Meat Thermometers – Analog vs Digital

The season of big meat meals is quickly coming upon us. With that, it’s a good time to start thinking about the type and quality of meat thermometer you have in your kitchen arsenal. There are, of course, the old standard types, but there is a large crop of new gadgetry that is available to make your life easier, as well as ensuring that your holiday turkey and ham come out at a healthy temperature. Let’s take a look at the differences between analog and digital meat thermometers.

Analog Meat Thermometers

This style of meat thermometers are what we are all very familiar with, and may even be using one that was passed down to us from our grandmothers. My own grandmother called hers “Old Faithful” (but, to her credit, many of her kitchen tools carried the same moniker) because it would always deliver a delicious main course year round. However, when using this type myself, I find myself a little frustrated with the “range” of temperatures it read. Perhaps you’re like me, and like to be a bit more precise with your readings.

That is the biggest obstacle with analog thermometers. You’re shown the notches of temperatures on the gauge, but you never get an exact reading with them. Granted, most meats are measured in ranges of doneness, but this is something that can be a frustrating for those who may be trying to cook the perfect medium-rare steak or burger.

One thing that is great about analog thermometers is the easy clean up they provide. With some hot soapy water, it’s easy to wash down the probe, dry it (yes, you always want to thoroughly hand dry your thermometer probe and not let water sit on it so that you may avoid any rust issues), put the protective sleeve back over it and store it until the next time. These models are also very affordable and easy to find in any store that sells cooking supplies.

Digital Meat Thermometers

These models are definitely pricier than their analog counterparts. However, they deliver an exact and very accurate reading every time. If you are the type, like me, who wants to know exact numbers, this is the thermometer for you.

You can get the style of digital thermometer that is the same as an analog where it is all one piece. The digital screen is on the top of the metal probe where the analog gauge would normally be located. There are also models available where the probe is removable from the read out display, but is connected by a wire. This allows you to stick the probe into the oven while keeping the other hand away from the heat source while you find out if dinner is ready or not.

When it comes to cleaning these styles, you have to be careful with the one piece types, since you don’t want water getting into the mechanics of the digital brain of the unit. Wiping down the probe, alone is easier when it’s just attached to a wire, since you can ensure that the computer portion is safely away from the water source.

There are also the infrared thermometers that have been made popular by celebrity chefs, like Alton Brown. With a trigger style, you just aim the tip at the meat, squeeze the button and an instant readout comes back to you without the need of a metal probe or getting your hands too close to heating elements. The accuracy of these models may be up for debate in some circles, but you can’t beat the “no cleanup” aspect of these models. The price, however, is another matter. You may shell out some higher amounts of money for this style of meat thermometer.


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