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Friday, May 27, 2005

Laser-Guided Infrared Thermometers


A surprising number of people come to this blog searching for "Alton Brown infrared thermometer," since I once mentioned that Alton Brown recommends them. Apparently, he isn't enthusiastic enough to include infrared thermometers on his list of essential equipment. So, here's my take.

Infrared thermometers are in widespread use by mechanics for measuring engine temperatures and such, but can be also measure the temperature of a pan. You just point it at a metal object a few feet away, using the built-in laser beam to target it, and press the trigger to display the temperature.

I've never actually used one, but I recently gave one as a gift. The Bonjour thermometer is sold on lots of cooking sites. If you want to save a few bucks, I'm pretty sure that the Bonjour is just a repackaged version of the Mastercool infrared thermometer marketed to auto mechanics. They both look the same, and have the same temperature range. The recipient of my gift, who's quite a good cook, says he hasn't used it to test a pan yet, but that it seems to works very well on his boat engine.

Personally, I'm pretty happy with the usual methods of judging the temperature of a hot pan: watching how easily the oil flows; waiting for the butter to foam up, the olive oil to give off its characteristic aroma, or the oil to begin smoking; or throwing on a test piece and listening to the sizzle. Hmm, maybe it really isn't all that simple. I guess it would be nice to have an infrared thermometer. And they sure are cool.
 
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