The Best Meat Thermometers for All Your Cooking Needs, Tested

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.

Best Overall

The Char-Broil Instant-Read Digital Thermometer on a white background.

Char-Broil Instant-Read Digital Thermometer

See It

Best Bang for the Buck

The Alpha Grillers Instant-Read Meat Thermometer on a white background with included packaging materials.

Alpha Grillers Instant-Read Meat Thermometer

See It

Best for Grilling

The ThermoPro TempSpike Wireless Meat Thermometer on a white background with its probe and a phone showing the ThermoPro app.

ThermoPro TempSpike Wireless Meat Thermometer

See It

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

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 help of a meat thermometer. A good meat thermometer will help you ensure that the meat on your plate is perfectly cooked to the desired temperature.

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, you’ll want one of the best meat thermometers to help you get the job done right.

To find the best meat thermometers for your cooking needs, we researched more than two dozen of some of the most popular models on a variety of meats, poultry, whole fish, and fish filets. Of those, we selected the top seven and put them through their paces, testing them on both boneless and bone-in meat 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 thermometer performed in various lighting conditions, including in full sun, cloud cover, and complete darkness. Finally, we 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: Char-Broil Instant-Read Digital Thermometer
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Alpha Grillers Instant-Read Meat Thermometer
  3. BEST FOR GRILLING: ThermoPro TempSpike Wireless Meat Thermometer
  4. BEST FOR SMOKING: ThermoPro TP27 Long-Range Wireless Meat Thermometer
  5. BEST THERMOCOUPLE: ThermoPro TP18 Digital Thermocouple Meat Thermometer
  6. BEST LEAVE-IN: CDN IRM200-Glow Ovenproof Meat Thermometer
  7. BEST DIAL: Escali AH1 Oven-Safe Meat Thermometer
The probe of one of the best meat thermometers inserted into a well-seasoned chicken breast cooking on a grill.
Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Meat Thermometers

There are many factors to consider when shopping for the best meat thermometer. According to Wes Wright, founder and CEO of CookOut News, “Meat thermometers are absolutely essential for cooking meat to proper doneness.” Wright says accuracy is the most important feature to consider when shopping for a meat thermometer. A good meat thermometer should also have a good waterproof rating and an easy-to-read backlit digital screen, according to Wright.

Josh Aslanian, owner of Fireside BBQ & Appliances in Los Angeles, California, says it’s also important to choose a thermometer that’s easy to use. “A good meat thermometer at home should be tough and easy to read,” he says. “Digital ones are great—they’re accurate and fuss-free. Some of the fancier ones connect to your phone, making multitasking a breeze. And, if it has a backlight for grilling sessions that run late and a timer, even better.” He says shoppers will also want to look for a thermometer that has presets for certain types of meats, or one that lets them set their own target temperatures.

We kept all those factors in mind when testing our meat thermometers. During each cooking session, we used several thermometers to see which one was best suited for a particular task at hand.

While testing, we evaluated several factors and scored them from 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 type of technology utilized, the number and type of probes or prongs, whether the thermometer needed to stay in the meat during cooking 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.

Finally, we considered ease of setup and whether or not the thermometers needed batteries or charging. After all, the product is supposed to save time and money and ensure health—not cause users to sprain their finger while trying to pry a stubborn battery compartment open as the meat burns on the grill.

Our Top Picks

To determine the best meat thermometers from the numerous options available on the market, we tested some of the most popular ones. Various factors can affect which pick is best for a particular shopper’s needs, such as the weather they’ll be cooking in, where they keep the grill (especially if they live in an apartment and grill on a balcony), and how often they cook indoors or outdoors. Because of that, we based our testing on eight different cooking situations and thermometer types. Read on for our roundup of the best meat thermometers.

See It

With the Char-Broil Instant-Read, 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 easy-to-read LCD screen, a stainless steel probe, an alarm to tell users when it hits the desired temperature (along with the previously mentioned light-up signal), and presets for seven different meat types. Storing the thermometer is easy since the stainless steel probe can fold to make it more compact.

The simple handheld design is easy to operate without having to study complicated settings or spend lots of time fiddling with the thermometer. This type of thermometer is also excellent for whole fish and fish filets, 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 offer a comfortable hold, even with greasy hands
  • Battery case opens easily with 1 thumb
  • 7-inch handle and 5.5-inch probe provide the user ample distance from heat source

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

Get the Char-Broil meat thermometer at Amazon or Walmart.

See It

The Alpha Grillers instant-read thermometer is a reliable and affordable meat thermometer that’s ideal for both indoor and outdoor cooking. It features an easy-to-use design, a large backlit display, and several other useful functions.

During our testing, we loved how easy this thermometer was to use. Simply unfold the probe from the body, and it’s ready to take readings. The large numbers on the display are easy to read, and there’s also a backlight that’s handy when grilling in the dark. We appreciated the length of the probe, which allowed us to take readings on the chicken breast we were testing over a hot grill without having to get our hands too close to the flames. We also were able to turn the backlight on and off, toggle through minimum and maximum temperature readings, and lock in a current reading with the push of a button.

Other notable features include a built-in magnet, which allowed us to attach the thermometer to the front of the grill so that we could keep it within reach while we grilled. The thermometer has a meat temperature guide printed on the front that was helpful for quick reference during cooking. The Alpha Grillers meat thermometer is also very compact, making it easy to store in a kitchen drawer or grill cabinet.

Product Specs 

  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Materials: Plastic with stainless steel probe
  • Charging needs: None

Pros

  • Large backlit display is easy to read in all light conditions
  • Can view maximum and minimum temperatures and lock in current temperature readings
  • Integrated magnet allows one to stick it on a grill control panel or oven door

Cons

  • Build quality doesn’t feel as durable as other meat thermometers we tested

Get the Alpha Grillers meat thermometer at Amazon or Walmart.

See It

ThermoPro’s TempSpike is a great all-around smart meat thermometer for grilling, smoking, and baking. It consists of a wireless meat probe and a base that serves as both a charger and a transmitter to sync the probe to the user’s smartphone. Once we set it up, we loved how easy the TempSpike was to use. We also appreciated the wide breadth of useful cooking data it can track.

In addition to reading the internal temperature of the meat, the TempSpike can also take ambient temperature readings of the grill, which is a great feature for managing temperatures in a gas or charcoal grill. During testing, this feature allowed us to moderate the temperature of the grill for optimal heat while also keeping a close eye on the internal temperature of the chicken.

The TempSpike app shows a progress graphic with the current internal temperature and the target temp, along with a countdown clock, which displays the estimated time of completion (calculated by the app). The app also allows users to set alerts for the temperature targets, and this can be done for both the internal temperature of the meat and the ambient temperature of the grill. There are even graphs that show heating profiles for both ambient and food temperatures from start to finish.

Despite all that, this smart thermometer’s range is limited. Since it uses Bluetooth as opposed to Wi-Fi, we weren’t able to access the thermometer’s readings after leaving the premises, though it does have an impressive range of 500 feet.

Product Specs 

  • Difficulty level: Intermediate
  • Materials: Plastic base with stainless steel probe
  • Charging needs: Charging base

Pros

  • Simultaneously measures meat temperature and the ambient temperature of the grill or oven
  • App displays current temperature, temperature history graphs, and other detailed data
  • Wireless design with 500-foot range offers more convenience than wired models

Cons

  • Limited to only 1 probe, making it unsuitable for monitoring multiple meats at once

Get the ThermoPro TempSpike meat thermometer at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Best Buy.

See It

Low and slow cooking requires one to keep close tabs on the temperature of the smoker as well as the ribs, pork butts, and whole chickens they’re smoking for 6 hours or more. ThermoPro’s TP27 makes doing so easy with its four temperature probes and long-distance design. It consists of a transmitter equipped with four ports for wired meat probes. These probes are capable of measuring the internal temperature of meat as well as the ambient temperature of the smoker. The transmitter connects wirelessly to a receiver that’s equipped with a display showing the same information as the transmitter.

We loved how well this setup worked for a long smoking session. We used three probes to monitor the temperature of two pork butts and country ribs, and the fourth to keep tabs on the internal temperature of our charcoal smoker during a 6-hour smoking session. Setup was easy—the transmitter connected to the receiver automatically once both were powered up. We liked how simple it was to set target temperature alerts for the meat as well as high- and low-temperature alerts for the smoker, though we wish these alerts could be programmed via the receiver.

Once we set it up, we were able to move around the house with the receiver, which had no trouble maintaining a connection to the transmitter that was sitting by the smoker, even through several walls and up a flight of stairs. The displays on both units were easy to read thanks to their large size and bright backlights. Along with their functionality, we also liked the build quality. Both the receiver and transmitter come equipped with heavy durable plastic housings with plenty of rubberized grip.

Product Specs 

  • Difficulty level: Advanced
  • Materials: Plastic and rubber housing with stainless steel probes
  • Charging needs: None

Pros

  • Can measure multiple pieces of meat and internal smoker temp at the same time
  • Wireless receiver’s 500-foot range makes it easy to monitor grill and food remotely
  • Both transmitter and monitor display 4 probe temperatures simultaneously

Cons

  • Can only program high and low temperatures from the transmitter unit

Get the ThermoPro TP27 meat thermometer at Amazon or Walmart.

See It

ThermoPro’s TP18 can provide temperature in less than 3 seconds. It is accurate within plus or minus 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit and features a wide temperature range of 14 to 572 degrees Fahrenheit. Its lighted display makes this model easy to read in low light, such as during a barbecue at dusk or at night. One of its nifty features is its ability to lock in a temperature reading before the probe is removed. Thanks to this, the cook won’t have to get too close to a hot oven to read it.

Because the 4-inch probe can fold away for storage, users can pocket the resulting 6.8-inch thermometer when not needed, freeing their hands to baste, rotate, or otherwise tend to the oven’s items. The thermometer also has a magnetic back so that it can attach to a refrigerator or other metal surface. During our testing, the little look at the end of the handle provided a bit of extra length 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 from hot cooking surfaces
  • Easy-to-remove battery cover makes changing batteries a breeze
  • No-frills design makes it easy to take temperatures on the fly

Cons

  • The brief guide to recommended internal temperatures is tiny, making it difficult to read

Get the ThermoPro TP18 meat thermometer at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart.

See It

The CDN IRM200-Glow is designed to stay inside food while it cooks, saving time and hassle for the home chef. With a single puncture, less juice escapes from the meat, and cooks can open the oven less frequently, maintaining a stable temperature inside. This thermometer’s 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 stainless steel, and 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 like that the packaging indicates that it is ovenproof, and during our testing, we loved that we could still see the dial through the oven door. What we didn’t realize was how heavy the thermometer would be. It almost fell 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 glow-in-the-dark dial is easy to see in low-light circumstances
  • Recommended internal temperature guide printed right on the dial
  • Dishwasher-safe design makes it easy to clean after use

Cons

  • Top-heavy; may tip over unless stem is fully inserted into the meat
  • Dial tends to steam up, making it difficult to read the temperatures
  • Not useful for smaller cuts or delicate meats and fish

Get the CDN meat thermometer at Amazon.

See It

Those looking for a solid meat thermometer for roasts, turkeys, and other large pieces of meat will want to consider this dial meat thermometer from Escali. Featuring a simple and thoughtful design, the Escali AH1 measures temperatures from 140 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are several features on this model that make it stand out from other dial meat thermometers. During testing, we loved the printed guide on the dial display that lists doneness temperatures for beef, lamb, chicken, pork, and veal, which eliminated the need to look up a target temperature for our chicken breast. While the thermometer delivered accurate readings for us, the display can get fogged over by steam, making it difficult to read.

Another feature we liked was the adjustable red marker, which allowed us to set the target temp for the meat, making it easy to see the status of our food without having to take it out of the oven or even open the oven door. There’s even a marker for boil testing the thermometer to ensure it’s calibrated properly.

The thermometer is made of stainless steel, so it can endure the abuse of being in a hot oven. The stainless steel was also very easy to clean. We had no problem rinsing off baked-on meat juices after we finished our testing.

Product Specs 

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

Pros

  • Stainless steel construction makes the thermometer durable and easy to clean
  • Useful meat-finishing temperatures printed on the digital thermometer face
  • Adjustable arrow can be set to desired temperature, making it easier to monitor doneness

Cons

  • Display can get steamed over with condensation, making it difficult to read

Get the Escali meat thermometer at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Walmart.


Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing a Meat Thermometer

Different thermometers will measure and display readings in various ways. Some thermometers remain inside the meat during the entire cooking period, while others require insertion at specific points in the cooking process. Some have innovative display designs, remote handheld monitors, or even smartphone-sync features. To understand what’s most important while shopping for the best meat thermometer, keep the following in mind.

Type 

There are two major types of digital thermometers: thermocouples 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 not to be as accurate as thermistors.

Analog (or dial) thermometers have a rod composed of 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 only some digital models have a probe that can stay inside the oven for long periods.

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 generated much more variety in thermometer designs.

Fork-style thermometers have the added functionality of a double-pronged spear to move and maneuver 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 the food is cooking. The probe attaches to a monitor via an insulated cord that can often withstand temperatures of over 700 degrees Fahrenheit.

Display 

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

Since digital displays require batteries, it’s helpful to keep a few spare batteries on hand. A dead digital thermometer and no spare batteries could quite possibly delay dinner a bit.

Temperature Range

Most analog dial thermometers have a range of 120 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, which should be sufficient for almost every meat-cooking need. Many digital thermometers have a far wider range of accuracy, from about 32 to 572 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 300 degrees Celsius), which can be useful for measuring the temperatures of various types of foods, not just meats.

Accuracy

A digital display gives a more accurate reading than an analog/dial thermometer. A digital thermometer will generally have an accuracy rating of plus or minus 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). This degree of accuracy should be sufficient for most home-cooking needs.

Safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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 many types of cooked foods—not just meats and poultry—a safe minimum internal temperature must be attained to avoid food poisoning. If perishable foods remain at a temperature between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit 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 utilize 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 computing device 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 put those phones to use 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 models 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 for the particular type of meal that’s cooking. Many even have language settings that are ideal for multilingual households or get-togethers.

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 expected finish time. Make sure to aim for the correct temperature according to the recipe and the safe minimum temperature cooking charts.

Avoid burns by using a good set of barbecue gloves when moving the thermometer or the cooked food items. Begin by checking the temperature a few minutes 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.

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 is 5 degrees Fahrenheit 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 measure the temperature of cooked meat. To test its accuracy, dip the tip of the thermometer 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.

FAQs

This section covers some of the basics of how to use a new meat thermometer. As each thermometer may vary, 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?

With most meat thermometers, you’ll simply insert the pointed end into the meat and wait at least 10 seconds for the thermometer 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. Never assume this is the case without confirming it.

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 need to insert the meat thermometer? 

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

Q. Into which part of the meat should I insert the meat thermometer? 

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

Why Trust Bob Vila 

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

Meet the Tester

Tony Carrick is a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, landscaping, technology, home security, and design. His articles have been featured on such sites as Angi, Popular Science, Futurism, 360 Reviews by U.S. News & World Report, Domino, and more. Carrick has conducted rigorous product testing on everything from power tools to home security systems to backyard grills. With each review, his goal is to help readers determine whether a product meets their needs and if it is or isn’t worth its price tag.

Additional research provided by Ana Chevalier and Jen Karetnick.