Three best meat thermometers

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Clean your meat thermometer after each use according to the manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid contamination and bacterial growth that could cause illness. Most meat thermometers should not be put in the dishwasher.

Cooking meat to the right temperature is essential. Reaching the correct internal temperature ensures that harmful bacteria don't end up causing illness. On the other hand, overcooking your food can leave you with a bad taste in your mouth -- literally. Dry, overdone steak, fish, or chicken isn't particularly palatable. So how do you make sure you cook food safely without sacrificing flavor and texture? Enter the meat thermometer, a handy device that enables cooks to check the inner temperature of their food with ease. The following guide tells you what you need to know about this useful kitchen gadget.

Considerations when choosing meat thermometers

Where are you cooking?

Are you cooking steaks on the grill? Roasting a whole chicken in the oven?

Check the maximum temperature allowance of your meat thermometer to make sure it doesn't melt when exposed to high temperatures, such as a very hot grill.

What are you cooking and for how many people?

Are you cooking for several people who like their steaks cooked to different temperatures? Individual non-digital thermometers might be more useful than a single digital model. Are you roasting a turkey to feed a crowd? A leave-in thermometer is what you're looking for.

Types of meat thermometers

Although digital thermometers offer accuracy, there are plenty of analog devices that give reliable readings at an attractive budget price point. Here are the most common types of meat thermometers:

Leave-in: These thermometers must be left in during the entire cooking process, so they're not useful for instant temperature readings. These are best for monitoring slow-cooked meats, such as roast chicken or turkey.

Instant read (non-digital): These inexpensive devices offer quick, reasonably accurate readings, but they're easy to insert incorrectly.

Digital: These thermometers offer instant readings that are typically very accurate, but they are pricier than analog models.

Leave-in digital: These thermometers connect to a digital base that provides the reading. Some ovens feature this type of technology.

Wireless: These include a probe that is left in the meat as it cooks. You can check the meat's temperature without having to be near your oven or grill. These thermometers are very convenient but more expensive than other types.

Meat thermometer features

Alerts: Audible or visual cues let cooks know when the right temperature has been reached or the cooking time is up. It's a handy feature for forgetful cooks.

Temperature indicator: Basic thermometers should at least include a handy chart or indicator that displays USDA recommended temperatures for cooking meat safely. Fancier digital models might enable you to set your own temperature targets for cooking meat to your exact preferences.

Multiple probes: Check on the temperature of your food and grill or different types of meat with a thermometer that includes more than one probe.

Max temperature: If you plan to use your meat thermometer to monitor food while you barbecue, look for a maximum heat tolerance of at least 600°F. If you're primarily cooking food in the oven or on the stovetop, a maximum tolerance of 500°F should be fine.

Lit display: For evening cooking or low-light use, look for a digital model with an illuminated display so you don't have to squint to see if your meat is cooked correctly.

Battery-saving feature: Some digital models are able to automatically turn off after a certain amount of time to save battery power.

Wireless: If you love smart home tools, a wireless meat thermometer might be the right choice for your cooking needs. Some models can be connected to a smartphone app so you can check on your food from afar.

Meat thermometer prices: The more features a meat thermometer has, the higher the price tag. A good-quality analog model shouldn't set you back more than $20, but if you're looking to invest in a digital model with wireless capabilities, expect to pay at least $50.

FAQ

Q. How do I use my meat thermometer?

A. Using your meat thermometer correctly is important to make sure the readings are accurate. Hitting bone means you've gone too far and will give you an inaccurate temperature reading. A good general guideline is to stick in the probe at the thickest portion of the meat. It might take a moment for the probe to get a correct reading.

Q. What's the risk of eating undercooked meat?

A. Foodborne pathogens, such as salmonella, listeria, and some parasites, can still be present in undercooked meat, which is why it's so important to cook meat to accurate, food-safe temperatures.

Meat thermometers we recommend

Best of the best: ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Digital Meat Thermometer

Our take: The best in the world of digital wireless meat thermometers. Blends accuracy and convenience.

What we like: A tough device with wireless capabilities that enables you to check on your food remotely.

What we dislike: Scattered reports of device error, but customer service and warranty make up for this.

Best bang for your buck: GDEALER Digital Talking Instant Read Thermometer

Our take: Inexpensive, but its lifetime guarantee speaks to its quality.

What we like: Reads temperature aloud so you can keep tabs on your food without squinting at the display.

What we dislike: Slow readings are not always 100% accurate.

Choice 3: CDN GLOW ProAccurate Meat Thermometer  

Our take: For the cook or grill master looking for a simple, budget-friendly thermometer.

What we like: The round display is large enough to read, and it glows in the dark for those times when you're cooking late. The 5-year warranty is nice, too.

What we dislike: Doesn't provide instant readings like other models.

Steph Coelho is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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