Using an infrared thermometer for cooking in your own kitchen was once only possible in science fiction, but thanks to advances in kitchen and cooking technology you can easily find the best infrared thermometer for cooking at a price that's very affordable. In many instances you can actually buy an infrared cooking thermometer for as low as $50.
I won't go into the details of why it's important to cook your food to a certain temperature, while being careful not to over cook it, either. I'm assuming if you're reading this you know how important this kitchen balancing act is. And I can tell you that an infrared cooking thermometer makes it easier than ever to walk that line.
Also, find the "Best Infrared Thermometer" for your own cooking needs will vary from cook to cook, as some people have different needs and budgets than others. But this guide should help you find the best cooking thermometer for you, and allow you to join the revolution that is infrared kitchen technology.
How Does An Infrared Cooking Thermometer Work?
Unlike a traditional kitchen thermometer, an infrared one does not need to physically touch the surface of what it's measuring. Remember the days of opening the oven, pulling out a hot tray, then prodding it with a metal prod, and then doing this several times (and likely burning yourself in the process) before you reach optimal temperature? And occasionally being so uninspired to check the temp that you'd actually over cook certain dishes?
Those days are long gone, because an infrared thermometer doesn't need to touch anything. You simply point it at what you're cooking, and - to quote a famous cook - "Bam!" The temperature will appear across a digital readout screen. No prodding, no fussing, no turning, no cussing. All you need to do is open the door, point and "shoot." That's it.
This whole process is known as "Non Contact." You'll probably notice that terminology used in most of these devices, as they are often labeled as "Non contact infrared cooking thermometers." But all it really means is that the thermometer doesn't need to actually touch the food itself.
Thanks to modern technology, these thermometers use infrared light to accurately measure and display the temperature. It's science fiction made simple!
Finding the Best Infrared Cooking Thermometer for You
There are several important things to consider before you hand over your hard-earned money. Start by looking at the temperature range that it will read. Chances are, your cooking needs won't take you beyond the scope of one of these, as most range from crazy cold (usually tens of degrees below zero) to crazy hot (upwards of 1,000 degrees farenheit). But don't assume that all of them will work with such a wide range, particularly the cheap infrared cooking thermometers, so check before you buy.
Second, find out how far you can stand from the food without sacrificing accuracy. In most cases, the distance from your thermometer and the food you're measuring will gradually affect the accuracy. This is usually minimal for several feet, but then becomes very noticeable thereafter. And cheap infrared cooking thermometers are more susceptible to this effect than more robust (and more expensive) units.
Third, find out if it's made for the type of cooking you'll be doing. If you're a home chef, it wouldn't make much sense to spend hundreds of dollars on an industrial unit. Sure, it might be the best infrared thermometer for cooking on the market, but it will probably be overkill for your application. Likewise, if you work in a commercial kitchen, you'll probably need something beefier than those marketed towards residential kitchens.
Fourth, think about durability. Not all non contact cooking thermometers are built equally. Some will last forever, others will fall apart in a matter of months. While there is some wiggle room here (if you're super careful with a cheap one, you might get more mileage out of it), ultimately you don't want to waste your money on something that won't last. If you do your homework you should find something that will last for several years, or even a lifetime.
What Are The Limitations Of An Infrared thermometer?
While Infrared cooking thermometer technology certainly makes cooking easier, it's not without it's limitations. For starters, the device can only determine the surface temperature of what it's pointed at. And as any well-seasoned chef knows, there can be a huge temperature difference between the inside and the outside of what you're working on!
This may not be a huge concern for some cooking styles, but does complicate others, particularly candy. Knowing the exact interior temperature isn't just a luxury, it's a necessity, otherwise it won't set right. The same can be said for meat; not reaching the proper interior temperature can actually render your masterpiece unfit for consumption, and could make people sick. That's not something you want!
So a non contact infrared cooking thermometer isn't a "one-size-fits-all" solution to your kitchen. And I wouldn't throw out your old thermometers to make way for one of these. While an infrared one will make many cooking jobs easier, it's not suited for them all - so make space in your cupboard for all types of cooking thermometers, both infrared and traditional!
And that's not including the obvious limitation: Infrared cooking thermometers are expensive. For many people, the price is too prohibitive for consideration.
Unorthodox Reasons To Consider An Infrared Cooking Thermometer
Infrared technology isn't only accurate, it's also fun. I've found that new kitchen gadgets actually inspire me to try new techniques and recipes at my house, and I'm sure most cooks and chefs would agree. Even if you have no real use for one of these infrared toys, it doesn't mean that it won't help you break out of a cooking funk - so in a way it's an investment in creativity. Kind of like how a new paintbrush can inspire an artist to try new techniques.
Even with their technical limitations, a non contact infrared thermometer for cooking applications is an incredible asset in any kitchen, and if you choose to buy one, you'll wonder how you ever got along without one.