Laser thermometer recommendation? Are these thermometers necessary?
Can you recommend a good laser thermometer? Not sure if that's what it is called - basically a thermometer you point at a stovetop pan and it tells you the temperature. I know some recipes say to cook something at ___ degrees rather than Medium heat Do you think these are helpful?
Helpful but not necessary. These are really IR (infrared) thermometers that use a visible laser to show you where they are aimed so you can be spot on to measure the temperature of what you think you are pointing at. They will tell you that a surface is up to temperature so you don't put something on too soon(searing surface) or let something (non-stick?) get too hot.
These are IR (infrared) thermometers and there is a huge amount of variation in the quality and accuracy of various models, so be very well informed before you purchase and use one. One of the biggest differences is the size of the area that is measured. Some inexpensive units are 1:1 distance to spot, meaning they measure an inch from one inch away and a foot of area from one foot away, not very accurate for most applications. Others can be as high as 50:1 which would measure a one inch area from 50 inches away. These are quite expensive, around $200. Even better units are 100:1 ratio but cost upwards of $700. A good consummer unit might be 12:1 and run about $50.
"Do you think these are helpful?"
Never used one in the kitchen but it can be a multi-tasker....
It's a great automotive diagnostic tool. You can "see" if/when the thermostat opens by pointing it at the upper radiator hose.
You can take your cat's temperature.... And drive him nuts with the little read light.
I have a Thermoworks IR-GUN-S and like it a lot. I think I got it on sale at a brick-n-mortar store for around $50. It runs up to 1,020F, has a laser pointer, and is programmable and adjustable for emissivity.
I actually use mine nearly every day for something. I "season" all my non-bare CI cookware by bringing a thin film of oil in the pan up to *just below* the oil's smoke point; it would be hard to do this dependably without a thermometer.
I use it to check not only the temperature of pans, but also of my wood stoves, refrigerators, freezers, pizza stone, etc. I find it particularly useful for making sure I don't overheat my tinned copper or nonstick pan.
I also find it useful for judging how evenly heated a given pan is for a task. You would/will be surprised by the results, even if you have good cookware; until you "shoot" a pan, you're just guessing.
Are they necessary? No, I can't say they are, but IMO my $50 was well-spent.