Cooking meat without taking note of the temperature can lead to disappointing, and in some cases, dangerous, results. Leaving your beef tenderloin in the oven for too long can leave it dry and leather-like, while serving roast chicken before it’s cooked properly can make your guests ill. The exterior appearance of cooked meat can be very deceiving—browned doesn’t mean cooked!
Meat thermometers can help you find the exact moment when the meat is safe to eat, and based on your preference, when it’s cooked to your liking. These modern digital devices are fast-reading and extremely accurate. The best meat thermometer options have a thin stainless steel probe to reduce the amount of juices that leak out during and after the temperature check. Quality meat thermometers have a clear digital readout—a quick read time is optimal so that less heat escapes the oven while you’re checking.
Many thermometers have additional features built-in and can also work with liquid, candy, and oil. Consider whether a multifunctional tool would be best for your cooking needs. Meat thermometers differ in their included safety features, so keep in mind how important these are for you. Meat thermometers also come in different lengths. A shorter thermometer is appropriate for thinner slices of meat cooked in a pan, medium length is suitable for food cooked in the oven, while a longer thermometer is best for grilling, allowing food to remain on the cooking surface, and for you to remain safely away from the heat.
Our Top Picks
With those shopping considerations in mind, this guide scoured the marketplace to present recommendations for the best meat thermometers in durability and accuracy.
The Habor 022 Meat Thermometer offers a longer probe than most thermometers at 4.7 inches. This is not a folding thermometer—instead it comes with a plastic sheath to protect the probe when not in use, so the thermometer can be safely placed in a utensil crock or hung on a rail. The Habor’s temperature range runs from -58 to 572 degrees Fahrenheit, and it produces a readout in between 4 and 6 seconds.
The Harbor 002 Meat Thermometer comes in three distinct colors, making it useful to help keep track of which tool goes with which foods in households where allergies are present, or when tools need to be separated based on the type of food for which they’re used. These thermometers produce excellent results for meat, and can also be used for baking, yogurt-making, and jams, or even baby bottles and bathwater. The large backlit readout makes checking the temperature quick and easy. The Harbor’s display then shuts off automatically after 10 minutes to preserve battery life.
Available in eight bright colors so you’ll never lose it in a drawer, the LavaTools Javelin Thermometer has a clean uncluttered interface that allows for easy operation. Featuring a 2.5-inch probe, the Javelin has a temperature range of -40 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit and is accurate to 0.9 degrees. The LavaTools thermometer provides a reading in just 3 to 4 seconds. The screen has an easy-to-read display and is splashproof, so it won’t be damaged by an unexpected bit of grease. This thermometer is conveniently versatile: aside from checking meat temperature, the Javelin can also be used in fryers and for baking and candy making.
The Alpha Grillers Instant Read Thermometer has a lot of features you’d expect to see on more expensive models. The folding-style thermometer has a temperature range of -58 to 572 degrees Fahrenheit and provides readings in two to three seconds. A handy “hold” button freezes the display on the screen while you remove the thermometer, so there’s no need to crane your neck to try to read the display in place. Once you remove the thermometer, you can compare the temperature to the ranges printed on the front of the thermometer to make sure your meat is cooked.
The bright blue backlit display on the Alpha Grillers thermometer is easy to read from most angles, and has an auto-off feature to preserve the life of the battery. An added bonus is that the entire thermometer is waterproof, so it resists splashes of grease or juice in the oven, but can also be washed under running soapy water, so the thermometer is clean and ready to go for the next time you need it. Offered at a low cost, this thermometer looks and feels like a higher-priced item and is a great choice for cooks on a budget.
It can be tough to keep track of your cooking food, especially when preparing several dishes at once. Your turkey or beef roast could cook more quickly than you expect, and by the time you come back to check, it’s too late and your meat is overcooked. The ThermoPro Wireless Remote Meat Thermometer provides remote technology to help avoid disappointments like these. This ThermoPro set includes two metal probes so you can monitor two different pieces of meat at the same time. The probes are inserted into the meat and left inside the oven or grill, connected with wires that are heatsafe to 716 degrees Fahrenheit. A small base unit sits outside the range of heat and transmits to a second portable control unit, which allows the cook to preset the desired temperature based on the type of meat and preferred doneness. Once those preferences have been set, the cooking can truly become “set it and forget it.”
The ThermoPro’s control unit can be carried in a pocket or set on a table up to 300 feet away from the base, and will flash and beep to alert the cook when the desired temperature is near, and again when it is reached. A quick glance at either unit will show the current temperatures of both pieces of meat, and cooks can choose a count-up or countdown timer for each item as well. Great for leaving food on the grill when you have other tasks to attend to indoors, or for managing multiple cooking tasks at once, the ThermoPro will save you from forgotten, overdone meat.
While it takes a little longer than most instant-read thermometers to display a temperature, the Polder Safe-Serve Thermometer has one distinct advantage over the others on the market: the 10-inch long probe means that cooks standing in front of a hot, open barbecue don’t have to get their hands as close to the heat of the flame. This thermometer contains preset USDA safe temperature guides for meat types and doneness preferences on its large, easy-read digital display. The Polder Safe-Serve provides temperature readings from 32 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit and can switch easily to Celsius.
The Polder meat thermometer has an array of other useful features, including audible alerts when the desired temperature is reached, and an extra-thick tip for a smaller puncture hole. The probe has an easy ergonomic design, plus an integrated flashlight to help find your way while grilling after dark. Ideal for the backyard barbecue but equally useful in the kitchen, the long reach of the Polder makes it worth waiting eight seconds for a readout.