Selecting the best thermometer for the way you cook. We explain what to look for when purchasing and which meat thermometers are ideal for grilling, smoking, cooking and baking. See our reviews and test winners for instant read, wireless, and WiFi devices below.
"There’s a huge difference between food appearing done, and actually being safe to eat. Most commercially-sourced meat contains the potential for contamination from harmful bacteria and pathogens and cooking it to the proper temperature is the only way to ensure it’s safe to eat." - Top Geek
Whether you’re a meat smoking master or a baking prodigy, you’re likely aware of the virtues of a good, meat thermometer. That burger might look done in the middle, but still be undercooked enough to hurt you.
Keep reading to learn virtually everything you ever wanted to know about meat thermometers and smart thermometers in general, and peruse our
There is no lack of temperature readers on the market. You will need to decide which type of thermometer is best for your style of cooking, grilling, or baking.
Instant read thermometers are the most versatile – great for any occasion. Bluetooth thermometers shine when grilling or baking for extended periods of time. And of course, our favorite, are Wi-Fi smart thermometers designed for smoking that tasty brisket.
I always feel everyone should have an instant read thermometer regardless of style of cooking style. However, for my money, you bet I'm going with a Wi-Fi device with multi probes as my favorite all-around kitchen accessory.
Jacob Cordero - Top Geek
Known as the all purpose temperature reading devices. Every cook or grill master should own one for everyday cooking. These devices are reliable and most have a quick read ability to render accurate temperature readings within 3 - 5 seconds. See our review of the Top 5 Instant Read Thermometers.
Bluetooth (or wireless) thermometers are at their best when baking, grilling or smoking meats. They are not subject to the limitations of needing a Wi-Fi internet connection. They are equipped with many of the smart features you would expect from a device that can communicate data to your smart phone. See our reviews of the Top 5 Wireless Thermometers.
Designed with multiple probes for monitoring the internal grill temperature, meat temperatures, some are even equipped with blower devices which assist in controlling the internal temperature of a grill – all from your smart phone. See our Top 5 Wi-Fi Devices.
WHAT'S YOUR STYLE?
Choosing the right thermometer should start with defining exactly what kind of cooking you’re going to be doing.
Are you a meat geek with a passion for the smoker? A powerful Wi-FI Meat Thermometer capable of withstanding high heat and bad weather and equipped with a long battery life, might be your go-to. You may even want to find one that can control a blower for maintaining constant temperature. If, you’re just looking for a good way to know your steaks and burgers on the back grill are done, you may want to opt for cheaper Bluetooth thermometer. And if you’re looking to use it for baking and general cooking duties in the kitchen, a reliable instant read thermometer is your best choice.
Looking to grill some juicy steaks and chicken breasts, but don’t need the same power and capabilities of a WiFi thermometer for smoking? Get a cheaper Bluetooth one, like the Inkbird IBX-4S.
The Inkbird costs far less than the ThermaQ, for example, but includes similar Thermocouple probes (with an effective range of 32F to 572F) that can read temps accurately within +/- 2F. It also has virtually all the same smart features – alerts, min/max temps, graphs, etc. There are 4 probe channels for monitoring both meats and ambient grill temperature.
With an effective range of about 150 feet, you won’t get the same kind of worldwide range out of the Bluetooth as you would a cloud-connected WiFi thermometer. But it is a compact, easy-to-use and reliable thermometer you can rely on to help you get perfect steaks (and much more!) every time. Battery life is pretty good, too, at roughly 60 hours, and the internal Lithium battery can be recharged by Micro USB cable.
If your primary reason for purchasing a meat thermometer is for smoking meat on the barbecue and have a bit of money to invest in one, get the ThermoWorks ThermaQ.
It’s a trusted, reliable and accurate WiFi meat thermometer from one of the most trusted names in thermometers – equipped with all the features. Two Type K Thermocouple probes (the most accurate type) give fast, accurate, reliable temperature readings (all the way up to 2502F!) to within .7 of calibrated temperature. WiFi connectivity means you can control and monitor it from virtually anywhere in the world, and it has all the various smart features, alerts, and graphs you could ask for. Also, it’s built like a tank, with a compact, IP55-rated body that is waterproof, dustproof and impact-resistant.
Finally, it has a tremendously-long battery life of 3000 hours. If you’ve got the money to spend, the ThermaQ is the best in the business. The only downside? It can’t be used to control a blower and adjust pit temperature from afar. For this you'll need to take a look at the Fireboard device.
Maybe grilling and smoking meat isn’t the only thing you’re good at, and you frequently find yourself cooking everything from oven-baked chicken to soups. In that case, you’ll likely want something small, reliable, and wieldy, like the ThermoWorks ThermaPen Mk4.
This nifty little instant read thermometer uses a Type K Thermocouple probe that goes up to 572F and is accurate within .7F +/-. It’s super fast, reading within about 2 seconds, and has a 3000-hour life on a single battery. An IP67-rating means it is waterproof and impact-resistant.
ThermoWorks added some cool, convenient features, like a self-rotating LCD screen that adjusts to whatever angle you’re holding the thermometer at, and an intelligent backlight that illuminates the screen whenever the room gets dark. It’s perhaps the priciest of instant read thermometers, but it’s from ThermoWorks.
You really can’t go wrong with the ThermaPen, and you will find yourself using it for everything from those chicken breasts you threw in the pan, to baking homemade breads and cakes, and even creating delicious sauces and candies.
OUR DETAILED PRODUCT REVIEWS
Smoking Meat Geek Reviews
By the Top Geek Jacob Cordero
We've taken the time to breakdown the top 5 meat thermometers. From instant read, Bluetooth to Wi-Fi devices. Our articles breakdown what to look out for, what you should know about each type of device and of course, our favorites of the bunch. With so many temperature readers on the market it's important to weed the good from the bad as well as everything you need to know before you make a purchase. Your meat thermometer must be something you can rely on for accurate reads in the way that matches your cooking style.
Select a Review Below
Just looking to find out our top picks? Select one of the articles below.
If not, scroll down to learn more about meat thermometers.
Instant Read Thermometers for 2020 [Guide & Test Results] Instant Read temp readers are a kitchen staple. We reviewed the top selling quick read devices looking to see which ones were the most accurate, obtained the quickest readings as well as how easy they were to use and read. The winner for it's quick readings, accuracy and price-point is the Themapen by ThermoWorks[...]
We looked at every mainstream Wi-Fi thermometer on the market to comprise a review that features the top 5 devices ranked in order with Signals by ThermoWorks earning our top spot. These devices are the best device for anyone who BBQs. Here's everything you need to know about these smart devices, their features and our top 5 picks.[...]
Wireless thermometers offer remote monitoring without the need to connect to a network like with WiFi devices. These are our favorite picks for bluetooth and wireless. Coming in at #1 is the Inkbird for its straight forward functionality and entry level price point.[...]
ThemoWorks does it again with Signals, their WiFi + Bluetooth combo. Signals has capabilities to monitor up to four channels simultaneously with flawless connectivity to the cloud. Utilizing their mobile app you can monitor and control each channel from your smart phone. As a latest upgrade to the Signals capabilities it can now control pit temperatures with its thermostatic controller Billows. [...]
We had a chance to spend an afternoon working with the latest wireless thermometer that runs on radio frequencies (RF). With ThermoWorks claiming 1 mile of transmission connectivity it stands as the only thermometer on the market that can offer such a range. We wanted to put the large connective range to the test, here's what we found out[...]
The BlueDot took first place as the best bluetooth thermometer. It comes out of the box ready to go, simple and accurate. Below is the product review, including the feedback from our[...]
Tappecue is the original WiFi thermometer. Upon the release of the newest model, The Tappecue Touch, we were contacted by the family owned and operated company out of Kansas City and they asked if we would put their newest device to the test; here's the results[...]
Flame Boss 500 the newest Wi-Fi thermometer by FlameBoss. It includes everything needed to control pit temperature with a blower fan. This is a great pick for Meat Geeks who love smoking meats. The review explains what we discovered including our full video review[...]
OUR 3 TOP WINNERS
Here are the winners from our testing and reviews for the best instant reads,
Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.
Handpicked After Endless Hours of Research & Reviews
All the winners selected are the result of testing them up against other top selling devices in their category. Our detailed review articles provide extensive information on only the top 5 devices in each category. See all our thermometer reviews here.
"It's safe to bite when the temperature is right"...don't trust age old hacks and gimmicks
According to USDA, one out of four burgers turn brown on the inside before they reach safe temperatures for consumption
Despite what you read on the internet, you can’t judge a piece of meat’s internal temperature (and thus, it’s safety) simply by looking at it or by feeling it. Any methods you’ve heard of to do so are simply myths. Let's take a look at two of the most popular ways to test doneness without a thermometer:
1. Juices running clear
For example, a hamburger or piece of chicken may no longer be pink in the middle but still be unsafe to eat. It could also be totally overdone and still be pink thanks to myoglobin, the protein that causes juices to turn red. In that same vein, gauging how “clear” the juices run isn’t exactly a strict science, either. Nitrates used for preserving, the age of the meat, and how much oxygen it has been exposed to, can all have large effects on the color of the meat, among other factors.
2. Hand test
On the same note, prodding and pushing a steak with your thumb or finger to see what part of your hand it feels like, and basing your doneness on that, isn’t likely to give you much clue of anything. This has got to be one of the worst methods of judging doneness; no two steaks are alike – and neither are two hands – and trying to compare the fleshy part of your thumb to a rare steak is an exercise in futility, not time-saving chef’s wisdom.
None of these methods are reliable. Meat thermometers are. Invest in one, and you’ll find your brisket gets softer and juicier, your steaks achieve the perfect level of tender, medium-rareness, and your chicken stops coming out as rubbery as a bouncy ball. Furthermore, your fine sauces and desserts, and even your cakes and breads, will reach another level of quality.
How thermometers work
There are several different kinds of meat thermometers to choose from. Some are higher-tech and more advanced than others.
There are three common types of meat thermometers:bi-metal dials, thermistors, and thermocouples.
There are several different kinds of meat thermometers to choose from. Some are higher-tech and more advanced than others.
The most basic kind is the bi-metal dial you’ll usually find on your grill or smoker. You know, the metal dial kind that you find hosted in your grill or smoker’s lid, that look super old-fashioned and the temperature using a small needle and gauge. They use a very low-tech method of reading temperatures, using individual coils that expand with heat and move the dial to indicate temperature. They’re usually cheap and pretty unreliable (see more below).
Digital thermometers work a bit different, usually using one of two kinds of probes; thermistors and thermocouples.
Thermistors are cheaper and less sophisticated than thermocouples, and are usually only accurate to within a few degrees of final temperature. They’re also a bit slower than thermocouple probes. They work by sending a current through a wire in the probe, where a resistor resides, and measures the changes in resistance as they relate to the rising temperature inside the meat.
Thermistors are not always a good choice for thinner cuts of meat, as they take longer to register a final temperature reading than other kinds of thermometer. Those seconds can matter when you’re cooking a very thin and unforgiving meat, such as fish or thin chicken filets. Where they excel, however, is when left inside a turkey or large roast in the oven, where the temperature is likely more stable throughout the entire piece of meat.
Thermocouples, on the other hand, are much more precise, usually reading temperatures within .7F of true temperature. Instead of just one wire inside the probe, they contain two small wires made of different metals welded together. These two metals react differently to heat, which creates voltages across the wires that is measured by the included meter, and then converted into a readable temperature – usually displayed on the LCD reader screen.
Generally, thermocouples are the nicer option, but thermistors are usually perfectly fine for most home use in your kitchen or backyard. The small differences between the two are likely unnoticeable when you’re grilling a couple of nice steaks or whole chicken breasts. Another kind of probe you might see are RTD’s, short for Resistance Temperature Detector. These probes are very accurate and stable, but read out slower than thermocouples, making them a better choice for leaving in the meat, as opposed to quick, instant reads.
The coil method they use is not nearly as accurate as more advanced digital thermometers, and the thermometers are usually built to poor quality standards. As a result, these kinds of bi-metal dial thermometers unreliable and prone to very inaccurate temperature readings, often off by up to 50 degrees! They’re also quite slow, taking 30 seconds to a minute to read the final temperature.
Hopefully, you were only planning on using these gauges for monitoring the ambient temperature of the grill. Even if they were accurate, they aren’t designed for using on meat – which is why they sit in the lid of the grill, way too high up to actually tell you even the ambient temperature of the grill.
So why even bother with them?
It's so hard to get that perfiect bark on a brisket with a bi-metal dial gauge because they're rarely ever accurate. I've tested many of them and find that they are usually of by at least 10 to 15°F and seen them off by as many as 25°F straight from the factory.
Jacob Cordero @ SmokingMeatGeeks.com
Understanding features of a smart thermometer and how to find the best one.
The term “smart thermometer” generally refers to their ability to sync with your phone or device (either via WiFi, Bluetooth, or the cloud) and give provide you with a variety of “smart features”, such as monitoring the temperature remotely, setting alarms and alerts, and even sharing on social media.
There’s a lot of digital meat thermometers out there, from top-of-the-line WiFi models built for 24-hour long smokes to smaller instant read models just there to ensure your chicken is safe to eat. Where to start? With asking yourself these questions:
This number will also likely be based on what you’re cooking, but how many temperatures probes your meat thermometer comes is an essential consideration in choosing one.
Smoking a piece of meat likely requires at least two probes, so you can monitor both the internal temperature of the meat, and the ambient temperature of the grill. If doing multiple pieces, you will want multiple probes.
If you’re just grilling steaks or chicken, you can likely get away with just one probe or an instant read thermometer – same for baking and other kitchen tasks.
There are a few different types of probes out there, and some are more accurate than others, as well as capable of reading a wider range of temperatures (both ambient and internal). We discussed above about Thermistor probes being less sophisticated and less accurate, but they can usually read temperatures accurately within several degrees.
The other popular form of probe is the thermocouple probe, which usually costs more but is more accurate (often to with less than one degree of actual temperature), stabilize faster for a good readout, and can read wider temperatures accurately (often up to 572-600F, some even beyond).
Regardless of the type of probe you go with, I always recommend testing a thermometer before using it. Smart thermometers have a lot going on when it comes to hardware -- while they come shipped pre-calibrated -- it's good idea to double check. Since these types of devices offer the ability to recalibrate them you can always make adjustments to temp readings should it be required.
You may not think so at first, but this is an essential consideration for virtually any meat thermometer. In addition to reading temperatures, most smart meat thermometers will have notifications and alerts that pop up on your phone or tablet (in some cases, even on your laptop), and allow you to set custom temperature thresholds and alerts.
Many models even have graphs and charts that allow you to create logs and track how your food cooked, a function you may find particularly useful for all-day smokes.
Using a meat thermometer is fairly straight forward, but there are a things you can do to ensure you get an accurate reading every time, and don’t break it in the process.
Even if you buy a nice thermometer, how do you know it is entirely correct all the time? Meat thermometers can become slightly inaccurate and off as time goes on and may need to be occasionally recalibrated to ensure it’s accurate. Many digital thermometers will now allow you to do this, but on those that do (and older analog models), the process is quite simple – and can be done in either of two ways.
Knowing exactly what temperature your grill or smoker is at is vital for just-right cooking. Again,in most cases, you won’t be able to use your instant read thermometer to do this, as they can’t just be thrown in the oven or on the grill with their plastic handles and LCD screens. Instead, you’ll need to use a smart thermometer with ambient probes designed just for this purpose (such as the ThermaQ or Inkbird). Ambient probes usually come with metal clips that you insert the probe into, and then clip onto the grill or oven grates. Place them about 2/3rd’s of the way back on the cooking surface, as that’s the hottest part of the grill, and leave it there. If properly calibrated, these ambient probes will let you know the precise temperature you’re actually cooking at. And remember, don’t trust the cheap bi-metal dials that come with your smoker; they can’t be trusted!
Just as when taking ambient temperature, the only meat thermometers you want to leave in your meat are the ones designed for that purpose – whether it’s a smart thermometer with probes, or specially-designed dial thermometer. Again, try to stick the probe(s) in the thickest part of the cut. For briskets and pork butts, this is generally pretty easy, as it is with turkeys. For steaks, you’ll want to insert it from the side, as far in as possible.
This depends on what kind of meat thermometer you’re using. One designed for grilling and smoking, with probes attached to cables several feet long? Sure, go ahead and stick that bad boy in the oven with your turkey or pork butt. Place the device on the counter next to the oven and you’re good to go. And those old metal and glass gauge type meat thermometers? They are most likely designed with such in use in mind and should be fine. But an instant read thermometer, with plastic handle and LCD screen? Bad idea. Keep it handy and use it in the meat only when it times to test; while some handles may be made of heat-resistant plastic, many aren’t, and it’s better to simply avoid any trouble and only stick in the heat when needed.
Generally, when taking the internal temperature of a piece of meat, you want to insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the meat. This will enable you to get the smoothest, most stable reading possible, as well as ensure the meat is cooked all the way through – not just in the thinnest parts. For many cuts of meat, suck as steaks, you may want to pick them up with tongs and insert the thermometer into it’s side, plunging it right into the middle. This will give you the best reading possible.