Apption Labs Meater review: This smart thermometer changed the way I grill

When I first heard about Meater, a wireless smart meat thermometer, I thought perhaps this whole smart home thing was going too far. It seemed the latest in a line of products I didn't need turned "smart" with an app.

But after I tried it, I completely changed my opinion.

Like a conventional meat thermometer, Meater will monitor the internal temperature of a piece of meat while it's being cooked. The smarts come from the app, which has a series of pre-programmed cooks that take the guesswork out of cooking meat.

The gadget, and its charging block and box, are all very well designed. It's easy to use, and it delivered perfectly cooked meat.

If you're handy at the grill or in the kitchen, but can never quite get consistency with your cooking, this could be the gadget for you.

The basics

Meater has a short, thin body (5.1 by 0.27 inches / 130 by 7mm) made from Type 304 food-grade stainless steel and ceramic.

The probe has two temperature sensors. One is about a third of the way up and is used to measure the internal temperature of the meat. The second is on the end of the probe and sits outside the meat to measure the ambient temperature.

The internal sensor can handle up to 212 degrees F (100 degrees C) and the external one up to 527 degrees F (275 degrees C). A klaxon will sound on the accompanying smartphone app if temperatures exceed those ranges, endangering to thermometer.

The probe has a handy notch to show how far it needs to be inserted, so that the internal sensor isn't affected by the outer temperature.

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The pointy end of the Meater probe goes into the meat until at least the notch in its body.

Meater runs on a rechargeable internal battery and ships in an attractive wooden charging block. The probe snaps in and takes a few hours to charge up completely from a supplied AAA battery (in mine, it was a Toshiba battery and not a cheap no-brand cell) after which it's ready for up to 24 hours of continuous use.

The battery cover is also wooden and connects with embedded magnets. The whole block can stick to a refrigerator thanks to an additional set of magnets.

Apption Labs, which makes the product, has clearly put a lot of thought into the design of the unit.

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The Meater in its wooden charging block.

Cooking with Meater

Using the Meater is pretty simple. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth Low Energy and starts transmitting data as soon as it's removed from the charging dock.

In the Meater app, you select the meat you're cooking, the cut of meat, and how you want to cook it. The app has preprogrammed selections and USDA guidelines, but you can also set up a custom cook.

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Setting up a cook on the Meater app (set to Celsius, but Fahrenheit is also supported).

The probe needs to be inserted into the thickest part of the meat to ensure proper cooking. Once you've done that, it's ready to cook.

Data is continuously streamed from the probe to the phone, so after a few minutes the app has figured out how fast the meat is cooking and when it will be done.

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Placement of the Meater probe is essential to ensure the meat ends uo properly cooked.

You'll get an alert five minutes before your meat is ready, but the app doesn't prompt you to turn over the meat or set the cooking temperate higher or lower. I asked the designers and they said there are too many variables involved in something like that.

At the precise moment your meat reaches the correct temperature, an alarm sounds to signal it needs to be removed from the heat. But it's not finished! The app continues monitoring the meat while it rests and will give you another signal a few minutes later when it's done.

When you're done, you can also see a graph of exactly how the cook progressed, perhaps to take away hints for a subsequent try.

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The main page of the Meater app shows time remaining on a cook in progress (left) and a second page shows the cook over time, with the meat temperature (purple) and oven temperature (green).

The networking

The Meater probe connects to a phone via Bluetooth Low Energy. That means your phone needs to stay close to the thermometer while the meat is cooking. If you're cooking over a flame, you'll be close by anyway. But if it's an hour-long roast in the oven, that's not so much fun.

A Wi-Fi networking feature built into the app can extend the Meater's range. As long as one phone or tablet remains in Bluetooth range, the app can broadcast data across your local network so you can monitor from another device somewhere else in your house or garden.

Connect the app to Meater's cloud service, and the data will be available outside your home network, too, so you can monitor over a cellular connection.

The verdict

The first time I used Meater, I pushed it into a steak and set the app to medium. The steak was perfect. Wanting to make sure it wasn't a fluke, I tried a week later and got another perfect steak.

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The steak, ready to be eaten. It was cooked with Meater set to medium.

To mix things up a little, I also used it to guide me in cooking a whole chicken in an oven, and that also came out wonderfully. I did find one tiny spot in the chicken that wasn't cooked properly, but I concluded that was down to improper probe placement. It's important to get the probe right into the center of the meat.

Meater has changed the way I think of grilling. It's delivered perfectly cooked pieces of meat each time I've tried it, and it quickly turned my initial skepticism into enthusiasm.

Now, when I buy a cut of meat at the supermarket, I can be much more confident that it will come off the grill or out of the oven cooked just right. 

Price and availability

The Meater probe with charging dock is $69. At first I thought that was a little expensive, but after trying it out I've decided it's a small price to pay for the job it does in helping ensure a good cut of meat isn't ruined.

Meater is also preparing a set of four probes and a charging dock with a built-in Bluetooth to Wi-Fi bridge for $199.

IDG Insider


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