Stop overcooking your steaks on the grill! Never serve an undercooked burger or smoked brisket again. Even professional chefs with years of experience rely on an instant read thermometer to ensure their food is properly served every time, so why shouldn’t you?
Anyone who’s tried to bake a souffle or served smoked brisket that wasn’t cooked quite through knows how embarrassing that can be, and frustrating! It’s time to take your baking, cooking, and outdoor grilling to a whole new level of fun and delicious.
Sorting out the best instant read thermometer from the not-so-great, however, can be time-consuming! Considering there are so many brands, it’s hard to know which thermometer is best. If you are looking for the perfect meat thermometer for grilling, smoking or cooking, check out our guide of instant read thermometer reviews below:
If you’re looking for the best instant read thermometer and the best price, you can’t do any better than the GDealer DT09 Instant Read Meat Thermometer. Now you can serve any kind of meat confidently knowing your food is adequately prepared inside and out!
Never heard of GDealer? GDealer is a Chinese manufacturer that specialises in consumer electronics devices for lighting and cooking. They make a variety of quality instant read thermometers that are popular.
Over 1500 reviewers on Amazon have praised the G-Dealer DT09 digital thermometer for its accuracy, speed and convenience. The DT09 is packed with amazing digital features and makes a great impression even before you take it out of the box.
While the packaging isn’t exactly elegant, it still makes a great storage case for the thermometer, and includes two very useful items: a meat temperature guide and a spare battery. The DT09 comes expertly calibrated with a wide temperature range well below freezing and as high as 572F. This wide range makes the DT09 useful for measuring hot and cold dishes, from hot oil for frying to delicious, homemade ice cream.
Use the DT09 safely on your grill over an open fire, or to test the internal temperature of a bowl of soup. The 4.6 inch stainless steel temperature probe is long enough to insert safely into almost any dish for a temperature reading within 2- 4 seconds. Rated IP67, the GDealer DT09 is also fully waterproof, and can be immersed in liquid such as a pot of coffee or hot water.
The GDealer DT09 instant read thermometer folds for easy storage and can be re-calibrated if needed. A lifetime warranty also protects you against defects or a malfunctioning temperature probe. Should you happen to forget, the 10 minute auto shutoff conserves battery power so your thermometer will last longer.
- Wide Temperature Range
- Accurate temperature reading in 2 -4 seconds
- Can be calibrated
- Not for use in closed oven
Highly rated by over 2000 Amazon users, the highly popular Alpha Grillers Instant Read Meat thermometer is a close second behind the GDealer DT09. It’s a few dollars more expensive than the DT09, but doesn’t have quite the same features. Still, the Alpha Grillers comes in at just under $20, is lifetime guaranteed, and performs very well.
First, the packaging is much better than the DT09, and also includes a spare battery along with a meat temperature guide. Similar in design to the DT09, the Alpha Grillers Instant Read is fully digital and accurate within 1 degree. Response time is 2 -5 seconds, allowing you to quickly and safely read temperature for any hot dish on your grill or kitchen stove.
The Alpha Grillers Instant Read thermometer is one of the few meat thermometers that is fully waterproof, meaning you can safely immerse it in almost any liquid that you need to test - coffee, soup, water, iced tea, or custard soufflé right out of the oven.
Although the Alpha Grillers shares many features with the GDealer DT09, it’s temperature range is significantly smaller, but still adequate. It can measure any dish between -4 F up to 392F, which is still useful for a wide range of dishes.
Overall, the Alpha Grillers thermometer is one of the best instant read grill thermometers available for under $20.
- Adequate Temperature Range
- Accurate temperature reading in 2 -5 seconds
- Convenient Hold Button
- Not for use in closed oven
- Temperature range not as wide as other top brands
Founded in 1981, Habor Precision Inc is a manufacturer of precision temperature devices, including digital thermometers. Their 022 Instant Read Digital Thermometer had to be included in this review because of its many features and its ultra-cool, pen-shaped design.
Whether you want to test your bbq chicken before serving or a cold glass of chilled sangria, the Habor 022 can be used to measure the internal temperature of your dish in only 4- 6 seconds (slightly slower than the top brands). A user guide and a meat temperature chart are included in the packaging, as well as a pen clip and storage sheath for keeping it tucked safely in your pocket while you grill!
FDA approved for quality and performance, the Habor 022 is designed for accuracy as well as convenience. It has a wide temperature range of -58 °F to 572 °F, making it suitable for testing the internal temperature of hot and cold dishes alike.
A hole on the end of the large handle makes it easy to store in your kitchen or on a hook on your bbq grill, and the sensitive 4.7 inch stainless steel probe is longer than the DT09 or the Alpha Grillers instant read thermometer.
Priced under $15, the Habor 022 is competitive with the leading brands, but it can’t be called the best instant read thermometer. There are no presets, for example, to help ensure your meat is cooked to the right temperature. It does not fold, which makes the temperature probe vulnerable to damage if dropped, and difficult to store. There is, however, a storage sheath included that protects the probe when not in use.
Although it has a wide temperature range, the Habor 022 is only warrantied for 3 years, unlike other brands which offer a lifetime guarantee. Its long pen-like design, however, makes it the best instant read bbq thermometer for smoked or grilled meat dishes.
The Habor 022 should never be immersed in water, as it is not waterproof. It is not designed for oven-use, and should be cleaned and stored carefully after each use for optimal performance.
- Economically Priced
- Wide Temperature Range exceeds the average
- 3 yr warranty
- Not for use in closed oven
- Not waterproof
- Cannot be calibrated
- Warranty is not covered for lifetime
ThermoPro is a well known quality brand, familiar to grilling enthusiasts and pitmaster around the world for their high-performing instant read thermometer. Whether you are home brewing, outdoor grilling, or candy making, the ThermoPro brand delivers great features and performance for a great price, usually under $20.
Equipped with a 5.3 inch stainless steel probe, the ThermoPro TP 02S is less than $10 and offers one of the longest meat thermometer probes on the market today. It has a pen-like design similar to the Habor 022 and comes with a ThermoPro 1 year warranty that can be extended if you register the product online . Be sure to read the ThermoPro TP02s user guide that comes with it for details on maintenance and warranty coverage .
The temperature range of -58°F to 572°F compares favorably to other premium instant read thermometers, but it should never left inside a hot oven or on the grill for more than 1 minute. This handheld thermistor has a very sensitive probe and digital components that can be easily damaged by excessive heat or water (not waterproof).
Pre-calibrated and ready to use out of the box, the ThermoPro TP02S cannot be re-calibrated, but the warranty covers defects to the probe as well. Since the handle is also stainless steel, this is a very durable instant read thermometer, and versatile as well. Use it for testing cold-brewed drinks or baked goods, steaks or smoked brisket!
- Wide Temperature Range
- Accurate temperature reading within 6 seconds
- Ultra long, sensitive stainless steel probe
- Durable stainless steel finish
Not for use in closed oven
Cannot be calibrated
What type of instant read thermometer should you use for grilling or smoking meat? You might be surprised to discover there are actually several kinds, each with different features and methods for measuring temperature. Choosing the right type will make your grilling safer and better prepared.
Instant Read Thermometer Types
Instant read thermometers, also known as thermistors, are handheld, electronic devices for measuring internal food temperature quickly and accurately. Brands such as Kizen, ThermoPro and Alpha Grillers offer an array of digital features, and are extremely popular for their speed and accuracy.
Some of the features you can expect to find on a quality instant read thermometer include:
To measure temperature, an instant thermometer uses a temperature-sensitive semiconductor attached to the thin syringe-like probe. are designed to be handheld and cannot be left in a hot oven or on the grill for more than 1 minute without damage.
As mentioned, thermistors are perhaps the most popular type of kitchen thermometer, especially for grilling because they can provide a temperature read within 10 seconds . Top brands like Kizen can read temperature in less than 5 seconds.
Your instant read thermometer will already be calibrated when you purchase it, but damage to the probe renders the thermistor useless. Some brands provide instructions for how to calibrate your thermometer, but not all do. Any damage to the probe will result in inaccurate readings, so a reliable probe that can be re-calibrated is a very useful feature .
Thermocouple Thermometer Types
The second most common type of instant read thermometer is a thermocouple, which utilize a similar semiconductor as thermistors to provide an even faster reading within 2 seconds. 2 fine wires attached to the tip of the thin probe transmit the temperature reading to a digital display. Since the wire is even thinner than the probe, thermocouples can be used to measure thinner meats such as fish or poultry .
The wiring also allows you to measure temperature remotely while food is cooking. You can close the smoker or oven door without obstruction because the wires are less than a millimeter in diameter. simply insert the wires into the meat at the start of your cooking and close the door.
Oven-safe Bimetal Thermometer (Analog)
A bimetal thermometer utilizes 2 metal strips with different thermal expansion rates. A thick metal probe is inserted and the temperature is displayed on a dial instead of an LCD screen. They don’t have digital features so they can’t be easily damaged.
Made entirely of metal, they can be inserted into meat at the start of your cooking and remain in the oven or smoker without damage. Removal requires gloves because they do get very hot in the oven.
They can take anywhere from 1 - 2 minutes to read temperature which makes them more suitable for slow cooking a roast or smoked brisket.
Cooking and grilling meat is part art, part science. Seasoning and spices in the right proportions enhance your food’s flavor, but can easily be ruined. Undercooked meat contains harmful pathogens while overcooked meat is robbed of essential nutrients as well as flavor .
Pitmasters and professional grilling chefs rely on an instant read thermometer, or a thermistor because they are ultra fast and accurate within 1 - 2 degrees.
Cleaning your instant read thermometer is a simple process that takes only a few seconds. By keeping your thermometer clean between uses, you can avoid spreading food contaminants that cause food poisoning.
You should be especially carefully testing different types of meat with the same thermometer. If you insert the probe into a pork butt and then insert it into a cut of jerk chicken breast, you risk transferring harmful microbes from one to the other .
Follow these 4 simple steps to clean and sterilize your instant read thermometer:
Place the probe under warm running water to gently remove food debris.
Dry with a lint-free cloth. Do this very carefully to avoid damaging the sensitive probe.
Next, apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton swab or cloth and gently wipe the probe in one direction from base to tip. A disinfectant hand wipe is also useful for this purpose. Avoid moving back and forth along the probe, which could result in damage to the probe.
Hang or store away safely to let air dry. Do not wipe the probe clean with a paper towel or you’ll remove the alcohol.
The delicate probe is attached to the thermometer by tiny pins. Lifting the thermometer by the probe could cause these pins to separate.
Instant read thermometers are typically made of ABS plastic, which is durable but can melt in extreme heat. Open flames or temperatures above the thermometer’s range can cause damage.
Leaving the thermometer on a hot grill or inside a smoker will cause the plastic to burn, emitting gases and smoke that could seep into your meat.
In many cases you’ll not only find the instructions for proper use and care, but helpful tips, and even cheat sheets for cooking meat. Important information about the warranty can also be found in the user instructions so it’s usually worth the effort to read the manual at least once.
Puncturing and prodding your meat with the delicate probe can cause damage to the probe. It can also drain your meat of its moisture and flavorful juices. If you’re cooking over an open flame, dripping fat and grease can cause flare-ups which can be dangerous, especially in windy outdoor conditions.
Do not immerse electronic parts in water when using an instant thermometer
While some instant read thermometers can be fully immersed in water, even these have their limits.
A meat probe is designed to be immersed in liquid or meat, so you can test the internal temperature of hot oil, iced tea, or homemade frozen yogurt. The handle, however, is usually plastic with electronic parts enclosed within.
If it isn’t properly sealed, or IP67 rated (i.e. waterproof) as established by the IEC your thermometer could suffer damage if accidentally submerged in a bowl of soup, for example.
Meat probes cannot puncture through bone.
Although the tip of the probe is sharp, you should not attempt to puncture through bone such as a chicken breastbone, or through pork ribs.
 ThermoPro Warranty Registration (ThermoPro)
 ThermoPro Products Operating Manuals (ThermoPro)
 Kitchen Thermometers (The University of Rhode Island)
 How to Calibrate a Thermometer, Step by Step (Epicurious)
 Food Safety Information: Kitchen Thermometers (USDA)
 Food Safety: What is Good Poisoning? (Ontario Ministry of Health)
 Microbes in Raw Meat (News Medical)
William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.