How to Check Internal Meat Temperature Using a Thermometer When Smoking


Checking the internal meat temperature is a very important part of the smoking process. Even experts use meat probes and thermometers for this instead of just guessing, despite having many years of practice behind them.

This is because nothing but the internal temperature of meat can tell us best when the meat is ready to be taken off the cooking grates. 

If you simply guess it by checking for the tenderness of the meat, you might get confused. For instance, it is true that undercooked meat will be tougher. But so will be meat that has been overcooked. Hence confusion can arise within minutes.

But if you used a meat thermometer for the purpose, you would instantly know when the meat is ready, and so on.

Therefore, we’re here to help you figure out how to use a meat thermometer to measure the internal meat temperature during the smoking process.

Types of Meat Thermometers

Meat thermometers come in two main types, the needle gauge, and the digital thermometer.

1. Needle Gauge Thermometer

The needle gauge is a very conventional type of meat thermometer that is not very commonly used today. The movements of its needle are monitored because they represent different temperatures. It takes a little practice to get used to these types of thermometers.

2. Digital Thermometer

On the other hand, digital thermometers can simply be placed wherever inside the meat and can show you the temperature of the insides instantly on a digital screen, which is very easy to read.

We prefer that you get yourself the digital thermometer because it’s both easy to use and read.

3. Probe Thermometer

Another good option to use is the probe thermometer. Probe thermometers, also commonly referred to as meat probes, have a thin and long metal probe attached to them. 

This is the probe that measures the temperature of the meat instantly and shows results on a digital screen. But this probe is even more helpful because as it is inserted into the meat, it also helps you check its tenderness to see how it is done.

Temperature Requirements of Different Foods

Different meats are cooked at different temperatures. It also depends on the recipe you are using to smoke them.

However, here is a general idea of how long you should be smoking your meat to make sure it’s not undercooked.

Meat TypeInternal Temperature
Ground veal160 degrees Fahrenheit 
Fresh veal steaks, roasts, and chops145 degrees Fahrenheit 
Ground beef160 degrees Fahrenheit 
Fresh beef steaks, roasts, and chops145 degrees Fahrenheit 
Ground lamb160 degrees Fahrenheit 
Fresh lamb steaks, roasts, and chops145 degrees Fahrenheit 
Ground pork160 degrees Fahrenheit 
Ground turkey165 degrees Fahrenheit 
Ground chicken165 degrees Fahrenheit 
Fresh pork145 degrees Fahrenheit 
Precooked pork165 degrees Fahrenheit 
All poultry165 degrees Fahrenheit 

What is the Proper Way to Check the Internal Temperature of Meat and Poultry?

When it comes to meat and poultry, it is vital to check that it has been thoroughly cooked to the right temperature before it can be served.

This is because even if they are slightly undercooked, they can become a cause of many diseases, especially when it comes to poultry.

So instead of simply guessing whether meat or poultry is ready, it’s best to check its internal temperature using a thermometer. 

Different cuts of meats and different types of poultry have different internal temperatures to indicate whether they are cooked or not. Therefore, you should check with your recipe to see at what temperature your food is ready.

Also Read: Grilled Burger Doneness & Temperature Guide

Internal Temperature of Meats

Despite the information given above, it sometimes becomes hard to see which internal temperature is best for a certain cut of meat.

This is because most of the meats and poultry don’t have a strict temperature where they are done. Instead, they have a temperature zone in which any temperature could indicate whether the meat is safe to be consumed or not.

Within this temperature zone, your smoker will always offer different results each time, and hence you can’t just stick to one number.

For instance, brisket is one of the hardest cuts of meat to smoke. This tough meat cut can take several hours to prepare and has a lot of varying opinions on which temperature indicates whether it is cooked or not.

The temperature zone for a brisket to be ready is 195 to 203 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now, you should let the brisket cook at a minimum of at least 195 degrees for about 30 minutes for it to be ready. 

However, if you end up with a brisket that comes from a tough cow, it will take much more than those 30 minutes and a temperature higher than 195 degrees to be fully prepared.

The best and easiest way to check if it’s done or not is by inserting a meat probe in it to see how tender it has gotten.

Wrapping it Up

Checking the internal temperature of your meat with a thermometer before deciding whether it is cooked or not can save you a lot of hassle.

It will both help you get best results for tender smoked meat, and also protect you from the diseases that raw meat and poultry can cause!


Tyler Lachance is a cookout professional. His expertise on cooking grilled food, creating marinades, formulating sauces and matching his food with the perfect drink is unrivaled.

Born and raised in a family that has a long history of cookout, he has treated this activity as a part of his culture and who he is.