Grill Master Skills – How to Properly Use a Meat Thermometer in Your Grill

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Last Updated on July 28, 2021

Annabelle

Annabelle Watson

Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.

how to use a meat thermometer

There is nothing worse than over cooking a steak on your grill. Sure, it’s awesome when the outside is seared to perfection, with those lovely grill lines, but how do you know when your food has reached your favorite temperature?

Well, some cooks swear by the feel method, using the firmness of the meat to gauge doneness. But that can be confusing, and you have to watch your grill closely, because over cooking can happen quickly. To avoid the confusion, and have perfectly cooked meats every time you grill, a meat thermometer is a necessary investment.

meat thermometer can be a relatively inexpensive solution to the age-old question, “how do I know my steak is medium-rare?” So purchasing a good meat thermometer is a perfect place to start. But if you aren’t using it correctly, you’ll soon find that you’re no closer to that answer than you were without a meat thermometer. Yes, cooking without a food thermometer can be done, but it requires a lot of trial and error. Plus, would you really want to ruin a nice pork steak in the process?

To help you navigate the ins and outs of grilling with a meat thermometer, we are sharing with you our thoughts on the proper use of using a meat thermometer on the grill.

Related Article: How to Clean a Meat Thermometer.

1. Pick the Right Thermometer

The first step in using a meat thermometer on the grill, is to purchase the proper thermometer for the job. There are a lot of options out there, and it can be confusing to find the right one.

Meat Only

One of the most frequent issues that we encounter when people are learning to use a meat thermometer is that they don’t buy one that is made specifically for meat. Believe it or not, these are specific for the job, and are designed to pierce the meat. Don’t just buy any old kitchen thermometer. It won’t do the job.

Dial versus Digital

We definitely prefer the digital thermometer to the dial thermometer when it comes to cooking on the grill. Most digital thermometers read a lot faster than the dial options. This means you can quickly monitor your meat, without letting too much heat out of the grill. This allows for a consistent cooking process.

Wired, Wireless and Wands

Ok, so now you’ve selected your digital thermometer. You’ve got more choices to make. This one really boils down to how much you want to spend. If you’re on a budget, a wand style thermometer will give you a quick, read out of the temperature of your food, and they are simple to use. 

If you want to step it up a bit, and you have a little more to spend, consider a wired meat thermometer. These allow you to monitor the temperature of your meat without every opening up the lid of your grill. 

This is handy if you are cooking larger cuts of meat, and don’t want to slow your cooking time. There are plenty of reasonably priced options out there, and some are even programmable.

Wireless meat thermometers are really a newer type product, and they will cost you a bit more. The principal with these is the same with the wired option, but without the wire.

2. Know Where to Measure

So now you have your thermometer and you are ready to grill. Great, but where and how do you measure to get the best results?

Thickest Part – The simplest direction that we can give for the best results when it comes to measuring temperature using a meat thermometer, is to insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat. This makes sense, because the thickest section of a cut of meat will take longer to cook.
Largest Cut – If you are cooking multiple items on your grill, say chicken legs or thighs, measure the temperature of the largest one. And measure in the thickest part. This will ensure that everyone gets a safely cooked piece of meat. Not some overdone, some under-done.
One Large Cut – If you are grilling a large roast, a brisket or maybe a rack of ribs, you will want to check the temperature in a few different locations along the meat. This will help you determine if the meat is cooked evenly through.
What Not to Do – When you are measuring the temperature of your grilled meat, make sure that you don’t allow the probe to touch bone, utensils or the grill. This will give you a false temperature reading and may result in food that is undercooked.

3. Know What Temperature You Like or is Safe

Now using a meat thermometer isn’t going to do you any good if you don’t know the temperature that you’re aiming for. A meat thermometer is only a useful tool if you understand the proper temperature for cooking foods. 

It’s also helpful to know what foods can be cooked to a range of temperatures and which should be well cooked every time.

If you are going for “safe” cooking temperature here’s a list of desired temperatures:

Ground beef, lamb or veal – 160 F
Ground Poultry (chicken or Turkey) – 165 F
Steak, Roasts or Chops (beef, lamb or veal) – 145 F
All Poultry – 165 F
Pork – 145 F

Now, when it comes to steak, you’ll want to make sure that your meat hits the desired temperature for the perfect level of doneness:

Rare – 120 F to 125F
Medium-Rare – 130 F to 135 F
Medium – 140 F to 145 F
Medium-Well – 150 F to 155 F
Well Done – 160 F and above

4. Set an Alarm

meat

One of the things we like the most about wired and wireless digital thermometers is that they often let you set an alarm when your food reaches the desired temperature. If you want to cook a great meal, but also want to enjoy your company or relax with a cold beverage while your meat cooks, then a thermometer with an alarm is a must. 

Program to the perfect level of doneness, and sit back and relax. When the alarm sounds, check your food, and get ready to enjoy.

Read Also: We also have the smoker thermometer reviews.