Best Thermometers For Food And Cooking

In early 2014 Consumer Reports tested more than 300 chicken samples from around the nation and found that 90% contained pathogenic bacteria and half of them had antibiotic resistant strains. CR said "It's vital that you check [chicken] using a meat thermometer."

This database contains more than 140 thermometers. 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.

Click here to read how thermometers work, how to use them, and why some are better than others

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 turkey and a dry chalky bird is just a few degrees. Two pork chops sitting side by side can cook at different rates. The breast and thigh of a chicken are usually different temps. Cooking four burgers? They're all slightly different temps because your grill has hot spots. 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. Poking a hole will not dry out the meat. Our recommendations:

New Thermapen Mk4

thermapen mk4 Best Value Gold MedalThe "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.

Click here to read our test results, our full review, and for info on where to buy it

Click here to go to their website and order the new Thermapen MK4 now

Thermoworks Super Fast ThermoPop

thermopop thermometer Best Value Gold MedalIntroduced 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.

Click here to read our test results, our full review, and for info on where to buy it

Click here to go to their website and order it now

Maverick DT-09GG Instant Read Digital Thermometer with a Compact Meat Temperature Guide Magnet Best Value Gold MedalThis 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 Compact Meat Temperature Magnet by Meathead. This thermometer is bundled with the Award Winning Compact Meat Temperature Guide Magnet by Meathead.

Click here to read our test results, our full review, and for info on where to buy it

Click here to order it now directly from Amazon with the refrigerator magnet bundled

IMPORTANT NOTE: This thermometer is bundled with the Award Winning Compact Meat Temperature Guide Magnet by Meathead. There are other companies that sell this thermometer, but this link and this link only has the magnet included.

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 Best Value Gold Medal

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.

Click here to read our test results, our full review, and for info on where to buy it

Click here to go to their website and order it and additional probes now

Thermoworks DOT

The DOT Best Value Gold Medal

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.

Click here to read our test results, our full review, and info on where to buy it

Click here to go to their website a order it and additional probes directly now

Thermoworks Smoke

thermoworks smoke Best Value Gold Medal

Two thermometers in one, this very cool tool and I highly recommend it. Introduced in October 2016, Smoke goes head to head with the Maverick ET-732 (below) and the iGrill2. Smoke has two modules, a transmitter and receiver. The transmitter and receiver talk to each other over radio frequency. This means you can go as far as 300 feet away from the transmitter. RF is sooooo much better than Bluetooth. A wifi gateway is promised soon. With two probes, both can be left in the food or in the grill/smoker/oven, or one can go in each. The menus are really intuitive and the user interface couldn't be simpler -- take out of the box and get grilling immediately. It is much more user friendly than the competition. Comes with 2 rapid read thin probes with protective braided stainless steel and strain reliefs. Solidly built, water resistant but not water proof. All it lacks is a timer. $40 more expensive than the Maverick ET-732 and the same price as iGrill2. It can be paired with unlimited receivers according to ThermoWorks (at $45 each). A wireless gateway that sends your temps to the cloud and smartphones is scheduled to be released by Spring 2017 for $89!

Click here to read our full review with test results and where to buy it

Click here to order direct from Thermoworks.

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

maverick et-732 Best Value Gold Medal

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. Or both can go into the food or just sit in the 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.

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.

Click here to read our test results, our full review, and for info on where to buy it as well as replacement probes including the new probes with 6' cables

Click here to buy it now directly from Amazon

IMPORTANT NOTE: This thermometer is bundled with the Award Winning Compact Meat Temperature Guide Magnet by Meathead. There are other companies that sell this thermometer, but this link and this link only has the magnet included.

FireBoard FBX11

Fireboard fbx11 Best Value Gold Medal

This is the ultimate pro-grade leave-in thermometer with 6 thermocouple probe ports. We use it when we test grills for hotspots. The meter is small, about the size of a pack of cigs, it runs on a rechargeable battery for 24 hours plus, and it talks to your phone, tablet and computer. It draws a graph that you can view in real time and download as a csv file to open in a spreadsheet, and it remembers all your cooks and keeps all the data.

Click here to read our test results

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 Compact Meat Temperature Magnet

maverick gun thermometer for bbq Best Value Gold Medal

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 Compact Meat Temperature Guide Magnet by Meathead.

Click here to read our test results and review of the Maverick LT-03 Infrared Laser Guided Thermometer

Click here to order it now direct from Amazon

IMPORTANT NOTE: This thermometer is bundled with the Award Winning Compact Meat Temperature Guide Magnet by Meathead. There are other companies that sell this thermometer, but this link and this link only has the magnet included.

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 Best Value Gold Medal

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

Click here to read our test results and review of the Auber SYL-1615 Thermostatic Controller

Click here to order it now direct from Amazon

Some old-fashioned thermometers are good quality

Liquid thermometers can be very accurate, but they are slow. Only the best dial thermometers can be accurate and only a handful can be adjusted if needed.

CDN Refrigerator & Freezer Thermometer

refrigerator thermometer Best Value Gold Medal

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. 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.

Click here to read our test results and review of the CDN Refrigerator & Freezer Thermometer and info on where to buy it

Click here to order this now directly from Amazon

Tel-Tru BQ300 BBQ Thermometer

tel-tru bbq thermometer Best Value Gold Medal

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.

Click here to read our test results, our full review, and for info on where to buy it

Click here to buy it now directly from Amazon

"Buy the best thermometers and you'll only cry once."

Greg Rempe, BBQCentral Radio
dial thermometers are unreliable
How to use our comprehensive buying guide and reviews of thermometers for barbecue, for cooking, for food, for the oven, for the grill and for the smoker. read more
Read our comprehensive test of the Lavatools Javelin Pro, a full-featured, hand-held, instant-read thermometer with very good accuracy and quick response times. We gave it a Gold Medal for its performance, construction and accuracy, making it an excellent buy for the serious cook. read more
Read our complete review of the Gold Medal-winning iCelsius Wireless, a Wi-Fi connected thermometer that communicates with smart devices such as an iPhone or Android or your computer using a browser. There are a number of accessory probes available, with more on the way. read more
Read our review of the iCelsius BBQ and Cooking Thermometer, an accessory for some Apple iPhones that won a Gold Medal. It's a plug-and-play accessory that automatically launches its app when plugged into your phone, allowing you to monitor your food or cooker temperatures. read more
Read our detailed review of the Engelbrecht 10776-03290, a very accurate dial thermometer intended to read cooker temperature that received a Gold Medal. Most of the dial thermometers installed as original equipment on most grills are not accurate, but this one is a good replacement that works well. read more
Here is a comprehensive review of the Cooper DFP450W a relatively inexpensive thermometer that features excellent accuracy, fast response time, and several nice features. We gave it a Gold Medal for its performance and price, making it an excellent choice for the cook on a budget. read more
Read our quick review of the CDN Refrigerator and Freezer Thermometer that received a Gold Medal. Food safety is important, and spoilage and illness are a real risk if your refrigerator and freezer don't maintain safe temperatures. read more
Read our review of the CDN DTQ450X, an inexpensive instant-read food thermometer with very good accuracy and a rapid response time. We gave this unit a Gold Medal for its performance, making it a good choice for quick temperature readings at a very reasonable price. read more
See our detailed test and evaluation of the BBQ Guru CyberQ WiFi thermostatic controller that received a Gold Medal for its full feature set, ease of use, and good performance. This electronic controller regulates the temperature of wood-fired or charcoal cookers during those long barbecue sessions. read more
Read our comprehensive review of the Auber SYL-1615 thermostatic controller that we gave a Gold Medal for its ease of use and excellent performance. It automatically regulates the temperature in charcoal or wood-fired cookers as fuel is consumed during those long barbecue sessions. read more

consumer reports on chicken safety

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About the features, specs, and technical terms

Adjustable. The accuracy of some thermometers can drift, and these thermometers can 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 Wi-Fi 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 a final reading and because the sensor can be 1/2" long or more they cannot 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, which generally makes these bi-metal dial thermometers both unreliable and misleading.

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

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

IR (infrared) sensors. Infrared-sensing thermometers measure the energy radiated from a warm surface and convert it to a temperature reading. Some surfaces emit more infrared at a given temperature than others, so some units allow the user to adjust the emissivity setting to fine-tune the accuracy of the thermometer. This should rarely be necessary unless very high accuracy is needed. These units are useful for determining the temperature of a cooking surface like a skillet or griddle.

Liquid filled thermometers. Old-fashioned liquid filled thermometers are very small glass tubes filled with a liquid that sits in a bulb at the bottom. As it warms, the liquid expands. These thermometers 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 they are within plus or minus 3°F of the target temperature. 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 different probes, the Min/Max can vary with the probe.

Oven. We often use the term "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. This type of thermometer often comes pre-inserted in your Thanksgiving turkey. Although there is a chance that it will be accurate, the thermometer will read only one small part of the turkey, may stick, and will likely be set to a high temperature that is meant to prevent litigation rather than produce a juicy bird. The popup thermometer is often to blame when your turkey tastes like cardboard. Throw it out.

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

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

Speed. We measure how long it takes the thermometer to go from 32°F to 211°F and from 212°F to 33°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 takes five times that. So if they say the time constant is 0.6 seconds, as does the manufacturer of the Thermapen, the unit will be precise with a full reading in about 3 seconds. Another factor to consider 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 and precise read in 2.5 seconds. 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 consists mostly of water, reads faster than bread, which consists mostly of air. That is because water is a better conductor than air.

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. These sensors are best for leaving in large roasts and ovens 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, making them 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 quantifies protection against solids like dust, and the second digit quantifies protection against liquids. The digits range from IP00 to IP68. If a thermometer is rated IP65, it was tested and found to be 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 Meat Temperature Guide along 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 lacking 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 our thermometer testing, ratings, and reviews. He uses special equipment calibrated and rated by the National Institute of Standards & Technology to check the accuracy and speed of thermometers. He uses an ice 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 taking objective measurements, he evaluates based on subjective criteria such as ergonomics, ease of use, flexibility, warranty, access to support, and build quality. Finally, we consider value when giving our awards.

nist calibration machine

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

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