Meat thermometers

Meat Thermometer Buying Guide
Meat Thermometer Buying Guide
Careful Cooking—How Meat Thermometers Measure Up

Eating undercooked meat may pose health risks and overcooked takes the joy out of eating, so it's surprising that instinct often trumps a reliable meat thermometer. It takes seconds to use, but can potentially save you from food poisoning by ensuring that food is cooked enough to kill disease-causing salmonella, E. coli, and other bugs.

Most meat thermometers we tested were accurate within 2 to 4°F of the reference thermometer and none was more than 5° off. Digital thermometers generally performed better, were more accurate, consistent, and convenient to use than analog. Analog thermometers were often more difficult to read, had the longest response times, and have few features. Go digital.


Thermometers by Type—Grill It, Gauge It

Instant-Read Digital Meat Thermometers
Instructions weren't needed for most we tested since all you do is turn them on. They usually had the fastest response times, are better for thin cuts of meat, and easier to use for checking the temperature at several spots. Use toward the end of estimated cooking time to check final temperature. Most have handy features such as auto shutoff and temperature hold, which lets you see the displayed temperature longer. A fork is a less common type with a thermocouple or thermistor embedded in one of the tines of the fork. The meat temperature is indicated on a digital readout or by indicator light on the handle. Like any instant-read thermometer the fork is not designed to remain in the meat during cooking. 

Leave-In Digital Meat Thermometers
The probe remains in the meat while cooking, monitoring the temperature without you're having to open the oven door, and can also be used as an instant read. A long cord connects the probe to a base unit with a digital screen. This unit can be placed on the counter and some can be attached to the oven door by a magnet. These pack the most features, including timers, audible alerts, and programmable temperatures. Some are wireless, allowing you to keep an eye on the temperature while you're more than 100 feet away, using a smartphone or the wireless device that's part of the unit.

Instant-Read Analog (Dial) Meat Thermometers
Insert the probe into the meat, note temperature, remove probe. An instant-read analog is not designed to remain in the meat while it cooks so use it toward the end of cooking time to check final temperature. Analog thermometers are often more difficult to read, had the longest response times, and have few features.

Leave-In Analog (Dial) Meat Thermometers
This type is oven-safe and can remain in the meat while it cooks but can also be used as an instant-read.


Thermometer Features Get It Done Right

Audible Alarm/Alert
Indicates the meat has reached the preset temperature.

Auto Shutoff
Turns the thermometer off when not in use to save battery life.

Preset Meat Temperature
Allows you to preset the temperature and is usually based on USDA-recommended temperatures.

Programmable Temperature
Lets you set the target temperature and monitor the meat, whether you're cooking on high heat and fast, or lower heat and slow cook.

Temperature Hold
Displays the reading for 5 minutes or longer.

Allows you to set how long you want to cook the meat.