The Best Probe Thermometers
Stick it, set it, and forget it: this probe tells you a roast’s temp without opening the oven.
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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 for $64.00)—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 seven top-rated digital probe thermometers and put them through a series of tests. In the end, there was only one model that we don’t recommend.
These are the best probe thermometers we tested ranked, in order:
- ThermoWorks ChefAlarm
- ThermoWorks DOT
- ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Meat Thermometer with Dual Probe
- ThermoPro TP-16 Large LCD Digital Meat Thermometer
- Polder 362-90 Digital In-Oven Thermometer/Timer
- MEATER | The Original True Wireless Smart Meat Thermometer
- Anpro Touchscreen Digital Meat Cooking Thermometer and Timer
It really doesn't get much better than the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm. In addition to being the most accurate probe in the group, it's also the only one 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. 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.
How We Tested
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 seven 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.
Other Probe Thermometers We Tested
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 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 | The 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.
We weren’t taken with the Anpro Touchscreen Digital Meat Cooking Thermometer and Timer from the moment we took it out of the packaging. The controls aren’t intuitive, requiring us to look up how to do something as simple as changing it from Celsius to Fahrenheit. Every time we turned it on, it defaulted to Celsius (which was a minor annoyance). The screen wasn't backlit, so it was hard to read, and the readings themselves were slow. All in all, this one isn’t worth it (even with the low price tag).
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