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About the features, specs, and technical terms

Adjustable. Some thermometers' accuracy can drift and they can then be adjusted to bring them back to the correct reading.

Alarms. Some devices can be set to alert the cook when a high or low temp is reached either with an audible alarm, such as a beep, or a visible alarm, such as a flashing display.

App. BlueTooth and wifi enabled devices have a smartphone or tablet app that talk to the device.

Auto shutoff. If you don't use the device for a set period of time, it will shut itself off to save batteries

Backlight. Digital thermometers are hard to read at night unless they have a backlight.

Bi-metal dial thermometers. Most bi-metal coil dial thermometers mounted in grill hoods should be called heat indicators, not thermometers. We do not recommend them. They have round clock-like readouts and the sensor uses two strips of metal bonded together and rolled into a coil. Each metal expands at a different rate, turns a shaft, and this provides the reading on a dial. Bi-metal meat thermometers can take up to 30 seconds to give an final reading and because the sensor can be 1/2" long or more they c annot read a specific location in meat. Most thermometers built into grills and smokers are bi-metal, but they are often low quality in order to keep the grill price down. They can easily become unreadable if they fill with smoke and or water. Also, these grill thermometers are mounted in the dome where the temp can be very different from the temp at the cooking surface making them both unreliable and misleading.

C/F Switch. Most thermometers have a switch to change the display from Centigrade to Fahrenheit.

K-Probes. Some thermocouple thermometers have a standardized spade-like connector for scores of interchangeable probes.

Liquid filled thermometers. Old-fashioned liquid filled thermometers are very small glass tubes filled with a liquid that sit in a bulb at the bottom. As the liquid warms it expands. They are slow but they can be very accurate. Because they do not need batteries, they make good refrigerator and freezer thermometers, but they cannot read a small area such as the center of a hunk of meat well.

Logging. Some thermometers can remember the readings taken over time and create a log that can either be printed or exported to a spreadsheet.

Margin of Error. Most thermometers are considered to be accurate if the are within plus or minus 3°F of the target tempderature. High end thermometers are more precise than this.

Min / Max. The minimum and maximum temperatures it is capable of reading. On some devices, especially those which use differnt probes, the Min / Max can vary with the probe.

Oven. We often refer to an oven to cover a range of cooking devices including grills and smokers, which are, essentially, outdoor ovens.

Popup thermometers. Popups have a compound in the tip that melts at a determined temp and releases a spring that pops the stem up. Although they can be accurate, they can also stick, they read only one part of the turkey, and they are usually set too high to prevent litigation. Pop-ups are why your turkey tastes like cardboard. Throw them out.

Price. Usually the manufacturer's suggested retail price. When that is not available we use the approximate street price.

Sensor. Thermocouple, thermistor, liquid, bi-metal. They are described in detail below.

Speed. We measure how long it takes the thermometer to go from 32°F to 212°F or from 212°F to 32°F. But you have to be careful about the time manufacturers quote. Often they use an industry standard called "time constant". That is the time it takes to get to 63% of a full reading, and a full reading is be five times that. So if they say the time constant is 0.6 seconds, as is the Thermapen, it will be precise in about 3 seconds. Another factor is how fast the display refreshes itself. The Thermapen refreshes every 0.5 seconds. This means you can slowly insert it and remove it and it will give you a new reading every 0.5 seconds. The Thermoworks K-type Fast Response Meat Probe #113-151 which can be plugged into different meters, is slightly faster with a time constant of 0.5 seconds, precise read in 2.5 seconds, slightly faster than the Thermapen. But if you plug it into the MTC meter, which refreshes every 1 second, the probe is actually faster than the meter, and combined they are slower than the Thermapen. Another factor is the conductivity of the medium you are measuring, food, which is mostly water, reads faster than bread, which is mostly air, a poor conductor.

Thermistors. Thermistors are usually not as quick as thermocouples, they tend to be thicker, and they can be slightly less accurate, usually with a margin of error of 5°F. They are best for leaving in large roasts and oven for continuous readings. Thermistor units send a current through a wire in the probe with a resistor in the tip. Its resistance to the electrical flow changes with temperature and the meter measures the voltage across the resistor.

Thermocouples. Thermocouples are the best food thermometers because they're fast and precise, with a small sensor, ideal for rapid read thermometers. Their margin of error can be less than 1°F. Thermocouple probes have two tiny wires of different metals welded at the tip, most often nickel and chromium (called Type K). The heat causes a tiny voltage to appear across the dissimilar metals which are connected to a meter that measures the voltage and calculates the temperature.

Water resistance rating. Some manufacturers simply specify that a thermometer is "water resistant" but this is not a regulated description and should be taken with a grain of salt. Some manufacturers use a third party service, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). It rates devices using an International Protection rating code (an IP code). An IP code might look like this IP65. The first digit is protection against solids like dust, and the second digit is protection against liquids. They range from IP00 to IP68. If a thermometer was IP65, it was tested and found completely protected against dust as well as protected against low pressure jets of liquid from all sides, so it is OK in the rain, but NOT protected against a swim in the BBQ sauce.

Where to buy. We provide links to some suppliers, especially to those who pay us a finder's fee if you buy from them. In some cases, our links provide a Compact AmazingRibs.com Meat Temperature Guide with the product. You will only get the guide by following the link provided.


Best Value Awards

Gold Medal. Among the best of its type in its price category. A strong buy recommendation if this is your budget.

Silver Medal. A fine product among the best in its price category with only minor shortcomings. Recommended for purchase if a Gold Medal is not available.

Bronze Medal. A good product, better than average, but may be making in features or quality compared to higher rated products. Worth considering for purchase if you cannot find or afford a Gold or Silver Medal.

Not Recommended. These are products that we think are poor choices compared to competitors based on price, features, and construction quality.

Not Judged Yet. These are products that may be award caliber, perhaps even Gold Medal caliber, but we do not know enough about them yet to give them an award.


How We Test, Review, And Rate Thermometers

We purchase almost all of the thermometers we review. These are truly unbiased reviews. We do not make or sell anything, and our advertising is sold by third party ad networks. We are not involved in the process. Rest assured that when we recommend a product, it is really because we like it, not because someone has paid us to say so or because the company is an advertiser or sponsor. Manufacturers are never charged to have products reviewed or be included in the listings.

Bill McGrath, an electrical engineer, does all out thermometer testing, ratings, and reviews. He uses special National Institute of Standards & Technology rated and calibrated equipment to check the accuracy and speed of thermometers. He uses an ice and water bath and a boiling water bath to measure the time it takes each thermometer to go from 32° to 211°F and to go from 212° to 33°F. After we take objective measurements, we evaluate based on subjective criteria such as ergonomics, ease of use, flexibility, warranty, access to support, and build quality. Finally, we consider value when making our awards.

nist calibration machine


"The instant-read thermometer, used frequently, solves most issues." Mark Bittman, New York Times food columnist and cookbook author

BBQ Guru CyberQ Cloud

By Bill McGrath

The CyberQ Cloud is BBQ Guru's latest entry into the remote thermostatic controller market intended for use on charcoal grills or smokers. It adds a cloud connection that allows monitoring and setting most control functions from anywhere an Internet connection is available. The user interface is a web browser instead of a dedicated app that might run on a smart phone or tablet, allowing use of a home computer, as well as a smart phone, to control one's cooking session. The kit includes the control box, AC power supply, a 10 cfm fan, fan-mounting hardware, a pit probe, and a food probe. Only a phillips screwdriver is needed to assemble the fan adapter to your cooker. (My cooker is an 18.5" Weber Smokey Mountain.) A quick-start guide will get most users through the setup and basic operations, but I urge you to download the manual and read it carefully. There are features that you may not find without reading the manual. 
 
Setup is easy. The controller comes configured as a hotspot, so you can connect to it directly to perform the Wi-Fi setup or manage the unit without Internet access. This might be helpful if you're competing and there is no router available. However, you would lose the ability to use the Internet in this configuration. Normally, you would connect through the hotspot, and using the self-contained web server, tell the unit the SSID and password of your home router. This allows the unit to talk to the cloud server. You then go through a straightforward online product registration and your CyberQ Cloud will communicate with the server, giving you access from any Internet-connected computer or phone/tablet.
 
Once set up, the unit remembers the configuration, and you won't have to do it again unless you change routers. Now you can set a number of parameters, like pit temperature and desired food temps, either on the controller directly or via the web app. (The controller can monitor three food probes, but the kit comes with only one.) The controller will regulate airflow through your cooker to maintain the set temperature. You can also set a count-down timer. You can select from one of several actions when the timer reaches zero: no action (cooking continues at the previously set temperature), the pit temperature can shift to another settable temperature (like a keep-warm temp), it can sound an alarm (on the unit, not in the browser), or shut everything down completely. You can enable a temperature ramp-down feature that will lower the pit temperature as the food reaches its target temperature. An audible alarm (on the unit, not in the browser) can alert you when your food is done, too. You can configure the cloud app to send you a text message and/or an e-mail when food is done, as well as periodic updates on food and pit temperatures at a frequency of your choice. You can set a temperature band, say +/- 25º, around your pit temperature, and an alarm will sound on the controller if the temperature deviates from the set temp by more than the band tolerance. One irritation is the inability to silence the controller's audible alarms from the web app - you have to go outside and press a button. You can enable or disable open-lid detection, a feature that prevents temperature overshoot after peeking under the lid or jostling fuel.
 
To use the web app, you log into the account you created previously. Communication is automatically established when you power up your controller. You create a "cook" with the parameters you desire, and start the data recording when you're ready. The app will display a temp gauge for the pit temp and up to three food temps. The gauges self-scale so that your target temperatures are at 12 o'clock on the dial, making them easy to read. A graph of temperatures vs. time will automatically update as the cook progresses, although it sometimes seemed to stick, but a brower refresh updated the information. You can affix notes to events on the graph. The app will list the events as you create them, but it doesn't list them in order, making them a little tough to interpret. If you mouse-over the graph, additional data appears, but, alas, the time is not indicated along with the temperatures.
 
CyberQ Cloud Temperature vs Time Plot
 
(Click on the above graph to see a larger version.)
 
The graph and its associated data can be downloaded in several file formats. Here is the graph from my brisket cook. (The glitches in the graph were due to my jostling the charcoal with a poker and changing the pit temps, not faults with the equipment.) The notes are displayed, but it's up to you to keep track of what the events meant. One thing missing is a display of the pit temperature set point as a function of time on the graph, and it would be nice to see the fan's output duty cycle there, as well. You do get a numerical display of the fan's percentage of output, but it's not recorded, unfortunately.
 
The app displays information about your cooking session, like the food type and weight, for future reference. You can input environmental data like ambient temps, and they display in the app as well. You can save cooking sessions and recipes, as well as uploading photos of your food, and share them with other BBQ Guru users. The app allows you to set up or change your cook parameters, as well as manage other settings for the alarms, multiple controllers, and multiple cookers. You can upload your mug shot if you're so inclined. Unless you explicitly delete cooking sessions, everything is maintained in the cloud for future reference. Unfortunately, there is no audible alarm in the app - you'll have to rely on a text message or e-mail notifications. If you have an Amazon Alexa unit, you can set it up to monitor or control your cooking parameters.
 
There is a well-written instruction manual available for download. READ IT! You'll miss a lot of functionality if you don't. Trust me on this.
 
Overall, this is a full-featured unit that is easy to setup and use. The cloud app has a few rough edges that hopefully will be ironed out over time. The firmware can be updated automatically when connected to the Internet. I would like to see a longer tip on the food probe - 4" (10cm) is a little short. The cables are a generous 6'+ (1.8m). The product build is above average, although the wire to the fan is flimsy and would likely not survive if you tripped over it. You can run it on its AC-DC adapter (included) or from a 12VDC source. The unit does an excellent job of controlling the pit temperature. (Read the section in the manual about good fire-building practices.) The control unit and fan are warranteed for two years; the probes are waranteed for 90 days. (Keep your probes out of water.) Contact info for the manufacturer will be found in the operator's manual. Other than the few shortcomings mentioned above, there is little to complain about. It's not cheap, but nice stuff rarely is. I'll give it a Gold Medal for its feature set, performance, and build quality. 

Features:

  • Hand-held
  • Leave in Food
  • Leave in Cooker
  • Wireless Remote
  • Infrared Gun
  • Refrigerator / Freezer
  • Thermostats/Temperature Controllers

Price: 

$360.00

Where to buy (buying from these suppliers supports this website): 

BBQ Guru

Included: 

Controller, two probes, power supply, fan, fan adapter, quick-start instruction

Probes: 

Pit probe: alligator clip, cable: 76" (1.8m), food probe: diameter: 0.125" (3.2mm), length: 4" (10cm), cable: 74" (1.8m)

Min / Max: 

32 to 475ºF (0 to 246ºC)

Display precision: 

0.1º or 1º

At 130°F it actually reads: 

129°

At 225°F it actually reads: 

224°

At 325°F it actually reads: 

324°

Speed from 32°F to 212°F: 

n/a seconds

Size of numbers in display: 

0.25" (7mm)

Water resistance rating: 

Not waterproof

Alarms: 

Audible/Visible and Text/E-mail

Logging: 

In cloud

C/F Switch: 

Yes

Backlight: 

Yes

Adjustable: 

No

Auto shutoff: 

Yes

App: 

Web-based

Colors: 

Black

Sensor: 

Thermocouple

Other features: 

See narrative

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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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