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Best Smoker Thermometers – 2019 Buying Guide and Recommendations

Show of hands: who here has bought something you might never actually use just for the sake of having it? We’re talking about that felt-lined poker table your kids build Lego on, and the workout machine you use for storing your winter coats. Some things just seem too cool to pass up!

However, today we’re going to talk about a piece of barbecuing gear that’s both cool AND useful. Our topic is digital smoker thermometers.

A Thermopro TP20 smoker thermometer on a wooden table

We know, we know… shut up and take my money! Not so fast – there’s a bunch of information you need first in order to choose the right one for you.

Read on to learn why you really do need a digital thermometer if you own a smoker, the different types to choose from, features to look for, and how to set yours up.

We’ll also take a look at 8 of the very best smoker thermometers on the market, share our number one choice and tell you why we think it’s the best.

At a Glance: Our Top Picks for Best Smoker Thermometer

Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

Our Choices for the 4 Best Smoker Thermometers in 2019

Now that you know what it took to make our list, let’s dive in to our picks for the best 8 digital smoker thermometers for your money.

We’ve broken them down into several categories, provided reviews, specs, and some simple pros and cons for each. Happy window shopping!

A Note On Temperature Accuracy: Many manufacturers provide in their specs the accuracy of their product. Good thermometers are accurate to +/- 2.0F or less. That might seem like a lot, but it’s not a huge deal unless you require scientific accuracy.

The degree of accuracy given generally applies to temperatures from right around the freezing mark up to around 250F, which is as hot as you want to get if you’re smoking. Once you get past that point, accuracy decreases significantly.

That’s totally fine, however. Remember, you’re smoking, not grilling! Besides, even if you are cooking over direct heat, the internal temperature of the meat will never come close to 250F.

A Note On Receiver Range: Most of these units boast of a signal range of up to 300 feet, and sometimes more. That’s fantastic, and no doubt they actually achieved those numbers in tests. In an open field.

Obstacles (like walls, for example) will reduce the effective range of line-of-sight and Bluetooth signals. Don’t expect to take your dog for a walk to the park and still keep tabs on your smoker. In most cases, however, you should have no trouble going inside to get a drink, watch TV, or use the facilities.

Best Overall: Thermopro TP20 Wireless Remote Dual Probe Digital Thermometer

ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Remote Digital Cooking Food Meat Thermometer with Dual Probe for Smoker Grill BBQ Thermometer

So your situation is this: you’re not new to barbecue, but you are pretty new to smoking. You want to make brisket like a pitmaster and you know hitting and holding your temperature is crucial to success. You’re ready to invest in the right equipment, but you’re practical – you need something you can work with now, but not feel like you’ve outgrown it once you’ve nailed your technique.

Buy it once, and forever love your ThermoPro TP20.

Manufacturer’s Specs

  • Number of probes: 2
  • Temperature accuracy: +/- 1.8F (1C)
  • Temperature range: 32F – 572F (0C – 300C)
  • Max temperature resistance: 716F (380C)
  • Probe length: 6.5 inches
  • Cable length: 40 inches
  • Power: 2 AAA batteries per unit
  • Remote range: 300 feet
  • Display size: 1.6 x 1.9 inches
  • Warranty: 1 year (register product for 3 year coverage)

Pros

  • Wireless remote frees you up to walk away
  • Long cables provide placement options
  • Rubber case protects against drops and bangs
  • Self-supporting kickstand for easy placement
  • Pre-sets for meat type and doneness make operation simple

Cons

  • Can’t connect additional probes
  • Receiver is fairly large for carrying around

Summary

Much as we love to memorize doneness temperatures (no seriously – quiz us!), we know not everyone feels this way. Being able to press a single, clearly marked button to set the right target temp for your meat selection and desired doneness (to pre-programmed USDA specs) makes this a dream to use.

ThermoPro has nailed the perfect combination of reliability, durability, and great features. The digital display is easy to read, you get countdown and count-up timers, and you can even switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius. All this at a price point we think is reasonable.

And, we can’t overlook the probe replacement guarantee – if yours fails (it does happen, especially when, despite being warned, people dunk them in water) just call them up and they’ll send you a new one free of charge. We have total respect for a company that’s there for its customers.

If you’d like more information on this great bit of kit, you can check out my more in depth and hands on Thermopro TP20 review.

Or if you’ve already decided that the ThermoPro TP20 Wireless Digital Thermometer sounds like the perfect investment for your smoking adventures, we suggest you follow the link below to check out more pictures, a short video, and to get yours in time for your next smoke.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Runner up: Maverick Et-732

Maverick Redi-Chek BBQ Thermometer Set - Maverick ET732 Special Edition Black

If having the basics to get the job done is all that matters to you, you want a thermometer that’s low on bells and whistles, but high on functionality.

There’s nothing fancy about this unit, but it ticks all the boxes for basic features and does what it’s supposed to do.

Manufacturer’s Specs

  • Number of probes: 2
  • Temperature accuracy:
  • Temperature range: up to 572F (300C)
  • Max temperature resistance: 716F (380C)
  • Probe length: >6 inches
  • Cable length: 6 feet
  • Power: 2 AAA batteries per unit
  • Remote range: 300 feet
  • LCD display
  • Dimensions: 4.75” x 2.5” x 1”
  • Warranty: 90 days

Pros

  • Small receiver is easy to carry around
  • Audible alerts when temperature is too high or too low
  • Count-up and countdown timers for accurate cooking
  • Belt clip and kickstand on receiver

Cons

  • Having only two probes limits you to monitoring a single piece of meat
  • Low on convenience features
  • Minimal buttons means less intuitive operation
  • 90-day warranty is lower than others we looked at, but should be enough to reveal manufacturer’s defects

Summary

We appreciate this unit for its simplicity and no-nonsense approach. It may not have the most intuitive design, but, if you familiarize yourself with the manual, you’ll master it in no time. It does not have pre-sets for USDA temperature guidelines, meaning you’ll need to know what temperature you’re aiming for. That might be a deterrent for anyone new to smoking, but that’s something you should learn, anyway.

All the basic features are here, including lost signal alert to tell you to move back in range, and over- and under-temperature alarms. Overall, we think there’s plenty of bang for your buck (or pound or Euro) packed into the Maverick ET-732. It’s a reliable unit perfect for anyone, but especially those with a bit more than beginner’s knowledge of smoking meat.

For a closer look (it comes in white, too!), just follow the convenient link. Click, order, own, cook, eat, enjoy. Seriously. It’s that easy.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Upgrade Pick: Fireboard FBX11

Fireboard FB11 smoker thermometer isolated on white

Some people take their smoking very seriously – it’s more than just a hobby or weekend pursuit. They love everything about smoking, including the gear. For them, it’s essential to have the best of the best, and to get it money is no object.

If having the very best smoker thermometer you can buy matters to you, and you’re ready to open up your wallet, this one’s for you.

Manufacturer’s Specs

  • Number of probes: 3 included, supports up to 6
  • Temperature accuracy: +/- 0.7F (0.4C)
  • Temperature range: -58F – 716F (-50C – 380C)
  • Probe length: 2.25” ambient, 5” food
  • Cable length: 6 feet
  • Power: 5VDC via Micro USD, or on-board rechargeable batteries
  • Remote range: 100 feet (Bluetooth); wireless range depends on your home set up
  • Display size: Main display is on your phone or tablet
  • Dimensions: 3.9” x 2.4” x 1.1”
  • Weight: 4.6oz
  • Warranty: 1 year

Pros

  • Buy extra cables and keep tabs on up to 5 cuts of meat plus the grate (or 6 cuts and no ambient temperature)
  • Monitor your smoker from your smartphone instead of a receiver
  • Works on Wifi and Bluetooth
  • Incredibly accurate for precision control over your smoke
  • Extra-long cables for convenient placement of the transmitter

Cons

  • Smartphone, tablet, or iPod (seriously?) required for use
  • One of the more expensive units out there (but you get what you pay for)
  • Only two probes are included; others are sold separately, and it’s (comparatively) expensive as it is

Summary

With a functional temperature range spanning 784F (330C) you could use this thermometer from the Arctic Circle to the equator. Good to know if you live in an extreme temperature zone and don’t want to wait all year for optimal weather! That’s just one of a ton of remarkable features jammed into this top-rated device.

The advantages to using an app to monitor your smoke session are many. First off, you’re carrying your phone around anyway, so why add another device to your load?

Secondly, the versatile app records data from your cooks for you to review later. Make notes, edit data, and learn what worked and what didn’t. It’s like having a notebook to help keep track of your smoking sessions, except you won’t need a pen handy. What a great way to develop your skills!

Yes, it’s 2 or 3 times more expensive than some of our other recommendations. But, if you don’t mind dropping the money, it really is the best unit you can buy. It’s like having a mentor and an assistant at your beck and call at all times. If you’re really, really serious about smoking and mastering the craft, the FireBoard FBX11 is the one.

Go and have a look at how seriously cool this thermometer really is, and think seriously about getting yours now. We shall wait patiently here for you.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Fireboard.com

 

Best for Those on a Budget: Thermopro TP-08S

ThermoPro TP-08S Wireless Remote Digital Cooking Meat Dual Probe for Grilling Smoker BBQ Thermometer-Monitors Food from 300 Feet Away

The thing about a good hobby is it should be accessible to anyone. You don’t have to own a BGE to smoke meat, or a $200 digital smoker thermometer.

If you’re just thinking about dipping your toes and seeing what smoking is all about, or if you know you’re going to be a “casual” smoker, you probably want to save your money. Does that mean giving up on essential features? Not with this one!

Manufacturer’s Specs

  • Number of probes: 2
  • Temperature accuracy: +/- 1.8F (1C)
  • Temperature range: 32F – 572F (0C – 300C)
  • Max temperature resistance: 716F (380C)
  • Probe length: 8.5 inch food / 3 inch grate
  • Cable length: 40 inches
  • Power: 2 AAA batteries per unit
  • Remote range: 300 feet
  • Display size: 1.5” x 1.3” receiver / 1.5” x 0.55” transmitter
  • Warranty: 1 year (register product for 3 year coverage)

Pros

  • Extra long food probe is great for large cuts like briskets and shoulders
  • Buttons are clearly labeled and easy to press
  • Fully featured with temperature and lost signal alarms, etc.

Cons

  • Limited to monitoring just one cut of meat
  • Doesn’t have the pre-set USDA temperature guidelines like the more expensive ThermoPro
  • Not magnetized, but it does have a hanger on the back of the transmitter
  • Shorter cable than some we’ve looked at, but still over 3 feet long – enough for most setups

Summary

The ThermoPro TP-08S does almost everything its big brother, the TP-20 does. Basically, all you’re giving up are the safe temperature and doneness pre-sets, plus a small amount of LCD real estate. While we love the presets, they are not essential, just really helpful. You can easily download a temperature chart (ThermoPro has a nice one available) and then manually set your targets.

With a long list of great features, like your choice of temperature units, countdown and count-up timers, a backlit LCD, and a rubberized housing, it’s honestly hard to tell the difference between this and the more expensive units.

If you already know the targets and want to save a few bucks, or if you just want good equipment without breaking the bank, this modest investment could pay for you in mouth-watering smoked meat.

Use the link to browse more info, pics, and a handy video showing how easy it is to use. If you’re satisfied this is your guy, then do like they say on TV and, “have your credit card ready!”

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Other Notable Models Worth Considering

You’ve seen our top two overall picks, plus our best-of-the-best-at-any-cost and budget-friendly selections. Here are a few other worthy contenders for you to think about, any one of which will do the job well.

Thermoworks Smoke

Some people absolutely live this stuff. They relish the challenge of smoking perfect meat and they adjust vents with NASA-like precision to nail just the right temperature.

If you’re the type that can’t get enough data and doesn’t want to take an eye off the meat for even a moment, even during a day-long smoking session, you’ll get your fix with our next thermometer.

Manufacturer’s Specs

  • Number of probes: 2
  • Temperature accuracy: +/- 1.8F (1.0C)
  • Temperature range: -58F – 572F (-50C – 300C)
  • Max temperature resistance: 700F (370C)
  • Probe length: 6 inches
  • Cable length: 47 inches
  • Power: 2 AA batteries per unit
  • Remote range: 300 feet
  • Display size: 2.15” x 1.3” receiver / 2” x 2.95” transmitter
  • Dimensions: 4.21” x 2.05” x 1.01” receiver / 3.78” x 4.68” x 1.01” transmitter
  • Warranty: 2 years

Pros

  • Complete readout on both the base unit and the remote
  • Lanyard for wearing the remote included
  • Comes in 9 colors (match your apron and gloves!)
  • Splash-proof housing and commercial-grade probes

Cons

  • With just two probes, you can only monitor one cut
  • No magnet on the base unit

Summary

We indulged in a little hyperbole in the intro to the ThermoWorks Smoke. But, the truth is this is an information-heavy unit. It’s one of few you’ll find that gives the complete range of information on the transmitter and the receiver. It’s almost like the receiver is a bonus, and not the reason to buy it.

It’s actually nice not to have to look at the remote unit to get the full picture. If you’re right beside the smoker, doesn’t that make more sense than digging in your pocket? Speaking of which, the remote has a nifty lanyard, allowing you to hang it conveniently around your neck. Not stylish, but very practical.

By the way, just did the math and apparently the batteries will last through 75 days of continuous usage. Nice to know you won’t run out of juice during an extended smoke!

So, what you’ve got here is a competition-grade digital smoker thermometer. You can even sync multiple remotes to the base so an entire team can keep track at once. But, even if you’re not on a team, you can still get a lot of value out of this unit. Want non-stop info at the smoker with a handy remote on the side? Grab a ThermoWorks Smoke.

Browse the pictures and reviews, choose your color, and place your order all on one handy page – right at the end of this link.

 

Click to learn More / Buy From Amazon

 

Grilleye GE0001 Smart Bluetooth Grilling & Smoking Thermometer

GrillEye, Red GE0001 Smart Bluetooth Grilling & Smoking Thermometer

Manufacturer’s Specs

  • Number of probes: 2 (supports up to 6)
  • Temperature accuracy: +/- 4F (2C)
  • Temperature range: -58F – 572F (-50C – 300C)
  • Max temperature resistance: 716F (380C)
  • Probe length: 3.7 inches
  • Cable length: 45 inches
  • Power: 2 AA batteries
  • Remote range: 300+ feet (Bluetooth)
  • Display size: Main display is on your device, approx. 4” diameter display on unit
  • Dimensions: 5” x 1” x 3.75”
  • Weight: 10.2 oz.

Pros

  • Potential to monitor up to 5 cuts at the same time
  • Both probes are FDA approved for food use
  • Adjustable kickstand
  • Pre-set alarms/timers for different meats

Cons

  • Requires a smart phone, tablet or iPod (dust it off!) for use
  • Least accurate of models reviewed, though still not bad
  • Extra probes sold separately
  • Very light, so make sure you brace it on windy days
  • No magnet (but there is the kickstand)

Summary

Not only is this a sleek, good-looking unit, it’s more rugged than you might think at first glance. In fact, it’s made of space-grade aluminum, meaning Elon Musk can launch it into orbit alongside his car.

The proprietary app is user-friendly and designed to be accessible to newbies without insulting seasoned pros. Making burgers (yes, it’s ok for grilling as well as smoking!)? Select the burgers option for temps and times. Cold smoking? Choose that option for your next smoked gouda.

You might have a little trouble keeping track of which probe is where since they’re all the same, but a little paint or colored tape placed on the wire (well away from the heat) will do the trick.

Definitely highly recommend this one. It has a couple of minor drawbacks versus some of the other units, but not enough to strike it from the list. If you’re looking for a high-end digital smoker thermometer, the GrillEye GE0001 is an excellent choice.

A video and a few pictures await you at the other end of this link, plus your chance to order one now.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

The Meater+

New MEATER+165ft Long Range Smart Wireless Meat Thermometer for the Oven Grill Kitchen BBQ Smoker Rotisserie with Bluetooth and WiFi Digital Connectivity

The weakest part of any system is where you’re most likely to have a failure. With smoker thermometers, that part is often the cables from the probes to the receivers. What if you could eliminate that part entirely?

If you like very cool gadgets – or often use a rotisserie – and if you know you’re the sort who doesn’t always put things away carefully, this wireless bluetooth thermometer is the model for you.

Manufacturer’s Specs

  • Number of probes: 1 (monitors grate and food temp. simultaneously)
  • Temperature accuracy:
  • Temperature range: up to 527F (275C) ambient / up to 212F (100C) internal
  • Cable length: N/A
  • Power: 1 AAA battery in the block/charger
  • Remote range: 165 feet (Bluetooth), WiFi range will vary
  • Display size: How big is your phone?
  • Dimensions: 7.4” x 2.9” x 1.5”
  • Weight: 6.4 oz.
  • Warranty: 1 year

Pros

  • No wires to worry about at all
  • All information displayed on your phone, which you’re probably carrying anyway
  • Rechargeable battery saves money and the environment – just remember to recharge!
  • Walks you through the cook with presets for different meat types

Cons

  • Only keeps tabs on one cut at a time
  • Requires a smartphone, tablet, Alexa, or computer for connectivity
  • Smaller range than others on this list, but still plenty far
  • Battery cannot be replaced in probe, but is rated for 1000+ cycles

Summary

For wireless that’s actually 100% wireless, there is no other choice. No worrying about threading wires through holes, no setting up two separate probes, no positioning the transmitter and figuring out how to carry the receiver. The Meater+ eliminates many of the minor hassles that all other digital smoker thermometers have in common.

It’s tough to beat it for appearance, too. It looks like a stylus for a tablet, and the recharger/signal repeater seems like it’s been carved from a block of wood. If you appreciate good looks, you’re going to love this thermometer.

The Meater app is easy to use and can walk you through your cook. If you’re more advanced, it’s customizable to give you alerts and notifications for the temperature or time of your choice. It also saves info from previous cooks.

This is an excellent and practical bit of gear that’s well worth the investment to help you achieve great smoking results every time. It’s pretty sweet for showing off to your grilling and smoking buddies, too.

Have a look at my in-depth review of the Meater range if you’re not convinced the Meater+ isn’t just a gimmick, or if you are convinced that you’ve got to have one, click the following link:

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Thermoworks Chefalarm

Some people are rarely much farther than arm’s length away from their smoker. They are either totally dedicated to their grill, or they work in a commercial kitchen or smoke competitively. For such folks, there’s really no need to have a remote receiver – they want all the information on the main unit. Sometimes, less is actually more.

Manufacturer’s Specs

  • Number of probes: 2
  • Temperature accuracy: +/- 1.8F (1.0C) – can calibrate to < +/- 1F
  • Temperature range: -58F – 572F (-50C – 300C)
  • Max temperature resistance: 700F (370C)
  • Probe length: 6 inches
  • Cable length: 47 inches
  • Power: 2 AAA batteries
  • Remote range: N/A
  • Dimensions: 5.94” x 2.75” x .75”
  • Warranty: 2 years

Pros

  • Tilting display screen for switching from counter to stick-on use
  • “Low alarm” for cold smoking cheese, fruit, etc.
  • Comes with padded wallet for safe storage of unit and accessories
  • Splash-proof housing, making it good for busy, commercial kitchens
  • Pro-grade components for extra durability at home or work
  • Available in 9 colors!

Cons

  • Does not have a remote monitoring receiver
  • Only two probes, meaning only one cut gets measured

Summary

We’ll be honest (actually, we’re always honest!) – the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm thermometer isn’t for everyone. For example, if you want to pop a rack of ribs on the grill, set it to 225F and walk away without a care in the world, don’t buy this. However, if you have no plans to leave the vicinity of your grill or smoker, you probably work in a kitchen or you’re a pitmaster manning your station at a competition or event. To you we say, DO buy this.

It’s a single unit, meaning all the information is displayed in real time right at the source. Most remote units provide all the details on the receiver only. With a cable almost 4 feet long, you can actually set it up at your workstation to keep an eye on while you do other things. Don’t worry; it’s built to withstand life in a busy kitchen.

Out of the box, it’s at least as accurate as any other we’ve seen. But, you can further calibrate it for even more precise readings, which is fantastic if the difference between a gold trophy and a participant certificate hangs in the balance of a few more or a few less seconds in the smoke.

If smoking meat and other food is your life’s work, you owe it to yourself to check out the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm. Follow our handy link to go right to the source and see for yourself how great it really is.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Why do You Need a Thermometer for Your Smoker?

Ask any chef or any pitmaster, and they’ll tell you that cooking is part art, and part science.

The artistry comes in presentation, and even in making the creative choices behind selecting what to cook, how to cook it, and how to flavor it. The science? That’s pretty much all about hitting and holding the right temperature and cooking for the right amount of time.

A scientist doesn’t measure anything by eye, and neither should a griller. To get accurate temperature readings, you need a thermometer.

There are two key temperatures a serious griller… heck, ANY griller! …needs to know: the smoker temperature, and that of the meat.

Why do you want to know these things? Knowing temperature inside the grill at the grate height tells you that you have the right temperature for whatever style of cooking you’re doing. Since we’re talking about smokers, that temperature is (usually) going to be somewhere between 225F and 250F (107C and 121C).

Of course, knowing the temperature of the meat tells you if it’s safe to eat yet, and what level of doneness it’s at. You don’t want to trust your all-day brisket to your eyes, do you? Or your health, and that of your family, either.

By keeping tabs on these two variables throughout the cook, you will significantly increase your odds of coming away with delicious meat. This is especially true for anyone who’s new to smoking. Smoking on a wing and a prayer with a bunch of guessing thrown in is a recipe for total failure.

Good thing there’s a thermometer built into the lid, right? Wrong.

The Thermometer in Your Grill Lid is all but Useless

Yes, the lid thermometer is nice to have, but really only as an indicator whether the grill or smoker is hot or not. They tend to be wildly inaccurate.

But, let’s say you happen to have an abnormally accurate lid thermometer. Wouldn’t that be enough? Not a chance.

The lid thermometer is precisely where it says it is – up in the lid, or the dome. That’s way above the grate, meaning it’s also way above the heat source.

The difference in temperature between the grate and the top of the lid can be as much as 50F (28C). That’s huge. Since the food is where the grate is, and not up in the lid, obviously the lid temperature is of no value.

Types of Digital Smoker Thermometers

As with all gadgets and gear, there are many options to sift through. Here’s the breakdown of the major categories you’ll be choosing from.

Single Probe

Simply put, it’s a thermometer with just one sensor probe. This means you’ll have to decide between grate temperature and meat temperature. What you could do is use it to read the grate temperature until you hit your target and then shift it to the meat to monitor doneness.

Dual Probe (or More)

A dual probe thermometer has two separate sensors, allowing you to read the temperature of the grate and the meat simultaneously. This makes a lot of sense.

But why stop there? You can also buy thermometers with 4 probes, or even 6. With so many probes, you’ll be able to monitor the temperature at multiple levels of your smoker (great for bullet-style smokers), and lots of meat.

If there’s any drawback to multi-probe thermometers, it’s just that there are a lot of wires to manage. If you already hate the back of your home theatre set up, you might not care to deal with so many plugs and leads.

Infrared Thermometers

This type of thermometer enables you to read the surface temperature of anything in your barbecue without making contact. They aren’t ‘leave in’ devices, but they are fantastic for quickly getting the temperature of your grate, or particularly flat top griddles or a pizza stone.

What they can’t do is read the internal temperature of your meat and let you know if you’re done cooking or not. You could use one in conjunction with a single probe thermometer to monitor both the meat and the grate temperatures.

Note: We also have a detailed guide to the best infrared thermometers.

Wired or Wireless

It seems like there’s a wireless option for everything, including digital smoker thermometers. You can opt for a wired unit, whereby you have to be present to check on the situation in your smoker. However, with a wireless thermometer, you can monitor the temperature of the smoker and the meat remotely, typically on your smartphone.

Both types of units do the same thing, and if you plan on sticking close to your smoker anyway, you might be fine with a wired thermometer. For longer cooks, or for busy hosts who are entertaining, the freedom to walk away makes a wireless receiver on your thermometer a great choice.

We Recommend a Wireless Digital Dual Probe Thermometer

We recommend wireless because there’s no reason in this day and age why you should have to be tethered to your grill!

Wouldn’t you rather chill in front of your TV with the game on than stand outside either sweating or freezing? On a nice day, you could be mingling with guests, or taking a dip in the pool. Cut the wires, and enjoy the freedom to live your life while dinner cooks.

We recommend digital because we’re deep into the 21st century! Seriously, though, analog thermometers cannot compete with digital when it comes to speed and accuracy. And, frankly, price doesn’t make much of a difference – digital technology isn’t a premium option anymore, it’s the norm. In fact, hyper-accurate analog thermometers are available, but they’re also hyper-expensive!

This isn’t like buying a fancy analog watch; no one is going to be impressed with the fine craftsmanship and Swiss movement. Just get the digital.

We recommend dual probe for the sheer convenience. It’s like plug-and-play: once your grate is up to temp, just pluga probe into your meat (or meats, if you have more than two probes), close the lid, and walk away.

Using multiple probes means you’ll be opening the lid a lot less often to check on things, or to switch the probe from the grate to the meat. That means faster, more effective smoking sessions because every time you lift the lid you lose heat and smoke. We firmly believe that the extra money spent on a multi-probe thermometer will pay off. How many probes you get is entirely up to you.

How to Choose the Best Smoker Thermometer for You

In a moment, we’re going to list and review what we believe are some of the best digital smoker thermometers out there. Before that, however, let’s review some of the criteria we considered in making our choices. You can use this to help you make the best selection for your needs.

Number of Probes

We’ve already established that it’s best to have at least two probes. How many you have beyond that will depend on your particular needs. If you reserve your smoker for pork shoulders and briskets, then two probes might be all you need – one for the grate and one for the single cut of meat you’re cooking.

However, if you plan on loading up your smoker with thick steaks, multiple racks of ribs or a couple of chickens, you’ll want to monitor each item individually. If this sounds like you, or like that might be an option you want to have, choose a thermometer with 4 or more probes.

Accuracy

The difference of just a few degrees can mean the difference between smoked to perfection and overdone. Accuracy is critical when it comes to digital smoker thermometers. Don’t let a bargain price tempt you (hey, we love deals, too!) away from what you really need.

Speed

The ability to deliver real-time information is essential in a thermometer. If your unit is always playing catch-up, you’re not getting the real picture of what’s happening inside your meat. Also, if you’re not using a leave-in thermometer (which we highly recommend), you need to get a reading as fast as possible to minimize time spent with the lid open.

Durability

Your average thermometer for outdoor cooking will be handled a lot. Think about it; unpack before every use, repack after every use, probes in, probes out, exposure to heat and the elements, and so on. As with any outdoor gear, durability is a key consideration. Features to look for include braided cables to flex without kinking and a rubber cover to protect sensitive electronics from the inevitable bumps and bangs.

Functionality and Features

There are a ton of features available across the range of digital smoker thermometers. But, that doesn’t mean you need ALL of them! Some nice-to-haves are a countdown timer (a count-up timer could be handy, too), magnetic backing for attaching to your smoker, a backlit LCD for late night sessions, and a kickstand for resting on a table.

Think about how, when, and where you plan to use your thermometer, and then decide what features you really need. Don’t pay for something that sounds cool but you never use. Not that any of us have ever done that before!

All you really need is a dependable, accurate thermometer that keeps tabs on your meat and the ambient temperature in the temperature scale of your choice – which is probably degrees Fahrenheit, even if you use metric normally.

Wireless Capability

It’s great to know the temperature inside your smoker without opening the lid. But, it’s even better to know it without the need to be present at your smoker!

We think wireless units are the very best choice as they allow you to leave the vicinity of the smoker to go deal with other things. Honestly, would you rather sit in front of your smoker, staring at a tiny LCD screen for hours or be sit in front of your massive television watching a movie or a game?

It’s the 21st century. Cut the cord.

Ease of Use

Regardless of the amazing technology built into these units, taking a temperature shouldn’t be rocket science and require a degree in engineering. We love shiny things and bells and whistles as much as the next person, but we also love things that are simple to operate. Look for clearly marked buttons and large displays as a good first indicator that a thermometer won’t have a steep learning curve.

Price

We each have our own budget and notion of what is and what is not “expensive.” You can easily spend close to $200 on a thermometer, and you can just as easily spend under ten bucks. The choice is yours, and we’re not going to judge.

What we are going to do is tell you to look at this purchase as an investment, and part of what it takes to smoke great meat. It’s also important to understand that the features and durability that make a smoker thermometer worth owning don’t generally come on models at the low end of the price spectrum.

While you might think dropping upwards of $50 seems like a lot for a thermometer, remember that it’s going to help you cook delicious meat for years. Would you rather save a few bucks now, or save that expensive brisket from overcooking later?

Manufacturer’s Warranty

Even the best-built products can develop problems. That’s when you want to know that the manufacturer has your back.

A company that truly believes in and stands behind its workmanship will back that up with a solid warranty. Anything less than a one-year warranty should make you wary.

Best Set up for a Smoker Thermometer

Once you’ve purchased your thermometer, put your batteries in, and have your probes wired up, you’re faced with an important question: where does it go?

If you’ve taken our advice and gone with a multiple probe unit, obviously 1 or more will be inserted into the meat you’re cooking.

The remaining probe is for keeping tabs on the grate temperature. The best spot for this is about an inch or two above the grate. Why? Even in that short a distance there’s a drop-off in temperature. An elevation of one or two inches approximates the center of the meat you’re cooking. Know the temperature here, and you’ll have a reasonable idea what at what temperature the meat is cooking.

Many thermometers come with a clip that holds the probe at about this height. But, if yours didn’t come with one you can always rely on some aluminum foil. (It’s like duct tape for grillers!) Wad a bunch of foil into a ball and shove the probe through the center. Position the ball on your grate and you’re good to go!

It’s also important to position the probe optimally relative to the meat. Meat taken from the fridge and placed on the grill will cool the air in its immediate vicinity. If your probe is in this cool zone, you’ll get a falsely low reading. Keep the probe at least two inches away from the meat to get an accurate reading.

Now you can insert your other probe or probes into your meat. Insert them directly into the center of the meat. This is where it will take the longest to get up to temperature. If the meat has bone in it, make sure the probe isn’t making contact. The bones won’t heat up as much as the surrounding meat and this will throw off your readings, and can lead to overcooked food.

Where do the Wires Go?

Most smokers and grills have a few small holes drilled in them to allow thermometer wires to run through them from the grate and the meat out to the main body of the thermometer. Always use them!

Running the wires under the lid means the lid will be resting on them. The wires are very thin, and crushing them with the lid may cause permanent kinks, weaken the wires, and ultimately reduce their lifespan.

Thermometer Probe Care

The trick to getting the longest life and most effective service out of any tool or gadget is really no trick at all. Just use it the right way and take good care of it.

Most functional issues people have with thermometers stem from a lack of proper care. Here is a list of dos and don’t to help you get the most out of your digital smoker thermometer.

DO

  • Use the clip (or foil) to affix the probe to the grate; placing the probe right on the grate will gradually cause damage
  • Completely shut down the power after every time you use it to conserve your batteries
  • Wipe off the probes with a wet cloth and hot water with mild dish soap after every use
  • Put the probes away carefully and avoid tangling or tightly bending the wires
  • RTFM!!!

DON’T

  • Exceed the manufacturer’s temperature rating (which shouldn’t be an issue for low ‘n’ slow – most thermometers, including all in our review, are good to at least 700F (371C))
  • Allow the LCD display to sit in direct sunlight for a long time
  • Use your thermometer in the rain
  • Leave it outdoors between smoking/grilling sessions
  • Put the probe completely underwater when you’re washing it
  • Try to wash the probes/wires in the dishwasher – they are not waterproof
  • Put your wires and probes away wet or dirty

Another Smokin’ Article Comes to a Close

We hear you asking yourself, “How have I ever smoked anything properly without a digital smoker thermometer?” Honestly, there’s a good chance you haven’t. The ability to know with precision what’s happening inside your smoker is one of the fundamental requirements for smoking delicious meat. In fact, we think a great thermometer is essential gear for all smokers and grillers.

Did you make your choice? Tell us what you picked and why! More questions? Fire away – we’re always ready and willing to answer your questions, whether they’re specific to an article or about smoking or grilling in general. We also love to hear your comments and your epic tales of grilling glory.

Thanks for swinging by today and we’ll see you again soon.

 

Product image credits: © Amazon.com

Mark Jenner

Hi. I'm Mark Jenner, owner and creator of FoodFireFriends.com. I grill and smoke food outdoors at least three days a week on a wide range of equipment, have done so for years, and love nothing more than cooking good food, over live fire, enjoying it with friends. The aim of this site is to educate and help others to do the same.

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