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Meat thermometers

Meat thermometer buying guide

Last updated: October 2013

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Getting started

Getting started

A meat thermometer doesn't cost much, but it can save hundreds of dollars in medical bills by ensuring that food is cooked enough to kill disease-causing salmonella, E. coli, and other bugs. We tested several meat thermometers that you can either leave in food as it cooks, or poke in and read instantly.

If you're picturing a dial-topped metal skewer, you should know that many meat thermometers have grown far fancier: Many are wired probes that connect to digital displays. Some speak to you ("lamb, medium"), then automatically set the correct temperature, beep when they reach a required temperature, retain a reading so you don't need to wrestle a roast from the oven in 1 second flat, and even track temperatures on two different foods. One meat thermometer has a wireless probe that lets you check the temperature of a food from 300 feet away. (There's a remote component that you can clip to a belt.)

How we tested

In addition to testing temperature accuracy, we measured how quickly each meat thermometer adjusted to temperature changes. The fastest took 10 seconds or less; the slowest more than 30 seconds. And we checked the temperature range each meat thermometer could read. The widest was 0 to 450º F, which makes it more useful for tasks such as deep frying. The narrowest range was up to only 180º.

Bottom line

If you want to insert the meat thermometer before cooking, you should purchase a leave-in meat thermometer. If you prefer to check the temperature of cooking meat instantly, try an instant-read thermometer. See our Ratings to find the models that performed best.


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