Whether you're a home cook or a seasoned chef, these are some of the best tools for cooking meat perfectly every time.

By Food & Wine
October 04, 2019
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There is nothing worse than an overcooked steak, and depending on the cut it’s too easy to overdo it. If you’re hoping to avoid a dry, chewy protein that could double as a chew toy for the dog, there are a few ways to get there. The most foolproof way to check meat is being evenly cooked is a meat thermometer. 

When it comes to large format meat, there are plenty of tips and tricks for cooking different types, from rib eyes to pork roasts. At most holidays (namely Thanksgiving) when we’re cooking for a crowd we’d always like that extra assurance that our meat is done perfectly. A meat thermometer is the best way to check the temperature and put your mind at ease when things are hectic in the kitchen or around the grill. While professional chefs do sometimes cook food by touch, a small thermometer in their jacket pocket is essential for getting meat exactly right.

The Best Meat Thermometers

When to Use a Meat Thermometer

A thermometer is your best friend while cooking meat (and even baking bread). Chefs and home cooks alike rely on them. These are a few recipes we love that can benefit from a good meat thermometer:

Prime Rib with Sour Cherry Conserva, Truffle and Chocolate
Juniper-Rubbed Roast Duck with Cherry Jus
Clementine and Garlic Roast Turkey

The Best Method for Using a Meat Thermometer

When you’re working with meat, it’s key to measure the temperature as you’re approaching the end of the cooking cycle, whether it’s in the oven, the smoker, the grill or on the stovetop. Take care to not test it too many times throughout the process--jabbing too many holes can let out those important juices that make the meat tender and keep it moist. 

For a digital meat thermometer, insert the tip about an inch into the thickest section of the meat (or sideways into thinner chicken breasts or burgers) for the most accurate reading. The temperature on the thermometer should drop as the probe moves further into the meat. If it starts to rise again, the probe is pushed in too far. Check near the end of the cooking process to see if things are at the correct temperature, and be careful not to release too much heat from the oven or grill to keep things as consistent as possible. 

Keep in mind that your oven temperature works more like a thermostat than an exact thermometer, with temperatures ranging from the bottom to the top of the oven, as well as fluctuations throughout cooking. All the more reason to check in on that turkey’s internal temperature! Also remember for larger cuts of meat the food will continue to cook for 5-10 minutes while it rests, so it’s best practice to take it out just before it’s done.

What to Look for in a Meat Thermometer

For instant read thermometers, look for one sensitive enough to give an accurate reading in about 3 seconds. The faster the response time, the less time you need to leave the oven open or the grill cover off. The other option is a digital probe thermometer, which operates wirelessly by keeping probes in the meat throughout cooking and monitoring it on a thermometer reader outside of the oven or grill. It’s also good for long sessions in the smoker. 

Ask yourself where you will be using the thermometer most often: are you regularly using the oven, a grill, or sous vide machine? An oven-safe probe with a wireless remote is great for keeping roasts cooking and the temperature consistent. An ultra-fast probe is great for grilling to avoid releasing heat and make perfect burgers

Also consider the types of cuts you’ll be working with most often, or if you need it for a specific meal. A long probe will be useful for a large turkey or in high heat situations where you don’t want to get too close to the heating element. 

An accurate temperature reading on an easy to read display is essential for any kitchen thermometer, but of course there are is a wide variety of different options to choose from. We sifted through Amazon’s collection from several different brands to find customers’ favorite meat thermometers, from wireless styles to digital displays. Read on for our top picks meant for all types of meat and cooking methods. 

Best Overall: ThermoPro TP03 Digital Instant Read 

Amazon

This practical and quality tool from Thermopro does it all in a compact size. The stainless steel probe with a precision sensor reads the temperature in 3-5 seconds (the ideal window) and is accurate within 0.9 degrees. The foldable prob locks into the base for portability and safety, and the magnetic back makes it easy to store nearby while you’re manning the grill or the oven. 

The LCD display has a backlight so you can check the temperature in all situations, day or night. Use it with the usual meats, heated oil or even candy. As one reader notes, America’s Test Kitchen compared it with much more expensive options: 

“One of the reviews on this ThermoPro thermometer was from an owner of the $100 Thermapen and did a direct comparison between the ThermoPro and the Thermapen. They stated their performance (accuracy and speed) was nearly the same. So for a nearly 10 to 1 price difference, I went with the ThermoPro. I was not disappointed. It works great from reading meat temperatures to reading hot oil temps the thermometer works great. I would recommend this thermometer to anyone.”

ThermoPro TP03 Digital Instant Read Thermometer, $12 (originally $30) at amazon.com

Best Waterproof Option: Kizen Instant Read Meat Thermometer

Amazon

The Kizen thermometer is fast (reads in 2-3 seconds), and is IP67-rated waterproof so keeping it clean is easy. Wash it under running water and the durable structure will withstand any drops into that farmhouse sink, too. It has the option for a gift box package and comes with a meat temperature guide if you’re gifting it to your favorite grilling enthusiast. 

The probe retracts and the large loop and internal magnet make it easy to store. It comes pre-calibrated but can be re-calibrated at any time for pinpoint accuracy. With 90% five-star ratings it is Amazon’s #1 best seller in meat thermometers and timers. Customers also raved about the customer service for any troubleshooting under the lifetime warranty. As one reviewer explains:

“We used it to cook a 16-pound prime rib on Christmas and it was perfect! Customer service has been outstanding. I received a follow up email with a compilation of suggestions for most effective use and another reminding me that the product is under warranty should we have any issues.”

Kizen Instant Read Meat Thermometer, $20 at amazon.com

Best Oven Safe Thermometer: ThermoPro TP-16 Thermometer Clock Timer with Stainless Steel Temperature Probe

Amazon

This probe thermometer stays put in the meat as it cooks, so you know exactly when your food hits the correct temperature. The probe and mesh cable can withstand up to 716 degrees Fahrenheit (so it can remain inside the oven or grill as long as needed.) The unit has its own alarm function that will sound when the perfect temperature is reached. Enter the ideal temperature manually or use one of the six presets including poultry, fish, ham, veal, pork, and three levels of doneness for beef. With over 4,000 five-star ratings, this unit is certainly reliable enough to go the distance.

“I love this digital thermometer,” writes an Amazon user. “I bought one for myself several months ago after the one of a different brand died and was no longer available. I use it for everything from testing the temp of my oven, for making yogurt, proofing bread and making roast beef and roast turkey. I bought this one for my daughter for Christmas. She hasn't had a chance to try it yet but I am sure she will love hers as much as I love mine.”

ThermoPro TP-16 Thermometer Clock Timer, $18 (originally $30) at amazon.com

Best long probe meat thermometer: ThermoPro TP01A Thermometer

Amazon

Grillers rejoice! This 5.3" food grade stainless steel probe keeps your hands burn-free in high heat situations. You can lock the temperature so the reading won’t change as you pull out the probe, and the backlight is effective in dimly lit situations. Serious barbecue cooks need a tool like this to get a reading in just a few seconds and ensure pork and beef is cooked to tender perfection. The longer prob is also great for baking bread. 1,000 reviewers gave it five stars, and at just $10, this essential tool is a steal.

“I'm an engineer who likes to cook, I bought the ThermoPro to use when making candy and jelly in addition to the normal smoke and BBQ,” a customer writes. “The key to choosing ThermoPro was the measuring tip is very sharp and has a very low mass, this related directly to the speed of measurement. There is no large probe to heat up and stabilize, therefore this fine tip gives an accurate reading in about 3 seconds. It is easy to handle, I can hold the grill lid with one hand and use the probe with lighted display with the other. I would recommend this to my foodie friends.”

ThermoPro TP01A Thermometer With Long Probe, $10 at amazon.com

Best wireless meat thermometer: ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Meat Thermometer

Amazon

If you want to enjoy the party and not be stuck manning the grill or oven all evening, this wireless meat thermometer is the answer. Multitaskers in the kitchen need a tool like this to keep things cooking at a good pace, and at the right level of doneness. The dual probe can track two kinds of food at the same time, and will work on your oven, grill or smoker from up to 300 feet away. Choose between either the dual probe or the single probe version.

The thermometers have thousands of five-star reviews, including this shopper: “My wife used to always complain about my overcooking the meat when grilling. What can I say, I want to make sure it's dead. At any rate, this thermometer has allowed me to cook steaks perfectly to her liking (med rare) and perfectly for me (med). The process I follow is to cook the meat on one side until it reaches 100 degrees and then flip. 140 for my wife and 150 for me. Perfect every time. Really takes the guesswork out of cooking and it's one of those devices you don't realize how much you needed until you have it. Highly recommended.”

Wireless Remote Digital Meat Thermometer with Dual Probe, $60 at amazon.com

Wireless Remote Digital Meat Thermometer, $30 at amazon.com

Best magnetic meat thermometer: Lavatools PT12 Javelin Instant Read Meat Thermometer 

Amazon

This Lavatools thermometer is also super fast with a 3-4 second reading time, and the tool can outlast 4,000 hours of use on a single battery. The tapered 18/8 stainless steel probe minimizes the damage each time you take the temperature. An antimicrobial silver ion coating prevents bacterial contamination from raw foods. It’s simple and user-friendly, and the magnetic back seals the deal as a great addition to a fully functional kitchen. Over 4,000 Amazon reviewers have rated it a perfect five stars, complimenting its accuracy, user-friendliness, and range of color options..

“I love how its magnetic and readily available—whether its on the fridge or on a dishwasher, a reviewer says. “It's always easy to find. I also like how it automatically turns on/off when you pull out the wand. The temperature is very easy to read with big, clear numbers. So much better than the old school thermometers I've used in the past.”

Lavatools PT12 Javelin Instant Read Meat Thermometer, $27 at amazon.com

Best ambidextrous meat thermometer: Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo 

Amazon

Don’t worry lefties, we haven’t forgotten you! The Javelin PRO is new and improved with a 2-inch auto-rotating anti-fog display that works for whichever hand is dominant. It will hold a stabilized temperature so you’re not left staring into the hot oven or grill. It’s splash resistant, reads in just 2-3 seconds and has the same great magnet for convenient storage. It also comes in eight color varieties. The backlight also has a motion sensor that works with heat-proof gloves on.

Nearly 1,000 Amazon shoppers have rated the Javelin PRO five stars, calling it easy to use and a great deal for the price. 

“I'm a long-time Thermapen owner, so I know and expect more from a thermometer, and this Javelin measures up in every category!!! … I tested this against my 3 year old Thermapen. It not only registered faster, but both read within a tenth of one another for readings, confirming it's accurate. I give bonuses to the backlit display and much lower price point. Add in that is read quicker or just as fast as the industry standard Thermapen, and this thing is a winner in my book. Only advantage to the Thermapen is that it came with a case, but considering the price point, I can live without that little add-on item.”

Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo, $54 at amazon.com

Best analog thermometer: Aveloki Roasting Meat Thermometer T729E

Amazon

If you’d rather do things the old fashioned way, this simplified roasting thermometer keeps things simple and easy. No frills, no cords or trying to view displays. It’s durable and easy to store, with no batteries required for reading.

“I love this stainless steel meat thermometer. It is so handy and easy to read, it helps me to cook the meat perfectly. I love the medium rare steak but rarely done that before. But after I brought this meat thermometer, it solved my problem. I will also try to cook my turkey in thanksgiving. So I will enjoy the wonderful meal with my family.”

Aveloki Roasting Meat Thermometer, $10 at amazon.com

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