The best meat thermometers or kitchen thermometers, because they are handy for measuring the temperatures of more than just a roast or steak, include the instant read meat thermometer, a good oven thermometer, a deep fry thermometer, an oven probe digital meat thermometer, and an infrared thermometer temperature gun. Tips from a kitchen thermometer collector below!
When most home cooks think of the best kitchen utensils and gadgets that they should have on hand, meat thermometers – or kitchen thermometers, because while they’re generally referred to as meat thermometers, they’re handy for measuring the temperatures of more than just a steak or roast – are generally not high on the list.
For us, a range of kitchen thermometers or meat thermometers are essential for all types of cooking, from deep frying and roasting to baking anything from sourdough bread to cakes. If you haven’t been using kitchen thermometers, you’ll be surprised how handy they can be. If you do use them, but haven’t yet identified the best meat thermometers, then this guide is for you.
With all the guidelines in cookbooks and on food sites for optimum cooking temperatures and chefs and cookbook authors using temperatures and weights down to the very gram, accuracy is essential if you want to get the same results and they’re so much easier to achieve if you’re using quality kitchen thermometers.
My obsession with seeking out the best kitchen thermometers has resulted in a collection of culinary thermometers in a large pencil case in a kitchen drawer. Some are unloved, several are broken, and a couple of others have been replaced with better options. Learn from my mistakes and only purchase top quality cooking thermometers.
Here are my picks for the best types of kitchen thermometers.
Best Meat Thermometers and How and When to Use Your Kitchen Thermometer
In this post, I’ll run through the most common types of thermometers that you’ll use in the kitchen and the best cooking thermometers in each category, but first some tips on how and when to use meat thermometers and kitchen thermometers.
How and When to Use Meat Thermometers
When cooking any kind of meat, insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, taking care not to touch any bones or large sections of fat, which will give a false reading. The thickest part of the meat will take the longest time to cook, making it the best spot to check the temperature of meat to ensure it is cooked.
To prevent overcooking, always take the meat out of the oven at around 3˚C lower than your optimal temperature, as the temperature will continue to rise and the meat will continue to cook.
After you remove the meat from the oven, cover the meat loosely in aluminium foil and rest it in a warm place. Leave it for at least 10 minutes to allow the juices to be reabsorbed and retain the moisture of the meat. Do not slice the meat before it’s rested.
After you’ve used a meat thermometer, always clean the probe of the thermometer in soapy water.
More Uses for Kitchen Thermometers
Apart from checking the doneness of meat, kitchen thermometers have many other uses. Probably the most common use of a kitchen thermometer is for checking the temperature of deep frying oil. Once you start deep frying, the thermometer helps you regulate the temperature of your oil.
You’ll get much better accuracy with a deep fry thermometer than you will dunking a bread cube into the oil or looking for bubbles around chopsticks. While these methods are useful if you don’t have a deep fry thermometer, I guarantee you won’t go back to them after you get one.
When I turn on my oven, the first thing I do is place an oven thermometer on a rack inside the oven. This is critically important for baking, whether it’s a loaf of sourdough bread or Anzac biscuits or cookies. We all have a tendency to start baking before the oven is up to temperature and if the oven does have a gauge, it’s usually not that accurate.
Bakers also cannot live without an infrared thermometer temperature gun these days. From keeping an eye on sugar syrup for macarons to checking the surface temperature of chocolate that is tempering, these kitchen thermometers have sent the old ‘candy thermometer’ to the unused gadget draw
Best Meat Thermometers – Our Recommendations for Your Next Kitchen Thermometer
Instant Read Meat Thermometer
If you’re only going to buy one kitchen thermometer, then the instant read meat thermometer should be it. There are many instant read meat thermometers that are really inexpensive, but spending a little more gives you some great benefits, such as backlighting, instant reading and calibration. An instant read meat thermometer can be used for everything from checking the doneness of meat, the temperature of deep-fry oil, of dough, and of bread that’s still baking, and – with caution – any sugar syrup mixture for candy or lollies and sweets.
What to Look for in an Instant Read Meat Thermometer
An instant read meat thermometer must be an instant-read, which generally means you get a reading within around 2-3 seconds, with accuracy of ±0.5 degrees Celsius. It must have a backlit display as this allows you to see the reading at most angles, and it must be switchable between Fahrenheit and Celsius, which most are, but always double check.
A good instant read meat thermometer should also have a retractable probe. Like a professional corkscrew, you pull the probe out from the thermometer and this turns on the thermometer instantly. It’s safer in a kitchen drawer too. The best instant read meat thermometers are also fully waterproof. If you’ve ever used one to check deep fry oil this is essential.
Our Pick of the Instant Read Meat Thermometers
I learnt from cooking in a different kitchen – every two weeks! – on the global grand tour that launched Grantourismo back in 2010, that an oven thermometer was absolutely essential for any dish cooked in an oven. The dirty little secret of most ovens is that not only do they not have accurate temperature settings, they rarely get to the temperature that you set.
An oven thermometer gives a truly accurate oven temperature reading and allows you to wait until the correct cooking temperature is reached. That means you don’t have to open the oven to check the temperature – which is particularly useful for ‘toaster’ ovens of the kind used here in Cambodia, which lose heat very quickly. While knowing the true temperature of your oven is handy for all types of cooking, it’s essential for baking, particularly when it comes to baking cookies, baking bread, and making a pavlova.
What to Look for in an Oven Thermometer
A good oven thermometer must have a stable base and a hook so that it can perch on or be hung from oven shelves. The base comes in handy for placing the oven thermometer on a pizza oven floor. Look for an oven thermometer that has the temperature you cook in (Fahrenheit or Celsius) as the main temperature on the dial. Also look for oven thermometers with a temperature range of at least 20° to 300° degrees Celsius – or more if you have a pizza oven.
Our Pick of the Oven Thermometers
Deep Fry Thermometer
There are two main types of deep fry thermometers, deep fry thermometers with a dial and a long stainless steel probe, and deep fry thermometers with a steel paddle thermometer that uses mercury to measure temperatures. I prefer the first kind of deep fry thermometer for several reasons, but the main reason is that every single mercury thermometer I have ever owned has lasted less than six months.
They are also harder to clean and generally slower to react to changes in temperature. If you do a lot of deep-frying and have just been using an instant read meat thermometer to check the temperature of the oil, then a deep fry thermometer will be a godsend.
What to Look for in a Deep Fry Thermometer
Look for deep fry thermometers that have the temperature you cook in (Fahrenheit or Celsius) as the main temperature on the dial. You also want a deep fry thermometer that has a long probe and a clamp that can be attached to the side of a large pot.
Our Pick of the Deep Fry Thermometers
Oven Probe Digital Meat Thermometer
An oven probe digital meat thermometer is one of the best meat thermometers you can buy. It’s a great piece of equipment for accurately checking doneness of any kind of meat without the need to open the oven or smoker. Oven probe meat thermometers are sometimes called a ‘leave in meat thermometer’. While there are meat probe thermometers with a probe and a simple dial, I always find these hard to read through an oven door and opening the door to check the temperature typical results in losing a lot of heat.
I find the oven probe digital meat thermometer to be very good for reading the temperature of a roast chicken or a cote de boeuf when you don’t want to run the risk of over-cooking. The probes can be placed anywhere in the meat and the wire connecting the probe to the thermometer can withstand the oven door being closed. It’s easy to set the desired temperature and have an alarm sound when the meat comes up to the desired temperature. This is really handy if you’re busy around the house or entertaining. The digital oven probe meat thermometers can also be used on your barbecue.
What to Look for in an Oven Probe Thermometer
The digital oven probe meat thermometers that have two probes are desirable. I use both probes to accurately check temperatures in two different places or on two separate items in the oven. Look for oven probe meat thermometers with a magnet and backlit screen, as well as a digital meat thermometers where you can input custom temperatures as many, for instance, just have rare/medium/well-done settings for different meats.
One we cannot recommend is the Acurite meat thermometer which only lasted a month and now just beeps and cycles through the different modes on the display. There are also wifi meat thermometers, wireless meat thermometers and bluetooth meat thermometers on the market now, but for me these are unnecessary complications.
Our Pick of the Oven Probe Thermometers
Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun
An infrared thermometer temperature gun is another one of the best kitchen thermometers you can buy. It is very handy for checking the surface temperature for any cooking application. I once spent a day with a much-celebrated chef who used it for everything from checking the temperature of his honeycomb on the stove to checking the surface temperature of his wood-fired bread oven.
What to Look for in an Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun
Look for an infrared thermometer temperature gun with a wide range of temperatures, such as -50℃ to 750℃, which is handy for checking everything from frozen items to your pizza oven. Note that infrared thermometer temperature guns cannot check the internal temperature of, say, a piece of steak, as it cannot penetrate below the surface of an object. And before you ask, this is not the same as a medical infrared thermometer temperature gun, so commonly seen and used during the pandemic.
Our Pick of the Infrared Thermometer Temperature Guns
We’d love to hear from you if you’ve used any of the best meat thermometers that we recommend and we’re also keen to hear your tips on how and when you use a kitchen thermometer.