An infrared laser thermometer, usually called a laser thermometer, temperature gun or point and shoot thermometer, is not useful for all cooking tasks where accurate temperature readings are needed, but it can be a very useful tool in the kitchen for certain tasks.
CulinaryLore readers order the Etekcity Lasergrip 630 Dual Laser Digital Infrared Thermometer.
Given the dozens of choices of infrared thermometers on Amazon and other retailers, it can be difficult to choose on that is accurate enough and reliable enough for home use without having to pay top dollar for a professional industry model.
Lasergrip Infrared Temperature Gun
According to customer reviews and sales status, the Lasergrip Non-contact Digital Laser IR Infrared Thermometer Yellow Temperature Gun is a top choice. This affordable temperature gun will provide an accuracy of ±2% or 2℃/℉, accurate enough for most home cooking needs, as well as most other needs. There is a new version of this temperature gun, however, the Lasergrip in Gray/Black, which is more expensive, but still very affordable. It has not been reviewed as extensively as the first. Note that the Lasergrip is a private label product on Amazon, meaning you will find the same product under different “brand” names such as Etekcity and Nubee.
As of this writing, the model 774 has 1,908 Amazon customer reviews, with an average rating of 4.5 stars. The 630 has 149 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 stars. There are other quality choices, but these are generally more expensive or do not have customer feedback available that this unit has gathered.
Infrared Thermometer for Cooking?
The laser thermometers can only accurately read the surface temperatures of objects or cooking food. While this is not useful when internal temperatures are needed, the advantage of an infrared laser is that, unlike a probe thermometer, which must be inserted into food, a laser thermometer can measure temperatures from a distance.
For example, laser pointer thermometers are favorites of outdoor grillers and barbecue enthusiasts because the temperature of the grill or smoker can be very quickly determined, without having to get your hand near the hot fire or hot surfaces. In some cases, temperatures may be too high to use a classical oven thermometer.
They can also be used to quickly determine oven temperature, especially if you are having trouble with your oven temperature settings being inaccurate. And, if you are working with a fry pan or griddle which you want to be at a very precise temperature, the laser thermometer is the best way to go. The same is true of any other cooking surface, such as pizza stones, hot rocks, salt blocks, etc.
Tempering chocolate is also made easier by use of a laser thermometer, since you can get instant temperature readings without having to insert a probe, and clean it after each use.
Perhaps the most important use of an infrared temperature sensor is to instantly check the surface temperatures of hot or cold foods that are sitting for long periods. This is why restaurants and the food safety inspectors that check up on restaurants use them. Hot foods much be kept hot and cold foods must be kept cold, and the food temperatures need to be maintained in a certain safe range. In this case, if the surface temperature of the food is off, then this is all you need to know, as bacteria can grow in the region that is at improper temperature, regardless if the center of the food is colder or hotter.
Of course, they can be used to measure temperatures of all sorts of other things, such as your air conditioner, your refrigerator, etc.
How to Get Accurate Readings from Temperature Guns
Some people report that these products are inaccurate. Usually, this is due to a misunderstanding on the users part. As above, infrared temperature readers can only measure surface temperatures. This means that the gun must be pointed a material that is thermally conductive.
For example, if you point the gun into your oven, if cannot measure the temperature of the air in the oven. It can only measure the temperature of the oven wall, or the oven rack. Knowing the temperature of your oven wall will not tell you the temperature in the center of the oven, where food is set for baking, etc. Also be aware that these units may not be accurate when pointed at certain highly reflective surfaces, including some shiny pans.
As well, the distance between you and the surface being measured makes a difference to the results of the reading, as the unit will measure in an expanding cone. The further you are away, the greater the surface area you are measuring. Depending on the unit, then, if you are too far away, you may be measuring too great a surface area, and thus receive an inaccurate reading.
When measuring the temperature of food, this shouldn’t be a problem, as most people will simply point the gun from perhaps a foot away directly at the food they want to measure (keeping in mind you are only measuring surface temp). However, many people try to measure the temperature of the air inside ovens, refrigerators, rooms, heating and cooling ducts, etc. Let’s look at using a temperature gun to measure the temperature of your oven.
As above, these units can only really measure the temperature of the oven walls or oven rack. This does not tell you “how hot your oven is.” In order to get an accurate reading with a gun, then, you need a very good heat conductor inside your oven, preferably one that maintains its heat very well. A cast iron pan would be a good choice, for instance. A pan would be placed in the oven while the oven preheats, and then allowed to heat for a reasonable period of time; enough to allow the pan to come to temperature. Then, the gun would be pointed directly at the cast iron pan. This should give a fairly accurate reading of the oven temperature. If the pan were move around the oven, this could give a reading of hot and cold spots in the oven, although this would take quite a while!
As well, people try to use laser thermometers to check for fever by measuring human skin. These units should not be used to take a person’s temperature, as the temperature of the skin may be cooler than normal. The most accurate way to take a person’s temperature, baby or not, is, dare I say it? Anally. The second most accurate way is a thermometer placed in the mouth. Ear thermometers can be quite accurate, and many people use them for infants, but the temperature just inside the ear may not accurately reflect the true core temperature. Given all this, you can see why just pointing a laser gun at someone could not work!
It is best to carefully read the manufacturers instructions before use. Some people, however, just buy these for fun. They like to point them around the house and measure things for giggles! As usual, before you buy any product, exercise your own due diligence and make the choice that seems best for you.
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