What the best meat thermometer has
- Accurate readings. Accuracy is paramount for any meat thermometer
-- after all, your health is at stake if you eat undercooked meat, and eating
overcooked meat isn't much fun either.
- Fast readings. The
faster a handheld thermometer takes its reading, the sooner you can get your
hand away from hot surfaces or close the oven or grill door, reducing
temperature fluctuations in the cooking area. Speed isn't as important for
leave-in thermometers, but still comes in handy for ensuring that the number
you're looking at actually reflects what's going on in the oven or grill.
- A wide range of temperature capabilities. The wider the range of temperatures your meat thermometer can
withstand (and accurately register), the more useful it is. The best models can
withstand more than 500 degrees of heat, enough for use in an oven or grill.
Many of them can also register temperatures well below freezing, so you don't
have to buy another thermometer to monitor chilled foods.
- Automatic shutoff. Most
experts agree that you should bypass analog, dial-style thermometers and go
straight to digital thermometers, which are usually powered by AA, AAA or
coin-style batteries. An automatic shut-off function helps save battery life,
cutting down on the lifetime expense of the device.
- A backlit screen. Although
not an absolute must if the digits are large enough, a backlit screen makes
your thermometer easy to read in dim lighting or within the confines of a grill
- Clearly labeled controls. Today's
meat thermometers are getting increasingly smart, with countdown or count-up
timers, minimum/maximum temperature alerts and even, in one case, graphing
software for your mobile device. But no matter how smart they get, thermometers
are still only as good as your ability to control them -- so large, easy to
press buttons and clearly labeled controls are a must. For wireless models that
sync to your smartphone, look for an intuitive, easy-to-use app.
- Durable probes. The probe on the end of a meat thermometer is, by design, fairly
delicate; most measure only a few millimeters across. The best probes can
withstand high temperatures of 500 degrees or more and, for leave-in models,
have equally tough cables that won't melt when exposed to the heat of an oven
or grill. Probes and probe cables tend to be a weak point for most
thermometers, so models with splash-resistant cables that can withstand
exposure to water are an especially good investment.
Know before you go
like to hover in the kitchen? If so,
you can get a great instant-read thermometer for as little as $30. If you like
to wander, multi-task or visit with friends, though, go for a leave-in thermometer that sounds an alarm when your meat hits the desired
temperature. If you're prone to wandering out of hearing range of the kitchen,
look for a wireless model that either talks to your smartphone or has a
receiver handset you can take with you while you roam.
kitchen timers getting smarter than ever, it only makes sense that they'd want
to talk to your smartphone. For example, our best-reviewed wireless meat
thermometer, the iDevice Kitchen Thermometer (Est. $80),
sends your smartphone a push alert once your meat hits the target temperature,
and can even display a graph that shows temperature readings over time. Some
users buy this type of tool for the cool tech factor, but if you're the type of
person who always has a smartphone with you anyway, it's also a very sensible
expect to see the trend toward smartphone-compatible wireless thermometers
continue, and we're eager to see just how user-friendly an
interface manufacturers can create. With that said, we also predict that
non-smartphone models won't vanish entirely, if only because their RF
transmissions have greater range than the Bluetooth pairing usually used for a
smartphone device -- and of course, even today, not everybody has a smartphone.