Best Meat Thermometers 2018

Linda Thomson ·
Writer/Reviewer
Updated
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We spent 80 hours testing meat thermometers using a standardized methodology, noting everything from ease of use to accuracy to price. We especially liked the modestly priced CDN ProAccurate Thermometer DTQ450X. This meat thermometer is inexpensive but tough. It is also accurate – CDN advertises that it stays within 2 degrees Fahrenheit of the actual temperature, and our tests confirmed that’s true.    

Best Overall
CDN ProAccurate Thermometer DTQ450X
The inexpensive but strong CDN ProAccurate Thermometer DTQ450X meat thermometer yields accurate temperatures, has a waterproof and shatterproof probe, and is easy tote around with its sheath and pocket clip.
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Best Value
Polder Stable-Read THM-389-90
The Polder Stable-Read THM-389-90 meat thermometer takes up little space and accurately measures temperatures between -49 and 392 degrees Fahrenheit. Its petite size makes it easy to store.
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Best Meat Thermometer to Splurge On
ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4
The ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 meat thermometer is highly accurate, has easy-to-adjust settings and registers the temperature exceptionally fast. It’s expensive but worth the money if you feel like splurging.
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Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Pricing & Warranty
Performance
Convenience
Warranty
Accuracy
Average Reading Time (seconds)
Temperature Range
Ease of Use
Length of Probe
Battery
Batteries Included
Automatic Shutoff Time
Temperature Reconfiguration
Water- and Splash-Resistant
Illuminated Display
Sound Alerts or Alarms
$14.87 Amazon Marketplace
5 4.7 4.8
5 Years
±2°F
19.6 inches
-40 to 450ºF
0.9
5 inches
LR44
10:00 mm:ss
$29 Thermoworks
3.2 3.8 4.8
2 Years
±0.7°F
3.6 inches
-58ºF to 572ºF
0.9
4.5 inches
CR2032
10:00 mm:ss
$8.18 Amazon
4 4.9 4.8
1 Year
±1°F
18.4 inches
-40ºF to 450ºF
0.9
5 inches
LR44
10:00 mm:ss
$10.1 Amazon Marketplace
4.2 4.5 5
1 Year
±2°F
19.8 inches
32ºF to 392ºF
0.85
3.75 inches
CR2032
05:00 mm:ss
$58.79 Amazon Marketplace
3.8 4.9 4.8
5 Years
±1.8°F
8 inches
-58ºF to 572ºF
0.9
4.25 inches
2 x CR2032
10:00 mm:ss
$15.95 Amazon Marketplace
4 4.7 4.4
1 Year
±2°F
14.4 inches
-49ºF to 392ºF
0.9
4.5 inches
CR2032
10:00 mm:ss
$22.95 Bonanza
4.9 3.2 4.8
Lifetime
±0.9°F
8.4 inches
32ºF to 482ºF
0.9
2.75 inches
CR2032
00:00 mm:ss
$19.95 Amazon Marketplace
4 5 2.9
2 Years
±1°F
8.8 inches
-40ºF to 572ºF
0.9
4 inches
2 AAA
00:00 mm:ss
$99 Thermoworks
4.2 4.9 5
2 Years
±2°F
7.4 inches
-58 to 572ºF
1
4.5 inches
CR2032
10:00 mm:ss
$20.99 Amazon Marketplace
4 4.5 2.2
1 Year
±2°F
31 inches
0ºF to 392ºF
0.75
7 inches
2 AAA
00:00 mm:ss
Best Overall
The CDN ProAccurate Thermometer DTQ450X is a sturdy, portable and inexpensive meat thermometer.
Our testing showed it accurately measures temperatures between -40 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit, consistently giving us readings within 2 degrees of the actual temperature. The thermometer also has a simple self-calibration feature – you just put the probe in ice water and push a button. The CDN ProAccurate Thermometer DTQ450X took a bit longer than other thermometers to register a temperature – almost 20 seconds as opposed to its advertised six-second reading time. This sturdy meat thermometer is made of stainless steel, and its probe is shatterproof, waterproof and coated with BioCoat, a material that helps keep it clean and reduces the risk of cross-contamination with other foods. In addition, the probe measures 5 inches, so it can handle thick-cut steaks, chops or roast chicken. The CDN ProAccurate Thermometer DTQ450X’s pocket clip and plastic sheath make it easy to tote around, and the sheath includes a handy guide with the correct cooking temperatures for different meats. This meat thermometer is inexpensive and covered by a generous five-year warranty.
Pros
  • Waterproof and shatterproof probe
  • Special protective coating
  • Good for thick cuts of meat
Cons
  • Full readout takes 20 seconds
  • Display isn’t as easy to read as those on other models
  • No beep or alert when readout is ready
$19.95Amazon
Read the full review
Best Value
The budget-friendly Polder Stable-Read THM-389-90 is small, convenient and accurate.
The probe can gauge temperatures between -49 and 392 degrees Fahrenheit (you can convert it to Celsius), and it beeps when it has the correct temperature. Readouts are within 2 degrees of the actual temperature, which is very accurate. One drawback to this otherwise fine meat thermometer is it takes a while to generate a readout. Although the manufacturer advertises the thermometer can display the correct temperature in four seconds, our tests showed it took an average of 14 seconds. That isn’t a deal breaker, but it might be a small annoyance for some cooks. Since the Stable-Read THM-389-90 is small, it’s easy move and store. It’s also easy to use – all you do is insert the probe into the food you’re testing and push a button. Once you hear the beep, you can see the temperature, and the readout stays on the screen until you reset it. The probe is quite thin, so it doesn’t make a huge mark in your attractive Thanksgiving turkey, either.
Pros
  • Very easy to use
  • Beeps when readout is ready
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Narrower temperature range than other models we tested
  • Full readout takes 14 seconds
  • Short one-year warranty
$15.99Amazon
Read the full review
Best Meat Thermometer to Splurge On
The ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 is rather expensive, but it’s an exceptionally accurate and speedy meat thermometer you can trust to help you prepare meats and other foods safely.
During our tests, this top-notch thermometer showed readouts in an average of 3.6 seconds, while similar models took up to 5 seconds, and one model we reviewed took 30 seconds. In addition, it consistently had accurate temperature readouts. ThermoWorks claims the Thermapen Mk4’s readouts are within 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit of a food’s actual temperature. This is an easy thermometer to use. Many other models we reviewed have buttons that start temperature readings or change settings, but the Thermapen Mk4 doesn’t have buttons to mess with. You can change from Fahrenheit to Celsius and turn on and off decimal measurements in the battery compartment. However, we felt the default settings worked well. The ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 is durable and water-resistant, but it’s also the most expensive meat thermometer we tested. Still, if you want clear, fast and highly accurate temperature readings for years of cooking and baking, this could be an excellent investment.
Pros
  • Full readout in less than four seconds
  • Very accurate
  • No buttons to mess with
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Settings changes made inside battery compartment
  • Coil cell battery isn’t widely available
$99.00Thermoworks
Read the full review
Best Smartphone App Thermometer
The iDevices Kitchen Thermometer Mini pairs in-probe meat temperature monitoring with Bluetooth connectivity and a mobile app. Its receiver is separate from the probe, and they connect with a heat-resistant wire.
As the device monitors meat temperature, data is transmitted to the app. You can access this information on your smartphone wherever you are in your home. The iDevice is designed more for ongoing temperature monitoring than for instant temperature reading. The receiver has LED lights to tell you if meat has just started cooking or if it’s nearly done. As a result, it can take up to 20 seconds to get an accurate on-the-spot reading. When you pair the probe with the app, you can set timers and track how food was heated. You can even set temperature thresholds. The app also identifies your proximity to the thermometer. If you’re nearby, the iDevice’s status light automatically turns on. When you’re further away, the receiver goes into power-saving mode.
Pros
  • Has Bluetooth connectivity and a mobile app
Cons
  • Can take 20 seconds to get an accurate temperature reading
-
Read the full review
Longest Warranty
The Lavatools Javelin is a small, simple meat thermometer that provides temperature readings between -40 and 482 degrees Fahrenheit. Its initial response time is four seconds, and it reaches full accuracy in eight seconds, one of the quickest response times we found.
The Javelin is small enough to fit on a keychain or lanyard, and it’s magnetic so you can keep it on your fridge. Despite its small size, its temperature readings are easy to see, and its battery should last 4,000 hours or more. The Javelin also has an auto-off feature to preserve battery life after 60 minutes of inactivity. One drawback of this meat thermometer’s compact size is that there may be an increased risk of burns if you’re checking meat in the oven or using it with foods that might splatter or boil over. One of the Javelin’s benefits, however, is that its probe is tapered to just 1.6 millimeters wide to preserve essential juices when meat is punctured. Lavatools backs the Javelin with a lifetime warranty.
Pros
  • Has a lifetime warranty
Cons
  • Small design may increase risk of burns
-
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

We used a standardized testing methodology on all the thermometers we reviewed, even though some have different designs than others. We were particularly interested in accuracy, since undercooked meat can be a source of foodborne illness. However, we also checked how long it takes each thermometer to display a readout, the range of temperatures it can measure, its probe length and how readily the manufacturer’s customer service team responds to issues.

In addition, we created an ease of use score for each thermometer we tested based on our overall experience using it. We took into consideration how easy it was to turn on the thermometer, get readings, change settings and enable alarms. For example, folding probe thermometers power on automatically when you unfold them, so you can measure your food's temperature immediately without fiddling with buttons or settings. On the other hand, one thermometer we tested needs to pair with your smartphone over Bluetooth – compared to other thermometers, it takes longer to set up since you must use your smartphone and an app to get temperature readings.

How We Tested

We tested meat thermometers by baking chicken breasts of similar thicknesses in a gas oven set to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. We considered the chicken cooked when it reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit, since most food experts agree that’s the ideal internal temperature for cooked poultry. The testing environment was a medium-size kitchen with a stable room temperature.

We used a stopwatch to find out how long it takes each thermometer to display a full temperature readout, not just an initial response. We repeated this test multiple times and averaged the results. Based on our results, the best meat thermometers display full readings in less than 10 seconds. On average, it takes around 14 seconds, but the slowest thermometers take upward of 20 seconds to display a full reading.

Of the meat thermometers we tested, two have built-in temperature presets and presets for the ideal temperatures for poultry, beef, fish, lamb and more. On these two devices, we used the poultry settings.

Expert Advice 

Food Network chef and cookbook author Ina Garten uses instant-read thermometers all the time. "The secret to using them is to stick them in the side of whatever you're measuring so you know when it reaches the center," she told the online publication "Eater."

Besides when cooking meat, using a good meat thermometer is essential when smoking meats since there are so many variables involved, according to Kennedy Speirs, general manager of BBQ Pit STOP of Layton, Utah. Cooking meat generally is a straightforward process, and thermometers help ensure the proper level of doneness and food safety, he said.

However, smoking meat can involve substantially different times and requires accurate temperature monitoring to ensure you get the best moisture and texture, Speirs said. “You can have two briskets, side by side, the same weight, the same size, and one will require 5-7 hours of smoking and the other 14 hours,” he said. “It’s really hard to predict.” Variables include the meat’s marbling, the altitude, the ambient temperature and even the lifestyle of the animals whose meat you’re smoking.

“You really need a good digital thermometer if you want to get into smoking,” Speirs said. “They are paramount in the smoking world.”

What to Look for in a Meat Thermometer

Accuracy
It’s essential to get an accurate temperature readout so you don’t end up with undercooked meat that could potentially give you foodborne illnesses. To a lesser degree, it’s also important to not overcook foods since they become dry and unappetizing.

Speed
Although seconds are not going to ruin a special meal, you undoubtedly would appreciate having a meat thermometer that gives you a readout quickly. If you’re making a special meal, it’s typical to have other foods to attend to, so a meat thermometer that can quickly gauge temperature is helpful.

Ease of Use
If you don’t use your meat thermometer often, it can be frustrating to try to figure it out before a dinner party or holiday meal. Check out the meat thermometers we found to be simple to use and save yourself a lot of headaches.

Price
We tested meat thermometers ranging in price from $12 to $99. As we probed pricing, we found $20 to be the average amount consumers plan to spend. These thermometers generally have simple designs. More expensive devices have additional features such as programmable buttons and water-resistance, attributes that can be handy but are not often necessary.