We should all be aware how important it is to own a quick, accurate, and easy to use digital meat thermometer. It’s the only way to really know whether your meat is finished cooking. The only problem with a digital thermometer? You need to open the oven or smoker door to check the temperature, letting out precious heat or smoke in the process. It would be so much easier to stick a probe into the meat before you start cooking and let it do all the work for you. Our top pick for probe thermometers—the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm(available at ThermoWorks)—does just that.
A probe thermometer is incredibly helpful when cooking large cuts of meat. It will prevent you from overcooking your Thanksgiving turkey, Sunday roast, or pulled pork on the smoker, by alerting you when the meat reaches the right temperature. But, it can do so much more than that. If you're a cheesemaker or dabble in candy making, you can dangle the probe over the side of the pot when heating milk or sugar, keeping your hands safely far away from those dangerously hot temperatures.
We wanted to find the best overall probe thermometer—good for meat and more—so we ordered the top-rated digital probe thermometers and put them through a series of tests.
These are the best probe thermometers we tested ranked, in order:
ThermoWorks Smoke X Long-Range Wireless BBQ Alarm Thermometer
Weber 3201 Connect Smart Grilling Hub
ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Meat Thermometer with Dual Probe
Meater Plus Smart Wireless Meat Thermometer
ThermoPro TP-16 Large LCD Digital Meat Thermometer
Polder 362-90 Digital In-Oven Thermometer/Timer
MEATER True Wireless Smart Meat Thermometer
It really doesn't get much better than the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm. In addition to being one of the most accurate probes in the group, it's also one of the few that you can calibrate. It has a nice backlight display that might appear to be a little crowded at first, but the "current temp" reading is the largest and easiest number to read. You can use it as a timer, adjust the alarm's volume, and it keeps track of the minimum and maximum readings. It even has a high- and low-temperature alarm, which I really appreciate as a cheesemaker. We especially love that it has a hinged, tilting screen for easy viewing on the countertop (but, it also has a magnet and a clip).
Spending $60 on a thermometer might not be for everyone, but it's well worth it if you're serious about barbecue, making cheese, or boiling sugar for candy. The cable is heat resistant to over 700°F so there's no reason to think that this model won't last a lifetime. Two years later, our ChefAlarm is still working like new, despite being used in the rain and subjecting it to hours in the sun at 90-plus degree weather. Since it aced every single one of our tests, this probe thermometer was a no-brainer choice for our Best Overall.
The ThermoWorks DOT does one thing and one thing only: It alerts you when your food reaches the target temperature. It doesn't have a timer or any fancy bells and whistles. In fact, it only has three buttons: Increase temperature, decrease temperature, and an on/off button that doubles as the backlight button. That being said, this probe thermometer is accurate, fast, and easy to read. Like the ChefAlarm, the cable is heat resistant to up to 700° F and it's long enough to reach the furthest point in our grill. It can stand up on the counter, it has a magnet that will stick itself to the grill, or you can buy an accessory clip to attach it to the side of your pot.
We found the DOT to be just as accurate as our top winner, but its lower price tag makes it more attractive for cooks who just want to measure temperatures. Because of that, this one landed itself as our Best Value.
Hi, I’m Lindsay Mattison, a trained professional chef and barbecue enthusiast. There’s nothing I love more than throwing a tough cut of meat like pork shoulder or brisket onto the smoker and watching the transformation. All it needs to do is hit the right temperature and it magically turns into a shreddable, melt-in-your-mouth tender meal. I gained the confidence to cook these kinds of meats because of a good probe thermometer that precisely and accurately alerts me when the meat is finished. I’d love to help you do the same!
After selecting top-rated wired and wireless probe thermometers, we put them through a series of tests to see if they would earn our seal of approval. We were looking for thermometers that were accurate, fast, and easy to use.
Accuracy is the most important aspect of any thermometer. You need to be able to trust that your food is the temperature it says, otherwise there’s no point in using a thermometer at all! We dropped the thermometers in ice water to make sure they read 32° F before testing them in boiling water (which should register 212° F at sea level, or 200.5° F at my elevation).
Next up were our speed tests. Speed isn’t as important for a probe thermometer as it is for an instant-read thermometer, but it still gives us a good indicator at how well-constructed the product is. We clocked the speed at which each probe measured ice and boiling water and averaged the results.
Finally, a probe thermometer is no good if it’s not easy to use. We stuck the probes in a pork loin and threw it in the smoker. We tried to set the target temperatures without consulting the manual and listened to make sure the alarm was loud enough to hear. If the probe was a wireless model, we assessed whether the sync was intuitive and how far it would work away from the probe itself.
What You Should Know About Probe Thermometers
Unlike instant-read thermometers, probe thermometers are designed to monitor real-time internal temperatures. They’re inserted into the thickest part of the meat while it’s still raw, allowing you to pinpoint the exact moment your food reaches its ideal temperature. It’s a fool-proof way to ensure you don’t accidentally overcook a chicken in a moment of distraction, and it’s almost essential for low-and-slow cooking projects like smoked brisket.
The wires are usually designed to withstand hot oven and grill temperatures. Most probe thermometers have a magnet that can attach to the side of a grill, and some also come with a clip that allows you to use them when making cheese, candy, or measuring deep-fryer oil temperatures.
Many models only have one probe channel and require your presence to view the temperature data. Others are wireless, using Bluetooth or WiFi to connect to your smartphone via an app, or use a wireless remote to allow you to view the temperature remotely.
Choosing the Right Probe Thermometer
There are a few things to consider when picking up a probe thermometer. If you do a lot of backyard grilling or smoking, you may want a base unit that has multiple channels to monitor several different roasts at once. Some models are even compatible with ambient temperature probes, allowing you to measure the temp inside the grill.
From there, think about the functionality you need. Do you need a probe with a built-in timer? Or the ability to set a high- and low-temperature alarm? That might be helpful in recipes that call for increasing or decreasing the oven or grill temperature during certain cooking periods. Will you need to monitor the temperature from afar? This functionality is fantastic for long-cooking items like pulled pork and brisket, so you can go inside and still hear the alarm when it sounds. Are graphs, cooking tutorials, and advanced data collection important to you? A probe thermometer with a smartphone app might be right for you.
Finally, the ability to calibrate a thermometer is a serious bonus. Accuracy tends to creep as the probe ages, and being able to reset the thermometer keeps you from spending extra money. The only probes we tested that had calibration functionality were from ThermoWorks, but many companies sell replacement probes that aren’t too expensive.
Other Probe Thermometers We Tested
ThermoWorks Smoke X2
We’ve tested several ThermoWorks products over the years, and they continue to impress. The Smoke X Long-Range Wireless BBQ Alarm Thermometer certainly doesn’t come cheap, but it’s our top choice for grill enthusiasts. Like the ChefAlarm, the Smoke X can track high- and low-alarms, but it doesn’t have a timer.
It also doesn’t come with a clip, but it is rated for indoor use for making cheese, candy, or measuring deep-fryer oil.
The real benefit of the Smoke X is the wireless receiver. Walk away from the grill, and the receiver will maintain a connection to the base unit up to 6,562 feet (1.24-mile) line-of-sight distance. The receiver did become slightly out of sync when we moved over 200 feet from the base, but it only lagged behind a few degrees. Connect the unit to the Billows BBQ Temp Control Fan, and it can control the temperatures of a charcoal grill, turning it into a set-it-and-forget-it device.
All things considered, we were pretty pleased with the Weber 3201 Connect Smart Grilling Hub’s performance. This smartphone-capable probe has four probe channels, including one that lets you view the ambient temperature inside the grill.
Connect the hub to the app via WiFi or Bluetooth, choose from several built-in cooking programs or manual set the target temperature, and you can monitor the cooking activity from afar.
The product had some quirks, and we’re hoping Weber continues to make updates to their app, but the thermometer itself performed as well as many of the other models in our test group.
If you need a thermometer that has more than one probe and you want to monitor the temperature remotely without any fancy apps or gadgets, look to the ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Meat Thermometer with Dual Probe. It comes with two pieces: a probe base and a wireless transmitter. After you stick your meat with the probe, you can walk away with the transmitter—which still worked when I was 100 feet away in the house—and it will alert you when your smoked food is finished. The display numbers are smaller than some of the other products, but it has a nice backlight and a clear, loud alarm. The only problems we found is that this model doesn't have any magnets and it chews through batteries faster than we expected.
The ThermoPro TP-16 Large LCD Digital Meat Thermometer is a great little budget thermometer. It's small but the display numbers are large enough to see from across the kitchen. It's quick and easy to set the target temperature, and it even comes with a few preset temperatures (which, I would completely ignore unless you want seriously overcooked meat). The readings are accurate and it has a magnet that can attach to the side of the grill or smoker. Our only complaint is there's no way to prop this model up to see it on the countertop. That aside, if you're looking for a probe thermometer for under $20, this is the one to get.
We tested both the Meater and the Meater Plus. Of the two, we definitely recommend paying an extra $30 for the extended range on the Meater Plus.
This wireless probe thermometer connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth or WiFi. That means no wires to fuss with! When the probe is inserted into the meat, the tip measures the meat’s internal temperature while the end of the probe monitors the ambient grill or oven temperature. All the information is recorded on the app, and an algorithm calculates the estimated cook time once you set your target temperature. Past cooking sessions and graphs are also available for viewing.
Unfortunately, the wireless design means the probe can only be used for meat—there’s no wire to hang it over the side of a pot for making cheese or candy. The app’s range is greatly extended with the Meater Plus (over 165 feet versus 30 feet), but you won’t be able to monitor any temperatures if you lose the connection.
We love that you can use the Polder 362-90 Digital In-Oven Thermometer/Timer as a cooking timer and a probe thermometer, but unfortunately, it missed the mark a bit as a thermometer. We liked that the magnet on the back was strong enough to clip onto the side of our grill and smoker, and it was nice that this product also has a tilting screen if you want to set it up on the countertop. The numbers are nice and large on the display and the timer can be heard from across the room. But, compared to the other thermometers, it's slow to read and not quite as accurate.
OK, here’s the good: The Meater Original True Wireless Smart Meat Thermometer is super easy to sync, has a really nice app interface, it reads the ambient temperature of the smoker as well the probe inside the meat, and it has an algorithm that calculates an estimated cook time once you set your target temperature. The bad: It can only be used for meat since it’s completely wireless (which means you can’t use it for cheesemaking or candy), I had to leave my smartphone within 50 feet of the smoker to maintain a connection, and the wide probe left a large hole in the food. All in all, since it's only really useful for roasts, that placed it near the bottom of this list. But, we still liked the little thermometer.
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