Whether you’re a novice behind the grill or have years of experience cooking up perfect charred burgers, one tool you might want to consider investing in is a thermometer. A thermometer can help you precisely cook your meats, which can ensure that you and your guests don’t end up contracting a foodborne illness. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans end up sick from contaminated foods or beverages annually.) There are many grill thermometers on the market, so to help you decide which one is right for you, we spoke to food experts about the most important things to consider when shopping for a grilling thermometer.
When choosing a thermometer, there are a couple of critical boxes you’ll want to check, according to Thinh Phan of BBQInProgress.com:
- Is it an instant read or a leave-in thermometer? While an instant read thermometer can give you the temperature of your meat almost instantly, a leave-in thermometer is inserted into your meat before cooking and stays there throughout the grilling or roasting process. You typically don’t want to stand around waiting for a dial to move — especially if it entails letting heat escape from your grill or oven — so an instant read thermometer is ideal for grilling.
- Is it easy to read? This isn’t a number you want to struggle to see or get wrong. Consider dusktime grilling, for example.
- Is it durable? You want something that can survive getting dropped — or cycling through the dishwasher.
Best overall thermometer: Lavatools
If you want a functional thermometer at a reasonable price, Phan recommends this compact design that’s easy to store. “It’s fast and accurate (with two to three seconds of reading time) and it can display both Fahrenheit and Celsius,” he said. “The display has a backlight that will turn on by itself if it’s dark around and the unit also shuts off automatically if not in use, which saves a lot of battery life. With a three-year warranty, it’s a great unit that balances affordability with functionality.”
Best affordable thermometer: Thermoworks
Not only is this what Hugh Mangum — Mighty Quinn’s BBQ co-founder and pitmaster — uses at work, but it’s also what he has at home and gifts to friends who like to cook. “It’s the most user-friendly, reliable, simple to use, easy to read and bomb-proof thermometer I have ever found, bar none,” Mangum said. “At $35, it may seem steeper than what you can pick up at the grocery store, but I can assure you that it is money well spent, as this will be the last thermometer you ever buy and it’ll save you money in the long run due to the food you won’t overcook.”
Best smart thermometer: BBQ Guru
“This unit does everything except light your grill. It even comes with a fan that attaches to your ceramic grill and controls the air flow to give you what all cooks crave the most in their cooking: consistency,” said Dave Anderson, founder of Famous Dave's. “This unit can connect to your smartphone in case you are smoking up a larger hunk of meat and you need to quickly run to the grocery store. Here’s the biggest crazy feature: It even connects to Alexa.”
Best dual-probe thermometer: ThermoPro
ThermoPro’s smart thermometer boasts a 4.6-average rating from more than 22,400 reviewers on Amazon. It includes preset temperature guides for nine different meats (noting their USDA-recommended level of doneness). “A Wi-Fi dual-probe thermometer lets you monitor the meat and grill temps from your phone instead of having to constantly open the grill,” noted Angela Davis, a recipe developer at The Kitchenista Diaries.
Best high-end thermometer: Thermoworks
Although this thermometer comes at a higher price point, it’s the best you can get, according to Phan. “In fact, this one is considered the gold standard on the market. The unit is solid — everything from the feel to the material and its performance,” he said. “It’s also very accurate, with a temperature range from -58 degrees F to 572 degrees F and it’s waterproof with a sturdy hard plastic so you don’t have to worry about water or dropping it.”