Ever wondered how accurately the temperature of your food is being measured? Chances are you might have used a meat thermometer to test the temperature of your meat. While this method may not give an accurate reading on the temperature, there are other methods that can tell you what’s going on inside that piece of steak or chicken breast or pork chop.

There are two kinds of food thermometers available in the market: instant-read and probe-type. Instant-read thermometers are inserted into food for measuring temperatures right before they are served, whereas Probe-type food thermometers stay within cooking foods throughout their preparation. The latter are power less with no batteries required, more expensive than instant read but faster and more precise.

1) Instant-Read Food Thermometers

Instant-read food thermometer is better for home use than the probe-type temperature.

Instant-read food thermometers are usually pocket sized and can give a fairly accurate temperature of meat, poultry, casseroles and other foods in about 15 to 20 seconds.

Instant read digital thermometers are convenient to have around when grilling or cooking meats indoors because you can check the progress without having to lift the lid on your grill or remove the roasting pan from your oven.

And an instant-read probe is also great for testing baked goods to see if they’re done before removing them from their pans. You just insert it into the center or side of loaf cakes, quick breads, muffins, cookies, baked beans – virtually any dish that is set in the oven, whether you want to know if it’s done or not.

2. Probe-Type Food Thermometers

Probe-type thermometers are best for meats, poultry and deep frying foods because they allow you to monitor the temperature while cooking without opening the oven door or grill lid; an important consideration when slow baking or barbecuing.

Three common types of probe thermometer are available: The single-probe thermometer (thermocouple) has two probes that measure food and air temperatures simultaneously. A dual probe thermometer (thermocouple) features a separate probe for measuring food and a second one for measuring air temperature. Wireless thermometers also indicates both the ambient air temperature as well as internal meat, seafood or poultry temperatures on one screen.

The single probe thermometer is more accurate than the dual-probe because of its separate probes, but both are better than no thermometer at all. The wireless thermometers are convenient to use and provide readings in just seconds, making them excellent for busy kitchens.

3) Temperature Ranges

Food thermometers come in two temperature ranges: “high” or “low.” High-range (or “ovenproof”) instant read food thermometers can range from 0°F to 500°F while “low” range (which can’t be left in the oven) range from 32oF to 200oF.

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Buying a Food Thermometer

Before you buy, consider these tips:

–  Digital vs. analog – Which is better?

Analog thermometers contain mercury, so be sure to recycle them.  However, they are typically more accurate than digital ones. Digital models are generally easier to read than analogs, but may not give as accurate readings when  used for measuring food temperatures over a long period of time (a couple hours or more).

– Where will you use it?

If you frequently cook meats and other foods in your oven, a probe thermometer with a long cord might be best. Probe style thermometers can also measure the internal temperature of liquids such as soups and provide quick surface readings on cooked items like roast beef or hamburgers.  This style of thermometer can be used for traditional or “candy” style cooking.

– Dial vs. digital – Which is better?

Dial thermometers are typically found in ovens and grill/smoker hoods, but a few analog models with pointed tips exist as well. Dial thermometers allow continuous surface temperature monitoring during extended cooks.  

Digital versions such as the best candy thermometer can also monitor oven temp continuously, as well as they tend to have more features, which many users find very useful. However, they aren’t ideal for grilling or other outdoor applications since the readout window becomes obscured by smoke and grease from cooking food.

– Instant-read vs. probe – Which is better?

Instant-read units are typically small and more accurate than their probe counterparts.  They perform best when measuring food temperatures for immediate use, such as preparing a meal or checking the doneness of steaks on your grill. Probe models can be used for cooking meats in your oven or on your grill/smoker, as well as other applications such as dairies and deep frying.

– Heat resistant vs. standard – Which is better?

Standard units are not meant to be used with extremely high heat (over 350 degrees F), but they can withstand higher temperatures up to 450 degrees F before becoming inaccurate. If you plan to measure a cooking surface temperature that exceeds 350 degrees F, go with a heat-resistant therm instead . A heat-resistant thermometer will work well for grilling and smoking.

– Durability – Which is better?

Some thermometers can be washed in a dishwasher, whereas others are not dishwasher safe. Some models feature button cell batteries; others use AAA alkaline batteries. If you intend to wash your thermometer often or don’t want to deal with changing the battery, look for a model that is dishwasher safe and easy to maintain (e.g., no fiddly buttons). And don’t forget about cable strain reliefs which can help prevent damage at the connection points between the cable and the probe! Also consider how much abuse your thermometer will take if it comes into contact with hot liquids like soup or boiling water when checking food temps.

– Accuracy – Which is better?

Everyone wants an accurate thermometer! Digital models are typically more accurate than dial versions when measuring surface temperatures because they aren’t affected by variations in ambient air temperature. For example, if your thermometer agrees with the boiling point of water at sea level (212 degrees F), it should read 212 degrees F when used to check the temp of a pot of boiling water even if you are checking the temp in Denver where the boiling point of water is only 207 degrees F.  However, if you are unsure about how accurate your analog probe model is, test it by putting one end in boiling water and the other end in room temperature tap water. The difference between the two readings should be 2-3 degrees F.

– Other features and considerations:  

Length of thermometer probe – The length of the probe determines where you can place your thermometer.  A probe under 4″ may not fit in some bottles or jars, but a 10″ probe will reach into almost any container.  Make sure to read reviews carefully to ensure that the specific model you’re considering is suitable for measuring liquid temperatures.  Some models have clamps to attach probes to containers, which is very convenient if the thermometers do not come with silicone open-ended sheaths . These devices are great for measuring liquids, as well as foods cooked on skewers/sticks (e.g., sh kebabs). Cooking surfaces – A wide variety of units can be used to measure cooking surface temperatures.  You will want to make sure that the temperature range is adequate for what you intend to use it for (e.g., 350-550 degrees F). Some models come with a clamp, so you can attach them directly onto your grill grate or smoker rack and monitor the temp of the grill/smoker surface. Sending units – If you plan on using your digital thermometer as a remote probe as well as an instant-read unit, look for one with separate send and receive terminals. This way, you can put one end in the oven/grill/smoker and keep the other end outside where it’s safe from steam and smoke. Battery life – Most models come with an auto-off feature so you can conserve battery power. But if you don’t need this feature, look for one that requires fewer batteries. Probes – Always check the probe material before buying a digital thermometer for serious cooks! You should look for food-grade stainless steel probes because they are corrosion resistant and stand up to high temperatures better than cheaper metal alloys (e.g., chromed brass), which tend to melt at lower temps. If the probe is not rated as “food grade”, then I wouldn’t recommend it under any circumstances due to leaching concerns . One last thing: The length of the cable is also important when using a handheld model in a smoker or grill situation.  For example, if the cable is too short and not heat-resistant/high temp rated, you may end up burning your hand when checking the temperature of a hot grill grate or smoker rack.  And if it’s not heat resistant, it can melt and send the probe to the next barbecue joint in town!

– What other features should I look for?

Records max temperatures – For those of us who like to monitor food temps as they come off the cooker/grill/smoker, this feature is essential. This allows you to track high and low temps over several hours (or days) without having to write down each reading by hand. You will also be able to select an alarm sounds when a programmed threshold has been reached, so you can attend to the cooker/smoker at precisely the right moment.

Backlighting – If using your digital thermometer in low-light conditions, look for one with a built-in light source for accurate readings.  This is particularly important when cooking after dark or in poorly lit indoor kitchens. Auto shutoff – This feature limits battery drain by automatically shutting down the unit after several minutes of non-use. Hanging / belt clip – Look for a model that includes a mounting bracket and nylon tether; this ensures easy access and storage while preventing loss of expensive probes (some models come with both). Warranty – Most manufacturers offer two-year warranties. If you encounter problems within that time period, simply send it back

When buying a food thermometer, it is important to consider what you plan on using the device for and the features that will be most beneficial. There are many different types of digital thermometers available so we suggest looking at your needs and finding one with all the necessary features. If you need help figuring out which model would work best for your cooking style or type of dish, feel free to contact us! We have experts who can guide you through selecting an appropriate unit that meets your specific criteria.