A meat thermometer can be one of the best investments you can make in your cooking. Not only does it remove the guesswork so you know exactly when your meat is cooked, it also ensures the temperature of your food is safe to eat.

There are many types of meat thermometers on the market, so choosing the right one for your barbecue and cooking can be confusing.

We got the lowdown on the best meat thermometers to look out for from one of Australia’s most awarded solo-cook pitmasters, co-founder of the Australasian Barbecue Alliance and Kingsford Charcoal Ambassador, Adam Roberts.

In this article we’ll cover:

Types of meat thermometers

How to use meat thermometers properly

Our favourite meat thermometer brands

Types of meat thermometers

Thermometers are made up of two components – the metal probe that sticks into the meat and the handle that contains the controls. How both of these are designed play a role in determining the ease of use and accuracy of a thermometer.

“There is a time, a place and a process for each type of meat thermometer,” says Adam. “But the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is true, particularly when it comes to choosing the right one.”

While there are plenty of cheap and cheerful products on the market, Adam says there are several high-quality digital thermometers to look out for that work really well. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of meat thermometers available.

Dial thermometers

These are cheap and can be found at most supermarkets. The mechanics are pretty simple, with the probe needing to be stuck in pretty deeply to record the temperature. Dial thermometers are old-school devices that need to be calibrated often, and it can take a few minutes to give a reading.

dial meat thermometer in beef

Leave-in thermometers

These are faster and easier to read than dial thermometers. Leave-in devices record the temperature within an inch from the tip of the probe. Some have heat-resistant cables that lead out of the oven or grill and into your protein, and an alarm goes off when it reaches the set internal temperature.

leave in meat thermometer in kettle bbq

Instant-read thermometers

These hand-held digital thermometers are the most common devices and are a quick and easy investment. They provide a fast, accurate reading of meat in the oven or stovetop, but they cannot be left in the oven long term so you need to use them effectively. They’re also super easy to clean.

instant read meat thermometer

Wireless / Smartphone thermometers

These handy devices use Bluetooth, Wifi or other radio frequency signals that allow you to monitor the temperature of your meat from a distance, sending an alert to your receiver or smartphone when the meat is done.

Hands-free thermometers connect to an app on your phone and are great for beginners, allowing you to observe the progress of the cook and keep track of cooking times at various temperatures.

meater meat thermometer
Photo from MEATER (https://www.facebook.com/MEATERmade)

Best practices when using a meat thermometer

Know your target temperature

“Ensure you have a fair idea of what the internal temperature of the meat should be before taking an internal reading,” says Adam.

Double check your readings

“Depending on the quality of the meat thermometer, you can take a false read quite easily, so it’s always a good idea to double check your readings.” You can take several readings with a hand-held probe thermometer to double-check the temperature. “With leave-in cable probes, you can remove the probe and place it in a nearby area to double check the reading again.”

Check if the thermometer needs calibrating

The key to any good thermometer is to ensure they are collaborated correctly.

“A very simple way to check the calibration of our digital thermometer is to boil a pot of water and put your thermometer inside. Boiling water should be 100ºC and the thermometer should read very close to this,” says Adam.

As a general rule, you should check the calibration of your thermometer periodically, “especially if you are cooking in a professional environment or are competing in a barbecue contest.”

The best thermometer for grilling

Look for an instant-read hand-held probe thermometer “that you can simply poke at the meat and get a fast read of which parts of the meat are done, and which still need more time,” says Adam. 

“These are likely to be a device that you end up using in the long-term, as you can take multiple reads very quickly and with minimal time spent with the lid or door open to the BBQ.”

The best thermometer for barbecue, smoking or oven

Leave-in devices with a heat resistant cable attached probe are most suitable, but with these Adam says probe placement is critical.

“Always be sure to place the probe in the leanest or thinnest part of the meat to take a reading, so you don’t overcook it.”

Some probe thermometers come with a high and a low alarm, which alert you if the temperature range goes above or below the target.

Our Favourite Meat Thermometers Revealed

Want the gear but no idea? Here’s a handy list of the best meat thermometers for your barbecue and cooking.

Best Professional Quality: Thermapen Mk4 Thermocouple Cooking Thermometer

Not in Australia? Try this link.

The Thermapen MK4 instant-read thermometer is fast, accurate and simple to use, making it a popular choice for chefs and pitmasters. The Thermapen can read super high temperatures instantly, so it is perfect for spot checks and even deep frying. It cannot be left inside the oven or barbecue, but the readings are so fast that you can close the door again quickly without losing a lot of heat.

The switchblade style is handy so you can flip it open and go (no messing around with a cover) and it’s also waterproof, so if you accidentally drop it in the sous vide bath or leave it outside in the rain, it can survive.

“This is an excellent quality, high-end brand of device, and in my top three recommendations.”

Thermapen

Best Mid-Value: Javelin PRO Instant Read Digital Meat Thermometer

Not in Australia? Try this link.

The Javelin Pro is cheaper than the Thermapen and records temperatures fast and accurately. It has an easy-to-read display and similar foldable probe, making it a great budget-friendly alternative to the Thermapen.

“This is a high quality, durable and value-for-money product range.”

red javelin pro meat thermometer

Best on a Budget: Inkbird Instant Read Meat Thermometer

Not in Australia? Try this link.

Inkbird have a range of popular thermometers, from digital bluetooth devices to leave-in thermometers with heat resistant cables. Their instant-read device is an affordable option that provides an accurate, fast reading.  Other options in the range include the bluetooth wireless thermometer, which pairs to your smartphone with a free app where you can set custom alarms. The more expensive Inkbird devices have capacity for up to 6 probes, which is handy for when you’re cooking multiple pieces of meat at once. 

“Inkbird is top of the budget range of devices.”

inkbird instant read meat thermometerWorth The Investment: MEATER, The Wireless Smart Meat Thermometer

Not in Australia? Try this link.

The MEATER is a wireless smart thermometer that you can leave in and monitor until you’re ready to eat. It comes with its own app where you can easily set up guided cooking times and temperatures. Position the probe into the center of the thickest part of the meat and at least two inches away from the oven or barbecue wall for best measurement.

MEATER meat thermometer

Whatever thermometer you choose, be sure to clean your thermometer carefully after each use. When you know exactly what’s going on inside your food, you’ll get better results and make safe, beautifully cooked food.

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