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Sep 8, 2013 12:11 PM

Measuring Skillet Surface Temperature

I saw a clip on YouTube, and the guy is cooking a steak, he pulls out this thing looks like a small plastic gun and points it at the skillet/grill surface and measures the temp to be sure it is just right before cooking, the temp showed on the back of the gun on an LCD.

Now i am on the other side of the planet from most everyone, and to me this was some kind of alien technology... maybe in the US it's everywhere, but i have never seen anything like it.

Does anyone have any idea what he was using? Any brands or links are welcomed.

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  1. It's an infrared thermometer. It compares the infrared radiation emitted by the pan surface with the background radiation, and from the calculates the temperature of the surface. It's accuracy depends on the calibration, which is better for most organic surface, or dark metal, not so go for shiny metal.

    Online retailers like Amazon sell them for as low as $30.

    Nothing uniquely American about them. Most are made in China, and designed in Japan or Korea (or some other combination).

    7 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      Thank you, i purchased a cheap one with good reviews, cross my fingers it will last for longer than 30 seconds.

      1. re: Sneef

        Hi, Sneef:

        Mind 2 things: (1) the emissivity setting--you need to adjust it for differet materials; and (2) the area measured is usually much bigger than the laser spot--so if the bare pan wall or burner is in the "picture", your reading will be off. In my unit's case, the "picture" is 1 inch at 12 inches' distance.


        1. re: kaleokahu

          Aloha Kaleo, and Mahalo.

          I will try to find my window and keep only the pan within it.

          I am looking forward to getting my new Le Creuset Grill Pan and making the perfect steak.

          1. re: Sneef

            E Sneef, 'ole pilikia. Have fun, these are useful tools.


            1. re: kaleokahu

              I figure a good Le Creuset grill will last many lifetimes, sadly the infrared thermometer probably won't.

          2. re: kaleokahu

            My inexpensive HDE model does not have an emissivity setting. According to instructions it is precalibrated, hence my mention of 'organic' material. It also suggests putting black tape on shiny metal surfaces to get a better reading - not exactly an option with cooking pans. I think it was designed more for handyman projects such as looking for heat leaks around the house.

            Given that warning I expect it works better on a nonstick surface (synthetic or seasoned) than shiny stainless steel.

            When I first got it, I had most fun pointing it a various outside surfaces in the evening. It showed that surfaces like pavement cooled down faster than the air.

            As for the 'picture', it has a graphic printed on the case that shows the measurement area as a function of distance. It is also instructive to take measurements of various parts of the pan and at different distances.

            1. re: paulj

              Thankfully all my cookware except for a couple of pieces are all dark in color. Either Cast Iron, or dark colored enameled cast iron or anodized aluminum. The only things that are not dark are the stainless large pasta pot and 1 Le Creuset pot which is cream on the inside.

        1. Visit the site - probably the most accurate food measuring thermometers on the planet - if you're serious about cooking, this will be a game changer.

          2 Replies
          1. re: funnymercials

            Speaking of the Thermapen Co., they have a surface version of the thermapen, which would be considerably more accureate to measure the temperature of a pan surface. We use similar devices all the time to measure mold temperatures in the plastics industry.

            In the case of most infrareds the closer you get to what you're measuring, the smaller the target area you're measuring. There should be a ratio on the device that gives the ratio of target size to distance. I've seen cheap ones that are 1:1, better ones are 1:12.

            1. re: mikie


              is a surface measuring thermapen - the probe tip is a mushroom, meant to be placed in contact with the pan.

              It would be instructive to use this in conjunction with an infrared unit.