Why Use a Digital Grill Thermometer?
The top performers in our review are the iGrill 2, the Gold Award winner; the Ivation Wireless BBQ Thermometer, the Silver Award winner; and the Maverick ET-735, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a digital grill thermometer to meet your needs, along with information on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 thermometers.
When it comes to cooking on an open flame, there is plenty of room for error. How many times have you been distracted while cooking something and ended up with a charred, dry, bitter piece of meat or, on the other end of the spectrum, thought something was done only to cut into it and find you need to cook it longer. A digital grill thermometer takes the guesswork out of grilling. With a digital BBQ thermometer and some practice, you can cook juicy, flavorful meat that's on par to that of your favorite restaurant.
Besides cooking succulent meat, an investment in a grill thermometer can prevent the spread of foodborne illness and keep your friends and family healthy and happy. Some people use methods, such as the finger or poke test, to check the degree of doneness for meat. If you aren't familiar with these methods, the theory is if you poke a steak with your finger you can tell how cooked or done it is by comparing it to the firmness of the fleshy part of your hand at the base of your thumb. Not only are these methods old wives' tales, but they are unreliable and can lead to underdone foods and food poisoning. Further, different cuts of meat, for example, fattier steaks compress differently on the grill than leaner cuts. There's only one precise method for determining the doneness of meat and that is a thermometer.
Some cooks shy away from thermometers for fear that the juices will drain out once a thermometer is inserted, leaving the meat dry. However, the loss of juices from a thermometer probe is negligible especially when you compare it with the loss of juices from overcooking a steak due to guesswork.
Whether you are cooking chicken, steak or a slab of ribs, you should know that the internal temperature of food directly correlates with its level of doneness. For instance, when cooking poultry, its internal temperature should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Pork on the other hand, should be 145 degrees Fahrenheit before being safe to eat.
There are several variables to consider in grilling. For example, a turkey leg takes much longer than a hamburger. With fish, different portions are thicker at certain points. Even if your barbecued chicken breasts are sitting next to each other on the grill, you can bet they will cook at a different rate, because your grill is likely to have hot and cold spots.
As you can see, the only way to be 100 percent certain your food is perfectly cooked is to take its temperature. And we don't mean using the thermometer on your grill – that thermometer only tells you the temperature of the grill, not food.
What Is Important in Selecting a Digital Grill Thermometer?
There are several different types of digital grill thermometers. The most common are wireless probe thermometers. Instant read digital meat thermometers are also an option if you want to get a reading as fast as possible and aren't smoking or cooking something for a long time.
Also, it's important not to confuse a digital grill thermometer with a meat thermometer. Meat thermometers also come in wireless probe and instant-read versions as well as infrared models. You'll want to ensure your digital grill thermometer's display is easy to read and that you don't need to pick up extra batteries or accessories like a probe.
Although instant-read thermometers are extremely accurate and fast at reading temperatures, they did not fit our ranking criteria. We instead focused on wireless probe thermometers, which allow you to step away from the grill while your meat is cooking.
How We Tested Thermometers
A grill thermometer saves you embarrassment from having to take back and reheat a piece of undercooked meat. To help you choose the best digital grill thermometer, we undertook several tests.
We tested several digital grill thermometers while grilling steak. We used a stopwatch to measure how long it took each thermometer to register a change in temperature. When grilling a steak, every second counts and leaving the slab of meat on for just a moment too long can mean the difference between a medium-rare and medium steak.
Many digital grill thermometers have built-in temperature presets and doneness levels for several types of meat. This ranges from poultry to beef to fish and wild game, among others. We tested the functionality of these thermometers to grill four steaks to four degrees of doneness – rare, medium-rare, medium and medium-well.
Manufacturers provide their own specifications and data, such as response time, battery life and accuracy. Response time is measured after the thermometer calculates 62.3 percent of the temperature. This means it actually takes longer to get a true reading than the response time manufacturers advertise. For instance, the Grill-Right Bluetooth thermometer by Oregon Scientific takes at least 15 seconds to display a full reading.
One feature of several thermometers we ranked is the ability to pair the device with your smartphone or tablet. Manufacturers offer a downloadable app to complement the thermometer. We downloaded each of these apps and analyzed them.
Digital Grilling Thermometers: Our Verdict and Recommendations
Just as you face confusion in deciding whether or not to remove your meat from the grill, you may be perplexed about which grill thermometer to purchase. There are several types of grill thermometers available that offer an array of different features. The iGrill2 is the most accurate digital grill thermometer, and it has a rapid response time, so you know what the temperature of your food is in only three seconds. It's also the easiest to use of all the thermometers we tested.
The Ivation Wireless BBQ Thermometer has one of the longest wireless ranges of our top-ranked digital grill thermometers – 300 feet. You also get a one-year warranty with this thermometer, which is much better than the typical 90-day warranty that comes with many others.
Another one of the best grill thermometers is the Maverick ET-735, which also has a response time of three seconds and is easy to use. It comes with two probes, and it can support up to four, so you can monitor several cuts of meat at once.
The best digital grilling thermometers support multiple probes. Several come with two probes, and others require you to spend money for additional probes. If you don't have a thermometer with multiple probes, you'll want to ensure that your meat is cut to the same thickness. This way, when you are checking the temperature for a single cut of meat, there is a higher probability that the temperatures are close. However, grills have multiple hot spots, so your food will almost certainly have different temperatures. That's why a second probe is so helpful.
Although you currently may not think a digital grilling thermometer is as imperative as silverware or even grilling tongs, a thermometer not only helps grill perfect meat every time, but it can prevent your family and friends from getting ill.