The Best Meat Thermometer (2023) for Every Kind of Home Cook

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Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, but I already have an analog thermometer kicking around in the back of a drawer somewhere! Do I really need to buy another one?! The answer from us is an emphatic YES. There’s a reason that all of our recommendations are for digital instant-read thermometers. While the notion of a battery-free kitchen thermometer may be intriguing in theory, analog thermometers are simply not fast or precise enough to be helpful in most situations. When so much of successful meat cooking comes down to brief moments and degrees, waiting 10 seconds for a ballpark reading—is the needle hovering over 125 or 130?—just isn’t going to cut it.

What is the most accurate meat thermometer?

As I mentioned earlier, the most accurate and best instant-read thermometer on the market today is, hands down, the ThermoWorks Thermapen One. (It’s worth noting here that the ThermoWorks Thermapen MK4, formerly the best of the best, has been discontinued and replaced with the Thermapen One, which looks and feels almost identical but is even faster.)

How do I love this product? Let me count the ways. It is consistently accurate to half of a degree Fahrenheit. It offers a temperature reading in one solitary second, quicker than you can even SAY the word “temperature.” It has an easy-to-read backlit display that rotates 360 degrees, so you can see the numbers clearly from any angle. It has no buttons to speak of, which makes its ease of use unmatched—you simply lever the stainless-steel probe out from the body of the thermometer and the thing turns on, and it turns off automatically after a few seconds when it’s not being used, which saves battery. Speaking of battery life: I’ve had my Thermapen MK4 for more than five years and have never had it die on me, but I love the fact that, if it ever does run out of juice, all I have to do is pop in a regular old AAA, not some weird, obscure kind of battery. Did I mention that it is water-resistant and comes in 10 colors?

The only downside to this miraculous piece of kitchen equipment? The price tag. The crème de la crème of cooking thermometers is going to run you a cool $99—which ain’t nothing, but as is often the case, quality doesn’t come cheap.

ThermoWorks Thermapen One

Gotcha. But do I really have to spend that much?

The great news is: You probably don’t. In fact, one of our favorite thermometers for cooking is the Lavatools Javelin thermometer, which you can find on Amazon for $26. Former pastry chef and current BA associate editor Zoe Denenberg swears by this humble food thermometer for a few reasons. To start, it has a speedy response time of 3–4 seconds, and it’s accurate to ±0.9°F. While that’s not quite as fast or precise as the Thermapen One, these stats make it a strong competitor—especially since it’s a quarter of the price. The Javelin looks similar to the Thermapen One thanks to its hinged foldaway probe and sleek display screen, but it’s smaller and can fit in your pocket. And where it arguably bests the Thermapen is in a clever design feature: There’s a magnet on the back, so you can store it on your refrigerator or oven door. Another thing Denenberg loves about this thermometer is its finger loop, which reduces the risk of accidentally dropping it into a pot of hot caramel, then you’ll appreciate this feature just as much as she does. All in all, you can consider this a high-quality Thermapen One dupe that’s quick, accurate, and affordable.

Lavatools Javelin Digital Instant Read Thermometer

Any other great (even more affordable) options? 

The fine folks behind the Thermapen also make a smaller, pocket-size thermometer called the ThermoWorks ThermoPop, which is also nearly as good as the Thermapen in almost every way and costs just $21. What makes it “nearly as good?” Well, it is accurate to about two degrees Fahrenheit compared to the Thermapen’s half a degree, and while it still gives a fast reading, you have to wait three to four seconds rather than one. There is a button. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal—it really isn’t for most cooks and situations—then this is probably the right meat thermometer for you. And just like the Thermapen, the ThermoPop comes in a bunch of cool colors, is water-resistant, and has a rotating LCD display with backlight. What’s not to like? As a person who very much loves my Thermapen, I also own a ThermoPop that I keep in the glove compartment of my car, just in case I’m making roast chicken at a friend’s house or a rental without a well-equipped kitchen. Better safe than sorry!

ThermoWorks ThermoPop

What is the best meat thermometer for cooking large cuts of meat?

While the Thermapen and ThermoPop are great for quickly and accurately taking the temperature of most things, there are certain situations when another style of smart meat thermometer comes in handy—namely, when I’m cooking larger cuts of meat for extended periods of time. When I’m, say, smoking a brisket on my kettle grill, or slowly roasting a six-bone rib roast to rosy perfection, I reach for my ThermoWorks Smoke, a leave-in-style probe thermometer that allows me to monitor both the ambient temperature of a grill or oven and the internal temperature of a piece of meat remotely. The long probes run from the meat to an easy-to-read display, and that display also connects wirelessly to an (admittedly dorky) remote receiver, allowing you to monitor cooking temperatures up to 300 feet away. Why is this helpful? Well, every time you open a grill lid or a smoker or oven door, you release heat, making it difficult to maintain the consistent temperatures that are key to the low-and-slow cooking process. A gadget like this allows you to monitor from afar and minimize the number of times you have to check on your meat project, which can be hugely helpful. Plus, you can set it to alarm at certain high or low temperature ranges, so you don’t have to worry about falling asleep on the couch and having your smoker temperature drop too low or your leg of lamb overcooking.

ThermoWorks Smoke Remote BBQ Alarm Thermometer

If these sound like pretty obscure use-cases, it’s because they are for most people. To be perfectly honest, I’ve probably used my ThermoWorks Smoke a grand total of five times over the past couple of years, but every time I’ve been incredibly glad that I had it. After spending more than a week brining my own Christmas ham for the first time, I was able to relax during the hours it spent in my hand-me-down smoker knowing that I could check on it from anywhere in my house. It’s definitely not the kind of meat thermometer that every home cook needs to have, but if backyard BBQ and other big, meaty projects with long cooking times are your thing, it may very well be worth the $99 investment.

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