The Best BBQ Smoker Thermometers of 2018: Smoking meat requires accurate and precise temperatures. If you intend to invest in a smoker, you also need to invest on the best bbq smoker thermometers to ensure that you churn up the best tasting smoked meat.
Smoker thermometers are the most important accessories of a smoker and grill. While most smokers will come with built-in thermometers, many of them provide inaccurate temperatures. Instead of taking the risk with built-in thermometers, you will be in a much better position if you invest on a new smoker thermometer.
There are a wide range of smoker thermometers. Many of these thermometers are digital ones. Many are of the wireless types, too. These thermometers also come with added features to ensure that you always have an enjoyable smoker experience and come up with the best smoked meat.
Suffice it to say, the main purpose of smoker thermometers is provide an accurate temperature reading and they should be perfectly doing that.
To save you the inconvenience of having to check on numerous smoker thermometers and checking out customer reviews, your work will be made easier by going through this in-depth reviews of the best smoker thermometers.
Five top smoker thermometers are reviewed and compared based on reading accuracy, readability, features, and price as well as customer feedbacks.
|Name||ThermoPro TP20||Ivation Long Range Wireless Thermometer||ThermoPro TP08 Wireless Remote Digital Thermometer||Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo||Maverick ET-733 Long Range Wireless Thermometer|
|Our Rating||4.8/5 stars||4.5/5 stars||4.7/5 stars||4.9/5 stars||4.5/5 stars|
|Type||Digital/ Wireless||Digital/ Wireless||Digital/ wireless||Digital||Digital / wireless|
|Probes||Dual||3 probes with 3-ft cables||Dual||Single||dual w/ cable|
|Temp Range||32˚F to 572˚F||Up to 716°F||32˚F to 572˚F||400 0F to 4820 F||up to 716°F|
|Wireless Range||Up to 300 feet||Up to 325 ft.||Up to 300 feet||–||Up to 300 feet|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
Click to jump straight to each topic:
- 1 Best Thermometers for Smokers
- 2 1. ThermoPro TP20 – Best Over-all Smoker Thermometer
- 3 2. Ivation Long Range Wireless Thermometer – Longest Range Smoker Thermometer
- 4 3. ThermoPro TP08 Wireless Remote Digital Thermometer – Best Budget
- 5 4. Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo – Best Instant Read Thermometer- Best Instant Read Thermometer
- 6 5. Maverick ET-733 Long Range Wireless Thermometer – Best Bluetooth Smoker Thermometer
- 7 The Need for a BBQ Smoker Thermometer
- 8 Benefits of Using a BBQ Smoker Thermometer
- 9 Kinds of BBQ Smoker Thermometers
- 10 Factors to Consider When Buying a BBQ Smoker Thermometer
- 11 How to Use a Smoker Thermometer
- 12 Taking Care of a Smoking Thermometer
- 13 How to Check if your Smoker Thermometer is Accurate
- 14 You need to check your thermometer specs
- 15 Conclusion
Best Thermometers for Smokers
1. ThermoPro TP20 – Best Over-all Smoker Thermometer
The ThermoPro TP20 is a digital and wireless thermometer which comes with a dual probe to efficiently control temperatures with a mobile receiver. This thermometer is ideal for smokers and grills.
This thermometer comes with two meat probes made from stainless steel. The probes can be adapted to reading the internal temperature of the meat you are smoking.
This thermometer comes with a receiver where you can view temperature readings up to 300 feet away from the thermometer.
This device features a built-in pre-set temperatures for 9 types of meat including fish, lamb, poultry, pork, chicken, veal, beef, ground poultry and ground beef. It also comes with five extra pre-set temperatures for doneness including rare, medium rare, medium, medium well and well done.
You can also customize the temperatures to suit your preference and can also quickly and accurately adjust temperatures.
This thermometer does not need any set up as it has a wireless operation. You do not need to sync this device to any other device to be able to view temperature readings.
- Comes with Fahrenheit and Celsius readings.
- Transmitter is equipped with a wire that can be used as a stand or hook for easy reading of temperatures on the screen.
- Receiver comes with a belt clip for a hands-free viewing of temperature readings.
- Alarm goes off when transmitter is not within range
- Thermometer comes with a sleeve case made of rubber so the thermometer is protected just in case it accidentally drops.
- Temperatures can be customized.
- Temperature settings and times are saved.
- Large LCD screen with backlit for oven and food temperatures
- Wireless range of up to 300 feet.
- Equipped with pre-set temperatures with option for customization
- No set up and syncing required
- Probes are made of stainless steel
- Simple to use
- Second probe is not very efficient in monitoring meat temperature
ThermoPro is the most reputable thermometer brand. The ThermoPro TP20 is the company’s top of the line thermometer. This device comes with features making it extremely easy for the user to set and monitor required temperatures. It gives highly accurate readings, too.
Read more: best electric smoker reviews
2. Ivation Long Range Wireless Thermometer – Longest Range Smoker Thermometer
The Ivation Long Range Wireless Thermometer comes with unique features the most noticeable of which its 325 feet wireless range which is the best among all wireless thermometers .
This long range Ivation wireless thermometer comes with 2 heat probes made from stainless steel for monitoring temperatures inside the smoker and internal temperature of the meat. It comes with an extra probe, too. With this thermometer you can set and monitor temperatures of two different types of meat at the same time.
Smoker thermometer with the longest wireless range at 325 feet.
The probes are each equipped with 3 feet wires for temperatures of up to 716°F. This thermometer comes with 15 pre-set temperature. 9 preset temperatures are for game meats including elk, deer, buffalo, moose, boar, duck, rabbit, bird and fish. The other 6 pre-set temperatures are for meats including beef, lamb, veal, pork, turkey and chicken.
There is also an option to easily customize your own preferred temperature in HI and LO. Shifting from Celsius to Fahrenheit readings and vice versa can be done by a push of a button.
- Real time temperature readings with alarm when desired temperatures are reached.
- 325 feet wireless range
- Equipped with 3 probes
- Wireless receiver is equipped with clips for the pocket or belt for hands-free monitoring of temperatures.
- Equipped with 15 pre-set temperatures
- Option for temperature customization
- Out of Reach Alert when not within the wireless range of the thermometer
- Large LCD screen displays target low and high temperatures at the same time.
- Fahrenheit and Celsius temperature readings.
- Powered by 4 Triple A batteries
- Comes with an extra meat probe
- High accuracy
- Alarm sets off when receiver is not within the wireless range
- 15-pre set temperatures
- Easy controls
- Hard to read LCD screen under direct sunlight
- Batteries are not included
- Instructions are in small hard to read fonts
The Ivation Long Range Wireless Thermometer is a top of the line product with the longest
Read more: Best offset smoker reviews
3. ThermoPro TP08 Wireless Remote Digital Thermometer – Best Budget
The ThermoPro TP08 Wireless Remote Digital Thermometer allowing the easy viewing of accurate temperature readings. This device is equipped with an alarm to alert you once low and high temperatures are reached by the smoker.
This thermometer comes with 2 food grade stainless probes. Probe to monitor temperature of meat is 6 inches long and the probe for the smoker is 3 inches long.
You can view temperature readings in the receiver even if it is up to 300 feet away from the transmitter which is beside the smoker. This will allow you to do other tasks while food is cooking without the need for close monitoring.
You can choose to easily customize the required temperature of the meat you are cooking from between 320F to 5720F.
- Pre-synchronized receiver and transmitter
- Temperature range of between 32°F to 572°F
- Features a timer to monitor cooking times
- Receiver alarm flashes when temperatures are above or below pre-set temperatures.
- Comes with a timer to monitor cooking time to prevent overcooking.
- Meat probe is made 6.5 inches long and smoker probe is 3 inches long. Both are made of food grade stainless steel.
- Equipped with an alarm when receiver is not within range
- Receiver and transmitter are pre-synchronized
- Wide choice of temperature settings
- Wireless range of up to 300 feet
- 1-year replacement warranty for probe
- Batteries are included
- It can be a struggle to initially learn how it works
The ThermoPro TP08 Wireless Remote Digital Thermometer may be a budget thermometer but it is backed by the makers of the best smoker thermometers in the market. It may not have the pre-set temperature features of the more expensive thermometers but this device does provide accurate temperature readings.
4. Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo – Best Instant Read Thermometer- Best Instant Read Thermometer
The Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo is a digital instant read thermometer with a thermal sensitive stick that is foldable for portability as it could fit in your pocket. The device is made of unbreakable high-grade heat resistance polymer material.
This thermometer is able to immediately give an accurate temperature reading after only 4 seconds of being inserted into the meat.
It has an 18/8 stainless steel tapered probe that makes temperature checking reliable to ±0.9°F
Comes with a temperature range of between 400F to 4820F to allow the cooking of meat with the right and even doneness.
- Provides an accurate instant read of temperature after 4 seconds of being inserted into the meat
- 18/10 stainless steel durable and heat resistant probe has a ±0.9°F accuracy
- Thermometer is coated by a silver ion anti-microbial coating to prevent any bacteria growth.
- Features an alert for temperature hold and stabilization
- Features moisture and temperature readings
- 2 inch large backlit display with auto-rotating feature that is anti-fog for clarity of the temperature readings
- Splash resistant (IP65)
- Made from 100% BPA-free polycarbonate housing
- Comes with an integrated magnet for convenient and easy storing
- Accurate temperature reading after only 4 seconds
- Display has backlight
- Display has a rotating feature for convenient reading of temperatures
- Splash resistant
- Equipped with a magnet for easy storing
- Temperature reading are not exactly instant
The Lavatools Javelin PRO Duo provides an accurate reading through a simple press on the touch pad. The alarm of the device will sound once temperature reading is completed. No need to open the smoker and check on the temperature inside the smoker
5. Maverick ET-733 Long Range Wireless Thermometer – Best Bluetooth Smoker Thermometer
The Maverick ET-733 Long Range Wireless Thermometer connects the receiver and transmitter through Bluetooth connection. It is powered by 4 Triple A batteries (included) and its probe with cable reaches temperatures of up to 716°F.
This device comes with a dual probes with cables to monitor preset temperature inside the meat. It also comes with a probe to monitor temperature inside the smoker. The set also includes a bonus hybrid 6 foot probe.
The receiver can read accurate temperatures from the receiver up to 300 feet away.
The cables of the probe can reach temperatures of up to 716°F. Can read temperatures of the inside of the smoker and the internal temperature of the meat.
This thermometer is equipped with 15 pre-set temperatures for veal, beef, pork, lamb, turkey, chicken. Elk, deer, buffalo, moose boar, rabbit, bird, duck and fish.
- Dual probe
- Simultaneously receives accurate temperatures inside the smoker and from the inside of the meat.
- Sends alerts when temperatures fall below or above pre-set temperatures
- Features 15 pre-set temperatures
- Comes with a bonus hybrid 6 feet probe
- Includes 2 probe clips
- Dual probes for multiple cooking
- Comes with 15 pre-set meat temperatures
- Over time, probes tend to be inaccurate
- Instructions to program the thermometer can be difficult to understand
- Short probe cables (3 feet)
The Maverick ET-733 Long Range Wireless Thermometer has been engineered for precision to allow the wireless monitoring of temperatures inside the smoker and inside the meat to ensure perfectly and evenly cooked meat.
The Need for a BBQ Smoker Thermometer
You may be wondering why you still need to get a smoker thermometer when your smoker already comes with a built-in thermometer. The answer is simple. Most built-in thermometers are inaccurate and do not give precise readings.
Most high level and even mid-level smokers will always come with a built-in smoker thermometer. The thing is they are often not the best smoker thermometers in the market.
Built-in smoker thermometers often just give you an estimate of the actual air temperature inside the smoker. When you need to know the precise temperature of the meat (inside the meat) you are cooking to check for doneness and only a separate external smoker thermometer can give you an accurate reading.
Digital smoker thermometers are known to give accurate temperature readings of the inside of the meat. They are easier to use and read than analog thermometers. These devices provide accurate readings quick and fast, too. This is not to say that analog thermometers are useless but at this age of modern technology, it is always best to rely on the best.
Benefits of Using a BBQ Smoker Thermometer
In order to create smoked meat the way you exactly need to, you need to control the temperature inside the meat and the consistent and even temperature inside the smoker.
Knowing the exact temperature of the inside of the meat plays an important role when it comes to properly smoking meat with regards to doneness and extracting the true flavors of meat. So does the temperature inside the smoker. So, if you want accurate temperature readings, you will need to invest in one of the best bbq smoker thermometers.
Regardless of your level of experience in smoking meat, having an accurate smoker thermometer brings a lot of benefits.
- Accurate Readings. Thermometers that come with smokers more often just provide an estimate or a gauge. External smoker thermometers provide close to 100% accuracy especially when the recipe so requires.
- Know Thickest Portion of Meat. External smoker thermometers allow you to get to the thickest part of the meat so you can make the necessary adjustments to ensure that the meat is evenly cooked.
- Exact readings provided by the best bbq smoker thermometers give you the convenience of not having to manually monitor the smoker and the meat being cooked by constantly opening the smoker.
- Heat regulation. Being able to accurately control the heat inside the smoker allows efficient and easy cooking.
- Right temperature settings. Accurate smoker thermometers allow you to set the right temperatures to determine the right and safe time to remove meat from the smoker.
The best bbq smoker thermometer allows you to easily set and control temperatures inside the smoker and inside the meat. The device allows you to do other tasks while waiting for the meat to be cooked in the right and précised manner without worrying about undercooking or overcooking.
Kinds of BBQ Smoker Thermometers
A smoker thermometer may be a small device but the important role it plays to getting smoked meat done in an accurate manner should never be ignored.
1. Digital Probe Thermometer
This pocket-sized device is one of the smallest digital thermometers. Albeit small, they provide quick accurate and exact temperature readings. Digital probe thermometers feature probes made from stainless steel. They are simple to use and easy to read.
2. Instant Read Thermometer
Almost everyone is familiar with this type of thermometer because it is the most common and traditional. This type of thermometer is inserted on the food to get an instant reading of the internal temperature. An ambient probe is also another type of instant read thermometer. This device is placed inside the smoker. These devices are simple to use and easy to read.
3. Wireless Thermometer
Place this thermometer inside the smoker and walk away. You can monitor the temperature inside the smoker through your mobile phone, any Bluetooth enables device or through a receiver that comes with the thermometer. This type of thermometer can provide accurate readings so your food will not get overcooked.
4. Infrared Thermometer
This type of thermometer is commonly used in commercial kitchens. Knowing the amount of infrared energy coming off the meat that you are smoking or cooking will give you the temperature inside the meat. This is an expensive thermometer.
5. Remote Cooking Thermometer
This type of thermometer allows you to monitor temperature inside the smoker and inside the meat you are cooking from a distance. Many of this type of thermometer can get accurate readings from up to 100 feet. This type of thermometer comes with a transmitter and a receiver.
6. Mounted Thermometer
This type of thermometer, as its name suggests, is mounted on the lid of the smoker. This type of thermometer however is the least used of all thermometers. It provides an estimate of the temperature inside the smoker but does not provide an accurate reading of the meat being cooked.
Factors to Consider When Buying a BBQ Smoker Thermometer
The market is flooded with smoker thermometers each promising to give accurate readings. Knowing the features you need to look for in a bbq smoker thermometer will set you on the right track of getting exactly what you need – a thermometer that gives accurate readings.
Not all smoker thermometers you will find are 100% accurate although they will all claim to be. Read reviews from actual users to get a first-hand feedbacks and to know what to expect when using the smoker thermometer.
It is important to note that you must know the exact spot where to insert the thermometer to get an accurate reading. If you are smoking meat, the best part to insert the probe is at the thickest portion while avoiding the bone.
If you are thinking of buying a digital thermometer, most of them are wireless. Digital wireless smoker thermometers make your life so much easier because you can go ahead with your other chores without having to worry about what you are smoking. These wireless devices allow you to monitor temperatures even from a distance.
As such you will need to know the range of reach of the thermometer. Most thermometers allow you to have access to temperature readings from up to a distance of 300 plus feet from the thermometer.
This is a nice feature to look out for if you do not want to sit in front of the smoker while waiting for the meat to done. If you are smoking different types of meat at the same time, you will eliminate the need of having to check on doneness every so often by opening the smoker.
The further the range or distance from the thermometer, the more you will have the flexibility to do other things while waiting for the food you are smoking to be done.
3. Dual Thermometers
Dual thermometers allow you to take the temperature of more than one type of food at a time. If you are smoking meat and poultry at the same time, dual thermometers allow you to set maintain and monitor both temperatures.
Some high-end smoker thermometers can be used with up to 8 different types of meat at the same time. It allows you to maintain and monitor the temperature of each type of meat you are cooking.
4. Ease of Use
Anything complex is always a hassle to use. Look for a thermometer that is easy to set and with easy to read accurate readings.
In anything you buy, price is always an important factor to consider. How much are you willing to spend for the best bbq smoker thermometer? The fancier and more features the thermometer has, the higher the price.
Before shopping around for a smoker thermometer have an idea of the features you need. There are endless options for smoker thermometers. Make sure to compare each of your choices and pick the one you feel will satisfy your requirements for a bbq smoker thermometer.
Analog vs. Digital
The glory days of analog thermometers are almost over. Although there still are some smoker enthusiasts who prefer analog thermometers, digital thermometers are able to provide more accurate temperature readings than their analog counterparts.
Some digital thermometers still have the display attached to the end of the probes. The problem with this type of thermometers is you will need to frequently open the smoker to check on temperature readings. Doing so allows the heat inside the smoker to escape and thus lower the temperature. Abrupt changes in temperature inside the smoker will produce meat that is not evenly cooked.
Digital thermometers with cables that connect the probe to the display is a much better option than displays attached to the probe. With this type of set up, the display monitors internal temperatures from the outside the smoker. Monitoring temperatures inside the smoker and the internal temperature is done without having to open the smoker.
Digital thermometers costs a little more than analog thermometers but accuracy is the name of the game. Accuracy in temperature readings will allow you to have perfectly smoked meat as you are able to adjust temperatures as the need arises.
Single Probe vs Dual Probes
A thermometer with a single probe cannot monitor both the temperature inside the smoker and the temperature inside the meat. It can only monitor one temperature at a time. A thermometer with two or more probes can monitor temperatures from multiple areas at any given time.
Most smokers will go for a dual probe thermometer at the least so they can simultaneously monitor the temperature of the meat and the smoker at one. You can also choose to simultaneously monitor the temperatures of two different kinds of meat with dual probes.
Most dual probe thermometers though come with one probe for the smoker and another for the meat and the probe for the smoker cannot be used for the meat. That being said, you need take a close look at the probes you are getting.
How to Use a Smoker Thermometer
The best bbq smoker thermometer gives you the peace of mind by removing the guesswork out smoking meat evenly. Knowing the right way to use your thermometer will allow you to get the most out of the device.
- Know the type of smoker thermometer you are using. There is a right way of using each of the different types of smoker thermometer.
- Test your thermometer before actually using it. You need to make sure that you are using an accurate thermometer. To make sure it is, place the device in boiling water or ice water.
Allow the thermometer to sit in water for about 30 seconds. If you testing the thermometer in boiling water you should get a reading of 212°F. If you are testing in ice water, you should get a reading of 32°F.
If you are not getting those readings, check the instructions manual on how to calibrate the device or you may consider buying a new one.
- Know the best place to stick the thermometer. If you are smoking turkey or chicken the best place for the smoker thermometer is on the part of the thigh that is nearest to the body. For meat, the best place for the thermometer is the thickest part of the meat. Make sure though the thermometer does not touch the bone. If you are cooking thin slices of meat stick the probe in a slanting position if you are cooking thin slices of meat.
Check the label of the thermometer to know how long it will take the thermometer to give an accurate reading. When holding the thermometer steady, it would usually take the device about 30 seconds to give an accurate reading.
- Keep the thermometer clean after each use. Get rid of any food residue on the meat probe. Wash it with hot and soapy water. Follow the washing with wiping the probe with a damp cloth to get rid of all the grease.
A bbq smoker thermometer is a big help in smoking a perfect meat or poultry. You need to use it the right way so it can give you an accurate reading at all times.
Taking Care of a Smoking Thermometer
After investing in one of the best smoker thermometers, you will want to maximize its use and make it last for a long time. Just like any device you will need to give it the right care and maintenance.
- Always make sure to turn off the thermometer after each use to save on battery life.
- Keep the smoker thermometer in a safe place. Never leave it hanging around outside.
- Avoid using the smoker thermometer when raining.
- Water resistant smoker thermometers are not waterproof. Avoid fully submerging the thermometer cables in water.
- Avoid leaving the LCD display of the thermometer directly under the sun for long periods of time,
- Make sure to clean the probes after each use with hot soapy water and a damp cloth.
These are general care tips for smoker thermometers. Make sure to read the instructions manual of your particular thermometer for a more detailed instructions on how to care for your smoker thermometer.
How to Check if your Smoker Thermometer is Accurate
Let’s be honest, barbecue thermometers have a tough life.
They are routinely dropped, splashed, rained on and exposed to extreme conditions.
It is easy to understand why even a good quality thermometer can lose accuracy over time.
If your using an inaccurate thermometer to keep track of your pit temperature or decide when meat is done, you’re going to be serving sub-par barbecue.
Luckily there are some simple tests you can do at home to check if your thermometer is accurate. You can then calibrate most thermometers yourself and save some cash on replacement probes.
Why you should test your thermometers regularly
You should check your thermometers for accuracy at least once a year.
If you have recently dropped, or mistreated your thermometer in some other way, a quick test may be in order right after the incident.
If you don’t do this, you run the risk of relying on inaccurate temperature readings. This could result in you:
- Taking meat off the grill before it’s done (or leaving it on too long)
- And potentially harming your friends and family with undercooked meat
You don’t want to be responsible for either of those things!
The good news is if your thermometer is out of whack, in many cases a simple calibration will get it working like a charm again.
You need to check your thermometer specs
We’ll show you the best way to test your thermometers in a second, but first you should familiarize yourself with the specs of your thermometer provided by the manufacturer.
My Thermapen came with this certificate of calibration which I thought was a nice touch.
Thermoworks, a respected producer of quality thermometers, outlines the details a manufacturer should provide:
Reputable thermometer companies include their instruments’ specs on the packaging.
With thermometers, this should include the temperature range the thermometer is designed to measure, the accuracy it should exhibit over that range, the speed with which it should exhibit that accuracy, and the resolution it will display (typically whole degrees or tenths or hundredths of a degree).
Reproducibility (the ability of the instrument to repeat its performance over and over without hysteresis effects is also an important concept.
As long as the reading that comes back is within the range of accuracy, there is no need to calibrate.
Depending on the quality of your thermometer, this range could include more wiggle room than you expected.
It could be the case that your thermometer is still accurate, but your requirements have changed. You may want to consider upgrading your thermometer if it does not promise to deliver readings accurate enough for you.
How to Test Your Thermometers Accuracy
The best way to test speed and accuracy is to undertake either an ice bath test, or a boiling water test.
As the names of the tests themselves suggest, they involve checking the accuracy of your thermometer against a known temperature—freezing point, or boiling point.
In some cases, performing just one of these tests will do the trick, and seeing the ice bath test is a little more straightforward, many opt to go with that one. Some manufacturers recommend you do both tests to ensure your thermometer is accurate across more than one temperature.
1. The Boiling Water Test
It is widely stated that water boils at 212°F, so dipping your thermometer into a pot of boiling and checking that it reads 212°F seems like a pretty straightforward test, right?
In fact, there are a few factors you need to take into consideration before you perform the test, otherwise you could be testing and calibrating your thermometer all wrong.
- Water boils at different temperatures depending on altitude and the atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure varies from day to day. Look up your altitude, check the atmospheric pressure, then use this handy calculator to determine the boiling point.
- Hard water will boil at 1-20°F higher than soft water.
- Water heated in a tall, narrow pot will boil at about 10°F higher than if you boil it in a shorter, wide mouthed pot. To make your life easier, use a wide mouthed pot when performing the test so you don’t have to account for this difference.
Once you have made all these initial calculations, it is time to proceed with the test.
- Pour 4 inches of water into a wide mouthed pot.
- Bring the water to a vigorous boil.
- Insert the thermometer probe about 2 inches into the water. Gently stir the water with the probe for about 10 seconds, then take the reading. Be careful not to let the thermometer probe touch the side of the pot, this will affect the reading.
Remember that if the reading falls within the accuracy range stated by the manufacturer, there is no need to calibrate your thermometer.
2. The Ice Bath Test
While the ice bath test is a little more straightforward than the boiling water test, you still have to perform it correctly to ensure the temperature is reliable. The temperature should read 32°F.
The most important thing to note when preparing an ice bath test is that a cup of water with some ice cubes floating at the top is not an ice bath. If this is what you are using as your ice bath, your results could be up to 12°F too warm.
ThermoWorks have a helpful guide to creating an ice bath correctly:
Let’s break down how to perform an ice bath test properly:
- Fill a tall glass with ice cubes right to the top. Crushed ice is preferable as it will leave less gaps.
- Fill the gaps between the ice with chilled water.
- Gently stir for about 15 seconds to get the temperature even throughout the bath.
- Place your thermometer probe about 2 inches into the water.
- Gently stir the water with the thermometer probe for about 15 seconds, then take the reading.
Try not to let the probe touch the sides of the glass, rest on a piece of ice or sit at the bottom of the cup, as this will affect the reading.
Don’t let your ice bath sit on the bench for too long before you use it. If any of the ice at the bottom melts, the results will not longer be accurate. The ice must fill the entire glass, from top to bottom, for the temperature to be reliable.
How to calibrate an inaccurate Thermometer
If you haven’t skipped ahead then you’ll already know that your first step is to find out your thermometers specifications.
These should be included with your thermometer, or you can always find them on the manufacturers website.
If you have tested your thermometer correctly, and it is inaccurate, then it is time to calibrate.
Some thermometers are made so you can calibrate them yourself. To do this, you will need to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines. However to calibrate some more expensive models, you may need to contact the manufacturer, or send the unit to them.
On the other hand, some very cheap thermometers will not allow you to calibrate at all.
It is a good idea to keep a record of calibrations. This will help you keep track of how often you have needed to calibrate, and how far off the readings were when you did.
If you notice that you are needing to calibrate often, your thermometer might be on the way out. An upgrade might be in order. Check out our guides to the best instant-read thermometers and the best leave in probe thermometers.
Alternatively, you might be able to address the problem by replacing the probe. You can reorder probes for some common thermometers here:
- Maverick replacement 3 Ft probe
- Weber iGrill meat & ambient probe
- ThermoPro replacement probe
- ThermoWorks Pro-Series Cooking Probe & Air Probe (both used for Smoke)
How to Calibrate Popular Thermometers
We’ve pulled together instructions for a few of the most popular thermometers. It’s always a good diea to double check your manual before you try to do any calibration though. Before you start the calibration process, it is a good idea to prepare your ice bath, and boiling water tests.
Calibrate ThermoWorks Thermapen
- Turn your Thermapen over so the back side is facing you, and the probe flips out to the right.
- Take off the Thermaworks label. This label is covering the calibration screws.
- The screw on the right is to calibrate to zero. The screw to the left is to calibrate to boiling point.
- Flip out the probe. This will turn on your Themapen.
Ice Water Calibration
- Without letting the probe touch the side of the container which holds the water, dip the tip of your Thermapen probe into the ice water and gently stir.
- Once the temperature reading has stabilised, carefully turn the Thermapen in one hand so you have access to the calibration screws.
- With a small slotted screwdriver, adjust the zero calibration screw until it reads 32°F. Once this is done, you can take the probe out of the water.
Boiling Water Calibration
- Dip the tip of the probe into the boiling water, again, taking care not to let the probe come into contact with the side of the pan that you are boiling the water in.
- Once the reading has stabilized, carefully turn the Thermapen around so you can access the calibration screws.
- Adjust the screw on the left side (‘span’ setting) so that it reads 212°F.
Time to Double Check
- Dip your Thermapen back into the ice bath. Wait for the reading to stabilize and check that it reads 32°F. Do the same for the boiling water. Keep adjusting the screws as outlined above until the readings come back correct when the probe is dipped in the water.
- Once everything is properly adjusted, replace the cover and you are ready to use your thermometer again with confidence!
While ThermoWorks back the Smoke Thermometer enough to state you shouldn’t ever really need to calibrate it, they do say that you can use the calibration function on the unit to fine tune each probe on the Smoke to be accurate within +/-1°F.
The Smoke comes new from the factory with accuracy to +/-1.8OF. If the reading your Smoke returns is off by +/-4°F or more, then your thermometer is damaged. This will not be fixed by a calibration, and you may need a new probe.
ThermoWorks suggest the best way to calibrate the Smoke is by using the ice bath method.
- Turn on the Smoke and dip probe 1 into the ice bath and gently stir. Once the temperature reading has stabilized, make a note of the reading. Even if the reading falls within the accuracy tolerance, you should be able to get it even closer if you want.
- Repeat the same process as above with the second probe.
Using the Calibration Function
- Press and hold the “CAL’ button on the smoke control panel for five seconds. The display should say CAL and the temperature reading should be 0.0°F.
- Use the up and down arrow buttons to make up the difference between the reading you got and the correct reading (which is 32°F) For example, if the reading for the first probe was 34.6°F, then increase by 1.4°F. This will calibrate for probe 1.
- Press the CAL button to save this for probe 1.
- Press and hold the CAL button again to repeat this process for probe 2, again adjusting according to the reading you noted down when you tested the probe.
Time to Test
Test both probes again using the ice bath. They should both return results either right on 32°F, or within +/-0.1°F.
Maverick ET-733 Calibration
Annoyingly you cannot calibrate Maverick thermometers.
If your Maverick is inaccurate, there are still a couple of things you can do though.
- Do a ice bath and boiling water test. This will give you the final word on whether your Maverick is indeed working properly or not. If you are concerned because the Maverick is returning different results to the inbuilt thermometer of your smoker, chances are the in built thermometer on the smoker is wrong, as they are notoriously bad.
- If it does appear that the Maverick is returning inaccurate results, then check your warranty. You might be able to get replacement probes or wires.
- A general note to keep in mind: When you clean the probes, make sure you don’t let any water in where the wires meet the probes.
How to calibrate Infrared Thermometers
There are a couple of ways you can calibrate an infrared thermometer. However some options are very pricy, so it is good to know that a properly made ice bath will still do the job. Let’s have a look at the options.
- Black Bodies: Industrial calibration lab technicians use black body devices to calibrate infrared thermometers. They are fast and easy to use, and allow you to calibrate your infrared thermometer to a number of temperatures with great accuracy. However, they do come with a hefty price tag.
- Infrared Comparator Cup: At a much more affordable price point, a comparator cup is portable, and can reliably calibrate an infrared thermometer at more than one temperature.
- Ice Bath: If you can’t get your hands on a black body or a calibrator cup then a properly made ice bath can also give you a reliable temperature of 32°F.
If you want to calibrate your infrared thermometer using an ice bath, you will need to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. We have included a general guide below so you have an idea of what might be involved:
- Prepare an ice bath as we outlined the section “The Ice Bath Test”
- Set your infrared thermometer to an emissivity setting of 0.95 or 0.97
- Hold the thermometer above the ice bath so that the lens is directly above and perpendicular to the surface of the ice bath.
- Make sure that the field of view ONLY takes in the surface of the ice bath. (If the thermometer is held too far from the ice bath, or is held at an angle, it will take a reading from the glass and will not be accurate)
- Press the button on your thermometer to take the temperature reading.
Infrared thermometers are known to remain accurate and reliable, so it is likely that you will get a reading of 32°F, or within the tolerance range stated by the manufacturer.
If the reading falls outside the range stated by the manufacturer and you are sure you have performed the test correctly, get in touch with the manufacturer.
Tips to Keep your Thermometer Accurate
- Granted, cooking is a messy business, but try to keep areas where the wiring meets the probes dry.
- The manufacturers will usually provide a range of temperatures within which your thermometer will work. Try not to expose your thermometer to temperatures outside this range. Not only will the results be inaccurate, you will also damage your thermometer.
- When storing a thermometer which has cables attached to the probes, do not kink the cables or wrap them around the probes. The stress caused by the kinking and wrapping could damage the cable.
To wrap it up
As we have emphasised in many of our other articles, an accurate thermometer is an invaluable tool in any pitmasters collection.
No matter how much you paid for your thermometer, if it is not accurate, it is worthless. So, knowing how to test, calibrate and properly care for your thermometer is vital information for any barbecue enthusiast.
Do you have any further questions that we did not cover in this article? Or any tips or tricks to add regarding thermometers? Let us know in the comments section below. And if you found this article helpful, be sure to share!
At the end of the day there is always an ideal smoker thermometer for everyone depending on need and preference. One thing that is sure though, every home cook, amateur or professional chef needs an accurate thermometer.
Remember that you need an accurate thermometer to make sure you are smoking meat at the right temperature and that the inside of the meat is at the right temperature to ensure even doneness.
If you do not want to struggle with monitoring temperatures inside your smoker and meat with built-in thermometers, get one of the best bbq smoker thermometers mentioned above.