Guide to the best digital meat thermometers...

From instant read thermometers to wireless, Bluetooth and smart Wi-Fi devices. Everything you need to know including our complete reviews of 15 of the top thermometers.

"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 


The Ultimate Guide to Meat Thermometers including the Best Reviews for 2018/2019

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 many reviews to find the one that fits your cooking style and needs best.

Types of Devices

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.

pic of jacob

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

Instant Read

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

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.

Wi-Fi 

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?

Best Thermometer for Your Cooking 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.

Best Thermometer for Grilling

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.


Best Thermometer for Smoking

ThermoWorks ThermaQ

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.


Best Thermometer for Baking & Cooking

ThermoWorks ThermaPen Mk4

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

Reviewing the Best Thermometers in Each Category 

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.


Smoking Meat Geek Reviews

By the Top Geek Jacob Cordero

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.

5 Best Instant Read Meat Thermometers [Complete Buyers Guide]
Best Instant Read Thermometers 2018 When searching for a trusted digital instant read thermometer you'll find the market is saturated[...]
5 Best WiFi Meat Thermometers – 2018 Review & Buyers Guide
REVIEWING ONLY THE TOP WIFI THERMOMETERS 2018 Wi-Fi wireless THERMOMETERS are ideal for smoking & grillingToday, just about everything now comes[...]
5 Best Wireless Bluetooth Grill Meat Thermometer [Grill + Oven]
5 Best wireless Bluetooth Meat ThermometerA complete MeatGeek review of the best Bluetooth grill thermometers on the market. With extensive[...]
WiFi Grill Thermometer – Fireboard Review
REVIEW FOR THE FIRBOARDFireboard Wi-Fi Thermometer for grilling & SmokingWhether you’re a meat-smoking maestro or just a humble beginner, the[...]

our 3 top winners

Revealing the Winners in Each Category 

Here are the winners from our testing and reviews for the best instant reads, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.

Best Instant Read Winner

THERMOWORKS THERMAPEN MK4

Hands down the quickest and most accurate thermometer on the market.

Best Bluetooth Winner

INKBIRD IBT-4XS 

best bluetooth winner

Selected for its smart features, durability, and affordable price point.

Best Wi-Fi Winner

THE FIREBOARD

winner as best wifi device

The most comprehensive Wi-Fi device with the ability to deliver advanced features, data, reporting and more.  

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.


Why do you need a meat thermometer?

Hacks just won't hack it

  • check
    "It's safe to bite when the temperature is right"...don't trust age old hacks and gimmicks 
  • check
    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 do meat 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. 

Breaking down the three types of thermometers and how they function

There are several different kinds of meat thermometers to choose from. Some are higher-tech and more advanced than others.


Bi-metal

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


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.

Why the thermometer that came with your grill sucks.

Here's why:​​​​

Bi-metal thermometers and gauges that come with your grill or smoker can’t be trusted.

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.


Top Geek

Jacob Cordero @ SmokingMeatGeeks.com

How to Find the Best Smart Thermometer 

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:


How Many Probes Do You Need?

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. 

probes in steaks on grill

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. 


How Accurate Are The Probes (And What Type Are They?)

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).


What Kind of Smart Features Does It Have?

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.

temperature reading chart

Data chart shows reading from the probe mounted inside the grill to monitor the internal temp of the grill and also a probe which has been injected into the ribs to monitor the internal temperature of the meat.

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. 


For more see our complete reviews on the best Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices

What Temperature is Your Meat Actually Done At?

If you’re gonna make delicious meat, you need to know precisely what temperature you’re going to cook it to. There’s really two answers to this question. 


First is the USDA recommended temperature, which was created with food safety in mind. It is thus very conservative, and in many cases, recommends temperatures far higher than what is generally considered “perfectly done” and the tastiest.  


For example, chicken is usually recommended to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165F – but most chefs agree that it tastes much better around 150 to 155. In fact, chicken cooked to 150 and held there for several minutes will be safe to eat, as well as much softer and juicier.


Meat Temperature Chart (Chef VS. USDA)


Chef Recommended**

Rare
Med. Rare
Medium
Med. Well
Well Done
Beef, Veal & Lamb
Roasts, Steaks & Chops
120° - 130° F*
49-54°C
130° - 135° F*
54-57°C
135° - 145° F*
57-63°C
145° - 155° F*
63-68°C
155° F-up*
68°C-up
Pork
Roasts, Steaks & Chops
135 - 145° F*
57-63°C
145 - 155° F*
63-68°C
155°F+*
68°C+
BBQ
Brisket, Ribs & Pork Butt
190-205°F*
88-96°C

* These temperatures indicate the ideal temperatures. However, most meats should be pulled from the grill/oven a few degrees lower and allow to rise to the ideal temperature through resting. This is key with dense meats such as brisket and pork butt, it is know as the "carryover effect".
 

** These temperatures are what is known as "Chef-recommended temps. Which means they are lower than the USDA but still considered safe to eat. These are ideal temps to avoid overcooking and drying-out the cut. You can expect the USDA recommended temperatures are 5°F or more degrees higher; see the chart below for a comparison. 


USDA Recommended

Rare
Med. Rare
Medium
Med. Well
Well Done
Beef, Veal & Lamb
Roasts, Steaks & Chops
145° F*
63°C
155° F*
68°C
160°
71.1°C
Pork
Roasts, Steaks & Chops
145° F*
63°C
165° F*
74°C
170°F
77°C
BBQ
Brisket, Ribs & Pork Butt
145° F*
63°C
180-200°F*
82-93°C

How To Cook Beef Safely (and Deliciously)

Ground beef is easier and simpler to cook than steak and is usually cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F for guaranteed safety, thanks to its ground nature, which has a higher chance of contamination than a regular steak. At 165°F, it won’t be quite as pink and juicy as some might like it, but you can be guaranteed it’s safe to eat.

Wholes cuts of steak, on the other hand, are more finicky and are usually cooked to lower temperatures for the desired level of flavor and juiciness. A steak is rare at 125-130°F, Medium at 140°F and is considered well-done at about 160°F.

Since whole cuts of beef generally only contain bacteria on the surface and not within the dense muscle fibers themselves, they are usually safe to eat with just a good searing.


Tips for Cooking Chicken the Right Way (Yes, It CAN Be Juicy and Tender At The Same Time)

Chicken is a notoriously difficult food to cook properly. Underdone, and you get fleshy, unappetizing meat with the risk of salmonella. Overdone, and you get dry, stringy, rubbery meat that tastes…unappetizing, to say the least.

While official guidelines say chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F degrees, most will agree that it looks, feels and tastes much better (aka juicier, more tender) at about 150°F to 155°F degrees. If left there for several minutes, it will still be totally safe to eat – even if the color is pure, stark white.


Seriously, get a good instant read thermometer, and you will be surprised at how quickly dry, flaky chicken can become a thing of the past.


What About Pork? 

Myths and Misconceptions About “The Other White Meat”
usda temperature recommendation

Many people believe that pork needs to be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F degrees and a white color, just like chicken. But the truth is that pork is usually safe to eat at 145°F degrees internal temperature, in which case it will like slightly pink inside. This is because while pork used to be contaminated with trichinella, which has been virtually eliminated from the food supply in countries like the US. This is due to the strict guidelines enforced on the hog industry by the USDA leading back to the 1970s.


So despite what you’ve likely grown up hearing, it’s perfectly safe to cook and serve your pork a little pink, as long as the internal temperature has reached 145°F degrees. In fact, the USDA even recommends cooking it to such temperatures now.


And, since pork is now much leaner than in the olden days and generally contains less fat, it’s more likely to dry out, even at lower temperatures. So you’re better off cooking it softly and slowly, as opposed to just overcooking it and being left with a dry, bland piece of meat.

FAQ

Using a meat thermometer to take a good meat thermometer is generally pretty simple, 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.

How Do Calibrate a Meat Thermometer? 

How Do I Monitor the Internal Temperature of My Oven/Grill?

How Do I Leave the Probe in When Cooking?

Can You Stick a Meat Thermometer in the Oven?

What is the Proper Way to Use a Thermometer?