The prospect of a wireless leave-in thermometer probe that can simultaneously report internal meat and ambient pit temperatures sounds like the latest elixir. Some even take things a step further, with claims of performing in environments like InstaPots and AirFryers. You are now free to cook wirelessly, or at least that’s the promise.
My go-to device for monitoring a pork shoulder and internal ambient pit temperatures is my Fireboard 2 which is one of our top rated Wi-Fi temperature control/monitors . While it is loaded with smart features and various display readings of all 6 probes, it’s a mess of wires my wife hates to see. If I can count on these probes to handle a straightforward cooking session while providing the same data to my phone for half the price, I’m all for it.
In this article we compare the popular Meater + to the Meatstick X based on the results of our testing. Can or should you buy the Meatstick instead of the Meater? Where does Yummly! and the AirProbe rank among the previously named top sellers? Our testing and review answers all those questions and we select our favorite wireless probe thermometer.
HERE’S THE LINEUP:
How they work
Communicating via Bluetooth, each of these probes will transmit a signal to your phone and provide you with the data through the respective application. The base stations are responsible for mounting and charging the probe using two AA batteries (AirProbe 2 by Tappecue only requires a single AAA battery). Additionally, the base stations (except for the AirProbe) contain a repeater that boost the Bluetooth signal to your phone up to an advertised 300 feet. To achieve this extended Bluetooth range the docking station needs to be in close proximity (about 5 feet) to the probe.
Maximum communication ranges are dependent upon the insulation of the environment between the probe and your smart device, or between the docking station and the probe. For example, the range of transmission between the probe and the base in a Kamado smoker is lesser than a probe placed inside a traditional gas grill.
All devices except for Yummly! offer WiFi capabilities.
When it comes to cost, all these devices run about $100 (except the AirProbe 2 which is about $80) with discounts for purchasing additional probes.
The overall goal was to work with each one of these wireless smart thermometer probes to see what it’s like to cook with them while comparing performance to their competing brands. Of course, since we’re talking about thermometers, we wanted to chart accuracy in controlled environments and throughout cooking sessions.
To give us a range of evaluation, we performed several tasks.
Application User Experience/Interface
Since these devices do not have a temperature display, they rely on communication via Bluetooth between the probe and/or base stations and a smart device. We evaluated what it was like to set up their applications as well as navigating them and their features. Ideal applications would be straightforward while easily articulating how the probe and application communicate throughout cooking sessions.
Warm Water Sous Vide Bath
Using the Avona Sous Vide Cooker we were able to create and maintain a warm water bath at precisely 140°F. Relying on ThermoWorks’ reference thermometer and the Avona temperature sensor we were able to ensure we maintained the target temperature while obtaining readings from each of the probes. This allowed us to get a quick look at each of the probe’s accuracy performance at a basic level.
By placing a pot of water over the stove we were able to maintain a rolling boil to test each of the probes against the reference thermometer. This test was about accuracy, but more importantly, to get a good look at the placement of the internal sensor of each probe. Shorter probes, or probes that embedded their sensors higher up the probe fluctuated with irrelevant readings from steam and water produced by the rolling boil. Longer probes, or probes with sensors embedded closer to the tips of the probes, read consistent accurate temperatures.
Here we placed each probe in a beef roast and placed them simultaneously in an oven. We started the cook with the oven preheated to 450°F for the first 30 minutes then turned down the heat to 325°F for the remaining two hour cook. For a control group we placed an internal probe into each of the roasts near the wireless probes that was connected to the Fireboard 2, also connected to the Fireboard 2 was an ambient probe which was placed inside the oven. This gave us a loose baseline for the internal and ambient readings we were looking for from our wireless probes.
Ultimately, this test told us more about what it was like to use each of the wireless probes in conjunction with their respective applications and its features, more than it told us about accuracy.
The temperature readings we charted throughout the cooking session were all over the place, due to several factors:
- Placement of the ambient Fireboard 2 probe in relation to the ambient sensor on handle of the wireless probes (moisture evaporating from the roasts caused the temperature at the surface to the meat to differ from the overall ambient temperature).
- It wasn’t possible for the internal sensors in the wireless probes and Fireboard 2 probes to be occupy the exact same space within each of the roasts.
Things we did not test
We were not overly concerned with read-time speed as these devices are not designed to replace an instant read thermometer. However, none of the probes seemed to be overly slow in reaching their final temperature readings.
When it came to testing the advertised line-of-sight wireless Bluetooth communication range, we found this to be subjective to environmental factors. We did, however, step outside to make sure we maintained communication with the probes while they were inserted in the roasts as they were cooking in the oven. All probes remained within range.
The manufacturer’s boast a battery lifetime of 12 to 24 hours on their probes with a full charge. Full charge times do differ; some of the probes say they only need 5 minutes while others stipulate upwards of 6 hours. We did not cook with any of the probes beyond 4 hours. It would be nice to know if these probes can be used in low-and-slow cooking formats but we have our reservations that they would hold up to their 24+ hour advertised runtimes over time, even if they do new out-of-the-box. Additionally, environmental factors can decrease battery runtimes.
Durability was not evaluated beyond general use. Prior to purchasing the devices for testing, preliminary research proved that these devices are easily compromised. As a result, durability is a concern with all these devices with the Meater+ and MeatStick X reporting the least amount of durability-related complaints per capita across people who provided review feedback.
Ambient sensors were tested pretty loosely based on ambient room temperatures as well as against the ambient Fireboard 2 probe placed in the oven during the roast cooking session.
Watch the video of our testing and results on YouTube.
Wireless Probes Pros & Cons
To save you the suspense of skipping down to the conclusion, I’ll disclose up-front, these probes are thick, about 3 times as thick as a traditional thermometer. All probes that we examined have a girth diameter of at least 6mm.
Moreover, you’re gonna need to shove the probe in at least ½ way into the meat to insulate the transmitter inside the probe from burning up. Post-testing we eliminated the prospect of using these devices on thin cuts or tender meats like fish.
When it comes to the ambient sensors embedded on the handle of each probe, they are more of a good idea/bad idea kinda thing. It’s nice to have the ability to read both ambient and internal meat temps with a single probe. The common issue we experienced with all of the probes was that the ambient sensors were not accurate. In the BBQ world we want to know the ambient temperature of the pit (keeping our sites set on the two, two, five).
The ambient temperature (pit) of the smoker tends to be a different temperature than the fluctuating temperature of the meat’s surface; due to cooling water as it evaporates from the meat. Since these probes are designed to be inserted into the meat all the way up to their ceramic handles the ambient temperature sensor resides at the meat’s surface. This provides us with a temperature reading we’re unsure how to quantify as it relates to maintaining ideal pit temperatures for low-and-slow cooking.
With the bad news out of the way let’s continue and see if pros outweigh the cons.
- True wireless cooking
- Smart features
- Cloud/WiFi Capabilities
- Communicates directly to phone via app
- Probes are thick
- Probes need to be inserted deep
- Ambient temperature readings are inconsistent
Wireless Thermometer Probes
|Full Charge Time
|***** / ***
In 2016, Meater (AKA Apption Labs) launched a Kickstarter announcing the development of a wireless probe. With endless problems in early production and fulfilling orders it seemed like even after their official release in 2018 that Meater’s future was in question. This is why we held-off in purchasing their device until now. We purchased the device from Amazon who had it in-stock at a local warehouse and it arrived via Prime in 2 days..
Out-of-the-box the Meater+ was designed to stand out from the competition and resonate with any hipster at heart. Its wooden base station goes a long way in making you feel like you’ve purchased a top-of-the-line product. It comes backed with a 1-year manufacturer warranty.
The probe measures in at about 5 inches and requires insertion halfway up the probe. The internal temperature sensor is embedded about a quarter of the way up the probe making it the closest internal sensor to the tip of all the probes in our roundup — a big win.
You can expect a lifetime of 12 hours with a 4 hour charge. Meater claims their probe will last for 24+ hours on a 6 hour charge.
The base has magnets for convenient mounting. It comes shipped with two AA batteries which are installed by removing the back panel that is attached with additional magnets – no need for a screwdriver.
There is a single button and LED light on the base. The lights indicate connectivity between the base and the probe as well as indicating whether the AA batteries in the base station are dead or not.
The difference between the original Meater and Meater+ is the Bluetooth repeater (or signal booster) installed in the base station; Meater+ has one, and the Meater doesn’t. As a result line-of-sight transmission range increased from 30 feet with the Meater to 165 feet with the Meater+ with the base station.
Only one phone can be connected to the stand-alone probe. If you’re looking to connect multiple probes you’ll need to purchase the Meater Block which comes with four probes that can communicate simultaneously.
The app is the best in the group. It starts with a straightforward setup process that simplifies the various capabilities offered by the Meater application. Afterall, we’re not interested in endless capabilities that require a programing manual. However, the Meater application offers full support in quick one-liners as you navigate through the app and if you want more explanation or tutorials, there are quick videos for basic FAQs as well as recipes.
Features included the Meater Link, advanced alerts/notifications, pairing options, and more.
The most refined “estimator” technology belongs to the Meater followed by the Meatstick. This is fun technology. The estimator was on point when it came to our roast cooking session; estimating our target doneness accurately within 10 minutes over our 1½ hour cook. We didn’t experiment with the technology over a complicated 8-10 hour smoking session but it would be an interesting test better left for another time.
Again, the Meater edges out the competition when it comes to the alert and notification system. You can set alerts based on internal meat temperature, ambient pit temperature, or simply time. Meat temperature based alerts work well in combination with the estimator technology; for example, you can set a reminder to start on the asparagus for 20 minutes before the meat is set to finish. Alert sound options are plentiful; mapping the ‘overcook’ alert to trigger to preprogrammed ‘Dive! Dive! Dive!’ sound – classic. The application can also override your phone’s silent settings (with your permission) to push through a notification or alarm for the important stuff like when you’ve had one too many visiting with friends and forget to pull off the prime rib and it’s quickly going from medium rare to medium (Dive! Dive! Dive!).
Via the Meater Cloud in combination with the Meater Link (enables WiFi capabilities), you’ll be able to access and monitor cooks across multiple devices from any location via internet. This means you can share a real-time cooking session with your sister who’s always late for dinner (maybe it’s just my sister). One thing I like about the future is Cloud Cooking – if that’s not a thing, it should be – being able to log notes in my cooking session alongside the charts and graphs is nice when I want to remember why the last pork butt took far longer than I expected, or if I needed reminding that putting cloves in a pork rub is not my finest creation.
The Meater+ meat probe was right on the money in the 140°F test, and seemed to do fine when it came to the roast but the ambient probe seemed to finish behind the ambient readings we charted on the MeatStick X (see ambient sensor testing explanations above).
When it comes to accuracy, the Meater+ gets a big leg up for the fact that the internal sensor probe is embedded closer to the tip of the probe, of all the probes in our testing. This was mostly evident in our boiling water test where we only inserted the probes a third of the way up the probe and the Meater+ was the only one that yielded an accurate reading; the rest required deeper submersion to do the same.
When comparing the Meater+ to everyone else, overall it’s the best. It has the most features, is more refined, and includes WiFi capabilities without any additional purchases. Of all the things we evaluated the only area where the Meater+ didn’t rate top tier was its advertised range (165 ft. compared to the MeatStick X at 260 ft.) and the fact that you can only run a single probe unless you purchase the Meater Block.
|Full Charge Time
|**** / ***
Since we first saw the MeatStick in 2019 it has quickly moved forward to become a top contender in the wireless meat probe line. We have seen several application updates over the years to indicate that the MeatStick X is serious about their pursuit in becoming a choice option for BBQ and grilling enthusiasts .
MeatStick X comes with a 1-year manufacturer warranty with the option to purchase an extended warranty for up to three additional years.
The internal temperature sensor is rated at 212°F and the ambient is listed as 572°F.
The entire probe is 5½”, the metal portion measures at 3¾”, while the insertion point is marked at about 2” from the tip.
The probe’s tip has the sharpest point of all the probes we examined while the main portion of the probe’s girth remains as thick as all the others (except for the Yummly, which is thicker) at about 6mm.
Meatstick isn’t sure where the temperature sensor is located. It’s either right towards the tip (according to the manual), a quarter of the way up the probe (according to the instruction book), or it’s about halfway up the probe (according to the quick start tutorial in the application). Ultimately, the last one aligns with our boiling water test when it comes to yielding an accurate reading from the MeatStick X.
The manufacturer says the MeatStick X is safe to use in a deep fryer as well as an Air Fryer but not in a pressured environment like a pressure cooker. The probe is listed as dishwasher safe but like anything else I care about I don’t put it in the dishwasher and recommend you don’t either.
Base station has a single button and light and runs on 2 AA batteries (not included). Like the rest of the thermometers in the lineup, the base station serves as the charger and repeater to boost the range of the bluetooth signal. The back is equipped with an internal for mounting to the fridge.
Just like the Meater+, getting the application going was a breeze. The 200+ 4.2 star review rating on the App Store seems to jibe with the experience we had; from setup to cooking the visual experience was onpoint.
We love the fact that in the initial setup you can choose to login in with Facebook, Gmail, Apple, or email. This offers you the a hassle free way to create your account without worrying about forgetting your password.
When it comes to cooking you’ll be prompted with a menu of options like Grilling, Oven, Smoke, etc. as well as a Quick Start option. Select Quick Start for spot temperature checks. For longer sessions select the icon that matches the type of cook, then the type of meat, and then the cut; this allows for the application to provide you with recommended options for Target Internal, Target Ambient, and Estimated Cook Timebased on the weight of the cut; set any alerts you’d like and you’re off.
When it comes to Wi-Fi capabilities you’ll need to connect up an additional smart device that will act as the bridge on your network to pair with the MeatSick X, that, or you’ll need to purchase the bridge which comes in a package deal for around $200.Best Instant Read Thermometers *Test Results*
As for the internal sensor, MeatStick X performed just as well as the Meater+ and the AirProbe 2 when it came to the controlled 140°F sous vide bath. When it came to cooking the roast the internal temperature had a larger than average discrepancy compared to our control probe. In fairness, it is not uncommon to get varying readings when inserting two internal probes into a cut of meat.
As for the ambient readings during the roast cooking session, the MeatStick X yielded the closest readings, of all the probes we tested.
While the MeatStick is our runner up, it’s come a long way in a short time to give Meater a run for its money. When it comes to its advertised range it beats the Meater by about 100 ft. Moreover, if you’re looking to run multiple probes you can run up to 8 while the Meater+ only allows for a single probe. There’s a lot to like here. If you require multiple simultaneous probe action, then the MeatStick X is the solid choice, but for the same money I’ll take the Meater+, if just for the additional application settings and functionalities.
|Full Charge Time
|**** / ***
The AirProbe 2 is a two-channel wireless probe thermometer. Channel one, for the meat, is in the ¼” thick tip, which must be inserted to a minimum depth of 2¾” to protect the device from the heat. Channel two, for the chamber, is in the plastic base. It can communicate via Bluetooth either directly to your phone or to a Tappecue base station. The AirProbe 2 charges from a AAA battery in a charging cradle with a magnetic mount. There are no wires anywhere, so the whole thing can live on the front of your fridge.
Obviously this is very limited compared to full-featured wireless thermometer systems like the Tappecue Touch, and certainly can’t run a thermostatic pit fan, but the virtues are equally obvious. The AirProbe 2 is simple to set up, simple to store, and cheap. If it can handle the job, this will be an ideal starter thermometer for the aspiring meat geek or the ready extra for someone who already has a larger system. It’s also great for taking on the road as a pocket-sized unit. I really want this to be great.
I downloaded the Tappecue app, and got an account set up with just one minor hiccup. Bluetooth pairing was super-simple — I just got the AirProbe 2 out of the cradle and the app quickly picked it up. Each AirProbe 2 has a color-coded band, and the app matches up the colors, making it easy to tell which is which.
Charging is easy too. Just pop the AirProbe 2 back in the cradle and it automatically charges. There’s a button on the front to display the charge level on an LED. Tappecue says that the probe is dishwasher-safe, but I don’t have a place it can safely sit in my dishwasher, so I’ll have to take their word for that.
To take the AirProbe 2 for a real test, I made milk-braised pork loin in a Dutch oven. After searing the pork and preparing the braising liquid, I tried to insert the thermometer into the center of the pork and ran into a problem. I normally would insert a thermometer probe into the top of the loin, but the AirProbe 2 must be inserted at least 2¾”to protect the electronics and no more than 3⅜” because that’s where the handle starts. The loin was too short to go in the top, but too long to go in the end. The right answer is probably to take an angle from the top, but that’s going to require a very careful approach. The probe is extremely thick at ¼” diameter (most probes are ⅛” thick), so I didn’t want to punch multiple big holes in my meat.
Once I got the thermometer in the pork and the pot in the oven, I set an alarm for 140°. The app promptly lost contact with the probe. I know transmitting from inside a cast-iron Dutch oven inside an oven is a tough environment, but that’s why you’d buy this thing. The connection was spotty throughout the cook, but it did its job. The problem: as soon as it lost connection, the app dumped my alarm. I had a timer going and was keeping an eye on the temperature, but that’s not acceptable.
Overall, it worked, but it’s shaky and requires careful shepherding to get to the finish.
The accuracy of the AirProbe 2 is idiosyncratic. I set two probes on the table top while syncing up with the app, and got a very strange result. Both meat probes read 62°, but the chamber ends read 66° and 71°. Either there’s a massive temperature gradient moving across my table, or these things are shaky on accuracy. In case these are slow to come to a reading, I let them sit for 10 minutes to be sure, but the readings stayed the same.
On the good side, I set up the High Tech Science Gantry over a pot of sous vide-controlled 140° water, and the AirProbe 2 registered 140° on the nose, within half a degree of the Thermoworks Calibrated Reference Thermometer.
For a high-temp measurement, I took the water up to boiling. Where the calibrated thermometer measured the boiling water at 210.01°, the AirProbe 2 measured 201°. I gave it some time to see if it would improve, but it never wandered closer to the true temperature than 203°, and then wandered back down.
I tested again, this time adding more water. It appears that the sensor has to be inserted at least halfway to the insertion line to get a correct reading. That’s good, inasmuch as it’s more accurate than I feared, but where is the reading coming from in my food? Traditional probes measure about ⅛” behind the tip, so you get a reading from the center of your food by putting the tip right in the center. Where do I have to position the AirProbe 2 to get an accurate center temperature?
So how does that add up? It seems the meat probe is good in meat ranges, but diverges as the temperature increases. It’s harder to say on the chamber probe. At room temperature, it had obvious problems. In a braising environment, it was in the neighborhood I expected. In a hot oven, it seemed quite low (reading 368° in an oven set to 450°). I guess the AirProbe 2 has enough accuracy where it counts, but it doesn’t compare to, say, wired Tappecue probes, which work in all the ranges in the spec.
The app is strange and confusing. It feels as if it was written by someone who intimately understands the whole Tappecue thermometer ecosystem, but never got any serious testing and feedback from anybody else.
If you try to Start Session, you’ll find that only works with a Tappecue base unit. Instead, you go to AirProbe Direct, where you can view current temperatures. From there, you can click on Session Details to see the usual variety of graphs and alerts. Once you’ve (automatically, I guess) started a session from the AirProbe Direct screen, you can go back to the main menu and see that session in the View Session menu.
I’m sure that makes sense to the person who wrote the app.
When you complete a session, you get the opportunity to get the data emailed to you. It also can be saved in the Session Book tab, but you only get five free sessions a month in the Session Book before they want a monthly fee or a per-session fee. Can’t say I’m a fan of that either. You do get a nice set of graphs and notes.
I love the promise of the Tappecue AirProbe 2, but the execution is not quite there. The requirements of how it has to be inserted really limit its placement compared to wired probes. I have reservations about accuracy, especially on the chamber probe. Finally, the app has serious usability problems. As much as I’d love to ditch the wires and charging cables, this just doesn’t do a good enough job to replace a wired probe thermometer. I retain high hopes for the next version, but the technology here isn’t yet up to the task.
|Full Charge Time
|n/a , *
Everything about the Yummly! Seemed to be okay except for the accuracy part. From design, application setup and features everything seemed to be more or less on par with the rest of the devices in our testing. But none of that really matters if you can’t rely on it for accurate readings. Perhaps we just received a bad unit. In fact, we’re gluttons for punishment so we’re ordering another and will update this review upon the completion of another round of testing on the Yummly!.
The probe is shorter than the other coming in at 4¼” but it’s also a hair thicker (get measurement in MM). The temperature ranges are more or less the same as the rest of the probes, 210°F max for the internal sensor and 572°F max for the ambient probe. While we couldn’t find any documented indication of where the internal sensor is located inside the probe, our testing seems to indicate it is located halfway up the probe.
The probe is advertised as being safe for use in an air fryer but not an deep fryer, InstaPot or even sous vide environment. This probe has the most limited environment uses of all the probes in our testing.
The docking station features a button to initiate Bluetooth pairing as well as a power and Bluetooth status light. The back of the dock includes magnets for easy mounting, and a key-looking extractor. While most of the time you’ll have an oven mitt or towel handy, it’s a nice little extra. The unit comes in two color choices, either black or white.
While cooking you’ll need to place the dock within 5 feet or closer of the probe to get the extended advertised range of 150 ft.
You’ll find the application is not dedicated strictly to their smart thermometer. Instead, you’re navigating the complete Yummly! App. This means everything Yummly! offers in their mobile applications is at your fingertips, for better or worse.
Personally, I feel better about a dedicated app with options only relevant to the thermometer. You’ll find similar features for monitoring cooking sessions and alerts that are on par with the MeatStick X, however, the estimator features are less superior than the Meater+ and MeatSick X.
Is the Yummly! Thermometer Accurate?
No. No it is not. In controlled environment tests the internal sensor was constantly off by ±5°F. When it came to in-cook performance tests, it showed inconsistencies twice as bad as the MeatStick X which finished just behind the Meater+ and AirProbe 2 for accuracy. The ambient sensor performed much worse in the in-cook sessions showing discrepancies that tripled our worst rating score from the Meater+, AirProbe 2 and MeatSick X. All in all, accuracy for the Yummly!’s smart thermometer is unacceptable and reckless.
Same price point as the rest of the devices but with little protection against excess moisture you’re not able to use it in environments like sous vide cooking, deep frying or dishwasher, which also leaves serious durability questions when it comes to simply cleaning the device. $100 for a device that can’t withstand moisture when it comes to cooking is headscraching. Oh, and I did mention that the thermometer doesn’t actually provide accurate readings, right?