The Best Meat Thermometer of 2021

Enjoy peace of mind knowing your meals are safe to eat and cooked to perfection by using the best meat thermometer for your grilling or kitchen needs.

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The Best Meat Thermometer Options

Photo: Jen Karetnick

Whether you plan on grilling steaks on a propane barbecue, smoking chicken wings in an egg-shaped grill, or roasting a full turkey in the oven for Thanksgiving, a good meat thermometer will help you get the job done right.

Cooking is both an art and a science, and even if you don’t consider yourself on par with a Michelin-star chef, you can be certain that your meals are safe to eat with the right kitchen and grilling tools. To ensure that the meat on your plate is fully cooked through, use the best meat thermometer for the meal at hand.

To find the best meat thermometers for your cooking needs, we tested some of the most popular options on a variety of meats, poultry, whole fish, and fish fillets. The thermometers were tested on both bone-in and boneless as well as ground meat, pork loin, duck breast, chicken legs, and meatloaf using cooking methods that included oven-roasting, pan-frying, grilling, and smoking.

We noted how each operated in a variety of lighting conditions, grilling before tailgating in full sun, in cloud cover, and after hours in complete darkness. Finally, we also cooked in all kinds of weather, because as much as we’d like to grill under optimal circumstances, storms do come along at inopportune times—like when you’ve just laid the burgers over the charcoal.

  1. BEST OVERALL: ThermoPro TP-16 Large LCD Digital Thermometer
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Char-Broil Instant-Read Digital Thermometer
  3. BEST FOR GRILLING: Grille Perfect Digital Meat Thermometer
  4. BEST FOR SMOKING: ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Thermometer
  5. BEST THERMOCOUPLE: ThermoPro TP18 Ultra Fast Thermocouple
  6. BEST LEAVE-IN: CDN ProAccurate Oven Thermometer
  7. BEST DIAL: SINARDO Roasting Meat Thermometer T731
The Best Meat Thermometer Options

Photo: Jen Karetnick

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Meat Thermometer

Different thermometers will operate, gauge, and display information in various ways, digitally or using a dial. Some thermometers remain in the meat during the entire cooking period, while others require insertion at specific times. Some have innovative display designs, some come with remote handheld monitors, and some will relay necessary data to a smartphone. Here are some of the major categories to keep in mind when looking for the best meat thermometer.

Type 

There are two major types of digital thermometers: thermocouple and thermistors. Thermocouples work by connecting (or “coupling”) two thin wires composed of different metals. The connection generates a tiny amount of voltage, and a higher temperature will cause the voltage to increase.

Thermistors determine the temperature based on how easily electrons move in a semiconductor material. Thermocouples are faster and have a more comprehensive range of temperatures, but they tend to be not as accurate as thermistors.

Analog (or dial) thermometers have a rod that contains two different metals bonded together. One metal expands at a lower temperature than the other, causing the two to twist to varying degrees. The twisted metal moves the dial and gives the reading of the internal temperature. Most dial thermometers can remain in the oven while the meat is cooking, while some digital models have a probe that can stay in.

Form

The traditional design for a meat thermometer is a single-point-ended rod with an analog dial on the opposite end. This form was developed for cooking primarily on the stovetop or in the oven. In the past 30 years, the need for barbecue gauges and the invention of digital models have enabled much more variety in thermometers.

Fork-style thermometers have the added functionality of a double-pronged spear to move and arrange meat on the grill, but they are not particularly suited for oven cooking. Many newer models have separate probes that can pierce the meat and stay in the oven or grill the entire time food is cooking. The probe attaches to a monitor via an insulated cord that can often withstand temperatures of over 700 degrees.

Display 

Of the two types of display—digital and analog—digital thermometers are more accurate and generally faster than analog versions. Some models can relay the temperature directly to your phone via a Bluetooth connection.

Since digital displays require batteries, it’s helpful to keep a few spare batteries on hand. If you have a dead digital thermometer and no spare batteries, it can delay getting your meal ready.

Temperature Range

Most analog dial thermometers have a range of 120 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, which should be sufficient for almost all your meat-cooking needs. Many digital thermometers have a far wider range of accuracy, from 32 to 572 degrees (0 to 300 degrees Celsius), which is useful for measuring temperatures for foods beyond just meats.

Accuracy

A digital display gives a more accurate reading than an analog/dial thermometer. A digital thermometer will generally have an accuracy of plus or minus 1 degree Celsius (1.8 F). Knowing the general range of the internal temperature, with an accuracy of plus or minus a few degrees, is most likely going to be sufficient for most home-cooking needs.

Safety

According to the CDC, an estimated 48 million Americans get sick because of foodborne diseases each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths every year. In all cooked foods—not just meats and poultry—a safe minimum internal temperature must be attained to avoid food poisoning. If perishable foods remain at between 40 and 140 degrees for more than 2 hours, they are considered no longer safe to eat.

A food thermometer is an easy and effective way to ensure the temperature doesn’t fall into dangerous territory. Always thoroughly clean the thermometer with hot, soapy water after each use to avoid cross-contamination and bacterial growth.

Smart Technology 

It’s especially helpful when engineers find ways to connect popular technology—namely, smartphones—to meet the typical consumer’s daily needs. Reading a meal’s internal temperature is a straightforward scientific measurement, which is the sort of thing a handheld computer like a smartphone is perfect for.

Some manufacturers have created their own dedicated handheld devices for the job, while others have bypassed them to go right to the smartphone market. People look at their phones frequently, so why not use them when cooking as well? Integrated smartphone technology is a versatile way to connect to kitchen technology.

Additional Features

Any thermometer should be relatively easy to clean; this avoids cross-contamination and reduces the chance of bacterial growth. An advantage of analog versions is that they are usually waterproof, which makes cleaning even more straightforward.

Digital versions frequently include nice add-ons like countdown timers, alerts to let the cook know when food reaches the desired temperature, and adjustable meat settings to calibrate the thermometer to match the type of meal that’s cooking. Many even have language settings that are ideal for multilingual households or get-togethers.

Our Top Picks

To find the best meat thermometer among the numerous options available on the market, we tested some of the most popular ones. Since the weather, where you keep your grill (especially if you live in an apartment and grill on a balcony), and how often you cook indoors or outdoors can affect which is the best pick for you, we based our testing on eight different cooking situations and thermometer types. The following are some of the best picks for meat thermometers for a variety of situations.

Best Overall

The Best Meat Thermometer Option: ThermoPro TP-16 Large LCD Digital Thermometer
Photo: walmart.com

The multipurpose ThermoPro TP-16 Large LCD Digital Thermometer works for smoker, oven, and stovetop cooking. It has a programmable alert for preset temperatures calibrated to specific foods, and the presets are adjustable according to desired tastes. The countdown timer appears especially useful when using the grill, particularly when another timer is not handy. The accurate (within 1 degree) thermometer displays temperatures ranging from 32 to 572 degrees Fahrenheit.

The probe can stay in the meat the entire cooking time, eliminating the need to open the oven or grill. The probe connects to the thermometer base via a stainless steel mesh cable that can withstand temperatures up to 716 degrees. Be careful not to touch this with bare hands, as the probe and wire both heat up. While this warning is in the instruction booklet, it isn’t on the apparatus itself.

The thermometer base has a magnetic back that can attach to any metal surface near the oven or grill. It also can hang on a hook or lanyard, or stand on a tabletop. We found this feature to be extremely useful during unexpected downpours while we were grilling burgers and then smoking chicken legs.

Product Specs

  • Difficulty level: Intermediate
  • Materials: Stainless steel base, mesh wire, and probe
  • Charging needs: 1 AAA battery (included)

Pros

  • Angled probe good for bone-in meats, ground meats, fish
  • Stainless steel base can withstand some weather
  • Preset meat temperatures can be manually adjusted

Cons

  • Probe and wire get very hot
  • Three preset temperature charts are confusing
  • Despite a magnetic back, wire can kink or knot


Best Bang for The Buck

Best Meat Thermometer CharBroil
Photo: amazon.com

With the Char-Broil Instant-Read Digital Thermometer, an accurate reading of the meat’s internal temperature comes easy—and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. The thermometer gives an accurate reading of the internal temperature in under 10 seconds, and the display lights up in red when it reaches the target temperature, as it did when we cooked Mediterranean-style chicken breasts in cast iron on the stovetop.

Its features include an auto shutoff, seven language settings, an alarm to know when it’s done (along with the visual display), and a choice from among seven different meat types, along with the “doneness” level for each one. Storing is easy since the stainless steel probe can fold to make it more compact.

The simple handheld design is a snap to operate without having to learn any complicated settings or instructions. This type of thermometer is also excellent for whole fish and fish fillets, as it avoids making a big hole or tunnel into the fish.

Product Specs

  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Materials: Plastic case with stainless steel probe
  • Charging needs: 2 AAA batteries (included)

Pros

  • Finger grips for a comfortable hold, even with greasy hands
  • Battery case opens easily with one thumb
  • 7-inch handle and 5.5-inch probe allows distance from heat

Cons

  • Must wash between checking different meats to prevent cross-contamination
  • Presets are limited and undifferentiated between bone-in and boneless
  • No mechanism for hanging


Best for Grilling

The Best Meat Thermometer Option: Grille Perfect Digital Meat Thermometer
Photo: amazon.com

When using a barbecue grill, it helps to know the precise moment when the meat reaches its perfect temperature, and the Grille Perfect Digital Meat Thermometer can help. It includes a flashing taste/doneness indicator to let grillers know that the ribs, steaks, or burgers are ready to move to the plate. We found this thermometer ideal for making chicken wings on game day. It not only took the guesswork out of knowing when they were done, but it also helped us flip them and spear them for removal to a platter without splattering ourselves.

The large 8-inch handle and stainless steel prongs make this fork/thermometer easy to use and safer to maneuver meats over a flame. Temperature checks are simple, thanks to the large lighted screen that can check food’s internal temperature.

This thermometer is made specifically for the grill, but it works for stovetop cooking, too, replacing a spatula. It’s also a great tool for putting items that are seared on a burner into the oven for finishing. Plus, it’s long enough for reaching in to safely check the temperature. And since it measures nearly 16 inches long, it keeps the cook’s hands well away from the heat.

Product Specs

  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Materials: Plastic with stainless steel prongs
  • Charging needs: 2 AAA batteries (included)

Pros

  • Sturdy prongs grip meats and poultry well, especially around bones
  • Large display
  • Mechanism for hanging on wall
  • Safe to get wet (not immersible)

Cons

  • Not delicate enough for fish or smaller seafood
  • Limited presets
  • Awkward length for storing in a drawer


Best for Smoking

Best Meat Thermometer TP20
Photo: amazon.com

The ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Thermometer relies on dedicated technology, so there are no cell phone apps or Bluetooth connections to configure for wireless use. The setup for this high-tech device is smooth:The two stay-in probes connect to a base display model that relays information to a handheld monitor.

This setup frees the cook from having to constantly check the food in the smoker or barbecue, which is helpful since smoking a brisket, for example, can take 8 hours or more. Freedom from repeatedly attending to the smoker creates time for mingling, watching the game, or performing other tasks like setting the table. The TP20 costs more than some thermometers, but it makes smoking foods safer with less work.

We tried this thermometer in several types of meats and found that the straight probes need to avoid touching anything but the meat or they will pick up ambient heat from the grill or oven. Another way to avoid this problem is to set one probe for internal meat temperature and set the other probe to pick up ambient temperature. We found them most accurate in a smoker, which cooks at a much lower temperature.

And for smoking enthusiasts, keep in mind that other ThermoPro models with the same technology have four probes that connect to a receiver, so four different items can be smoked from a distance, all with separate times.

Product Specs

  • Difficulty level: Advanced
  • Materials: Plastic and stainless steel probes and mesh wires
  • Charging needs: 4 AAA batteries (included)

Pros

  • Bright, easy-to-read display
  • Clip-belt portable receiver is like a baby monitor for meat
  • Easily programmable
  • Orange rubber casing protects the receiver and transmitter from weather

Cons

  • Straight probes aren’t as effective with bone-in cuts
  • Can pick up ambient heat
  • Probes and wires can become tangled during storage


Best Thermocouple

Best Meat Thermometer TP18
Photo: amazon.com

With the ThermoPro TP18 Ultra Fast Thermocouple thermometer, temperature readings can display in less than 3 seconds. It has an accuracy rate of plus or minus just 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wide temperature range of 14 to 572 degrees Fahrenheit. A lighted display makes this model easier to read in low light, such as on a patio at dusk or at night. Other features include the ability to lock in the temperature before removing the probe, so the cook doesn’t have to get too close to a hot oven to read it.

Because the 4-inch probe can fold down for storage, users can pocket the 6-inch thermometer, freeing their hands to baste, rotate, or otherwise tend to the oven’s items. It also has a magnetic back for attaching to a refrigerator or other metal surfaces. The little eye at the end of the handle also gave us some wiggle room to keep our hands farther from the sausages that spit at us from the grill as we pierced them.

Product Specs

  • Difficulty level: Beginner
  • Materials: Plastic case with stainless steel probe
  • Charging needs: 2 AAA batteries (included)

Pros

  • A button for the probe release keeps fingers safe
  • Easy battery cover release and installment
  • Nothing to program; just take the temperature
  • Both magnets and a hook for hanging

Cons

  • People with large hands are close to heat source
  • White casing could be easily stained
  • The brief guide to recommended internal temperatures is tiny


Best Leave-In

The Best Meat Thermometer Option: CDN ProAccurate Oven Thermometer
Photo: amazon.com

The CDN ProAccurate Oven Thermometer is designed to stay in food while it cooks, saving time for the home chef. With a single puncture, fewer juices escape meat, and cooks can open the oven less often, keeping heat inside. The analog dial has an extra-large 2-inch face, which glows in the dark for easy reading inside a dark oven. It is composed of 304-grade stainless steel. Since it is analog, it never needs battery changes or recharging.

This leave-in thermometer measures from 120 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is fine for cooking meat and poultry, but not a broad enough range for some foods. The laboratory-quality lens glass is waterproof for easy cleaning.

We liked that the packaging indicates that it is ovenproof and loved that we could still see the dial through the oven door. What we didn’t realize was how weighted the thermometer would be, almost falling out of the chicken thighs we were roasting in a cast-iron pan in the oven. This type of thermometer is best suited for a big roast, bird, or ham that’s going to be in the oven for a long time.

Product Specs

  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Materials: Stainless steel and glass
  • Charging needs: None

Pros

  • The dial is easy to set
  • The dial is easy to see in low-light circumstances
  • Recommended internal temperature guide on the dial
  • Dishwasher safe

Cons

  • Top-heavy; tips over unless stem is fully inserted
  • Dial steams up
  • Not useful for smaller cuts or delicate meats and fish


Best Dial

Best Meat Thermometer SINARDO
Photo: amazon.com

Made from BPA-free stainless steel, the SINARDO T731 is a large 2-inch-faced classic design on a compact probe. It is oven safe and can read temperatures from 120 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. This dishwasher-safe thermometer is easy to clean by hand, ensuring cooking that’s free from bacterial growth and cross-contamination.

The SINARDO is compact and practical for the kitchen, patio, and camping trips as well. When cooking in the rough and miles away from medical help, it’s important to make sure meals cook all the way through to avoid food poisoning. The SINARDO is appropriate for inclement weather, as it requires no batteries and is waterproof. This classic dial thermometer offers few bells and whistles, but it has a sturdy, visible dial and is easy to use.

Like many dial thermometers, it is top-heavy and slow to register so it’s not ideal if planning on just poking a piece of meat to see if it’s ready. In addition to other items, we used it while roasting a duck breast, and the dial lost its reading as soon as we took it out of the oven and the breast settled. This ovenproof thermometer is best for a large-format cut that takes a long time to cook and an equally long time to rest.

Product Specs

  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Materials: Stainless steel and glass
  • Charging needs: None

Pros

  • Red indicator is easy to set
  • Dial is marked for boil test along with internal meat temps
  • Sturdy for a large roast or ham

Cons

  • Fahrenheit only; no Celsius reading
  • Temperature indicator is quick to lower when out of the oven
  • The stem is delicate; no lug nut holds it in place


Tips for Using a Meat Thermometer

When cooking a larger roast, start checking the temperature about 30 minutes before the expected finish time. For smaller or thinner cuts of meat, start checking the meat 5 to 10 minutes before the end. Make sure to aim for the correct temperature according to the recipe and the safe minimum temperature cooking charts.

Meat will continue to cook even after it’s removed from direct heat. If it’s a large cut, the cook may even want to take it off the grill or out of the oven when its temperature reaches 5 degrees below the desired doneness, as the meat will keep cooking for 5 to 10 minutes.

It’s always a good idea to test a thermometer’s accuracy before using it to check cooked meat. To do this, dip the tip into a bowl of ice water or boiling water. The display should read 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) when in the ice water or 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) when it’s in boiling water. If it doesn’t present accurately, most digital thermometers have a recalibrate or reset button. If it still shows inaccurate temperatures after that, consider returning it or contacting the manufacturer.

Avoid burns by using a good set of barbecue gloves when moving the thermometer or the meal. Begin by checking the temperature near the end of the suggested cooking time before the food is expected to be done. Stick the meat thermometer probe into the thickest part of the meat. Be sure the thermometer probe is not touching bone, gristle, or fat.

Our Verdict

For its curved probe, quick learning curve, and stainless steel receiver that can withstand some weather, we recommend the ThermoPro TP16 Large LCD Digital Thermometer as one of the best overall meat thermometers for home use. It’s a great introduction to the increasingly complicated world of probe thermometers at a wallet-friendly cost. We also recommend the Char-Broil Instant-Read Digital Thermometer for budget-friendly temperature checks on food that you’re already comfortable cooking.

How We Tested the Best Meat Thermometers

When testing meat thermometers, we cooked many different types of food using a variety of methods. During each cooking session, we used several thermometers to see which one was best suited for a particular task at hand.

While testing, we looked at several factors and scored them 0 to 4 on a rubric, with 4 being the highest score. We answered the following questions:

  • How easy was the thermometer to use?
  • How easy was the display to read?
  • How accurate was the temperature?
  • How comfortable was it to use?
  • How likely were we to use it again?
  • Did we feel like it was worth the money?

We also considered the technology, the type and number of probes or prongs, whether it stayed in the meat to cook or only needed to be inserted at certain times, the temperature range, if it displayed in both Fahrenheit and Celsius, the type of display, the type and length of the handle, and whether or not it had presets and/or a timer.

Other factors like how hard (or easy) the thermometers were to set up, including whether or not they needed batteries or charging were also evaluated. After all, the product is supposed to save time, save money, and ensure health, not have you break a finger while getting a stubborn battery compartment open as your meat burns on the grill.

FAQs

This section covers some of the basics of how to use a new meat thermometer. As each thermometer may vary, it’s a good idea to read the instructions that come with the device and follow them precisely for better results. Below are some answers to commonly asked questions about using a meat thermometer.

Q. How do I use a meat thermometer in the oven?

When using most meat thermometers, the method is to insert the thermometer’s pointed end into the meat and wait at least 10 seconds for it to display the temperature. The instructions may differ, depending on the model.

Q. Can I leave a meat thermometer in the meat while it’s cooking?

If the entire thermometer or the probe is made of metal and indicated for such use, then you can leave it in.

Q. Which type of meat thermometer is the most accurate?

Digital thermistors are the most accurate type, but digital thermocouples are faster and have a more comprehensive range of temperatures.

Q. How far do I insert a meat thermometer?

For most thermometers, insert the probe at least ½ inch into the meat. If the cut of meat is more than 1 inch thick, push it in a little deeper to reach the center.

Q. What is the best place to insert a meat thermometer?

Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, and avoid touching bone, gristle, or fat.