5 Turkey Thermometers to Nail Your Bird

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5 Turkey Thermometers to Nail Your Bird

Your loved ones are gathered around your beautiful holiday spread and everything looks perfect. Those cheerful smiles can quickly turn upside down once they bite into dry or, even worse, undercooked turkey.

Maybe you just eyeball it or perhaps you already have an instant-read meat thermometer, but it's time to make cooking the turkey the easiest part of dinner. We looked at leave-in probe thermometers, from low to high tech, to help you set it and forget it. Grab a carving knife and gobble up our picks for the best turkey thermometers.

01

Best Turkey Thermometer for Most People

Best Turkey Thermometer for Most People
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When everyone and their mothers say something is the best, especially on the internet, it's easy to get a little suspicious. After we took ThermoWorks' ChefAlarm for a spin, we couldn't disagree with the world wide web of meat thermometer users. We recommend this turkey thermometer for most people, despite the price tag, because of its accuracy, build quality, wide array of features, and overall ease of use.     

How Does It Work?

Let's talk buttons, shall we? The ChefAlarm has a few tricks up its sleeve, so it has more buttons than the average meat thermometer.

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The back of the display has a dedicated On/Off button, a Celsius/Fahrenheit button, and a "CAL" button for calibration. On the front, the "HR" (hour), "MIN" (minute), and "CLEAR" buttons are exclusively for setting a countdown timer. The hour and minute buttons only go up, so the clear button is handy for us butterfingers out there.

The "TIMER" button starts and stops a stopwatch. Pressing "SET TEMP" once will allow you to set a low temperature alarm and hitting it a second time will let you set a high temperature alarm. The "ALARM" button lets you turn the alarms on and off.

Finally, we have our obvious buttons: "VOLUME" (yes, silent is an option!), a light bulb illustration for the backlight, and two big up and down buttons for setting the temperatures.

What Works?

  • The ChefAlarm was the only thermometer we came across that gives you temperatures to a tenth of a degree. You won't really need this level of accuracy for your bird, but we found it helpful when calibrating the boiling point (211.1°F at our elevation).
  • "The ChefAlarm comes with a sturdy case that houses the display, cord, and the included pot clip."
  • The thermometer is designed well. It looks great, it feels great, and it fits in one hand, despite being one of the larger thermometers we looked at. It also comes in nine different colors, allowing it to blend into your kitchen decor.
  • The braided stainless steel cable is heat safe up to 700°F and has a flexible fray guard on both ends. This attention to detail can help to extend the life of your probe.
  • ThermoWorks also sells a variety of probes that can not only serve as backups, but have specialized features for different uses.
  • The thermometer is easy to place within reach. Unlike other thermometers with kickstands, the screen on the display snaps up so you can read it on your counter. When flat, two Herculean magnets can keep the display secured on your oven or fridge.
  • The screen is backlit and big enough to display your temperatures and timer. The easier it is for you to glance at your thermometer, the less time you have to spend thinking about your turkey.
  • This thermometer comes with case! In rare form for a corded digital thermometer, the ChefAlarm comes with a sturdy case that houses the display, cord, and the included pot clip. Corded probes, especially stainless steel ones, are generally hard to store and poor storage conditions can affect their lifespan.
  • You can set a low alarm. Though this is more important for making things like yogurt or ice cream, low alarms can be useful when cooling foods down or dealing with wonky ovens.

What Could Be Better?

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  • There are a lot of numbers to look at when you start using the ChefAlarm. This can be initially overwhelming, but after playing with it for a couple of minutes, we found that the learning curve was fairly intuitive.
  • You need to hold down the On/Off button in order to turn off the display. Hitting the button while the thermometer is on just turns on the backlight momentarily. Considering there's a light button on the front of the display, this function felt a bit redundant.
  • The price tag. As the second most expensive thermometer we're recommending, the ChefAlarm's cost might be tougher to swallow than dry turkey. We still believe it's a great investment that will help you cook many family dinners.

Warranty and Customer Support

ThermoWorks products can only be returned if unused and bought directly from the manufacturer. As long as you buy your ThermoWorks product directly from the company or through an authorized dealer*, however, you're still eligible to receive repair and replacement support under their two-year warranty.

*Note: ThermoWorks products are not available on Amazon.

02

Best Budget Turkey Thermometer

Best Budget Turkey Thermometer
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If you don't want to break the bank when you roast your bird, iTronics' ThermoPro TP16 Food Thermometer is your best choice. Of all the corded digital thermometers under $30, the ThermoPro TP16 offers the most reliable features and best customer service.

How Does It Work?

The ThermoPro TP16 tries to keep up with more expensive models' features with less buttons. On the back, you have a sliding switch for Celsius and Fahrenheit and another sliding switch for the timer screen, temperature screen, and the off button. On top you have three buttons: "MEM/S/S," up/hour, down/minutes.

Setting a Timer

Move the back switch to the clock illustration. The hour and minute buttons only count upwards, but cycle back around to zero if you hold the buttons down. The hours max out at 99 while the minutes reset after 59. You can also turn the display on and off again to zero out the timer.

"Common USDA meat temperatures are programmed into the display and doneness levels are printed on the side."

Once you have your desired countdown, you can press "MEM/S/S" to start and stop the timer. The colon will flash to show the timer is running. When you switch to the temperature screen, a small, blinking triangle at the top of the screen lets you know the timer is still activated.

Setting a Temperature

Move the switch to the thermometer illustration. If you want to set your own temperature, just press the up and down buttons until you find your "Set Temp."

If you need a little help, press the "MEM/S/S" button to see the illustrations of different animals. Each animal will blink to show it's selected and you can use the arrow buttons to move between the different illustrations. Pressing "MEM/S/S" button again will select the animal and set the temperature to the USDA guideline.

When either alarm is reached, turn the the display completely off and on again to stop it.

What Works?

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  • Common USDA meat temperatures are programmed into the display and doneness levels are printed on the side.
  • The braided stainless steel probe cable is heat-safe up to 712°F is a major upgrade to the silicone cables usually found on thermometers under $30.
  • Though on a separate screen, the timer function runs concurrently with your temperature alarm. This might seem silly, but people who don't want a cluttered display will enjoy the simplicity of the different modes.
  • Since probes tend to fail over time, iTronics offers a lifetime free probe replacement warranty in addition to a five-year warranty for the other parts. Backup probes are also easy to find on Amazon.
  • There are three different ways to position the display: magnet for the oven, kickstand for the counter, and wall mounting via a screw or nail.

What Could Be Better?

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  • When it comes to build quality, you get what you pay for. The display is reminiscent of a cheap calculator, hard plastic buttons and all. The battery compartment cover on the unit we received couldn't snap into place due to a defect. The quality control sticker above it felt like it was taunting us a bit, but the issue wasn't anything a customer service rep couldn't replace.
  • Because the temperature, timer, and off functions are controlled by the same sliding switch, you will probably turn the thermometer off when trying to look at your timer. The bad news: if you turn it off, you lose both the timer and your temperature alarm. The good news: once you set the timer, we found that switching screens wasn't a big deal.

Warranty and Customer Support

Some people have issues finding customer support for this product since the manufacturer is iTronics and ThermoPro is just a line of their products. Once we found iTronics, they were friendly and responsive about their 30-day return policy. With a five-year warranty and lifetime probe replacement, you wouldn't have to worry about buying another meat thermometer for years. 

03

Best Wireless Turkey Thermometer

Best Wireless Turkey Thermometer

You know what you're doing when it comes to a big holiday dinner. Sides are prepped and ready to be warmed up, but the turkey's still in the oven. Your loved ones are in the next room, but you're running in and out of the kitchen to check on your bird. We don't like that picture, so we recommend iTronics' ThermoPro TP07 Wireless Meat Thermometer. Be free. Hug your family.

How Does It Work?

Turn on the transmitter (the smaller display) and receiver (the larger display and your wireless remote). After plugging the probe into the transmitter, you should see the temperature on both displays. Place the probe in the turkey and set your transmitter down on your counter or hook it on the oven door. You are now free to walk up to 300 feet away with the receiver.

Using the remote receiver, you can set your temperature. The "Meat" button cycles through different types of meat and the "Taste" button lets you select the level of doneness. You can also use the up and down buttons to customize your temperature.

For timers, press "Mode" and you can use the start/stop button to activate a stopwatch. For a countdown timer, use the hour and minute buttons to set your timer and then press the start button. To clear any timer, hold down both the hour and minute buttons.

The backlight is color-coded: it flashes blue for countdown timers and temperature increases of 10°F, green when the temperature is within 15°F of your setting, and red when the meat is ready.

What Works?

  • The transmitter sends the temperature to the receiver up to 300 feet away. Yep, you can just walk away, no Bluetooth™ required.
  • Both the receiver and transmitter have a kickstand. The transmitter can swivel to become a hook for the oven door handle and the receiver has a belt clip that can become a kickstand.
  • The receiver is small enough to fit in your hand, but also offers an easy-to-read 1.5 inch by 1.3 inch LCD display.
  • The rubber sleeve case is comfortable to hold and splash proof. The design of these displays offer a significant upgrade to our budget pick.
  • This thermometer is also covered by iTronics' five-year warranty and lifetime probe replacement policy. You can also purchase backup probes here.

What Could Be Better?

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  • The backlight only works when an alarm is set. We wish there was a dedicated light button, but ultimately, this felt like a bigger issue for people grilling meat outside.
  • Some Amazon reviewers found the constant flashing of the blue backlight annoying, but other users appreciated the visual cue in addition to the alarm.
  • Look, Ma! No magnets. Unfortunately, neither display has any magnets, but we think the hook option opens up the possibilities of where you could put the transmitter. 

Warranty and Customer Support

Customer service for this thermometer has a bad reputation due to most people thinking the company is called ThermoPro. iTronics' customer support is generally fast and friendly, offering refunds under their 30-day return policy. Their five-year warranty and lifetime probe replacement policy will keep you cooking turkeys for many years to come!

04

Best App-Connected Turkey Thermometer

Best App-Connected Turkey Thermometer

The turkey is in the oven, but your sister is at the airport. Or maybe you need to swing by the grocery store. Run your errands without fear with the only completely wireless meat thermometer we found. This Kickstarter success story took a while to find its footing, but the Meater thermometer was worth the wait. We recommend this elegant thermometer for techies who want to be able to leave the house while their bird cooks.

How Does It Work?

Take the Meater out of its wooden charging station and place it in your turkey. Make sure the black handle is sticking out by at least 2 inches. The pointed tip of the probe houses the internal sensor (heat-safe to 212°F) while the handle end has an ambient sensor (heat-safe to 572°F). Don't switch those ends up unless you like your thermometers charred and broken!

Why do you need an ambient sensor? It helps the app estimate the cook time. Instead of guessing when your turkey will be done with your own timer, just let the app figure it out.

Once your turkey's in the oven, use the Meater app to set your temperature. You can use "Guided Cook" which offers chef and USDA guidelines for meat safety and doneness or "Custom Cook." After you set your temperature, the app will show you the internal, target, and ambient temperatures and will notify you when your turkey is done.

Bluetooth™ connectivity to your Meater typically maxes out around 33 feet. To monitor the temperature from farther away, you need to have another smartphone or tablet close enough to the probe to serve as the Bluetooth™  to Wi-Fi bridge via "Meater Link." If you want to run to the supermarket, you can extend your access even farther by signing into "Meater Cloud" within the app.

What Works?

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  • The probe is completely wireless. With no awkward cords to stow and a stylish charging case, the Meater thermometer doesn't feel like it's cluttering up your kitchen when it's not in use. 
  • Meater Link uses your home's WiFi as a signal extender for the Bluetooth™ pairing. Meater Cloud allows you to access your cook from wherever there's mobile data service or Wi-Fi. (Otherwise the range is about 33 feet.)
  • The app is available on iOS and Android. Additionally, Meater Link works across the two platforms, so you could connect an Android device to an Apple device.
  • Guided Cook offers more than the standard options like beef or poultry, allowing you to choose specific cuts like chuck steak and turkey.
  • The app lets you set and name multiple timers. By pressing the bell icon, you can set alerts to remind you to start making a side or baste regularly.
  • The app will also estimate resting time to help you take your turkey out at the right time.

What Could Be Better?

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  • You'll notice when you check out the app that the ratings aren't great. There were some delays in shipping the Kickstarter units which led to some poor app reviews. Users who received the hardware overwhelmingly enjoyed the product.
  • Since Meater is so new to the meat thermometer world, we can't vouch for its long-term durability. 

Warranty and Customer Support

Returns within 30 days are granted if the Meater was bought directly from the manufacturer. Each thermometer is covered by a one-year limited warranty that doesn't cover accidental damage or commercial use. Also, hacking the thermometer is a good way to lose your warranty eligibility. We know you want to, but don't do it.

05

Best Novelty Turkey Thermometer

Best Novelty Turkey Thermometer
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We think you should definitely use a meat thermometer, but we couldn't resist this novelty turkey timer. The Kikkerland Turkey Timer was made popular by The New York Times and we stand by putting this tiny turkey in your big turkey.

How Does It Work?

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In most pop-up timers, a small stick is loaded onto a spring and held in place by a soft metal or wax at the bottom of the timer. When the metal or wax melts, the stick pops up and your turkey is done.

With this little guy, you get to look forward to his legs popping up. 

What Works?

  • Pop-up thermometers are generally a bit boring aesthetically, but this one has a fun turkey design where the legs pop up.
  • It can be used about 300 times. Most pop-up timers are disposable, but this one wants to make your turkeys festive for a long time.
  • It's dishwasher safe and oven safe to 450°F

What Could Be Better?

  • Some units flat out don't work. As with all pop-up timers, there are as many duds as there are functioning products. Sometimes the legs never move or they pop up at far too high a temperature

Warranty and Customer Support

Kikkerland offers a 90 day warranty in which it will replace defective products for free and 30 day refunds on unused items minus the cost of shipping.

Meat thermometers are valuable additions to any kitchen, but we wanted to think about which types of thermometers are better suited for cooking a perfect turkey. With this in mind, we wanted to minimize how often you have to open and close your oven. We focused on leave-in probe thermometers and left the popular instant-read models by the wayside.

"I think [a leave-in thermometer is] totally worth making the small investment for your meal," says Josh Laurano, Executive Chef at La Sirena, a Mario Batali restaurant. "It's one less thing that you have to worry about and you can spend more time with your family."

We considered pop-up, analog dial probe, corded digital probe, and smart (wireless remote and app-connected) thermometers.

In pop-up timers/thermometers, a small stick is attached to a spring and held in place by food-grade soft metal or wax at the bottom of the timer. When the metal or wax melts, the stick pops up. These whimsical timers are best used as a novelty item and should always be double checked with an actual meat thermometer.

The former United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standard temperature for turkey breast safety was 185°F, but the current guideline is 165°F. Since many pop-up thermometers are still set to pop at 185°F, If you must use one, we recommend measuring the thigh temperature.

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Entering into the world of probes can be overwhelming, especially since they are your meat thermometer's weakest point. No matter what brand, your probe will eventually fail. Even America's Test Kitchen recommends buying a backup probe (paywall).

"I feel like after the one use, I feel less comfortable with the reliability of the thermometer," says Chef Laurano, even less optimistic than America's Test Kitchen about the shelf life of probe thermometers.

This level of distrust made warranties even more valuable. After learning about the limitations of these probes, manufacturer probe repairs and replacements became a major part of our decision-making process. To make sure you have a working meat thermometer on hand, we recommend buying a backup probe. We included links to compatible probes in the applicable reviews to make the process easier for you.

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Oven-friendly probes should typically be 4–7 inches long, and will be on the thicker side when compared to instant-read probes. A good instant-read probe will use a speedy thermocouple sensor, while leave-in probes and cheaper instant-reads tend to use slightly slower thermistors. Thermistor sensors need more real estate, but are ideal for roasting turkeys and other large cuts of meat.

The National Turkey Federation recommends that probes should be inserted at least 2.5 inches into the thickest part of the breast. You should avoid hitting bone, fat deposits, or any stuffing because they will affect temperature readings.

You may or may not be able to calibrate your thermometer, but you should test it right away regardless. Using a boil or ice water test, you can determine how accurate your thermometer is. Since you'll be testing ice water, not ice, 32–34°F is an acceptable temperature range for a freezing point.

Types of Leave-in Thermometers

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  • Analog probe thermometers are a bit more serious than pop-up timers. Their clock-like temperature gauges react to heat sensors in the probe. Though these thermometers are a low-tech option, some users like being able to calibrate them and throw (re: gently place) them in the dishwasher.
  • Corded probe thermometers take the display outside of the oven, but they don't usually let you go too far away from your bird. The external displays allow for additional features like alarms, timers and temperature guidelines from the USDA or the user. The best displays will have a kickstand, hook, or magnet to secure the screen somewhere in your kitchen.
  • Most smart probe thermometers also use a cord to connect the probe to a wireless/Bluetooth™ transmitter. The cord's quality and heat threshold affects the unit's long-term value. Cheaper thermometers tend to have cords that easily burn, fray, or get crushed by closed oven doors. You deserve better than that.
  • Wireless remote digital probe thermometers usually have a wider range than app-connected thermometers, but some apps allow you to extend the range. If you're a social chef who wants to mingle while you work, these thermometers can give you mobility and peace of mind.

How We Chose Our Picks

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Whatever your budget, you want your probe thermometer to be accurate and last you through the holidays. Throughout these categories, we analyzed expert and user reviews. We looked for thermometers with readable screens, durable hardware, and outstanding customer service. We consulted federal guidelines for thermometers and chefs. From there, we tested the expert review darlings, Thermoworks' Dot and ChefAlarm, against the more economical ThermoPro TP16. 

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