Temperature control and the ability to check internal temps is paramount to quality cooking and even more so when cooking outdoors where weather conditions can severely swing temperatures either up or down. It’s for this reason I urge you to invest in a few of the best outdoor cooking thermometers I’ve outlined below.
Instant read thermometer
You’ll need a good instant read thermometer if your BBQ cooking style is hot and fast. The last thing you want is meat that’s beautifully cooked on the outside but raw in the middle. Although you have both digital and temperature gauge instant read thermometers I’d recommend you should only be looking at the digital ones, as the temperature is easier to read and they are faster (instant read thermometers aren’t actually instant, they all take a little time to settle on a reading – although the best ones feel like they are instant).
The purpose of this type of thermometer is to read the internal temps of several different items of food very quickly – for example, if you have 10 hotdogs on the go at the same time. This is always done by inserting a probe into the food you wish to measure. The probe will be a pointy metal spike looking object which will normally have a display on the handle. The top-rated thermometer in our best instant read thermometer article is the Thermapen Mk4.
Dual probe thermometer
If you love grilling low and slow then investing in a dual probe thermometer is a must. A dual probe thermometer will give you a constant reading of the internal temperature of your food along with the ambient temperature (normally one of the probes is placed at grill level).
Dual probe thermometers will come with a display screen that is connected to the probes via long wires. You’ll want these wires to be pretty hardy as they will have the lid of the grill constantly weighing down on them. With the more expensive models, the display screens will either be wifi connected to an app on your phone or will be Bluetooth or radio transmission enabled and have a separate small receiver monitor you can carry around with you. The purpose of this is so that you can easily check on grill and meat temperatures without having to constantly sit by the grill.
Our guide to the best dual probe thermometer has the Smoke thermometer as the best available.
The first accessory you should buy if you’ve just bought yourself an outdoor woodfire pizza oven or a BBQ grill pizza attachment. An infrared thermometer is 100% needed to give you an accurate reading on the pizza stone to give you a nice crisp base. With this amazing tool all you need to do is point the gun-shaped device and press the trigger. This shots out a red beam and tells you the temp of the object it hits.
It may seem like there is some sort of magical wizardry at play when you first use one of these. The science behind it is complicated but essentially, an infrared thermometer reads the energy emitted in the form of heat. All objects that have mass give off energy and the thermometer uses the difference between the IR rays of the object you are shooting the laser at and the surrounding environment to give you an accurate reading.
We have rated the Etekcity Lasergrip 1080 as the best infrared thermometer – read our article to find out more
The definition of wireless thermometer is normally used very loosely by manufactures. Most aren’t truly wireless but are thermometers that are connected, via wires, to a display screen and it is this screen that sends out the wireless signal to your phone.
You may feel this is a petty distinction for me to make but as these wires will still be running from your grill and getting in the way of shutting your lid properly I think it’s fair to point this out – as these are the wires you’d want removing in a wireless thermometer. Thankfully there is one company that does offer a truly wireless thermometer if that’s what you want.
Meater.com currently offers the only wireless thermometer but unfortunately, as this company is a Kickstarter project where they have only sent out a limited number of products, I’ve not been able to get my hands on one yet to give you a full review. However, there are several BBQers I respect the opinion of that highly rate the Meater. So if you want the only truly wireless thermometer then you can pre-order one from Meater, if not then read our guide to the best wireless thermometer.
Just like the dual probe and the WiFi temp readers, the Bluetooth version is for long, slow cooks. In fact both WiFi and Bluetooth readers can be seen as subsections to dual probes, just with extra functionality. Because the Inkbird thermometer is Bluetooth and is the highest placed Bluetooth enabled dual probe thermometer, this is the winner of our best Bluetooth thermometer article.
Wifi is where the top brands in the thermometer marketplace are standing out. WiFi has it’s pros and cons, as it is pretty useless if out camping or at a festival, but for the home grillers and smokers it is the way forward. You can keep an eye on your temps while miles away, and the apps that come with them allow you to keep detailed data on all your cooks. The standard Smoke thermometer doesn’t come WiFi enabled, however it does have an add-on that converts it into a WiFi thermometer (called the Gateway). This means that you can use its standard radio frequency setup if camping but will also be able to connect via the WiFi add-on if at home. For this reason, the Smoke thermometer and add-on is rated as the best WiFi thermometer.
Thermometer and temperature controller
Why just read temperatures? Why not control them also? Well, you can if you have the right type of grill and you buy a temperature control thermometer. In simple terms, these read the temperature of the grill and then based on what is the desired temp will either blow more oxygen into your coals (making them hotter) or blows less air. We recommend the Flame Boss 300 in our best temperature controller thermometer article.
Testing your Thermometer
The standard test people use to check the accuracy and speed of their thermometer is to plunge their probes into iced water and boiling water. This is because we know the temperatures of these two extremes and it lets us know how good the reader is at both hot and cold temperatures. Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) and boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius).