BBQ Thermometer FAQ

Using a BBQ thermometer correctly can be more involved than you'd think. Always eager to save you time and effort, we asked around our wonderful customer service team for the most common thermometer questions asked by customers just like you! Read below to find out everything you'll need to know about proper BBQ thermometer usage — covering everything from simple, effective calibration testing to really nailing those food safety best practices. As always, if you have questions about these products (or any others), give our expert-driven sales center a call at 1-877-743-2269 today!

Can you leave a meat thermometer in the meat while it’s cooking?


While the cooking temperature and thermometer heat resistance have most of the say here, probe thermometers are usually safe for leaving in the meat while cooking. Most other types simply can’t survive those temperatures. Your best bet will be a meat probe thermometer, but be sure to check its heat resistance ceiling.

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When should you insert a meat thermometer?


For low and slow cooking, insert the thermometer as you get the meat onto the grill. If you’re doing a standard cook, later into the process is generally recommended (we suggest towards the last quarter of your expecting cook time). Instant read thermometers can be inserted anytime — although, you’ll lose valuable heat and smoke when you use them, and you’ll never leave those in the meat.

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Should a meat thermometer start at zero?


No, your meat thermometer should start at your ambient temperature. That is, unless you’re cold calibrating it before your cookout — which should then, in fact, bring your thermometer down to 0 degrees Celsius (or 32 degrees Fahrenheit).

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What is the range for Bluetooth thermometers?


The range for Bluetooth thermometers averages 100–200 feet. It’s worth pointing out that not only will this depend on the model, but even the most cutting-edge Bluetooth devices are limited by physical obstructions: walls, trees, and emission devices (such as microwaves). Every surface or interference between the grill and your smartphone will shrink the suitable range.

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What is the range for WiFi thermometers?


The range for Wi-Fi thermometers is limited only to your internet access. If you’re holding your smartphone and can read this page, you should be able to check your WiFi thermometer.

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What is the range for wireless thermometers?


The range for wireless thermometers (remote-controlled RF, or “radio frequency” devices) average distances up to about 500 feet under perfect conditions. With that said, there are models that can give you around a mile of coverage — often with the cost of either rapid battery drain or slow, intermittent temperature readings.

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Where should I place the thermometer or probe to get the best reading?


The best reading is the lowest reading — avoiding bone and fat, stick the probe into the center of the thickest portion. Most thermometers need the probe at least half an inch into the meat, but you’ll need to go deeper for meat thicker than an inch. The temperature should lower as you penetrate; if it begins rising, you’ve gone too far and should readjust.

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Do I need to calibrate the thermometer?


Calibrating a thermometer is the only way to guarantee that it is in perfect working order. If you perform the procedure and find the readings are off, try adjusting it yourself. Should yours not allow this (and is only off by a few degrees), record the difference and offset your thermometer as appropriate. For larger margins of error, retire and replace the thermometer.

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How do I calibrate the thermometer?


For hot calibration, all you need is a pot of boiling water. Hold the probe in the water without touching surfaces (your thermometer case probably has a side hole or clip, which turns the case into a handle). You want an exact reading of 212 degrees Fahrenheit (or 100 degrees Celsius). Digital thermometers often include a reset or recalibration button alongside manufacturer instructions. If your analog thermometer has strayed from the mark, there should be a calibration nut near the base of the spike; the case very likely has a calibration wrench built in for adjustments.

Cold calibration is even simpler: it just involves filling a glass with ice — crushed is best — and covering that ice completely in water. Stir and let it sit for a few minutes. Using the handle built into your thermometer case, let the probe sit in the glass (without touching surfaces) until it levels out, which should be at precisely 32 degrees Fahrenheit (or 100 degrees Celsius). Just as we said before, digital thermometers can be re-calibrated with manufacturer instructions, and analog thermometers with the calibration nut and case’s built-in wrench.

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What are the minimum safe food temps?


According to FoodSafety.gov, these are the lowest food temperatures safe for consumption.

Food Type Internal Temp (F)
Ground meat and meat mixtures Beef, pork veal, lamb
Turkey, chicken
160
165
Fresh beef, veal, lamb Steaks, roasts, chops
Rest time: 3 minutes
145
Poultry All Poultry (breasts, whole bird, legs, thighs, wings, ground poultry, giblets, and stuffing) 165
Pork and ham Pork and ham Fresh pork, including fresh ham
Rest time: 3 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat)
145

165
Eggs and egg dishes Eggs
Egg dishes (such as frittata, quiche)
Cook until yolk and white are firm
160
Leftovers and casseroles Leftovers and casseroles 165
Seafood Fish with fins
Shrimp, lobster, crab, and scallops
Clams, oysters, mussels
145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork
Cook until flesh is pearly or white, and opaque
Cook until shells open during cooking
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Can I use a thermometer when cooking on an infrared grill?


You can absolutely use a thermometer while cooking on infrared grills — because you still need to observe food safety! If anything, infrared grills are friendlier to thermometers, with a caveat: the thermometer should not be in contact with the cooking surface, which gets hotter than most grills. Not only does infrared heating keep the air temperature ambient, but the lack of open flames (and thus, flare-ups) makes it a safer environment.

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What is the max temperature a BBQ thermometer can handle?


The maximum temperature any thermometer can handle depends on the type of thermometer and the model itself. Unfortunately, this means the answer depends, although we can make these general observations: instant-read thermometers cannot handle staying in the cooking chamber, and even probe thermometers often can’t withstand the sheer heat of a flare-up.

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What’s the difference between Bluetooth, WiFi, and Wireless thermometers?


Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Wireless thermometers distinctive by both range and how they interact with the grill. Bluetooth is excellent for short-range communication, when you want a portable solution in a powerful smartphone app that doesn’t depend on a Wi-Fi signal. If you want all of that, but want to step outside of the best-case range of 100-200 feet (and will be grilling with a great Wi-Fi signal), choose Wi-Fi. If you’re willing to give up the smartphone app, wireless RF thermometers average up to 500 feet — but we know of a few that hit a mile. Hope you can run!

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What does a temperature controller do?


In short, a temperature controller is the true set-and-forget of BBQ smoking. It mounts to your smoker and manages its heat by regulating consistent airflow (which means consistent results). Based upon the settings you input, a BBQ temperature controller fuels your fire to the target temperature and maintains it to an astoundingly steady degree. Plus, less work for you!

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Why can’t I use my grill’s built-in thermometer to tell when meat is done?


Unfortunately, most grill hood thermometers measure the hot air closest to their mounting, not the grill grates (or your food). This distance makes the actual readings off by an average of 75–100 degrees Fahrenheit, although the highest error we’ve seen is 150 degrees. If you’d like to learn more about how this works, read more about Using Your Grill Thermometer.

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Are instant read thermometers any good? Doesn’t poking the meat allow juices to escape?


Instant-read thermometers are excellent for their speed of use, reliability, and accuracy — and no, they don’t let any significant quantity of juices out. Regardless, meat naturally leaks juices as they cook, and the amount lost this way is much more than what what’s released from piercing. Instant-read thermometers provide the best way to get in (and out) of your meat with a precise measurement. Opening the hood may free some heat and smoke, but the trade-off here is a snapshot of the accurate temperature without delay.

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