Perhaps one of the most underrated kitchen tools, a meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of cooking any meat, whether you’re grilling, roasting, or deep-frying. Hosting a dinner party and simply want the peace of mind that your main dish adheres to food-safety recommendations? Checking the temperature of your frying oil before adding your battered chicken? Or forget meat altogether—churning a batch of ice cream and need to make sure your custard base is the right temperature? These speedy and accurate options for the best meat thermometers have got you covered.
- BEST OVERALL: Kizen Instant Read Meat Thermometer, $30
- ALSO CONSIDER: Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo, $37
- RUNNER UP: ThermoWorks ThermoPop, $34
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: OXO Analog Instant Read Thermometer, $12
- ALSO CONSIDER: Taylor Precision Projects Classic Instant Read Pocket Thermometer, $9
- UPGRADE PICK: ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4, $99
- BEST IN-OVEN PROBE: ThermoPro TP-16S Digital Meat Thermometer, $22
- UPGRADE PICK, IN-OVEN PROBE: ThermoWorks Dot Simple Alarm Thermometer, $43
- BEST TECH PICK: Original MEATER Wireless Smart Meat Thermometer, $69
- BEST FEATURES: ThermoWorks Chef Alarm, $55
What to Consider When Shopping For The Best Meat Thermometer
How does a meat thermometer differ from other cooking thermometers? First off, it should be very easy to read quickly and accurately in order to minimize how long you have to keep your oven or grill top open, letting precious heat escape. (Also minimizing your exposure to open fire and potential burns). That’s why analog meat thermometers tend to have a bigger dial than other types of analog thermometers.
Instant-read thermometers are inserted into the food for a few seconds, the temperature is taken, then the thermometer is removed; these most closely function like the one in your bathroom. A probe thermometer (also known as an in-oven thermometer) stays in meat throughout cooking—the temperature is conveyed to the chef via a display that sits outside the oven and is connected to the prove via a durable, heat-resistant cable (sometimes the displays are magnetic so you can stick it on your oven door). An instant-read thermometer, as its name touts, delivers readings more quickly than probe models—sometimes three to four times as fast. Instant-read and probe thermometers both come in digital or analogue form. For tech-loving cooks, there are also models that connect to your phone through an app so you can monitor your cooking remotely.
Sometimes, being ultra-sensitive is a major compliment, like in the case of a meat thermometer. To get the most accurate sense of on how far from extra rare or too close to well done those steaks are, you want a tool that gets very precise and specific about the temp (say, to the tenth of a degree, with many of the best meat thermometers).
Different meat thermometers have different max temperatures. If you frequently cook using high-heat methods, make sure the meat thermometer you choose can withstand high temps (especially important when it comes to candy making and deep frying). Unsure what you’ll be cooking? You can always play it safe with a thermometer that can take temps over 700F.
Whether from juicy brining, generously slathered marinade, or frequent basting, there can be plenty of liquids sloshing around in the cooking process, not to mention the possibility of rain or pool splashes if you’re grilling outdoors. So, a water-resistant or, even better, waterproof thermometer is a wise idea, and thankfully, most digital ones on the market nowadays can weather the elements.
Connectivity & Smart Features
If you’re always down for tech-y touches in the kitchen, no matter how unnecessary the special effects factors are, you can opt for a thermometer that you monitor on your phone or a digital tool with multiple alarm and timer settings to choose from.
Alerts & Display
Like a good alarm clock, you want a meat thermometer to tell you what you need to hear, right when you need to hear it. Many digital probe thermometers can be programmed to alert you when your food has hit a target temperature. This is an especially helpful feature for those of us who aren’t great at remembering to check in.
Longer probes are best for large or thick slabs of meat and whole poultry, while shorter probes can be easier to use on thinner cuts and for more delicate ingredients you don’t want to disrupt too aggressively.
Tips for Buying and Using a Meat Thermometer
- Figure out your main meat-monitoring needs and pick a thermometer accordingly. Probe models do allow for the most uninterrupted cooking process, since there’s no need to constantly open the oven or uncover the grill to dote on your meat (and running a greater risk of overcooking). They’re also helpful for multitasking if you’re whipping up multiple dishes at once and may get distracted tracking the progress of other recipes concurrently. But, spending so much time in high heat can shorten the lifespan and adversely affect the device’s temp-reading accuracy, which obviously isn’t an issue with instant-read models.
- When using a probe thermometer, it’s wise to also have an instant-read handy. Since a probe thermometer is inserted into one specific spot throughout cooking, it can’t keep tabs on different cooking paces in different areas. This can be especially problematic with a whole bird or large cut of meat, So, you may want to supplement the read from one specific part via probe device with an instant-read model, to check other parts for doneness.
- Make sure you can very easily and quickly read the display. That could mean an analog meat thermometer with a large dial, or a digital version with a high-contrast (or even an adjustable) display window—whatever works for you.
Our Top Picks
Whether you want a tricked-out new culinary toy or tried-and-true staple with zero learning curve, here are the best meat thermometers to check out.
1. BEST OVERALL: Kizen Instant Read Meat Thermometer, $30
Kizen’s instant-read digital thermometer can measure your food’s temperature, from -58℉ to 572℉, in a speedy two seconds. Recommended by both home cooks and professional chefs, it features a fold-in, rotating probe, Celsius mode, and long battery life. Plus, the waterproof thermometer can withstand the elements, from a rainy barbecue to zealously boiling toffee. If anything does happen to go awry with the ultra-durable, shatterproof tool, no worries: it’s protected by a lifetime warranty.
2. ALSO CONSIDER: Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo, $37
The Lavatools Javelin Pro Duo features a fold-up probe for safe storage between temperature checks and a large backlit display screen like the Kizen. It’s also got some added capabilities for extra precision, like the option to track maximum and minimum temperature and a button for holding the temperature on the screen (very useful if you’re multitasking and likely forget promptly after reading). A beep will sound when the temperature, measured to the tenth of a degree, is ready to be read, eliminating any guesswork.
3. RUNNER UP: ThermoWorks ThermoPop, $34
The waterproof ThermoPop and versatile for cooking more than just meat, with its wide temperature read capabilities of -58℉ to 572℉. Its display is particularly easy to use: not only is it backlit with huge digits for visibility, it also rotates in four directions, useful for deciphering the temp no matter what awkward angle you’re working with. The ThermoPop also gives extremely fast temp readings, thus minimizing any disagreements and drama over between relatives at a holiday gathering when you’ve got too many cooks in the kitchen. Us lefties will appreciate the ambidextrous design of ThermoPop, too. Also appealing, from a purely aesthetic standpoint? It comes in an array of cheerful, bright hues, like this Pepto Bismol pink shade.
4. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: OXO Analog Instant Read Thermometer, $12
If you’d rather go old-school or are looking for a more budget-friendly option, OXO’s analog thermometer is a solid choice. Though not digital, this thermometer is still fast-reading and has a clearly labeled display. It is a little bulkier than other models, as the probe can’t be tucked in, but we love that the probe is marked so you know exactly how far to insert it.
5. TRIED, TRUE, & CHEAP Taylor Precision Projects Classic Instant Read Pocket Thermometer, $9
Or, stick to the ultimate in straightforward, familiar meat thermometers with the same under $10 analog kind your grandma probably uses. Because not every single cooking tool needs to be techified and complicated, right? Plus, if you’re prone to losing or breaking stuff, it’s easy and cheap to replace.
6. UPGRADE PICK: ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4, $99
If only the very fastest and most accurate will do for you, or maybe as a gift for that discerning grill enthusiast relative, consider this top of the line ThermoWorks model. The sleek, button-free design powers on as soon as the extra-long probe is removed from that tenderloin. Other full-service features include motion-activated rotating screen and backlight on its display, plus particularly swift, precise temperature reads.
7. BEST IN-OVEN PROBE: ThermoPro TP-16S Digital Meat Thermometer, $22
Want some more support while you sear? An in-oven probe thermometer that helps keep track of what’s happening in the oven could be the right move. This ThermoPro model has various presets for different types of meat and desired doneness levels, based on USDA-recommended temperatures, though you can manually enter temps, too. The jumbo-sized external display has room to show both the temperature read and how much cooking time is left with the optional alarm and countdown timer functionalities. It’s resilient in ultra high-heat situations, since the probe and attached cable (connecting to the magnetized display which remains outside the oven) are safe up to 716F.
8. UPGRADE PICK, IN-OVEN PROBE: ThermoWorks Dot Simple Alarm Thermometer, $43
For the convenience of pricking your poultry before it gets cooked and then kicking back (somewhat) until it’s ready, it’s hard to top a leave-in meat thermometer that stays in the oven the whole time. The cute Dot has many of the same attractive features and that fun color palette to choose from as the ThermoPop, its instant-read cousin, along with an extra-long, 47-inch cable linking the probe and display, which can be attached to the oven or grill if desired. Another practical touch is the optional alarm setting, so you can know exactly when the fowl is finished...from the comfort of your couch, instead of hovering constantly by the oven.
9. BEST APP-ENABLED PICK: Original MEATER Wireless Smart Meat Thermometer, $69
Another digital instant-read thermometer, this one comes with a futuristic twist: it’s wireless. The MEATER thermometer allows you to monitor your meats on the grill or in the oven from up to 33 feet away. Once you download the MEATER app on your phone, it’ll work in conjunction with the thermometer’s sensors and metallic probe to deliver accurate temperature readings every time.
10. BEST FEATURES: ThermoWorks Chef Alarm, $55
This leave-in probe thermometer resembles your early aughts flip phone and comes with alarm and timer settings as well as adjustable volume to ensure you actually hear a timer or alarm when it goes off. If you’ve got complex, temp-sensitive cooking projects like cheese or candy making in the works, high and low temperature readings and alarms that can be set for the maximum and minimum heat levels. Extra credit for the nimble design, which is hinged so you can choose between propping up at an angle, laying flat on the counter. Other places to put the ChefAlarm include clipping to it a nearby drawer handle or sticking it on the oven door, since it’s magnetized.
The Advantages of Owning a Meat Thermometer
Investing in a quality thermometer for the kitchen is worthwhile for more than just ensuring meat is safely (and not over-) cooked. It can also be used to measure the temperature of your oven as well as freezer and refrigerator if you’re concerned an appliance’s built-in gauge isn’t accurate, or to ensure food is kept properly cold and that you’re actually roasting and baking at the desired heat levels.
FAQs About Your New Meat Thermometer
Between analog and digital, in-oven and instant-read varieties, and even wireless, there’s lots to learn when it comes to the best meat thermometers around! Still unsure of what kind to buy? These common questions about very different kinds of thermometers might help you decide.
How do I calibrate my meat thermometer?
Check whether an analog thermometer needs calibration by giving the tip of the probe a quick, 1″ ice bath; if the reading isn’t 32F, use a wrench to carefully rotate the calibration nut until it does register as 32F. (Digital versions don’t need calibration.)
What meat thermometers do chefs use?
Many pros prefer actually sticking to the classics, opting for a familiar, unfussy analog thermometer over tricked-out digital versions.
How do wireless meat thermometers work?
Your phone or tablet becomes the display, essentially, with temps (measured with a probe in-oven) monitored on an app, instead of a wire connecting the probe to the display.
Can I leave a meat thermometer in the meat while it’s cooking?
Yes, but only the probe of an oven-safe probe thermometer, not an instant-read kind.