Outdoor cooking and particularly the type you do in your backyard has advanced massively in terms of quality, range of products and popularity. One of the biggest growths has been in outdoor pizza ovens. Gone are the days where only the rich could afford a wood fire oven, now many BBQ enthusiasts have invested in a pizza oven. This has subsequently seen an increase in people inquiring about what is the best infrared thermometer – a necessary gadget for oven owners.
- 1 Best infrared thermometer
- 2 What is an infrared thermometer?
- 3 How an infrared temperature gun works
- 4 What to look for in the best infrared thermometer
- 5 Infrared Thermometer Limitations
Best infrared thermometer
Etekcity Lasergrip 630, 1080 and 774
Etekcity makes many great infrared thermometers, and as long as you buy one bearing their name you can be sure that you are getting a quality temperature reader – I’d say they are currently the standout brand in this category of thermometers. The three models I’ve listed in the heading are their best selling temperature guns. What’s surprising for me is the best of the three sells the least and the worst (yet still better than most other brands) sells the most.
The Etekcity Lasergrip 630 is technically the best infrared thermometer made by Etekcity, it has the best temperature range and also has adjustable emissivity (this basically lets you alter settings to get better readings off reflective objects). So it is clearly the best of the three and yet sells far less. Yes, it’s a little more expensive, but I don’t think an extra ten dollars is the reason. I can only think this extra setting intimidates people into getting one of the other products.
So, although the 630 is technically the best infrared thermometer, I’m going to say the Lasergrip 1080 is the best for the average user simply because of how easy it is to use. You just take it out the box, insert the batteries and point the trigger. Why has the 1080 beaten the 774? This is all to do with the temperature range – you get over 300F more with the Lasergrip 1080.
The Raytemp 8 thermometer is a quality product that might have been rated as the best infrared thermometer in this article if it wasn’t for the price. I understand quality comes at a premium but this is more than double the thermometer I rated as number one. I understand the Raytemp is marketed as a 2-in-1 thermometer, as it has a type K thermocouple socket built into the handle, but I’m judging it solely on being an infrared thermometer. And I’d say the Lasergrip just edges in front for first place.
Exeblue Infrared IR thermometer
Exeblue has what you expect in an infrared thermometer at this price range but it has a unique selling point in a 12-point laser accurate aiming function. This isn’t enough for number one spot, but this thermometer is still top quality.
What is an infrared thermometer?
The short answer to what is an infrared thermometer is that it is a contactless temperature reader. They are used in medical environments, by people with babies and of course, this being an outdoor entertaining site, for outdoor cooking.
For some reason that escapes me, all the variations I have come across designed solely for outdoor cooking come designed as guns. I’ll guess that it’s because it looks cool and because you fire out a red laser beam at the target you wish to measure.
A quick side note – the laser you fire to measure temperatures doesn’t actually have a function in the reading. It’s there purely to help the user know what they are pointing at.
The infrared thermometer, as the name suggests, uses infrared to work out the temp (how this works will be explained in a minute). Once a reading has been calculated, the butt of the gun will normally have a digital display screen to show you the reading. Because of the look of this device and the way it works it has been given many different names, below are some of the most common.
- Laser thermometer
- Temperature gun
- IR temperature sensor
- Digital heat reader
- Contactless thermometer
- Hand held thermometer
- Surface thermometer
You can basically mix-up the words used in the above list into loads of different variations and decipher a new combination that people will use to name this tool – but they will all be describing the same device
How an infrared temperature gun works
In layman terms, you just point the gun and press the trigger. This will give you a reading, but a little bit of scientific magic is going on between pulling the trigger and displaying the results on the screen. Infrared thermometers are a subset of thermal radiation thermometers which all work by reading the heat energy that emits from everything that has mass.
Infrared thermometers funnel the light coming off objects in the form of infrared rays into a detector called a thermopile. The thermopile then turns the infrared radiation into heat and then electricity. The electricity can then be measured to give an accurate reading. Sounds terribly complicated, but this all happens almost instantly, meaning you get a reading as soon as you press the trigger.
What to look for in the best infrared thermometer
So you have decided to buy an infrared thermometer but don’t know which one to buy – there are so many options after all. What should you look for and what price should an infrared thermometer be sold for?
You’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that IR thermometers are cheap, you can pick up one that will do the job for ten dollars and buy one of the top models for around 30 dollars. So although the price is often a major factor in buying a product, I’d say for infrared thermometers it is only a minor concern.
The intended use of the thermometers I am recommending on this page is for outdoor cooking. So you’ll pretty much only be using it to read the temperature of a cooking surface such as a pizza stone (which needs to be very hot). I’d recommend only looking at IR readers that can measure to at least 900F (482C) as this is needed for pizza.
You want to cook good quality food, not have a science lesson, so I’ll keep this short and simple. All surfaces emit thermal energy and emissivity is a measurement of what is emitted relative to a thermal blackbody (a surface that’s a perfect heat energy emitter). The range will be given between 0 and 1, where 1 is a blackbody and zero is a thermal mirror (the opposite to a black body). When you buy a really good infrared thermometer, you’ll have the ability to adjust the emissivity setting to match the surface you’re trying to measure (don’t worry, the reader should come with a sheet telling you what all the most popular surfaces should be set at).
Distance to Spot Ratio
How close do you need to be to the hot surface in order to get a reliable reading? The closer the better in general. But if you want to know which IR thermometer reader has the best quality reader, you need to look at the distance to spot ratio. This is the ratio of how far you can be from the surface to measure one square inch. So a typical distance to spot ration will be 12:1 which means you can measure one square inch from 12 inches away (the further away you are the larger the spot and when that happens, the accuracy decreases). The larger the first number in a distance to spot ratio, the better the product is.
To be honest there isn’t much difference in the build quality of most units, they are all made with a plastic shell and a simple digital LCD display. The quality that defines the price will normally be in the internal components that give you a better temp range, adjustable emissivity and greater distance to spot ratio.
Lens care is very important with infrared thermometers as the infrared waves are focused and filtered by the lens. So when you’re looking to buy an IR reader you will need to check that the lens is well encased so that a slight knock will not damage it, as anything as small as a light scratch can distort your readings. And the lens also has to be accessible, as you’ll need to clean it from time to time.
Speed and Accuracy
With the quality and price of infrared thermometers already on the market, it’s impossible now for someone to enter with a device that doesn’t read the temperature accurately and in a timely manner. But there is a difference between the better models with adjustable emissivity and the ones that don’t. You can expect a two percent margin of error with the cheaper models and one percent with the better models.
If the manufacturer doesn’t believe in their product why should you? Look for a warranty of at least a year just in case there are any teething problems. If the thermometer lasts that long then the odds are it will only break with mistreatment and a warranty will not cover anyway.
Infrared Thermometer Limitations
It’s probably a bit harsh calling this a limitation as really it’s just it working as expected. It’s just that some people have different expectations. An infrared thermometer is a surface temp reader, it doesn’t read internal temps, so pointing at a chicken or steak will not tell you when it is ready. And in the same vein, you can not read the surface temperature through another object, such as glass or aluminum foil. And if the surface is dirty or dusty the reading is likely to be affected. All pretty obvious, but thought it was worth mentioning.