It is important to know that infrared thermometers always measure surface temperatures. This type of thermometer can provide accurate readings of the temperature of the oil in your sauté or stir fry pan, for example.
You can also use it to track the heat of the oil as its temperature rises so that you put the food into the pan just before the oil reaches its smoke point. The food will cool the oil in the pan, and you may be surprised to see just how much it does do that, but you also do not ever want to let your cooking oil actually reach the smoke point, because then you have to discard it and start with fresh oil.
When oil or fat passes its smoke point its molecular structure and flavor is changed dramatically, and it is no longer healthy for eating. It also tastes terrible, which is a great indicator that you should not eat anything cooked in it, as it imparts that terrible taste to the food. The thermometer gun is a great tool for learning to identify the characteristics of oil or fats in a sauté or stir fry pan so that you cook healthy delicious meals and avoid waste and spoiled dishes.
Here is is a good reference chart for smoke points for various fats that is a great tool to help you use your IR thermometer to become a better cook:
How to Use the Temperature Gun on a Sauté Pan
Use the IR gun by ‘shooting’ it at a slight angle across the surface of the oil in the pan you wish to measure. If you have a shiny stainless steel pan, the shine will tend to show a slightly lower temperature if the pan is dry, but if there is oil, butter or any other fat in the pan the thermometer can measure the temperature of the fat accurately this way. Cast iron pans can also be measured for their temperature when dry.
Shiny surfaces can yield inaccurate readings unless the emissivity of the IR thermometer is adjusted to match the object’s surface. The infrared thermometer is measuring the temperature radiating from the object it measures at the surface, and shiny surfaces emit less thermal radiation than dark matte or dull surfaces, and thus appear colder. For more details on how to adjust the emissivity on your ennoLogic infrared thermometer please refer to the eT650D user manual.
Once you use it a few times for sautéing or stir frying, you’ll become familiar with the characteristics of the oil when it is at the correct temperature for adding the food. By testing and using the temperature gun to check the temperature in the pan after you add the food you can also learn how much the temperature is reduced by the food and how much food to add to keep the temperature from falling too steeply.
You may be surprised to see that some foods cool the pan down a lot more than others, and some will take longer to return to a higher temperature than others. All of these variables can be easily observed by using the non-contact laser thermometer as you cook, and it’s easy and fun to do.
You will learn, simply by experiencing the different temperature readings as you sauté, which foods bring the temperature down faster, and which reheat more quickly, and in a very short time you will also know just by observing the food in the pan approximately what temperature it is.
Use the Infrared Thermometer to Keep Temperatures Cool Enough to Keep Active Ingredients Alive
Another great benefit of the IR thermometer is its ability to measure the surface temperature of liquids you want to heat only until warm and not allow to get hot.
For example, milk and melted butter mixtures you are going to use to make bread must be warm enough to encourage yeast to grow and ‘bloom‘ but not so hot they cook it prematurely. Yogurt making or any other cooking where you have live cultures which are required to make the recipe work and which will be harmed if they get too hot can be measured easily using the IR temperature gun.
How to Use the IR Gun to Measure Warm Liquids
To get an accurate measurement, stir the liquid in a slow and continuous motion and aim the gun at a slight angle across the surface of the liquid. You can shoot a continuous ‘stream’ of readings, or take multiple individual readings as you stir to get the full range of the temperature of the liquid.
This also works quite well for measuring temperatures of carrier oils or other volatile ingredients when making lotions, skin care creams and even soaps. If you are heating the liquid on a stove top, remember that the temperature at the source of the heat will be higher than at the surface you are measuring and so the stirring must be continuous to keep your measurements accurate. It is best to use a double boiler or to use a container of hot water to heat sensitive liquids rather than to place them directly on an open heat source.
Organic beekeepers, for instance, often like to make a bee tonic for a swarm of bees that they have just put into a new hive, and they include raw honey in the recipe. But that raw honey will not contain any of the vital nutrition the bees require if it gets too hot, so they don’t add it to the brewed chamomile tea until until it has cooled to below 110 degrees. The temperature gun makes this very easy to determine without sticking a thermometer in what is essentially liquid sugar that turns into a hard sticky mess when it dries on utensils or surfaces.
Another great way to use your IR thermometer when cooking is to measure the temperature of the pizza stone in your oven, or of your barbecue grate. Again, this requires that you shoot the gun so that it shoots obliquely across the surface of the pizza stone or barbecue grate to obtain the most accurate reading. It gives a surprisingly accurate reading that can be used to determine the hot and cold spots of the pizza stone or barbecue grate and can let you know if and when the temperature is uniform across the entire surface.
Your oven thermometer can tell you how hot the air inside the oven is, but the temperature of the pizza stone or oven tiles determines if the oven is ready for the pizza. Great pizza is the result of a pizza stone that is as close to 485°F as possible. Inside the range between 400°F and 500°F is a good target range for pizza to cook evenly without cooking so fast that it is raw inside if it is not burned on the edges or takes so long the crust does not crisp properly.
Your grate for your barbecue for grilling should be at the grilling temperature required for the type of food being grilled. Close the lid of the grill and wait for the thermostat to get to temperature, then to find the temperature of the grate itself and where its hot and cool spots are, use the same process of shooting the gun across the surface at the angle your eye can see across the grate without seeing the coals below it. This makes it easy to identify the hot and cooler spots on the grate to use for grilling and resting the meat until it is ready to eat. You will not be able to use the IR gun to measure the internal temperature of the steak or meat you are grilling, that will require a probe or meat thermometer you can insert into the meat.
These are just a few of the ways to use your eT650D dual laser temperature gun in the kitchen and when cooking or preparing food. It’s also a great tool for use in soap making, home made lotion and massage bar making and for lots of other important temperature measurements around the home. Be sure to check out our other articles on using the temperature gun for HVAC readings to test the functioning of your air conditioning and household heating systems, and for automotive diagnostics that include checking cooling, heating, and brake systems and checking engine and catalytic converter.