Best Infrared Thermometers for Your Kitchen

Whether you’re making candy or baking bread, cooking steak, or grilling meat, you’re dealing with tiny temperature ranges, where you have to get the temperature just right. That’s where thermometers come in. They become vital if you don’t just want to guess based on touch, but want an exact, precise reading. More often than not, you’ll find recipes directing you to preheat oil to a very specific temperature or to fry your onions to perfection by pulling them from the heat at the right moment.

More to the point, in addition to making you a better cook, thermometers safeguard you against foodborne diseases. You can dramatically shrink your chances of contracting such an illness if you monitor the temperature and wait until that chicken breast is safe enough to serve. The alternative to that method would be overcooking your food, which drains the flavor of the food and also leaches off essential nutrients. That degrades the quality of your diet, but it also makes it harder to digest it.

But not all thermometers are created equal. We’ve had them for centuries, and over their history, they’ve become more and more sophisticated. For culinary purposes, you want precision, accuracy, quick response, and above all, safety. Digital thermometers, or more accurately, infrared thermometers promise all these features. You just have to point them at the surface and pull the trigger. They allow you to take temperatures from a distance (good for safety), and they display the results instantaneously.

In the paragraphs that follow, we’ll look at the working of an infrared thermometer, how to choose the right infrared thermometer for your kitchen, and factors that need your consideration before you hit that ‘Add to Cart’ button. We’ll wrap up with a rundown of some of the best infrared thermometers you can find in the market. Let’s dive in.

How do these thermometers work?

Infrared thermometers belong to a class of thermometers called non-contact thermometers. In simpler terms, they’re ideal for measuring the temperature of a surface from afar – a feature that makes them safer and more hygienic. They operate on a simple principle: all objects radiate infrared light. Cold objects don’t give out as much infrared light as hot objects do.

In layman’s terms, infrared light or radiation is what we call heat. And the thermometer senses how much of this radiation an object or surface is giving off. It does that uses two components: a lens and a detector (also called a thermophile). The lens converges the infrared light from the sources onto the thermophile, which then gets hotter. As it gets warmer, it converts the heat into electrical signals for the device to compute and display as temperature.

How best to use one?

But, of course, this whole process happens in a fraction of a second. You just have to point the laser, pull the trigger, and check the readout. When compared to a more traditional thermometer, you don’t have to come in contact with the hot surface. IR thermometers can also detect an incredibly wide range of temperatures. You can read temperatures as high as 1500 and as low as -200 degrees. But for culinary purposes, you’ll only need to deal with temperatures between 0 to 500.

More to the point, you’ll need to keep in mind the distance-to-target ratio of your thermometer. This ratio is a guide to how large (or small) an area the thermometer will measure. If you are 6 feet away from the source and you’re reading a 1-inch circle, your thermometer has a ratio of 6 to 1 built into it. You can use it to read the temperature on soups, drinks, sauces, and so on. Note that an IR thermometer can only measure surface temperatures, so if you want core temperature, you might want to invest in a contact probe thermometer. At any rate, you can still use your IR gun to monitor the temperatures to ensure that you don’t overcook your food.

Like any traditional thermometer, an infrared gun also requires occasional calibration. You can check the accuracy of your thermometer with the help of ice water since it should always be close to 0 degrees.

Here’s what you need to factor in

First things first, emissivity. What does that mean? Remember how surfaces radiate IR light? While that is undoubtedly true, not all surfaces have the same capacity to radiate. As a rule of thumb, dark surfaces radiate better than reflective surfaces, which is why they have a higher emissivity. So before you shortlist IR guns, take into account their emissivity settings. Some models ship with a fixed setting that usually works for dark surfaces but not so well when it comes to shiny reflective ones. Say, polished stainless steel.

Secondly, the accuracy of most models should suffice unless you are buying for a commercial kitchen. On average, these devices have an error margin of 2.0 percent. But keep in mind that this error margin is strictly dependent on the aforementioned distance-to-spot ratio and how adjustable the emissivity settings are.

What can an IR thermometer be used for?

As touched on above, IR thermometers won’t give you a good measure of the internal temperature of your food, since their operation is limited to surfaces only. So if you want to know when your meat is done, a probe thermometer would still be a better bet. But if you’re going to read the oil temperature, a skillet, a pan, or perhaps your grill, an IR gun would give you a safer, more accurate reading.

Product
Visual
Where to Buy
Nubee Temperature Gun Non-contact Digital Laser Infrared IR Thermometer
ennoLogic Temperature Gun Dual Laser Non-Contact Infrared Thermometer -58°F to 1202°F - NIST Option Available - Accurate Digital Surface IR Thermometer eT650D
Fluke 62 MAX IR Thermometer, Non Contact, -20 to +932 Degree F Range
Tacklife temperature gun (IT-T05)
Digital Infrared IR Thermometer,No-contact Laser Temperature Gun for Food Cooking,Auto Maintenance,Home Repairs (9 V Battery Included) Hti-Xintai
Etekcity Lasergrip 800 Digital Infrared Thermometer Laser Temperature Gun Non-contact -58 - 1382 (-50 to 750), Yellow/Black
Temp Gun by Thermal Predator-Infrared IR Thermometer for Grilling, Risk Free Guarantee. Best Laser Accuracy to Probe for Instant-Read Surface Temperatures using non contact sensor on Digital Display
Digital Portable Infrared Thermometer-HOLDPEAK 960C Instant Read Mini Thermometer -30 to 275 Non-Contact IR Infrared Thermometer with Data Hold Auto Power Off for BBQ(2Packs)

 

Nubee Temperature Gun

  • Red laser pointer aid in precision aiming
  • Features an auto-shutdown option
  • Powered by a 9V battery
  • Low-battery warning
  • Distance-to-spot ratio of 12:1
  • Back-light switch
  • 500 ms response time
  • A temperature range of -58 to 716 degrees F

ennoLogic Temperature Gun Dual Laser

  • Adjustable emissivity
  • A range of -58°F to 1202°F
  • Equipped with a scanning feature
  • Distance-to-target ratio of 10:1
  • Quick response time of only 500 ms
  • Has a soft bright backlight

Fluke 62 MAX IR Thermometer

  • Measures temperatures between 20 to 932 degrees F
  • 12:1 distance-to-spot ratio
  • Can calculate the difference between two points
  • Has been drop-tested
  • Large back-lit screen
  • Comfortable, ergonomic grip

Tacklife Temperature Gun

  • Features a dual-laser and adjustable emissivity
  • Temperature range between -58°F and 1022°F
  • Adjustable alarm settings to detect temperature changes in real-time
  • Auto shut-off feature if left idle for longer than 15 seconds
  • Distance-to-spot ratio of 12 to 1

Hti-Xintai Infrared IR Thermometer

  • Measures temperatures ranging from -58°F to 716°F
  • 12:1 distance-to-spot ratio
  • Fixed emissivity preset of 0.95
  • Blue back-lit LCD
  • Auto-turn off function to preserve battery
  • Comes with a two-year manufacturer’s warranty

EtekcityLasergrip 800 

  • Excellent 16:1 distance-to-spot ratio
  • Temperature range between -58 to 1382 degrees F
  • Clear back-lit LCD, auto-turn-off feature
  • Durable construction
  • Adjustable emissivity

 COLOGGO Predator-Infrared IR Thermometer

  • Temperature ranging from -58 to 1022 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Clear LCD display
  • Powered by a 9V battery
  • 60-day full refund policy

HOLDPEAK Infrared Thermometer

  • -22 to 257 degrees Fahrenheit range
  • Data recording, auto shutoff, and an LCD display
  • Distance to spot ratio of 1:1
  • Pocketable design
  • 500 ms response time

Final Thoughts

You can’t rely on your sense of touch to accurately gauge the temperature of your food, but with an IR gun, it’s a breeze. If you strive for quality and wish to become a better cook, or if you want to prevent your food from overcooking, a non-contact infrared thermometer is a must-have. A fine-quality durable gun will last you for years to come, which makes it a smart investment.