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Meat is a tricky thing to cook, at least if you want to make sure it’s not alarmingly overcooked or undercooked. Even if you prefer well-done (hey, we won’t judge), you want to make sure it’s how you like it. The best meat thermometer can make sure your meal meets those exacting standards quickly and accurately.

What makes meat thermometers different?

The best meat thermometers are specifically designed to measure, well, meat temperatures. That means that they’ll have a range from quite cold up through at least 400 degrees; beyond that, you’re looking at a candy thermometer—they both display numbers but they’re not interchangeable, and not what you want for this application. 

And just like there are many cuts of meat, there are several different types of meat thermometers: digital and analog thermometers, with options ranging from under $10 to well over $100. There are probe instant-read meat thermometers, which give you a reading with a quick poke. There are leave-in meat thermometers, which may have Bluetooth or WiFi to alert you when the meat has reached a certain temperature. We’re here to lead you through all of the varieties so you can pick the best meat thermometer for you.

Related: The ultimate guide to cooking perfect wild-game steaks

So what’s the hottest meat thermometer for the average cook?

The best meat thermometer will vary for every person. If you want one to monitor the temperature of a nice brisket sitting in a smoker for eight hours, you’ll probably want a different wireless meat thermometer than someone who wants to know the temperature of a simple roast chicken (because no one wants that to be served with a side of salmonella). That said, unless you know you have a specific use case in mind, the best thermometer is likely an instant-read meat thermometer.

This type of thermometer has a digital display and a pointy probe. Using it couldn’t be simpler: jab into the thickest part of the meat—for instance, the thigh or largest breast of chicken—and it should tell you within a few seconds what the temperature is. Ideally, you want a fairly long probe, a backlit display, a folding design so you can insert it at any angle, a wide range of temperature sensing, a good build quality, and an accurate reading. You can find most of these capabilities for a very low price, but the build quality will likely suffer, and the last thing you want is flimsy plastic or poor resistance to moisture. If you can spend just a bit more, you’ll get something that’ll last for years to come.

Best probe thermometer: LavaTools Javelin PRO Duo

Perfect Probe

This thermometer will even flip its screen, so you can insert it at any angle. Lavatools

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The LavaTools Javelin Pro Duo instant-read meat thermometer checks every box we need. Users agree it’s super well-built and solid; it reads temperatures in one to three seconds; it has a large, backlit display that rotates so you can read it from any angle; and it automatically turns off when folded closed, so you never leave it running by accident. One of the cleverest features: it also has magnets inside, so you can stick it to a knife strip or refrigerator for easy access.

Do I need a Bluetooth meat thermometer?

Bluetooth meat thermometers have become more popular as the technology evolved to become a more reliable, data-rich connection. Here are the basics: you leave the actual meat thermometer inside the meat, whether that’s in an oven or grill, then you set the thermometer, using an app, to alert you when the internal temperature has reached your desired level. Then walk away! Have a drink, read a book, hang out with friends—you’ll get pinged when it’s time to eat. Some wireless meat thermometers, such as the Yummly, even offer assisted  cooking for certain types of protein, so you don’t have to Google “how hot should my fish be before I eat it.”

Best Bluetooth meat thermometer: MEATER Plus

Long-Range Connection

This thermometer boasts a 165-foot range, so you can get alerts from far away. MEATER

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Bluetooth meat thermometers are great for low and slow cooking, like smoking or barbecue. The MEATER Plus allows you to leave the probe inside the meat and walk away; an app on your phone, connected to the probe by Bluetooth, will alert you when it’s reached the desired temperature. This particular Bluetooth meat thermometer comes with a full-featured app to guide you through all kinds of preparations, plus an extra-long range so you can go grab a drink while the meat is on. This leave-in meat thermometer isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for.

What about WiFi meat thermometers?

WiFi meat thermometers come with a few advantages over their Bluetooth counterparts in the wireless meat thermometer arena. Because they’re connected to the entire Internet rather than just wirelessly paired with your phone, they can send alerts to any device, no matter where it is, as long as that device is also connected to the Internet. That makes it great for those who don’t want to mess with ensuring that they stay within the Bluetooth radius of their cooking meat.

Best WiFi meat thermometer: InkBird IBBQ-4T

Solid Connection

With four separate probes, you can monitor multiple meats.
Inkbird

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Bluetooth is an inexpensive and easy way to connect to your phone, but it does have some issues—namely in range. You can opt for a wireless meat thermometer with WiFi instead, which means that it can send you updates on your phone wherever you are; you don’t even have to be on the same network as a WiFi meat thermometer, as long as you have a cell connection. This InkBird WiFi meat thermometer features four probes, all with separate alarms, and 12 modes ranging from cold smoke to fish to lamb.

Are wired meat thermometers good?

Wired meat thermometers are a slightly older style than wireless. The probe is attached to a display with a cable; you leave the probe inserted into the meat while it cooks, and run the cable through the edges of a closed oven door or grill cover. Then you can simply place the display anywhere nearby. The advantage is that they’re often quite cheap and don’t require you to open any cooking appliances (releasing heat and disrupting an even temperature). In addition, there’s no risk of missing an alert owing to Internet issues. On the other hand, you do have to be nearby to see or hear the alarm go off.

Best wired meat thermometer: ThermoPro TP-16

Always Works

With a wired connection, you never have to worry about phone notifications. ThermoPro

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Wired connections can be perfect for slow roasting. This leave-in meat thermometer comes with a 40-inch cable connecting the display/timer to the sensor probe; you simply run the cable out past the oven door and place the display/timer on a nearby counter (or fridge, as it’s magnetic). The wired nature reduces the price and decreases the problem of a disconnected phone, but it does mean you have to be nearby to hear the timer when it goes off.

Do I have to spend a lot of money on a meat thermometer?

Luckily, there are plenty of budget meat thermometers out there that’ll do the job almost as well for exceedingly low prices; we’re talking under $20 here. You’ll be missing some of the more advanced features, like Bluetooth or WiFi, and they’ll likely be slightly flimsier in terms of materials. But sometimes that doesn’t really matter: you can still get an accurate reading with the best budget thermometers.

Best budget thermometer: ThermoPro TP-03

Great Price

With a magnet inside, you can slap it on the fridge for storage. ThermoPro

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The ThermoPro TP-03 is a simple probe thermometer at a preposterously low price, but it packs an astounding array of features. It has a backlit screen, auto-shutoff feature, accurate readings, and even a magnetic back and hook so you can hang it easily. This instant-read meat thermometer is a touch slower than more expensive options, at 3-5 seconds per reading, but considering its price, that’s an easy trade-off.

Worth a look: Yummly Premium Wireless Smart Meat Thermometer

Bluetooth Connection

Use the preset meat, fish, and poultry programs to make sure your food is done right every time. Yummly

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Yummly’s Smart meat thermometer comes with built-in timers and alerts so that you don’t have to stand by your food as you wait for it to cook. Its Bluetooth connection allows you to control your cooking from up to 150 feet away, and the stainless steel probe keeps tabs on your meat for you. Charge it easily in the magnetic dock once you’re done. You’ll get reliable and consistent results whether you’re using it in an oven, BBQ, smoker, or a pan.

FAQs

Q: Do professional chefs use meat thermometers?

Whether professional chefs use meat thermometers depends on the chef and the dish. According to this thread on Reddit, chefs who work the grill station at a steakhouse might not. After all, they’re cooking the same meats, in the same sizes, from the same purveyors, the same way, dozens of times per day, every day. When you do something that often, you develop a feel for it. But others say that they definitely do: when trying something new or something you don’t do very often, a meat thermometer is absolutely a chef-approved tool.

Q: Are meat thermometers worth it?

Meat thermometers are definitely worth it. They aren’t necessarily very expensive, and they’re the perfect way to ensure both doneness and safety. If you want a medium-rare steak, you can go by feel, but that involves a lot of guesswork, and nobody likes an overcooked (or raw) steak. On the other hand, for something like chicken, there are very real health risks for undercooking the meat. A meat thermometer takes the guesswork out: no more cutting and peering into the cut for color. Just jab and observe.

Q: What is the most accurate meat thermometer?

Most meat thermometers, at this point, are fairly accurate. ThermaPro’s meat thermometers when tested are shown to be quite accurate and are available at several different price points. There is, however, one issue with most, if not all, instant-read thermometers: conduction stoves. If you have one of these, make sure to turn it off before taking a measurement, as the magnetic waves conduction stoves use can throw off a read.

Related: Great grill accessories

The final word on why you should grab a meat thermometer

The best meat thermometer, really, is the one you have. If you want to grab a wireless meat thermometer (whether it’s a Bluetooth meat thermometer or WiFi meat thermometer) or any of the other higher-end options, great! But a standard instant-read probe thermometer can quickly become an invaluable tool in any meat-cooker’s kitchen (or grill setup).

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