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Jan 4, 2011 07:47 PM

Pan temperatures for searing or browning meat using Infrared Thermometer?

Does anyone know a website that has recommended pan temperatures for various cooking tasks using an Infrared Thermometer?

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  1. The challanges you will face is that temps very greatly from pans, stoves, grilss etc... Also the infrared thermo will only pick up surface temps. I recommend a dial style thermometer as that is the truest internal temp of your food, as long as you are temping the thickest part of your food. Browning of meat will occure on med to high depending on the pan. Pans like cast ireon or blue steel will heat quicker, more evenly, hold temp and recover better.

    1. It's not the temperature of the pan' surface, it's the temperature of the oil that determines when it's time to load whatever type of food you're preparing. Searing meat should usually start when the oil begins to ripple in the pan or, at bit hotter, when the oil barely begins to smoke. However, after introducing the meat to the pan, the heat should be reduced so as to avoid burning the protein and the problem of oil smoke throughout the kitchen.
      It would be difficult (if not impossible) to determine, using an infrared thermometer, when the pan was at the "right" temperature for a specific type of cooking. If you move the beam of your infrared thermometer around on the bottom of a hot pan you'll find that it is never "exactly" the same temperature everywhere on its cooking surface; there is always some variance. You will even find that there is a difference is heat gain/loss between pans made of different materials.
      I suppose you could start a notebook and begin logging the temperatures of your various types of pans relative to the cooking results -

      1 Reply
      1. re: todao

        I found this website that has this "water test" to use before you add oil.

      2. The infalible method I've been using to sear meats for decades is this:
        Heat empty cast iron skillet until it smokes
        Add olive oil rubbed meat and sear on all sides (or both sides for steaks).

        From there, it's whatever is right for that recipe. If it's a steak, I pop the cast iron skillet in a hot oven until the steak is medium rare. I test by pushing on the meat because thermometers suck for testing a steak. If it's a pot roast and I don't want to cook it in the skillet (I usually don't), then I transfer the meat to the pan of my choice, often setting it atop a raw or sauteed layer of mirapoix.

        You're gonna drive yourself nuts with that infra red thermometer, and I'll betcha it can't tell you when the pan is smokin'! '-)

        2 Replies
        1. re: Caroline1

          Good idea on oiling the meat. I pour it into the pan but often end up w/ too much on one side, not enough on the other. I don't know the temperature of a searing hot pan, either--I throw in some water, if it sizzles and disappears quickly, it's ready.

          1. re: Caroline1

            Caroline1, I sometimes wonder if you and I, and perhaps some others, might just start a cast iron forum. They're my "go to" pans, I love to use my cast iron dutch oven for bread, they make superb aebleskivers and corn bread. Only time I don't use them is when the ingredients are high in acid (e.g. tomato sauce) or if my wife has to relieve me at the stove; she can't lift any but the smallest of my set.
            I have never used the "coat with oil" method you describe but I like the idea and will see if I can retrain myself to use it.

          2. I was reading Harold McGee's new book (Keys to Good Cooking), and he wrote a paragraph about Infrared Thermometers. He said that they are used to measure the temperatures of cooking surfaces (oven walls, frying pans and pizza stones) and deep-frying oil. He also said not to use it with a bare stainless steel pan, which would give a falsely low reading. To measure the temperature of a shiny pan, he said to place a drop of oil on the pan and to aim the thermometer at the oil.

            4 Replies
              1. re: terlin

                Since that was helpful :), let me give you some info I read further on in the same book (I'm a big Harold McGee fan!). He said that infrared thermometers need to be held within a few inches of the object and carefully aimed at. They will give an incorrectly low reading for hot liquids because evaporation cools the liquid surface, and for shiny glass or metal containers because their surface emits less heat radiation than a seasoned or coated surface.

                His instructions to measure the temperature of a shiny pan: put a drop of oil midway from the center to the pan edge, aim the thermometer at the oil, move it back and forth while pulling the trigger, and use the highest temperature reading. He said not to oil the entire surface until it has reached the cooking temperature.

                Unfortunately, he doesn't say what temperature is the "cooking temperature". So maybe the water test is the way to go, after all. :)

                1. re: goodeatsgal

                  Sounds like the water test is best for SS. As I have many black cast iron pans, what do Harold say about using infrared thermometers on them?

                  1. re: terlin

                    He hasn't mentioned cast iron pans and infrared thermometers yet. But I'm only on Chapter 6. :-) I'll let you know if he does mention them.