How to Buy the Best In-Food And In-Cooker Thermometer

In addition to the must-have instant read thermometer, an in-food/in-cooker (IFIC) thermometer should be part of every chef's collection of tools. Why have both, you might ask? While the instant read might provide the final say as to doneness, the in-food/in-cooker unit provides a real-time progress report on the status of the cooking session. An instant read cannot be left inserted in the food while it is cooking, so you only have a readout while you're inserting the probe into the food. An IFIC, on the other hand, remains inserted during the entire cooking session, displaying the temperatures of the food(s) and the cooker simultaneously.

While all IFICs do pretty much the same thing - display real-time temperatures measured by cabled probes - they differ in how they present the information to the cook. At the most basic level, the temperature of one or more probes is displayed on a control box into which the probe cables plug. This is adequate if the cooker is located in close proximity to the cook. If not, there are several varieties of wireless remote units available. Some come with a dedicated remote that communicates with the control box. Others communicate with a smart phone via Bluetooth, but range can be a problem. At the highest level, the control box communicates with the cook's Wi-Fi router, making the temperature data available, via the cloud, on a smart device or browser anywhere an internet connection is available. Your proximity to the cooker and how immediately you need temperature feedback will determine which of these categories is most appropriate for your needs.

Some IFICs have only a single temperature probe and others have six or eight. It's nice to have a readout of the cooker's temperature in addition to the food's temperature, especially if you're dealing with a smoker whose temperature might vary considerably over a long period. With the cooker's temp covered, ask yourself how many pieces of food you'll want to monitor, and use that as a guide to how many probe channels you'll need.

All IFICs that I've seen allow you to set alarms, frequently an upper and lower value, that will alert you to wayward cooker temps or food nearing completion. Most alarms are an audible/visual signal displayed on the control box, the remote, or on your smartphone. Many units have pre-programmed temperature values for different levels of doneness for different types of meat or you can set your own values. Most pre-programmed temperatures conform to the USDA standards, values that would usually result in overcooked food. The choice is yours. For an overview of safe doneness temperatures, see our award-winning temperature guide here.

Most smartphone apps present the same info: temperature, alarm settings, and a temperature vs. time graph for each probe. The graphs are helpful in determining the onset of the stall. Some are more intuitive to navigate than others. Many allow you to save or download the graphical data; you'll have to decide how important that is to you. (I use such data when testing thermostatic controllers.)

Most IFICs operate on batteries, although some require an AC power source. Think about the availability of power at your cooker if considering the latter category.

As with instant reads, quality of construction and resistance to moisture are considerations. Cheaper units often aren't designed and built to survive a rainstorm, something to think about if you're planning to use the control box outdoors.

Prioritize your needs then use our database to find a highly-rated product to fill them. 

Meatstick Wi-Fi-Bluetooth Food Thermometer Review
The Meatstick Wi-Fi-Bluetooth Food Thermometer is a tool that allows a wireless temperature probe to communicate with a smart phone to monitor cooking progress. read more
FireBoard FBX11 Review
FireBoard has set a new standard in food thermometry. It is a remote read, cloud connected, data logger, with connections for up to six probes. It can communicate with a smart phone via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to monitor the temps of both cooker and food. It received our top rating for its full feature set and performance. read more
ThermoWorks ChefAlarm (TX-1100-XX)
The Thermoworks Chef Alarm is a leave-in-food or leave-in-oven thermometer. The display unit remains outside the cooker and displays the probe temperature, min and max temperatures, upper and lower alarm settings and has a count-down timer function. It gets a top rating for its construction, features and performance. read more
Maverick ET-733 Redi-Check
See the complete review of the ET-733 Redi-Check, a dual-probe transmitter/receiver designed for food and oven monitoring from a remote location. We gave it a Gold Medal for great performance and a full feature set. read more
Maverick XR-50 Remote Four-Probe Thermometer Review
The Maverick XR-50 is an extended-range, four-channel wireless remote food and cooker thermometer. It ships with two straight 6" probes and two straight 3" probes. It is well constructed with a robust case and heavy-duty probes, so it should stand up well. Wins a solid top rating for performance and construction. read more
ThermoWorks Smoke
The ThermoWorks "Smoke," is a two-channel, in-food/in-oven, wireless remote thermometer that is well made, easy to use, and performs very well. It has a transmitter attached to two probes and a remote receiver that you can put in your pocket. It can be operated over the Internet using the Gateway. A solid top rating! read more
BBQ Guru CyberQ Cloud Review
The CyberQ Cloud is BBQ Guru's new 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, using a browser or app. It gets our top rating. read more
Rock's Bar-B-Que Stoker II
Read our thorough review of the Rock's Stoker II, a significantly improved version of the original Stoker with new features and much better performance. This one gets a Gold Medal. read more
Maverick ET-736 Wi-Fi Roasting Thermometer
Read our review of the ET-736, Maverick’s latest entry into the remote thermometer market, and follows the very successful ET-732 and ET-733 wireless models. This unit falls short in terms of performance and features, and we do not recommend it. read more
Meater
After waiting for the product and seeing the results others have had, we are not impressed with the behavior of this company and cannot recommend their products. read more

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Bill McGrath

Bill McGrath is AmazingRibs.com's Thermometer Maven. He has sophisticated equipment, an electrical engineering degree from Cornell University, and an MBA (almost) from UC Berkeley. Despite being mostly retired, he is still the person responsible for developing and updating all of ExxonMobil's electricians' training modules.

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