Men don’t always like to ask for help, even those who are avid barbecuers. In the super masculine world of outdoor cooking, some guys view thermometers as a “crutch.” However, experienced grillers who want to hone their craft—and people who don’t have the time to grill regularly—have realized that having a couple of gadgets in their back pocket can help them avoid disaster.
In comes the futuristic infrared thermometer. Gadgets don’t come much cooler than something that looks like it came directly out of Star Wars!
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Why use a thermometer while grilling?
Once you have any kind of thermometer and actually use it—so many useful tools get lost at the back of “that” drawer—you realize how invaluable they can be. If you grill a whole chicken or a piece of meat of any reasonable size (think brisket), a thermometer will let you know when it’s safe and ready to eat. It can also be used to indicate whether you have the results you’re going for, without forcing you to cut into the flesh. Cutting into a piece of meat allows juices to escape. While this might be fine at the end when it’s already cooked, slicing into your bird repeatedly throughout the cooking process will leave you with a dry and visually unappealing hacked-up chicken.
What is an infrared thermometer?
Infrared thermometers infer the temperature from thermal radiation emitted by the meat itself. The science is a little complicated, but the important thing is that it measures from a distance. A regular cooking thermometer forces the user to push a temperature probe into the meat, resulting in damage. Like cutting, the process of poking meat with a thermometer causes some juices to escape. This can be particularly annoying in grilling, because any juices that fall on the coals cause flames to shoot up, potentially overcooking the outside before the interior is cooked through.
It is very important to note that an infrared thermometer does not measure the internal temperature of the meat. This is a common misconception. What this type of thermometer will do is give you an instantaneous and accurate reading of the surface of the meat, coals, skillet, and area surrounding the grill. It will also read the temperature of anything or anyone you point it at, which will surely provide endless hours of entertainment during even the most boring grill day tasks.
Now that you know what an infrared thermometer is and what it does, let’s have a look at some of the better models available to the modern griller.
Which model of infrared thermometer is best for grilling?
The Etekcity Lasergrip 1080 is a great piece of kit. Its robust construction can handle a few burns here or there and should guarantee many seasons of use. It has a particularly good range, which is ideal for those who have very large grills or wood-fired smokers that generate a lot of heat. It also features a visual laser guide so you know exactly where the reading is being taken from. Plus, it just looks cool! No real drawbacks with this model–it does the job quickly and accurately, and looks and feels great.
The Maxsio MS802 is a lightweight compact thermometer, but don’t be fooled by its size! It has the same, if not more, features as its larger competitors. It has a setting that will log the maximum and minimum temperatures recorded over a given period of time, and dual sensors that allow for both Fahrenheit and Celsius recognition. The 13:1 ratio of distance to spot size gives you the ability to pinpoint a certain area up close, or step back to get a more general reading of a larger area. The only drawback to this model is that it cannot measure air temperatures and only takes readings off solid objects.
The future is now!
These are both great examples of infrared thermometers. The Etekcity does have the advantage of looking more like a laser blaster, but let’s be a little bit mature! After about five minutes of pew-pewing, you’re going to want the tool that will really up your grill game. Your best bet is probably the Maxsio. It has more features that are relevant to novice and expert griller alike, and it fits comfortably into your back pocket! Don’t worry—the kids can still run around zapping people with this one, too.
Do you have a smoker? Learn all about how to find the best smoker thermometer here!