Best Meat Thermometers of 2020
While at first we were suspicious of some of the manufacturer claims, the Kizen Instant Read meat thermometer quickly squashed our skepticism, leaving us thoroughly impressed with its overall quality and performance. The resolution of its rather large, easily readable LCD screen provides highly accurate measurements down to a fraction of a degree. In our testing, it was as precise as 0.1 ℉ at points — we loved this near-perfect precision for baking as well as grilling. If for some reason this thermometer loses accuracy over time, it can be easily re-calibrated. Many handheld probes claim to measure temperature in a matter of seconds, but for the Kizen, this claim is actually true — the thermometer clocks in adjustments at three seconds.
A downside to such speed and precision, however, is that the readout can be rather jumpy, quickly updating and changing the display temperature. Fortunately, it does feature a hold button that will mark both the maximum or minimum temperature on the screen until the button is pressed again — no timeout for this function. While it is not the smallest or lightest model we reviewed, it does have one of the longest probes, which is convenient for large cuts of meat and keeping your hands away from the heat source. With its magnetic backing and high waterproof rating (IP67), there is no excuse not to have the Kizen probe by your side for all of your cooking — both indoor and outdoor.
We love any product that is both cost and energy saving. As the only truly rechargeable option in our review — meaning it can be wall-charged — the Inkbird Waterproof Instant Read thermometer impressed us with its capability in this regard, as well as its overall size, weight, and sleek design. Although the manufacturer claims that this probe only has an accuracy of 1.8℉, we found through our testing that its precision is much closer to 1℉. The LCD readout is improved with a large, easily readable font — and rather than flash-updating, you can watch the temperature rise with rolling numbers. It is one of the few folding models that incorporates a snap-housing for the end of the probe.
The backlight is one of the most powerful we tested and works great under kitchen lights. But we found that the LCD screen is much more difficult to read out in direct sunlight, so the Inkbird is not as ideal for afternoon grilling. While we love the fact that this is a fully rechargeable option, we do wonder what the charging-lifetime of this model is — we believe it could be improved with the ability to replace the rechargeable battery. But after hours of cooking, we found that this sleek and speedy probe served us well on a single charge — and all that testing while only losing one bar of battery power.
The ThermoPro TP19 is one of the highest performing, folding probe thermometers offered by one of the best brands on the market. The ambidexterity is really what makes this product stand out from all of the other models we included in this review. The TP19 features a motion sensor, that automatically (and quickly) rotates the LCD readout depending on orientation — for left-handed chefs, this is a must! This same sensor doubles its benefits with a battery-saving sleep function — the thermometer will shut-off if not handled for 90 seconds, and then instantly wake back up when moved. For all of these extra functions, this thermometer really impressed us in terms of accuracy. From baking to braising, this thermometer consistently produced accurate measurements to less than 0.5℉.
Although it is incredibly precise, the thermocouple probes in this model take longer to adjust to the temperature. While the manufacturer claims a "super-fast… readout within 3 seconds," our testing revealed that it typically takes a little more than 5 seconds for the temperature reading to stabilize. While it does have the benefit of a rotating LCD, this model would be much more convenient to use if the probe rotated a full 270-degrees — we found it frustrating that you could use it at an angle right-handed, but only fully-extended with the left hand. The TP19 may be the largest folding probe we tested, but its incredible accuracy and ease of use make it a must for any ambidextrous cook.
At nearly half the price of its competitors, the ThermoPro TP03 takes the cake for a high-performing probe at an unbeatable price-point. In both our lab tests and everyday cooking duties, the TP03 continually outperformed its listed measurement accuracy of 0.9℉ — in both our high and low-temperature tests, we noted a much more remarkable precision of 0.3℉, three-times better than advertised! Not only that, but this probe was also the second-fastest to read a stable temperature, consistently clocking in at under four seconds. Its overall basic look may fool some, but the numbers don't lie — this is a foldable probe that not only holds its own but in many cases, crushes the performance of a majority of the other thermometers in this review.
While the simple TP03 impresses in terms of performance, it is definitely lacking in terms of features. It sports no waterproof rating, and has specific heat limitations — for example, it is explicitly stated that you cannot leave the probe immersed in hot food or liquid for more than one-minute without damage to the probe. The two biggest downfalls are related to the screen: 1) it has one of the smallest screens of the models we tested; and 2) it does not feature a locking temperature readout. But this model is lightweight — with both a magnetic backing and clip-loop for carrying — and for its value, there is no reason not to try out this entry-level instant thermometer.
If the rest of your household is optimally controlled via apps on your phone, then why not your next meat thermometer? As expected with most smart technology, the Soraken Wireless meat thermometer includes a variety of programmable options. It is possible to program each of the multiple probes — four are included, but the transmitter can support up to six — according to specific meat types, cooking techniques, internal temperatures, or a timer that can be programmed up to 240 minutes. While you are away from the grill prepping sides, the Soraken will keep you updated with a chart of temperature vs. time, and specified temperature alarms. While the wireless capability from the grill is slightly limited when moving back inside the kitchen, we found that its wireless range outside easily outperformed its advertised capability — we were able to walk more than 200 feet away before completely losing the signal.
The Soraken is also the fastest updating, wireless models we tested — the transmitter and app seem to update simultaneously every few seconds. This thermometer appeared to be highly accurate in our testing, but the lack of a listed measurement accuracy or a decimal resolution on the readout made this quality hard to verify. This unit is also not able to be re-calibrated, so even if you are not getting accurate temperature readings, you may never know. Even though we found handling the multiple probes to be somewhat cumbersome at times, it is still pretty awesome to be able to remotely monitor and track the progress of up to six different pieces of meat, all at once.
For a less complicated wireless option — that doesn't require a smartphone — we believe there is no better value than the ThermoPro TP-07 Wireless. This meat thermometer consists of two separate units — the wired probe and transmitter, and a programmable receiver. We were most impressed with how easily the two pair wirelessly, and the signal strength going from outside on the grill to inside the kitchen. The receiver is easily programmable, with features including countdown and count-up timers, preset meat temperatures, and internal probe temperature. We also particularly appreciated the thoughtful addition of different color backlights for the LCD screen on the receiver, that clearly identifies key moments in cooking: the first increase in temperature, within 15℉ of set temperature, and when the probe reaches the set internal temperature.
While both units can display temperature, only the transmitter displays temperature at a decimal resolution. But despite this advantage, it is definitely the transmitter that could use the most improvement. We feel that the unit could easily have a much larger LCD screen, and more importantly, would hugely benefit from a clip or magnetic backing — something other than the simple hanger that easily slips from an oven handle every time we opened the door. The button layout may look clunky, but we found that the interface is actually much more intuitive than it first appears, and will have you accurately taking meat temperatures right out of the box.
The Lavatools PT12 Javelin is an incredibly popular meat thermometer, and it is easy to see why. This compact, lightweight and durable option is easily the most pocket-friendly of the folding probes we tested. Its sleek, simple, ergonomic design makes it easy to use in every cooking setting, and it is available to buy in an array of bright colors — almost ensuring that you won't leave it behind on the counter and that it won't get mixed up or accidentally taken by another cook on the line. This thermometer has a broad temperature range, from -40℉ up to 482℉, making it versatile for everything but high-temperature wood-firing. The probe is incredibly sensitive — quickly adjusting to air temperatures just hovering above a pan — and as a result, is also nearly twice as accurate as advertised.
But despite the beauty of simplicity, there are some pitfalls to the crowd-pleasing Javelin. This model does not feature a backlit screen, but fortunately, the LCD is strong enough to easily read under direct light. This simple probe cannot be re-calibrated, nor does it feature a hold button to lock in a temperature reading. Most notably, the Javelin has the shortest probe of any model we tested. As a result of these three factors, we found that this thermometer is better suited for baking rather than grilling. But for the size-conscious cook who likes keeping a temperature probe on them at all times, we believe that this is the best compact option available.
Before the instant thermometer world was taken over by foldable options, the long-stem probe — like the Harbor 022 Instant Read — reigned supreme among professional chefs and candy makers. The value of this excessively simple, price-point option is still clear: it has the longest length probe we tested by nearly half an inch, and measures two-inches longer than the model with the shortest probe. While the manufacturer claims that it only has a measurement precision of 2℉, it is the only model in our calibration test to hit the temperature mark exactly.
Beyond the long stem and accuracy, the Harbor 022 certainly leaves much to be desired, especially when directly compared to more modern competitors. It has a slow read time, consistently longer than 10 seconds to achieve a steady temperature reading. It is a lightweight option for a thermometer, but without a folding probe it is not as conveniently portable in a kitchen — unless you are wearing a professional chef's coat with pen pockets. The screen is small, and without a backlight, it is nearly impossible to read in direct sunlight. However inconvenient these flaws may be, it's also impossible to deny how valuable this price-point, quick-read thermometer could be as an addition to any kitchen.
While it doesn't include the additional features of similar meat thermometers featured in this review, the ThermoPro TP-16 LCD still does a great job handling the essential purpose of a programmable thermometer. Considering the price, its performance and the user-friendly interface, we believe that this basic-looking unit puts forth much more value than meets the eye. The response time of the TP-16 LCD is nearly half that of its nearest wireless competitor, the TP-07. Although the programs are limited to a probe mode, timer, and preset, recommended internal temperatures for only the most basic meats, the interface is incredibly intuitive — even without the aid of the owner's manual, we were able to figure out how to program this model in a matter of seconds.
The magnetic backing is great for attaching to the outside of an oven, but the small, folding stand easily collapses when trying to press the buttons on the top. All appearances point to this thermometer as being designed to live on a grill. However, the lack of waterproof rating, and the fact that the non-backlit LCD is very difficult to read in both direct sunlight and the dim of evening, it's best to keep this one in the kitchen. A measurement precision of 1.8℉ is not as strong as the other competition in our tests, and is only further explained by the readout's lack of a decimal resolution. But our testing proves that this wired thermometer is at least as accurate — and oftentimes slightly better — than the manufacturer claims, earning our praise for consistent efficacy.
The MEATER+ is a smart concept and by far the most stylish temperature probe that we reviewed. The single, pen-sized probe is capable of measuring and recording both internal meat and ambient oven temperatures, and updating that information real-time via a cleanly designed smartphone app. There are no wires; in fact, the base unit — a very chic, bamboo case with a magnetic backing — serves only as a charging base and Bluetooth booster. Just like many modern smart-apps, this unit is capable of connecting to all of your app-based home devices — like Alexa or your TV — through the MEATER cloud, even providing updates when you are away from home. The temperature probe is completely programmed through your phone, and the app includes a huge variety of temperature presets for something as exact as a Secreto cut of pork, or as obscure as a Kangaroo steak.
Unfortunately, this incredible concept all but falls apart when put into practice. Yes, the dual sensors are fairly precise, but this model is not versatile for more than cooking a roast, due in part to the fragility of the probe itself — the maximum internal temperature, without damaging the probe, is only 212℉. Additionally, the probe must be inserted more than 2.5 inches to a "safety notch," all but eliminating its usefulness in pinpointing the thickest part of the meat, because you almost always have to insert the probe from the side. The booster does allow you to monitor temperatures up to 165 feet away when outside, but when cooking in the oven, the probe constantly lost connectivity anytime we moved more than a few feet away from the stove. For those trendy grillers who love the convenience of linking everything to their phone — even their meat thermometer — this is the perfect gift; otherwise, we will wait until the MEATER+ receives an update.
For those devoted to the no-frills simplicity of the manual, leave-in thermometer, the CDN IRM200 ProAccurate will be a great investment. The nearly four square-inch dial sports a large font that is easy to read without sticking your head in the oven, and features a standard temperature guide and indicator that rotates around the rim to mark your desired internal temperature. The heat-resistant glass is, of course, oven-proof, and the dial is sealed so that it can withstand the beating of an even a commercial dishwasher.
Despite its name, the ProAccurate obviously doesn't have the capability for decimal resolution, or the speed of an instant-read thermometer. It is also limited in terms of versatility to meat since the temperature range only goes from 120℉ to 200℉. But what puts this impressive manual option on par with many of the electronic models we tested — particularly in terms of long-lasting value — is this thermometer's ability to be easily re-calibrated.
Why You Should Trust Us
One of our kitchen experts, Aaron Rice, handled all of formal the hands-on testing for this thermometer review. Aaron learned to cook from family at a young age, and continues to devote much of his free time to cooking at home and sharing good food with friends. Additionally, he has worked in and around professional kitchens for the better portion of a decade — he and his wife now manage an on-site culinary garden for a fine-dining restaurant in Santa Fe, NM.
Before diving head-first into the roasting, grilling, slow cooking, and temperature testing, the first step in our thorough testing process is to complete our due diligence of online research — our reviewers spend hours of investigating the most popular products on the market. After narrowing our selection down to eleven of the best, we then purchase those at retail value, so that we can bring you an objectively honest review without marketing prejudice or advertising interference. Our expert reviewers design scientifically-based tests to scrutinize these products through side-by-side testing, and then back up that information with real-world cooking experience. The result is the most comprehensive review available — whether you are looking to boost your smoking game, or ensure that you did cook that chicken roast all the way through, we offer up a variety of the best meat thermometers available to suit the needs of any home (or professional) chef.
Analysis and Test Results
Next to a timer, a quality meat thermometer may be the most important — and one of the least expensive — tools in a chef's arsenal to be able to consistently produce perfectly cooked cuts of meat. The ease of an instant read, or the convenience of a leave-in thermometer could be the difference between a memorable meal or an infamous culinary disaster. To put these products to the test, we took into account four key qualities vital to a valuable meat thermometer: accuracy; speed; ease of use; and features. We then tested these thermometers side-by-side in an ordinary kitchen, analyzing and ranking them according to each metric. Over the course of a week, we verified thermometer calibration, cooked up dozens of cuts of meat to test internal temperatures, measured specifications, and compared features.
Without the capability of a meat thermometer to take precise measurements, you may as well be using the time-tested, but often poorly executed, "hand test". If we're cooking a particularly pricey steak, we'd rather not take that risk. Each product we tested listed a measurement accuracy per the manufacturer, but of course, we had to verify those claims through a series of tests. We noticed that many of the models included in this review exceeded their manufacturer claims, and as a result were awarded a few extra points for continuously outstanding performance. We also awarded points to the thermometers that are able to be re-calibrated — this includes the CDN ProAccurate, the Kizen Instant Read, the Inkbird Waterproof, and the ThermoPro TP19.
Many thermometers are factory-calibrated by chilling an ice-bath down to the freezing point — this is an accurate point of measurement because unlike boiling, freezing temperatures do not vary by altitude. Unfortunately, two thermometers were excluded from this first part of testing: the ProAccurate only displays a minimum temperature of 200℉; although the MEATER+ came within 1℉ of the mark, once the probe hit 32℉ we were prompted with a "low temperature detected!" warning message. Since there is no minimum temperature listed for this model — and its other temperature restrictions — we have to assume that this probe is at risk of damage from sub-freezing temperatures.
But since these are meat thermometers, most commonly checking much higher temperatures, we also wanted to verify the high-side of their measurement accuracy — we tested this both in a boiling test, and backed that up with anecdotal evidence from cooking. Two of the ThermoPro models — the TP19, and price-point TP03 — continually produced exceptional results, accurately measuring temperatures within a half-degree precision.
Interestingly enough, another one of the more price-conscious options — the Harbor 022 — also consistently took temperatures with nearly the same degree of accuracy. For wireless models, we found that the Soraken was easily the most accurate (although it does not display decimals on either readout). The Kizen is also nearly as accurate as the ThermoPro options; however, the speed with which it operates causes the temperature readout to jump around rapidly, which can be mildly annoying when trying to lock-down an exact reading.
As mentioned above, some instant-read thermometers do so at a rate that is much more "instant" than others. An accurate, speedy temperature probe is a must for the professional chef, who is often juggling multiple pieces of meat on the grill at once, all set to cook at different times and destined for different degrees of doneness. While this same quality of speed may seem like a superfluous feature for the home kitchen, consider this: how long do you want to stick your arm into a 500℉ oven to take a temperature reading?
To test this key characteristic, we put each probe through a series of tests to see how long it took to achieve an exact measurement and then averaged those response times for an accurate representation of their general performance. While many models in this review are capable of sub-six second measurement times, only two were able to live up to the hype of their super-fast read times — the Kizen clocked in at just over three seconds, and the TP03 in just under four seconds.
It is understandable that the only manual option we tested, the ProAccurate, would have a much slower read time (21 seconds.) For wireless options, we were most impressed with the Soraken for its speed — not only does the probe(s) regularly record temperatures every five seconds, but the app is updated via the transmitter at that same speed. The other two wireless models could not come close to touching that pace. The TP-07 registers and transmits temperature every 12 seconds, and while the MEATER+ updates consistently, it took nearly 38 seconds for it to establish a steady reading.
Ease of Use
For a meat thermometer to become a staple of any kitchen, it must not only be easily accessible but also easy to use. We judged this metric on a number of factors, including size, weight, probe length and thickness, screen size and brightness, and any additional qualities that might make a probe particularly user-friendly. For example, the TP19 is the only model in our review that has an auto-rotating screen, which makes it easier to use for left-handed individuals. Similarly, only a few models, the Kizen, Inkbird, and also the TP19, include a button that will lock a temperature reading on the screen. This is particularly convenient so that you don't have to expose your face to the heat of a grill or oven, or just as an ally in the fight against forgetfulness.
The ProAccurate is the only analog thermometer in this review, and while this makes it very useful for long oven cooks — like a turkey — the probe is noticeably thicker than almost every other model we tested. The MEATER+ also is a very fat probe — alternatively, the probes of the Soraken are the thinnest of any of the wireless models tested. All of the instant-read thermometers have very similar probe widths and fairly similar lengths, with the exception of the Harbor 022, that has a slightly blunted tip. Although the Harbor model is the only non-folding option, it does sport the longest probe length, improving by nearly half an inch compared to most of the pack. At the other end of the spectrum lays the Lavatools Javelin, with a probe length of only 2.8 inches.
However, the Javelin is also the most pocket-friendly, instant-read thermometer. It is noticeably smaller in your hand when directly compared to the TP19, which is the largest of the models we tested. The MEATER+ is by far the smallest, lightest probe, but only because it relies on your smartphone for a screen.
Screen size and brightness play a major role in determining usefulness, but also the size of the font on the LCD. So while the Javelin has a small screen relative to its size, it features a large, luminous font that is easy to read both in the kitchen and in direct sunlight. The Harbor 022 not only has the smallest screen, but without a backlight, it is nearly impossible to see in the sun; the same goes for the TP-16, which was very difficult to grill with. Preferably, a thermometer has a large, backlit screen with easy readable font, like the Kizen, TP19, Inkbird, and Soraken models.
Sometimes additional features can greatly add value to a product. Other times, they can be so frustrating to figure out that you find yourself intentionally avoiding using the gadget. Fortunately, most of the meat thermometers we tested here are very straightforward. Practically all of the instant-read options only have one button, and cannot help be anything other than user-friendly. We awarded additional points to the Inkbird instant-read, which is the only thermometer in our review that is fully rechargeable via USB-C — while the MEATER+ has a charging base, that unit is still battery-powered.
For the instant-read thermometers, where the probe is attached to the electronic unit, we believe the most important feature they could have is a waterproof rating since you will commonly be washing these in the sink after use. The Javelin and Inkbird have similar waterproof ratings of IP65 and IPx5, respectively, while the Kizen is the only model we tested that can be fully submerged, with a rating of IP67. The ProAccurate is indeed safe for runs through even commercial dishwashers but does not come with an IP-rating.
So when it comes to discussing features, the bulk of the conversation should really be devoted to the subtle differences between the programmable models. For our review, this refers to all of the wireless options, plus the hardwired TP-16 LCD. Although it doesn't include as many programmable features as the others, we loved the super intuitive interface of the TP-16. A simple button operation allows you to set a timer, probe temperature with alarm, or choose from a number of visually-indicated, preprogrammed temperatures for beef, poultry, and pork standards.
A step up from there into the wireless realm is the TP-07, which includes both a transmitter and receiver that automatically pair within seconds. While the interface isn't quite as straightforward as the TP-16, it does include a few more preprogrammed options.
Firmly in the wireless realm are the Soraken and MEATER+. While the Soraken also includes a readout on the transmitter, both of these models are primarily controlled via smartphone apps. The programs both have the ability to set specific alarms, graphically track temperature vs. time, and offer a huge variety of pre-programmed temperatures for meat types. In the case of the MEATER+, you can even choose from specific cuts of meat.
The main difference we found between these two models specifically is that the MEATER+ has a dual-sensor probe, able to track both internal and ambient temperatures; the Soraken includes four separate probes, and can accept up to six to monitor multiple steaks simultaneously. But when it came to testing wireless power, while all three models lived up to advertised distance outside, when we tried to track food outside on the grill from all the way across the house, only the TP-07 Wireless was able to consistently maintain a stable connection.
An extra gadget for some, and an indispensable tool for many chefs, a trustworthy meat thermometer is much more than just a convenience in many kitchens. Cooking is all about controlling temperature. From baking bread to smoking brisket, we are constantly testing and refining our proficiency in reading temperature and judging how well our food is cooking. A quality thermometer will help you hone that skill, and help your culinary end results meet your expectations. Our hope is that this review will offer some recommendations that will make your search for your perfect meat thermometer a little more convenient.
— Aaron Rice