A digital instant-read thermometer is the quickest and most accurate way to know the internal temperature of whatever you are cooking. And measuring the internal temperature is the most accurate way to know how “done” your food is.
Features of a Good Thermometer
The reason that a digital thermometer is superior to an analog thermometer is the speed at which you can get a reading. That said, there are even variations amongst digital thermometers with some being quicker than others. When purchasing a new thermometer, check to see how quickly it reaches its final reading.
The faster the better, because if you’re sitting there for a minute or more waiting for the temperature to be displayed, your meat is still cooking while you wait. And next thing you know, you’ve got an overcooked steak.
Length of Probe
The “stem” or probe of a digital-thermometer is what gets inserted into the meat to measure the temperature. If you plan on grilling larger cuts, you want to be sure your thermometer has an appropriately long probe.
For instance if you’re grill-roasting a beef rib roast, rack of pork, or turkey, you’d need to be able to gauge the temperature several inches below the surface in the center of the roast for an accurate indication of doneness throughout the roast.
Be sure to examine the display on a thermometer you’re considering buying to make sure you’ll be able to read it when the time comes. Is it bright enough? Are the numbers large enough?
Another factor to consider is the angle of the display. Some thermometers have the display on the side, some on the end, and some are at an angle to the probe itself. All of these have their best uses–if you’re sliding the probe into the side of a thick steak, and angled display might work best. If you’re grill-roasting and inserting the thermometer from the top down, then a top-down display on the end of the thermometer would probably work best.
Bells & Whistles
There are plenty of grilling gadgets out there, thermometers included. Some thermometers go into the meat before it goes on the grill, then an alarm sounds when the meat reaches your desired temperature. Some have will help you determine what temperature you want to reach based on what you’re cooking and how well done you’d like it. Still others come with a pager or work in concert with an app on your phone so that you can be alerted to your meat being done without even needing to be by your grill.
Do you use an instant-read thermometer? Do you have a preferred brand or model, or a particular feature that you couldn’t cook without?