Using a meat thermometer when roasting or grilling is one way to help ensure a delicious outcome with little effort. The best ones allow you to quickly and easily monitor the internal temperature so you can avoid overcooking and serving dried-out food. Chefs use meat thermometers because they allow for consistent results, and when following the USDA's guidelines for food safety, can help prevent undercooking which could result in illness.
At the Just Cooking Institute, we test thousands of products each year in our state-of-the-art labs. To find the best meat thermometer, we put 18 of them to the test in our Kitchen Appliances & Technologies Lab, checking for accuracy of temperature, responsiveness, and ease of use. The top performing models were easy to use, had clear readings, quick response times, and, most importantly, accurate readings as compared to the scientific models we used as control.
Based on our tests, the best meat thermometers are:
- Best Digital Meat Thermometer: Polder Programmable In-Oven Thermometer
- Best Value Digital Meat Thermometer: Char-Broil Instant Read Thermometer
- Most Popular Meat Thermometer on Amazon: ThermoPro TP03 Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
- Best Dial Meat Thermometer: OXO Chef's Precision Leave-In Meat Thermometer
- Best Meat Thermometer for Safety: Polder Deluxe Safe-Serve Instant Read Thermometer
- Best Smart Meat Thermometer: Maverick BT-600 Extended Range Barbecue Thermometer
- Best Leave-In Meat Thermometer: OXO Good Grips Chef’s Precision Digital Leave-In Thermometer
- Editor's Favorite Meat Thermometer: CDN Digital Pocket Thermometer
What kind of meat thermometer is best?
When shopping for meat thermometers, there are three main types to consider: Thermocouples, digital instant-read and dial. The main differences include how quickly they read a temperature and how accurate they are. Before you get shopping, here's what you need to know about the different types of meat thermometers:
Thermocouples insert into the meat about 1/4 inch. Its very thin tip can easily pierce thick or thin cuts of meat, and these thermometers offer the quickest response time of all types. The downfalls? They can be pricey and you can't leave them in meat while cooking.
Digital instant-read thermometers insert into the meat about ½ inch. They have a relatively quick response time (though not as quick as a thermocouple thermometer) and are reasonably priced. Be aware that you cannot leave in them meat during cooking.
Dial thermometers insert into meat 2 to 2 ½ inches. They can be harder to read than instant-read thermometers, and take one to two minutes for a reading, but since they can be left in meat while cooking in the oven, you can easily monitor doneness as you cook. These thermometers are affordable and work best for large cuts of meat (think Thanksgiving turkey).
This meat thermometer has a lot of bells and whistles, and they're all super useful. You can select the meat you're cooking and your desired doneness, then let it do the rest of the work for you. The thermometer will beep when the meat reaches the desired temperature, and once again after you've let it rest for three minutes, as recommended by the USDA. It will also let you know if you've overcooked your meat by at least 10 degrees.
We like the large grip on the probe and the thin, super-sharp tip. In our tests, we found the 40-inch cord to be long enough for the thermometer to safely rest on our counter while the probe was in the oven. We also liked how the display folded up for easier reading and easy storage.
This compact digital instant read thermometer performed well in our tests, giving accurate temperature readings in less than 10 seconds. It has a few tricks up its sleeve, like auto-off, seven selectable meat types along with doneness levels, and it speaks seven languages! It also features an alarm to let you know when your meat is done.
Boasting over 24,000 reviews on Amazon (a whopping 11,000 of which are five-star), this budget-friendly thermometer is a favorite among reviewers. A 3.9-inch probe rotates 180º which makes it easy and safe to use on the grill or in the oven, and its backlit LCD screen clearly displays temperature readings. Reviewers say it shows "exactly the same temp in exactly the same amount of time" as our top pick, though we haven't tested those claims in-Lab.
With this 3-inch dial, you won’t need to squint to see the temperature. It's easy to hold and it comes with a probe cover that protects the tip—and your fingers during storage! The face displays USDA recommended temperatures for various meats, so the arrow lines up with the type of meat and the temperature at the same time. The probe features a shaded section, which lets you know how deep to insert it into the meat.
The extra long probe on this meat thermometer makes it that much easier to get a safe reading on your meat while it's still in the oven. The thermometer allows for the easy programming of meat and doneness level recommendations. The display is backlit to make it easier to read, and the handle is very comfortable to hold and easy to maneuver without getting too close to the heat source. The probe folds down for more compact storage and it comes with a probe cover that lists a slew of USDA recommended temperatures at a glance.
Imagine this: A cold beer in hand on a hot day, chicken thighs cooking with the grill cover closed, and you, up to 300 feet away, not sweating next to the grill. This in-oven meat thermometer pairs with an app, so you'll never have to babysit your meat again. The thermometer lets you know when the BBQ temperature falls out of range, so no flare-ups will scorch your food. It comes with two probes and can track up to four probes.
While most digital thermometers aren't safe to leave in the oven, this digital pick has a probe with an extra-long cord to stay in your meat throughout the cooking process. It has a safe and secure storage space for the probe inside the thermometer's housing, and plenty of space to snugly wrap the long cord around it. We like the large screen that's easy to read and program with our desired doneness temperatures. It also comes with a timer, which makes keeping an eye on your meat even easier.
This digital meat thermometer has been a trusted tool in our culinary kits for years. It's highly responsive and displays the temperature in clear, easy to read numbers. It also turns on quickly so you don't have to wait around for it to load. The tip is sharp and pierces meat easily. It offers a comfortable grip and a slim, balanced design, which stores well in a chef coat or apron pocket. Plus, it has a built-in clip so it won't slip out when you bend over or are on the move.
Remove meat a few degrees shy of the optimum temperature to prevent overcooking. Meat will continue to cook after it’s been removed from the heat.
Don't cut into your meat right away, or you'll risk dry meat. Tenting cooked food with foil will keep things warm and allow some air circulation so those delicious juices can be reabsorbed.
When cooking beef, pork and poultry breasts, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, such as the thigh of a chicken, without touching the bone.
When cooking ribs, test in the center portion of the rack and stay away from bone and gristle as they can affect your reading
Here are the USDA recommendations for safe meat temperatures:
- Beef, pork, veal, and lamb: 145°F
- Ground meats: 160°F
- Fully cooked ham: Reheat to 140°F
- Uncooked ham: 165°F
- Poultry: 165°F
- Fish & shellfish: 145°F