best meat thermometers
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The 10 Best Meat Thermometers to Help You Cook Meat Perfectly Every Time

No more raw chicken or overdone steak.
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One of the most important tools in the kitchen is often overlooked: the meat thermometer. Many home cooks assume that they're safe as long as they cook meat a recommended amount of recommended time. This can be especially true when you're making a familiar recipe and feel certain you "know" when everything is finished. Others do a color test and cut through a piece of the meat to see if it's still raw or just right.

But these methods aren't completely accurate, and they could result in raw or undercooked meat that could make you sick. They could also leave you with dry meat that lost all its juices after you cut into it too quickly.

The only sure way to know that meat is cooked thoroughly and that it's safe to eat is by using a meat thermometer.

There are a lot of options for meat thermometers. They can get pricey, with high-tech models in the $100-plus range.

So what's the best meat thermometer to ensure food safety? We did the research and compiled a list with key features, top-rated performance, and value to last you years of cooking. Take a look at our handy guide to the best kitchen thermometers below and see which is right for you and your kitchen. 

Best Meat Thermometers at a Glance

What to Consider When Buying a Meat Thermometer

Candy Thermometer vs. Meat Thermometer

When shopping for a good meat thermometer, make sure you're not looking at a candy thermometer. The design and packaging are often similar — and many top kitchen brands do make both — but these thermometers are not interchangeable.

A candy thermometer and a meat thermometer do not have the same temperature range, and they don't have the same shape. A candy thermometer also doesn't have the pointed end necessary for probing meat. 

Probe Length

"Probe" is an important term to know and a feature to consider when buying a meat thermometer. The probe is the part of the thermometer that inserts into the meat. When placing the probe, you want to make sure you don't hit bone as this won't give you an accurate reading on the meat temperature. Longer probes are handy for cooking larger pieces of meat, such as a pork loin or rack of ribs.

Features

Another important term that goes hand-in-hand with the probe is "leave-in thermometers." These models are oven-safe and stay in the meat the entire time it cooks. Leave-in meat thermometers are handy for cooking whole birds, such as a turkey on Thanksgiving when you don't want to keep opening the oven door to check it.

And the final crucial term to know when shopping is "instant read." You'll see this phrase on most digital and smart thermometers as they can read a temperate instantly (like a thermometer at the doctor's office) and don't require the waiting that happens with analog dials. Instant-read thermometers are especially handy when cooking smaller pieces of meat, such as breasts or filets on the stovetop, where cooking is faster and just a couple of seconds difference means a perfectly seared piece becomes overdone. 

Best Meat Thermometers You Can Buy in 2021

Best Overall Meat Thermometer: OXO Precision Digital Instant Read Thermometer

OXO Good Grips Chef's Precision Digital Instant Read Thermometer
Credit: Amazon

If you only grill seasonally and mostly cook meat on the stovetop, this is the best universal meat thermometer to have on hand. It's got a little bit of everything, from a slightly longer probe to instant-read functionality to a very large digital display that's handy if you don't want to get your face too close to the hot oven or grill. You get all that for just under $20, so it's budget-friendly, too.

We love that the case for this thermometer comes with a handy cheat sheet on correct temperatures for different kinds of meat, from ground beef to ham. It even breaks out the temperature difference for chicken thighs and breast. The case alone would make a great gift for a college kid, post-grad, or newlywed moving into their first apartment.

The only downside to this thermometer is that it's not a leave-in model, so you can't keep it in the oven. But if you're not roasting big, whole birds on a regular basis, you probably won't miss this feature.

Buy it: OXO Precision Digital Instant Read Thermometer, $19.65; Amazon

Best Budget Meat Thermometer: CDN DT450X Digital Pocket Thermometer

CDN DT450X Digital Pocket Thermometer
Credit: Amazon

At just over $22, this pocket-sized meat thermometer from CDN gets the job done and still comes with the same bells and whistles (digital display, instant read, and the ability to switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures) as more expensive thermometers on the market. If you take a closer look at the handle, you'll see a little temperature guide cleverly printed along the edge. It even breaks out medium and rare temperatures for beef, veal, and lamb.

The main drawback — and likely why this thermometer is so cheap — is that both the handle and sheath are made of plastic so it's not oven-safe. Depending on how many different cuts of beef you cook at home, this probe might not be long enough for larger, thicker pieces. However, the smaller size works just fine for single steaks and thin cuts.

Buy it: CDN DT450X Digital Pocket Thermometer, $21.65; Amazon

Best Meat Thermometer for Grilling: Soraken Wireless Meat Thermometer for Grilling

Soraken Wireless Meat Thermometer for Grilling
Credit: Amazon

If you live to grill and love hosting big cookouts, you need the Soraken Wireless Meat Thermometer in your grill kit. Unlike other leave-in thermometers, this unit is outfitted with four color-coded probes to simultaneously monitor different food and cooking temperatures. That comes in handy if you're grilling for a crowd and need to keep track of multiple items on the menu, such as grilled chicken, burgers, and steaks.

The screen also features a magnetic backing that attaches to any metal surface without heat, such as a grill side table. But you don't have to worry about checking this screen as you can sync your smartphone or tablet to the thermometer for real-time notifications and alerts.

Buy it: Soraken Wireless Meat Thermometer for Grilling, $42.48 (was $49.99); Amazon

Best Leave-In Meat Thermometer: Polder Classic Combination Digital In-Oven Programmable Meat Thermometer and Timer

Polder Classic Combination Digital In-Oven Programmable Meat Thermometer and Timer
Credit: Amazon

Chicken is one of the most important meats for checking temperatures. Unlike beef, there is no medium-rare option. That's just called salmonella roulette.

But if you love to roast whole chicken or bake chicken breasts, that often means opening and closing the oven door several times, which can cause the oven to drop temperature and not cook as efficiently.

Leave-in meat thermometers are made from food-safe materials and enforced with enough heat resistance to withstand oven temps and stay in the meat the entire time. All you have to do is glance at the display instead of opening the oven door.

Poultry aside, a leave-in thermometer is also a godsend during the summer when you don't want excess heat competing with your air conditioner. There are a lot of fancy leave-in models on the market, but this $17 Polder version won out against others for its large, easy-to-read display.

Buy it: Polder Classic Combination Digital In-Oven Programmable Meat Thermometer and Timer, $16.95 (was $34.99); Amazon

Best Instant-Read Meat Thermometer: Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo Ambidextrous Backlit Professional Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer

Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo Ambidextrous Backlit Professional Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer
Credit: Amazon

When Lavatools says "instant read," they mean it. This is one of the fastest readings you'll find in a meat thermometer, and that's crucial when cooking on the stovetop, especially with thin cuts of meat. At more than $50, it's not cheap, but it comes with so many nifty features beyond its praise-worthy speed it might be worth the investment for home cooks.

The handle is coated with an antimicrobial material, has a large anti-fog digital display, and even features a magnet so you can stick it on the fridge door. And the sensor inside is as smart as you can get without splurging on a Bluetooth-enabled thermometer. It can monitor temperature changes and will alert you when a specific temperature has stabilized.

Even better? They thought about lefties. Too many kitchen tools and gadgets are designed with only right-handed users in mind, but this handle is actually ambidextrous. It can rotate a full 360 degrees for perfect viewing from any angle.

Buy it: Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo Ambidextrous Backlit Professional Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer, $55.99; Amazon

Best Meat Thermometer With Long Probe: ThermoPro TP01A Instant Read Meat Thermometer With Long Probe

ThermoPro TP01A Instant Read Meat Thermometer with Long Probe Digital Food Cooking Thermometer

If you're not a big steak person, but you love to do a big Sunday roast each week, or cook whole chicken and turkey more often than just around the holidays, you need to invest in a meat thermometer with a longer probe. Luckily, our favorite long-probe meat thermometer is one of the cheapest on the list. At just less than $10, the ThermoPro TP01A Instant Read Meat Thermometer With Long Probe ensures you'll get an accurate reading through the entire dish.

The 5.3-inch probe also means your hand won't have to get as close to hot food, which helps prevent accidental burns. If the Soraken Wireless Meat Thermometer is out of your budget, this is a solid, budget-friendly alternative for grilling, and the thermometer features a bright LCD digital display that's easy to read at night, too.

Buy it: ThermoPro TP01A Instant Read Meat Thermometer With Long Probe, $9.99; Amazon

Best Smart Meat Thermometer: MEATER Plus

MEATER Plus
Credit: Amazon

The MEATER Plus is packed with some impressive new tech. Most noticeably, it's wireless. It's a leave-in thermometer that doesn't require a cord. Plus, the wireless probe actually features two sensors to monitor both the internal food temp and the overall environment temperature at the same time. This is especially handy for cooks who grill or smoke meat a great deal.

But even if you don't spend a lot of time at a smoker or grill, you might want to invest the $99 for the sheer fact that this wireless probe is dishwasher safe. Yes, really. You can toss it in the wash, and you don't have to worry about any recalibration.

Buy it: Meater Plus, $99.95; Amazon

Best Analog Meat Thermometer: OXO Good Grips Analog Instant Read Meat Thermometer

OXO Analog Instant Read Meat Thermometer
Credit: Amazon

If you prefer to keep it classic and leave new tech at the kitchen door, there are still tons of great analog meat thermometers in production with tried-and-true dial displays. But for our list, the OXO Good Grips analog thermometer edged ahead of others and ranked best for its large, easy-to-read numbers, stainless steel material, slightly longer probe, and a conical face that's still readable at an angle.

Plus, the dial features smart design, such as a no-slip silicone ring and flat edges that prevent the thermometer from rolling off of the counter. Like the OXO Precision Digital Instant Read Thermometer that also made our list, this model comes with a handy temperature guide, too, and even features a Celsius conversion.

Buy it: OXO Analog Instant Read Meat Thermometer, $12.99; Amazon

Best Meat Thermometer for Smoking: ThermoPro TP27 Long Range Wireless Meat Thermometer for Grilling and Smoking

ThermoPro TP27 500FT Long Range Wireless Meat Thermometer for Grilling and Smoking with 4 Probes Smoker BBQ Grill Thermometer Kitchen Food Cooking Thermometer for Meat on a white background
Credit: Amazon

For the at-home grill master or budding barbeque competitor, the ThermoPro TP27 Long Range Wireless Meat Thermometer is worth the splurge. At just shy of $80, this unit is for serious meat lovers who keep their smokers fired up all weekend (and sometimes during the week).

Four leave-in probes can measure the meat's temp as well as the cooker's ambient temperature. Color-coded probes align with coordinating spots on the thermometer's digital display. Next-generation RF tech helps extend the thermometer's range up to 500 feet so you don't have to babysit the smoker to keep an eye on the meat's temps. When the meat reaches its settings, an alarm sounds so you don't accidentally cook too long.

Buy it: ThermoPro TP27 Long Range Wireless Meat Thermometer, $79.99; Amazon

Best Compact Meat Thermometer: Taylor Instant Read Thermometer

Taylor Precision Products Classic Instant Read Pocket Thermometer
Credit: Amazon

If you're short of drawer space, check out this teeny, tiny thermometer from Taylor, which can easily be stored in your silverware drawer. The pen-sized analog model clips onto a kitchen apron or shirt pocket and comes with some surprisingly modern features such as instant read, a stainless steel stem, a shatter-proof silicone lens, and an antimicrobial sleeve which is super handy when you have to check multiple temperatures. This also helps to prevent contaminating a kitchen counter. It's the perfect stocking stuffer for a foodie, and it's also great for campers and RV trippers who love to cook small meals over portable stoves or fire pits.

Buy it: Taylor Instant Read Thermometer, $6.35 (was $8.80); Amazon