emma Laperruque has the countdown timer for you. The FMP 4 Channel Commercial Kitchen Timer is oversized (her uncle mistook it for a baby monitor) with equally oversized buttons for easy clicking, an LCD screen with big digits, and alarm volume control, so you can modulate the sound up and down to your liking. While the CDN TM8 requires AAA batteries, this one employs an included 9 volt battery.
“It’s the same model you may have seen on Top Chef, as contestants sweat over the stove, hollering how their braise isn’t tender and they’re running out of time,” says Laperruque. “This is also the same model I used working in a bakery. When your fingers are covered in pie dough, oversized buttons come in handy.” Equally helpful, she says, is the fact that you can time four projects at the same time. Laperruque will often set one timer for a full bake, and another for the midway point when she’ll want to rotate the pan.
The Most Durable Kitchen Timer
The ThermoWorks TimeStick is made to last, says Morocco. In his experience, it’s more durable than the CDN TM8 (though it’s worth noting that CDN does boast a 5-year warranty). It has a magnetic back, a loud alarm that counts up after it goes off, and a lanyard attachment for both function and fashion. Its design is slim for one-handed ease of use, and it comes in a fun variety of colors, so you can match your Le Creuset or KitchenAid. The front panel of the timer (which includes a “splash-proof” keypad) is rubberized, too, making this pocket-sized gadget all the more durable in the face of sticky fingers.
If you need to time multiple kitchen tasks at once, ThermoWorks also makes the TimeStick Trio which has the same functionality but, you guessed it, three backlit timer displays.