While there are a number of holistic methods used to identify the "doneness" of meat, the only true way is to use a meat thermometer; A device specifically engineered to check internal temperatures.
In terms of grilling and smoking meat, the value of a good digital thermometer cannot be overstated. It's both useful to know when meat it safe for consumption, as well as when certain collagens in meat have likely broken down.
The ThermoPro TP20 is one of the most popular wireless meat thermometers on the market. This review explores what you get when purchasing, the accuracy of the probes more than a year later, as well as my opinions on the device and its features.
The ThermoPro TP20 comes in a compact package and contains the following:
The setup of the TP20 is fairly straightforward.
Simply put 2xAAA batteries (provided by ThermoPro) in both the receiver and the transmitter and then plug a probe into a terminal; That's truly all there is to it.
There is no need for syncing or setup - the transmitter and receiver communicate automatically.
Overall, the functionality is intuitive.
The TP20 is pre-programmed for different types of meat as well as doneness temperatures. These values are based on the USDA approved temperatures.
To illustrate, ground beef is 160 F, and a Medium-rare steak is 140 F. In order to program these values it's as easy as pressing the meat button and then the "taste" button for doneness temperatures (where appropriate) - Listed as Rare, Medium Rare, Medium, Medium Well, and Well done.
If you prefer to use a timer instead (both countdown and count-up) that's also possible. The timer can also run simultaneously with the programmed temperature alarms. The time can be set up to 99 hours and 59 minutes.
The temperature display on the transmitter will toggle between probe 1 and probe 2, where-as the receiver displays both probe temperatures.
The remote range is rated up to 300 ft, which is fairly accurate.
For reference, a football field is 360 ft. The receiver and transmitter communicate via RF signals using a proprietary protocol (not WiFi or Bluetooth). This is especially useful for when the weather is poor and you'd rather be indoors. I live in a two story home and have my smoker/grills in my barn - I'm able to sit in my office on the second floor and still receive temperature updates.
Another useful feature is the alarm when communication is lost between the transmitter and receiver. After 4 minutes the receiver's alarm will go off. The receiver will also auto-shut off after 30 minutes of not receiving a signal.
If you're a BBQ competitor or someone who is smoking meat like brisket over-night, the LCD display is backlit at the push of a button.
I'm from the United States and our unit of measurement for temperature is Fahrenheit, however, if you prefer Celsius you can also change that too.
There are two probes and two terminals (probe 1 and probe 2). The probes are rated between 32 F to 572 F (0 to 300 C). They are rated to an accuracy of +/- 1.8 F, and are made of food-grade stainless steel. The wire itself is also rated to 716 F.
While there is only one color-way available (orange) the case is rugged and appears to be designed for drop resistance. I can attest to this as the number of times I've dropped both the receiver and transmitter is too many times to count and they both still function perfectly.
While there are a number of things to like, there are a few things I'm not a fan of.
While the alarm is super useful for knowing when your desired temperature has been reached, pushing any button on the TP20 creates a beep noise as a form of feedback to the user. While the beeps don't affect functionality and the number of times you have to press a button is minimal, being able to mute this form of feedback would be great.
To Illustrate, here's a video of me cycling through the types of meat, taste, Fahrenheit to Celsius, turning the backlit display off, and then shutting the device off - All of which have a beep as feedback.
The clip on the transmitter is pretty lackluster. Namely because of the angle it sits at. Meaning if you're planning to stand it up, I wish you luck; I have a nail in my barn I hang mine from. This could also be easily fastened/clipped to most grills.
While the length of the probes is adequate enough (40" or 3.33 ft.) on some larger offset smokers this could prove inadequate. Especially if you're having to contort the probes in such a way to reach two food items.
A big issue that a number of reviewers note are "bad" probes. While this is certainly possible due to engineering defects, I did not have this experience.
Note: All of these reviewers also stipulated that ThermoPro was more than willing to send them replacement probes and worked to rectify the issue, which is great to see. They also have a lifetime warranty on their probes.
The following photographs were taken on June 30th, 2021. I bought the ThermoPro TP20 on January 5, 2020.
In order to test the accuracy of probes, it's recommended to use an ice bath and to test the tip temperature. In a number of photos I saw from reviewers they took their measurement, what appeared to be, incorrectly.
Note: The reason an ice bath is used for testing temperature is because it is a known value - water freezes at 32 F.
Rather than lifting the probes and taking the temperature of the water itself, they submerged the probe so that the tip touched the bottom of the cup/container.
Testing in that way is inherently flawed as it also takes into account the surface temperature radiating into the cup. This is the reason condensation occurs on the surface where the cup sits.
When I tested in this way, my temperatures were off by as much as 10 F on both probes. However, when the probes are lifted and the tip is in the center of the bath, accuracy of the probes fall within the range specified by ThermoPro (+/- 1.8 F).
From the photos we can see my probes measured within the range of +/- 1.8 F. The ice water bath is 32 F, the probes tested 33 and 34 F respectively.
A number of reviewers also left reviews stating to buy a ThermoWorks Thermapen MK4. While the Thermapen Mk4 is a wonderful product made by a great brand, the TP20 and the MK4 are entirely different products. Even still, the MK4 costs more and it's an instant read thermometer.
The closest product offered by ThermoWorks to the TP20 would be the Smoke™ which is nearly double the price (when not on sale).
From what I can tell, the features are similar: 300 ft. range, splash-proof, operating range is similar 32 F to 572 F for the TP20 and -58 to 572 F for the Smoke™ and a cable max temp of 716 F for the TP20 and 700 F for the Smoke™.
Overall, provided that your probes are operational, The ThermoWorks TP20 is a wonderful product. Apart from my qualms with the noise output from the beeps, the probe cable length, and the transmitter clip, there is a lot to like about the ThermoWorks TP20.