Grilling at its simplest is just you, some fire, and a good piece of meat. But if you want to really up your game you’re going to want some tools. There are quite a few that make grilling easier and more of a precise art (still not quite a science) and first and foremost among those is one of the simplest: the meat thermometer.
Especially for chicken and grilled pork, there is an optimal safe temperature to cook them to which kills all bacteria, and gauging that from sight can be hard. Even for steaks (which are safe to eat with only a very light searing), a meat thermometer can be used to accurately gauge the doneness of the steak without needing to cut it open and potentially ruin it.
Today we’re going to take a quick look at some great meat thermometers and a look at what kind of criteria I use to choose them.
Our Top Choice...
For the complete product list, please continue reading...
Reviews of the Best Digital Meat Thermometers
1. Best overall - ThermoPro TP03 Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
This is an excellent thermometer with a high performance and great coverage for a reasonable price.
The temperature range for reading is great, reading anything between -58 degrees Fahrenheit and 572 degrees Fahrenheit; perfect for any kind of cooking you’re likely to do. It’s accurate to under a degree of the actual temperature, making it a highly reliable thermometer in any circumstance.
It’s easy to use and fits very comfortably in the hand, with a satisfyingly large probe for accurate readings from a comfortable distance.
It folds up very small and stores easily, either in a drawer or on a hook via the convenient loop at the end.
I especially like the automatic shutoff feature. It helps save energy by shutting off after 10 minutes of a single readout showing.
Overall it’s hard to find a better package than this. It’s inexpensive with impeccable performance in a compact, easy to use, and comfortable package. The 3 year warranty is gravy on this thermometer, making it easy to replace or refund a defective variant of it.
Easy to use.
Comfortable in the hand.
Folds to store up small.
Automatic shutoff for saving energy.
Magnetic backing is a bit annoying for storage with other kitchen utensils.
2. Best Instant Read Thermometer - Kizen Instant Read Meat Thermometer
This is a hugely convenient thermometer. The performance is what I expect from great meat thermometers like this, with a -58 degrees Fahrenheit to 572 degrees Fahrenheit temperature range it’s suitable for any cooking task you’d care to test it on.
It comes with quite a few great features, including options for switching between Fahrenheit and Celsius temperature readouts, and it has handy temperature guidelines for different kinds of meat listed right on the body of the thermometer, which makes remembering the proper temperature for different kinds of food far easier, especially for things you don’t cook very often.
This meat thermometer is very comfortable to hold, with ergonomic ridges placed along the body of the thermometer, and a convenient hook for hanging on the wall, while remaining small enough to put in a pocket.
On top of all that, this thermometer is waterproof, making it easy to wash; just throw it under some warm water in the sink and give it a quick scrub.
This thermometer is fast, instantly reading the temperature of whatever you put it into, while remaining highly accurate to a variety of temperature ranges and maintaining an inexpensive price. An excellent buy for any home chef.
Incredibly easy to use.
Backlit for easy reading in the dark.
Excellent temperature range (-58 degrees to 572 degrees Fahrenheit, or -50 to 300 degrees Celsius).
Waterproof for easy cleaning and no worries about mishaps.
Loop is a little large; it makes it easy to pull from a pocket or drawer but harder to hang anywhere.
3. Best wireless - ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Cooking Food Meat Thermometer
This is one of the best wireless digital meat probes on the market. Rather than being instant read models (like the above), this is for sustained readings over long periods of cooking.
The overall construction of this one is top notch, being made to be incredibly durable and rugged. You could drop this on the ground with little worry of it breaking from fairly large heights due to its thick and insulated plastic construction.
The thermometer provides 9 great presets for different kinds of meat at various levels of doneness, and allows for manual setting as well, giving you a great amount of versatility for monitoring just about anything.
The wireless connection gives you a lot of freedom to set up and walk away from whatever you’re cooking, bringing the primary module with you up to 300 feet away from its opposite end. The accurate stepped down meat probes will stick into whatever you’re cooking and alert you when the optimal temperature is reached. No matter the temperature you’re cooking at these probes and their wires are safe; they can withstand temperatures up to 716 degrees Fahrenheit without issue.
This thermometer lacks the spot reading utility of our winner and the Kizen instant read thermometer, which excel at reading the temperature of relatively thin cuts of meat like steaks. Instead it excels at reading things like whole chickens, racks of ribs, flank steak, briskets, roasts, anything that takes long periods of cooking to be brought to their optimal cooked temperature for safe consumption.
This is a better buy for the slow cooker or smoker champion, rather than a griller who primarily makes distinct cuts of meat shine with quick searing.
Read also: ThermoPro TP-08s vs TP20.
Operating range of over 300 feet is convenient and easy to use.
9 presets give you quick setup so you can get right to cooking.
Rugged and durable design gives this thermometer a long lifespan and a lot of impact protection.
High quality meat probes are accurate and can survive extreme temperatures.
Lacks instant read capability, and probes are thick enough to make poking a steak or something similar a problem.
4. Best Waterproof Meat Thermometer - GDEALER DT09 Waterproof Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
This meat thermometer is an excellent instant read model.
It has a great temperature range, from -58 degrees to 572 degrees Fahrenheit (-50 degrees to 300 degrees Celsius), and provides great options for swapping between the two on the fly easily at the press of a button
The handle is ergonomic and easy to hold, while it folds up tightly to store in small spaces. The provided hook makes it easy to hang and pull out of your apron pocket while being small enough to keep it tightly restrained when it’s hung somewhere.
The thermometer itself is pretty good, with a stepped design that allows for faster and more accurate readings; it can give you a reading in as low as 2 seconds, or only as many as 4 seconds total.
The accuracy unfortunately could use a little work. It’s accurate to within 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degrees Celsius), while its competitors are often accurate to within under a single degree Fahrenheit.
It’s hard to recommend this one, unfortunately. The performance is good for the price…but it’s simply worse than the ThermoPro TP03 or Kizen Instant Read. Even the waterproof property of it (which is a huge plus) is made redundant by the Kizen, which is also waterproof.
While also versatile (it can double as a candy thermometer or something in a real pinch) it just doesn’t compare in raw performance to others on this list, and it doesn’t even have a vastly lower price to justify it.
Good temperature range for reading.
Ergonomic and comfortable.
Easy to use.
Multiple temperature options and settings.
Convenient ring on the end fits both fingers and hooks.
Temperature reading accuracy is lacking compared to competitors.
5. Best for Smoker Oven - ThermoPro TP-16 Large LCD Digital Cooking Food Meat Thermometer
While in many ways lesser in every regard to the ThermoPro TP 20 (it’s less durable, has fewer and lower quality meat probes, no wireless view, and less clear controls), this is still an excellent meat thermometer for using to cook meats for long periods of time, particularly for oven roasting and smoking.
The thermometer does have quite a few well made presets (which can be customized to your own tastes) and reads accurately, though the meat probes are slender and less accurate than some other models (though do still have a proper stepped down design for easy insertion and more accurate readings).
It should also be noted that while its performance (and especially convenience) are far less than the TP 20 its price is also a fraction what the TP 20 will typically run you, so this is an excellent budget buy that still provides excellent performance.
It’s accurate to within 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t the greatest; though certainly better for a smoker thermometer than an instant read one. It has very nice range on its wires (up to 40 inches) which makes it easy to stick the probe wherever you need to without hitting the end of your wire.
The warranty also deserves special note, with a default 1 year warranty (upped to 3 by registering the thermometer) with customer support you can take advantage of 5 days a week.
It also effective when smoking turkey. Read our article to learn more in smoking a turkey.
Fairly accurate reading.
Good cable length.
Easy to use.
Safe for use at any standard cooking temperature.
Excellent for smokers.
Excellent price point for the performance; good value.
Less durable with poorer quality meat probes than the TP 20 from the same brand.
6. Best Meat Thermometer On a Budget - Habor 022 Meat Thermometer
This meat probe is as simplistic as you can get. In many ways it’s not too bad. The temperature range is the standard I look for (-58 degrees Fahrenheit to 572 degrees Fahrenheit; -50 degrees to 300 degrees Celsius) with accuracy that is fine enough; within a degree Celsius, which means within about 1 degree Fahrenheit. They lose points with me for deceptive product description as well, using Fahrenheit as the standard unit of measurement everywhere in the description…except when talking about the temperature accuracy, where they use Celsius. Poor form.
The probe is satisfyingly long, clocking in at 4.7 inches. It does not fold up, needing to be put into a sheath when not in use, which is a bit of a pain. It is not oven safe and cannot be used as a long term meat probe.
The loop at the end is small, making it easy to hang on a hook, but honestly that seems like a bad idea given the relatively loose fitting sheath it comes with.
Response time is fairly low for an instant read thermometer as well, coming in at 4 to 6 seconds. If the reading was exceptionally accurate I’d take that without complaint, but as is it’s unimpressive.
All in all it’s difficult to recommend this meat thermometer for anyone. Even for its extremely low price it’s outperformed by others on this list in the same general price point, and lacks the convenience of those models as well. It’s not bad, just not good enough.
Relatively accurate temperature reading.
Very low price.
Uncomfortably small handle.
Non-folding meat probe.
Loose fitting sheath.
Deceptive product description.
Less than useful hook.
All around unimpressive even for the low price point.
7. Lavatools PT12 Javelin Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
This is an interesting one from Lavatools. The temperature range could definitely be better; it goes from -40 degrees (both Fahrenheit and Celsius) and up to 250 degrees Celsius and 482 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s got a good response time, giving you an accurate reading within 3 to 4 seconds, and is precise to within .9 degrees Fahrenheit.
The loop is nice for drawing it out of the pocket, and the magnetic backing is quite strong, making it easy to store on the side of the oven, refrigerator, or other metal surface for easy storage.
It’s quite sturdy and easy to hold, with a large readouts with a good sized font. No backlighting, unfortunately, so it’s a bit harder to use in the dark.
As an added bonus, it comes in a variety of nice colors (not just this red) so you can pick one that fits your kitchen aesthetic the best.
It wouldn’t be my first choice for meat thermometer, especially given that its temperature range is so much lower than others, and its price is a bit higher than I’d like, but it’s not the worst I’ve seen. The main issue with the temperature range is it ends up much less good for other purposes (like uses as a candy thermometer) but is fine for any kind of meat you’d care to cook.
Easy to read.
Comfortable in the hand.
Comes in a variety of nice colors.
Easy to store with its powerful magnetic backing.
Low temperature range.
A bit expensive for what it offers.
ThermoPro is the star of this list with three great models: the TP 03, the TP 16, and the TP 20. They provide a lot of variety and performance for great prices and a wide range of functions. Each is great for a different job with excellent meat probes and a variety of settings that get the job done.
A close second is the Kizen, which is an excellent instant read thermometer with great performance and a nice waterproof body.
The others are a range of okay to good models (save for the Habor 022, which I can’t recommend for purchase at all), but pale in comparison to those, and have some flaws which put them out of the running for real recommendations.
Read also how you can use this thermometer in smoking sausage.
How Do I Find The Right Meat Thermometer?
A meat thermometer needs to be, above all else easy to use. This falls into a few different sub-categories.
What Does It Mean to Be Easy to Use?
It should be comfortable to hold, first off. An ergonomic grip is important not just for comfort but for grippiness. You need to be able to hold the thermometer perfectly still to get an accurate reading, and the easier it is to hold the easier it is to use.
It should also have an easy to navigate menu and presets if it has them, with large buttons and clear readouts for all the numbers. It doesn’t hurt to be able to swap between Fahrenheit and Celsius as needed.
What Else Do You Look For?
A long probe is always a plus, since it keeps your fingers further away from what you’re measuring. Anything longer than 4.5 inches is good.
There’s a standard temperature range most meat thermometers hit, which is -58 degrees to 572 degrees Fahrenheit (or -50 to 300 degrees Celsius). Anything that doesn’t hit that should be considered subpar.
Any extras are nice. This can include being waterproof as a simple one. Magnetic backings are usually pretty nice so long as they’re strong enough to get a good grip on wherever you put it.
More advanced (but more expensive) models can have all number of extra features. Extra long meat probes with really long wires are common, which give a more accurate reading. Some can be used for long term monitoring, making them especially good for deep frying and smoking meat; just stick them in and keep an eye on the temperature until it gets to the perfect one.
You thankfully don’t have to worry too much about price with meat thermometers. The standard instant read models are fairly inexpensive; usually under $20. The long term meat thermometers for smoking tend to be a bit more expensive, and might run you as much as around the $50 range, so keep that in mind.
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