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Our Favorite Thermometers For Food, Cooking, Ovens, Grills, And Smokers, As Well As Ratings And Reviews Of More Than 100 Devices

"Buy the best thermometers and you'll only cry once."
Greg Rempe, BBQCentral Radio

 

By Meathead Goldwyn

consumer reports

In early 2014 Consumer Reports tested more than 300 chicken samples purchased at supermarkets around the nation and found that almost all were contaminated with pathogenic bacteria and half of them had antibiotic resistant strains. It said "even if you keep your kitchen very clean, you could still be exposed to illness-causing bacteria if you don't cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F. It's vital that you check using a meat thermometer."

This database contains almost 100 thermometers, mostly digital. There is nothing like it in the world. You can use the search options at left or scroll down to see some of our favorites. The options can be confusing so you might first want to click here to read more about how thermometers work and why some are better than others. If you are in a hurry, here are our favorites and best buys:



Most important: You need a hand held rapid read food thermometer

You cannot tell when chicken is safe by looking at the color of the juices. This is a myth. The difference between a medium rare and well-done steak is pretty narrow. The diff between moist tender fish and dry chalky fish is even less. Seconds matter. And two pork chops sitting side by side can cook at different rates. The breast and thigh of a turkey are usually different temps. Cooking four burgers? They're all slightly different temps because your grill has hot spots. That salmon filet has a thick end and a thin end. The only way to deliver properly cooked meat to the table and protect against food borne illness is to take its temperature with a rapid read thermometer. If you hate apologizing for overcooked meat or having to take chicken off your guests' plates and sticking it in the microwave, then you've got to get a good thermometer. Just open the grill, poke a thin probe into the meat, and in seconds it tells you the temp. My recommendations:


New Thermapen Mk4

 

thermapen mk4

The "Lamborghini of instant read thermometers" is what Harry Soo of SlapYoDaddyBBQ calls the Thermapen, and he should know because he is one of the winningest competitors on the BBQ circuit. The MK4, introduced in late 2015 has several improvements over earlier models. The Thermapen is the thermocouple-based you see all the cooks on TV using. I highly recommend it for anyone serious about cooking or baking properly. It reads meat temp precisely in about two seconds, it is extremely accurate, has large easy-to-see numbers that rotate as you rotate the device, and a long probe for getting into the center of a large hunk of meat like a ham. The heat sensor is extremely small, so you know you are reading just where you put it. It is water resistent, reads from -58 to 572°F (-50° to 300°C), and switches between F and C.


Thermoworks Super Fast ThermoPop

thermopop thermometer

Introduced in 2013, this little lollipop licks your needs for fast reads at an inexpensive price. This thermistor takes less than six seconds to read, measures from -58 to 572°F, and has a 4.5" long thin probe (0.08"). You can switch from C to F, and even rotate the backlit display with the press of a button so you don't have to crane your neck to get a reading. It comes with a pocket clip and your choice of nine colors including white and black. It is easy to use with either right or left hand, and it is rated as "splashproof". Both the backlight and thermometer switch off automatically to preserve battery life. The sensor is very small and located in the tip so it doesn't give you false reads from further up the probe as do some other electronics.


Maverick DT-09GG Instant Read Digital Thermometer with a Compact AmazingRibs.com Meat Temperature Guide Magnet

This is a nice, accurate, pocket size instant read thermistor with a thin probe. Gives a reading in less than four seconds with a range -58°F to 572°F (reads in F and C). It's hard to see, but the cover for the probe is attached to the meter on the right in the photo. With the cover on the probe it is waterproof. It is easy to use, intuitive, but it cannot be calibrated. This thermometer is bundled with the Award Winning AmazingRibs.com Compact Meat Temperature Magnet by Meathead. This thermometer is bundled with the Award Winning AmazingRibs.com Compact Meat Temperature Guide Magnet by Meathead.



Also recommended: A leave-in meat thermometer and an oven/grill/smoker thermometer

Can you imagine cooking indoors if your oven did not have a thermometer? Then why do you try to cook outdoors without a good oven thermometer? If you hope to be king of the grill, you've got to know what the oven temp really is (and your grill or smoker are really just ovens). And this may come as a shock, but your indoor oven is probably waaaay off too. It probably needs adjusting, so when you buy a good digital you can calibrate and adjust your indoor oven. So if you buy a good oven/grill/smoker thermometer, you can improve your indoor cooking too. These devices all have a probe that can be placed in the oven next to the food. It is on a cable and attached to a meter you can read outside the cooking chamber and it will tell you what temp the food is feeling.

A leave-in meat thermometer has a probe that is inserted into thick cuts of meat and left there throughout the cook. It has a cable attached to a monitor that sits outside the cooking chamber and it lets you monitor the progress of the cook without having to open the lid and stab the meat. They are essential for turkey, all roasts, hams, pork shoulder, whole hog, and tri-tip.

There are a number of thermometers that can be used for both oven temp or leav-in for meat, and a few have two probes to be used for oven and meat simultaneously. My favorites:


Thermoworks Splashproof ChefAlarm

chefalarm

This thermistor thermometer with a timer has an impressive reading range, from -58 to 572°F, and the probe can withstand up to 700°F. At temps reading under 248°F it is accurate plus or minus 1.8°F. The continuous min/max display tells you how hot or cold things got when you weren't looking. It has a countdown timer and an alarm with four volume settings, the loudest of which is about as loud as a passing subway train. You can also set the alarm to go off when the probe hits either a high or low temp. The low temp alarm can he handy if you use this to read your pit temp on a long cook. I hear so many tales of woe from pitmasters who start a cook and wake up in the morning to learn the fire went out. No more.

The probes are thinner than any thermistor I've seen and read within five seconds so ChefAlarm can be used as an instant read, and best of all, the new Pro-Series silicon coated cables are waterproof and submersible so there is no risk of damaging them with rain or when cleaning, a common problem with the metal braided probes common on other meters. It also has a calibration feature so you can fine tune the accuracy. There are big digits and a backlight, a magnet on the back, and it tilts and folds.


Maverick ET-732 Wireless Dual Probe BBQ, Smoker, Grill, and Meat Thermometer with the AmazingRibs.com All-Weather Meat Temperature Magnet

maverick et-732

Two thermometers in one, this very cool tool and I highly recommend it.

There are two probes and cables, one to insert into the meat and leave it in, and another to leave in your oven/grill/smoker. Both probes plug into a radio frequency (RF) transmitter module that sends temperatures to a receiver module that you can take into the living room with you and place on the coffee table next to the beer and chips. That's right, with the Maverick you can monitor your grill and your meat while you watch the game or cut the lawn. You can also set the timer to remind you when to start the side dishes or wake you up if the game is really boring, or set it for a target temp, and an alarm will let you know when the meat is ready.

The probes are essentially interchangeable. You can use the air probe to measure meat and visa versa. The only difference is that the meat probe is pointy. 

NOTE. This device is a thermistor and it has a plus or minus error tolerance of 3°F, but that's close enough for just about everything. It is best for big thick cuts such as pork butt, beef brisket, turkey breasts, and roasts. For thinner cuts you should get an instant read thermometer like the Thermapen ot Thermopop.

IMPORTANT! There is an older model, the ET-73 still on the market. It is decidedly inferior. Don't buy it. There are also two newer models about which we have reservations. We have given the ET-733 a gold medal because it works very well, and it has slightly better probes and a few extra bells and whistles, but we don't think you'll need those extras, and they only make the device more complicated and more expensive. The ET-735 is also a winner, and it talks to a clever app on your smartphone, but it is Bluetooth enabled, and the range on that technology is much shorter than the distance you can wander on the ET-732. We think the tried and true, and beloved ET-732 is the best choice for the money.


Thermoworks DOT

The DOT

Inexpensive. Fast, Accurate. Simple. That just about sums it up. The manufacturer sells about six different probes so you can clip one to the grate and read oven temp, pugt one in the white meat and one for the dark meat. You can then move the meter from probe to probe. The Needle probe is extremely thin and reads in 2 seconds so it can double as a leave-in or instant read which makes this baby the most versatile in its class. Fits in the palm of your hand, it has a large readout, an easily-set alarm temperature and a long probe cable.


Tel-Tru BQ300 BBQ Thermometer

tel-tru bbq thermometer

So I have written frequently that bi-metal dial thermometers cannot be trusted because most of them are cheap crap, but there is one brand that stands above all the others and it is accurate enough to be a good indicator, especially in smokers, Tel-Tru. Different probe lengths are available, as well as some that glow in the dark. They can be calibrated by turning a large nut on the rear, although it came well adjusted from the factory.



Also important: You need a refrigerator thermometer and a freezer thermometer

It is crucial for your budget and your health that your refrigerator be set properly. If your fridge runs too hot, food will spoil, need to be discarded too soon, and there is a risk of food-borne illness. Most fridges have a way to adjust the temp. The ideal temp is just above freezing, from 35 to 38°F. Below 35°F, frost may form and above 38°F, microbes grow too fast. Because the temp can vary from top to bottom and in the drawers, a good refrigerator thermometer that you can move around is important. An inexpensive liquid thermometer is just fine for this task. It is pretty accurate and it will run forever since there are no batteries involved.

You'll also need a thermometer for the freezer. I'll quote FDA "The freezer temperature should be 0°F (-18°C). Check temperatures periodically." Remember, freezing does not kill bacteria, but it does stop them from growing. Here is a good refrigerator or freezer thermometer.

CDN Refrigerator & Freezer Thermometer

refrigerator thermometer

You need to keep your fridge between 33°F and 38°F to prevent frost buildup and keep your food safe. A liquid filled thermometer is a good way to go here. They are pretty darn accurate, don't need batteries, and you don't need the speed of a digital. The CDN is low profile and has hooks to hang on the wire racks. Get two, one for the freezer, too.



For the pros: Here are two multi-function kits with K-type thermocouples, the best setup for pros, competition teams, and serious cooks

Type K-probes have become the standard for industrial, scientific, and food service applications. These thermocouples use Chromel and Alumel wires in thin tips and type K probes are made by many companies to serve many functions. They have a standard spade-like jack that can fit a wide range of meters. So you have a two-part system, the probe and the meter with many options. I have tested many, and the Thermoworks products are my favorites.

Their meters are inexpensive (the fast accurate Mini at left is only about $45), but the probes are expensive, $30 to $60. You can buy the parts a la carte, or order one of the package deal kits they have assembled at my request, also below. A word of caution: Thermoworks sells a number of other probes that I have tested. These are the ones I recommend for barbecue and grilling. Cheap out if you wish, but it would be a mistake.


ThermaQ Meathead Kit: Perfect for BBQ competition teams, restaurants, caterers, and serious backyarders

mh thermometer kit

At my request, Thermoworks has put together a kit at a bargain price with everything a BBQ pro, competition team, caterer, or restaurant will ever need. There are two meters and three probes. Both meters use the universal K connector (the yellow thingy with the two prongs) so both meters can take any of the three probes included, as well as scores more made by Thermoworks and others.

The Pro Kit includes the ThermaQ Professional 2 Probe Thermocouple Thermometer with Alarm for reading smoker and grill temps in more than one location. Or you can put an oven probe on one slot and a leave-in meat probe in the other. It has an alarm that will go off if your oven or meat exceeds your prefered temp or drops below. It does everything that the Maverick ET-732 does except transmit the temps to you on the couch, but it is more accurate, it has better probes, and it reads faster.

smoke house probe

It has two ports for probes, so you can use the Smoke House Penetration Probe #THS-113-178 which can be left in the meat and the stainless cord is super heavy duty and will not fray. This cable is far sturdier than any I have ever seen. But it is thick and will not fit under grill lids without letting hot air out. You need to have a hole through which you insert it. It functions up to 662°F (350°C) so it can be used to measure hot air temp as well as meat and that will measure the temp in a hot grill.

The kit includes the ThermoWorks High Temp Flexible Ceramic Fiber-Insulated Probe #WD-08467-64 which can be used for measuring really high oven temp up to 2,500°F (1,371°C). This is my standard probe for measuring the air temp in grills and smokers. Because it is flexible you can bend it and wrap it around things like grill grates. I much prefer it to the alligator clip probes they sell because, if you do not handle them carefully the clips can separate from the cables.

mtc meath thermometer

Finally, the kit includes a ThermoWorks Mini Handheld Thermocouple Thermometer #MTC with a Thermoworks Fast Response Meat Probe #113-151. This is the instant read thermocouple meat thermometer I use the most. And I mean instant. It refreshes every second. The meter is a small splash resistant handheld meter that can work with more than a dozen plug-in K-type probes. The meter is accurate to within 1°F from -83°F to 1,999°F (-64°C to 1,400°C)! The probe is almost hypodermic thin so it can be used for burgers and thin steaks and reads precisely in only 2.5 seconds. You can insert it into a piece of meat and slowly back it out and read the different layers as you go! But remember, it is meant for probing and removing. It cannot be left in meat while it is in the cooker. Max temp 482°F (250°C). The probe can be removed and replaced with any of the other probes for leaving in a roast or for leaving in the cooking chamber for measuring oven temp. This is a very versatile kit. The kit is $35 less than the items individually.


ThermoWorks Meathead Semi-Pro BBQ Kit

semi_pro_thermometer_kit

Also at my request, Thermoworks has assembled a kit and at a bargain price, this one for the serious backyard cook. It comes with a superfast Mini Handheld Thermocouple Meter (MTC described above) that you can plug into any of the three universal K type temperature probes that comes in the kit (also described above). Place the Armored Smokehouse Penetration probe in meat to monitor its progress, and place the High-Temp Flexible Ceramic Fiber-Insulated Probe in the grill, or smoker to keep tabs on it. It can handle any temp you are likely to hit and because it is flexible you can get the sensor anywhere you want it. You can move the Mini meter from probe to probe and get rapid readings. And then there's the super thin Fast-Response Probe to spot check your meat or to use on thin cuts with precise readings in less than three seconds. The kit is $25 less than the items individually.



For pizza cooks: Infrared laser guided guns are essential for checking the stone

Infrared laser guns are designed to read the temperature of a hot surface like a griddle, a pizza stone, or a frying pan. They cannot accurately read meat temp nor can they measure the temp of a grate or the air inside a grill. You point the gun at a surface like a pizza stone, pull the trigger, and it puts a laser beam on the target. Don't let the laser fool you, it is only a targeting aid, the actual surface being read is larger than the laser, so it cannot measure something narrow like the grates on your grill. But if you are serious about pizza on the grill, you want one.


Maverick LT-03 Infrared Laser Guided Thermometer with the AmazingRibs.com Compact Meat Temperature Magnet

maverick gun thermometer for bbq

This model measures from -58 to 1022°F and it is powered by two AA batteries (included). It works best on dark surfaces and doesn't always read accurately on shiny stainless steel pans or liquids. This thermometer is bundled with the Award Winning AmazingRibs.com Compact Meat Temperature Guide Magnet by Meathead.



For long cooks with charcoal or logs: Thermostat controllers

Thermostat controllers are a blessing for long cooks, especially the ones that go overnight. You place a probe near the meat and you close all the air intakes except one. The probe talks to a fan that goes over the open vent which turns on and off regulating the oxygen supply to the coals. They control the temp very effectively. The better ones can hold a temp within a few degrees for hours so you can sleep. Some have multiple probes, and mini computers and can respond to meat temperature as well.


Auber SYL-1615 Thermostatic Temperature Controller

auber

The Auber SYL-1615 is a highly-configurable thermostatic controller for charcoal cookers. It can be operated by merely setting the target temperature, mounting the blower (no tools required), inserting the temperature probe into the cooking chamber near the meat, and standing back while it does all the work. It does an excellent job regulating the temperature using the default configuration, but it can be tweaked to an extent that an electrical control engineer would love.  - Bill McGrath

 

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About this website. AmazingRibs.com is all about the science of barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking, with great BBQ recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, and unbiased equipment reviews. Learn how to set up your grills and smokers properly, the thermodynamics of what happens when heat hits meat, and how to cook great food outdoors. There are also buying guides to hundreds of barbeque smokers, grills, accessories, and thermometers, as well as hundreds of excellent tested recipes including all the classics: Baby back ribs, pulled pork, Texas brisket, burgers, chicken, smoked turkey, lamb, steaks, chili, barbecue sauces, spice rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best all edited by Meathead Goldwyn.

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