It's All About the FoodChristmas Baking with SusieJ

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Raytek MiniTemp infrared thermometer

I am death to most kitchen equipment, but especially thermometers. Standard alcohol thermometers get tossed into the dishwasher or stuck into far-too-hot oil, effectively "blowing out" the thermometer. The cheap instant-read worked well, until a splash of something caused the plastic dial cover to bubble. Cheap and expensive digital thermometers get left in a puddle of water with the drying dishes (short circuit) or get so gunked up with grease, the buttons stick. Nothing caught on fire, but the average lifespan of a thermometer in my kitchen is less than a year.

Rather than continuously buying and destroying thermometers, I committed to a life of old fashioned estimating of how hot the oil is (generally, too hot) or whether the eggs had hit the appropriate temp to make custard.

Then an Alton Brown episode came to mind, where he used a laser-guided, infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of frying oil.

A quick look at Amazon showed that non-contact thermometers, like every other measuring instrument on the planet, are more expensive (but not more accurate) when they are to be used in the kitchen rather than a laboratory. I disregarded the $100 models for cooks, but the Raytek MT4 Mini Temp Non-Contact Thermometer Gun with Laser Sighting was worth considering at only $45.

We've had a lot of fun with this! (It might help to have a childlike wonder at being able to measure the temperature of everything.) At first, I doubted it. Surely the oil in the cast-iron fry pan was not over 400 degrees, but when the doughnuts turned dark brown almost immediately, I was convinced (and added more cool oil to the pan). Since then, we've measured:

  • which of frozen doughnut doughs were defrosted and ready to fry
  • frying pan while heating and browning
  • back of the oven, to see if the thermostat was calibrated (yes)
  • back of the refrigerators, to see if they were too cold (yes)
  • various lightbulbs
  • every wall, ceiling, floor and window
  • ourselves, by pressing the measuring end against our foreheads (no lasers in the eyes!)
  • front porch before leaving the house to see if we needed heavy or light jackets
  • water at various stages of boiling
  • hot cocoa

The battery is a standard 9 volt (the square kind), and one is included.

This thing is nearly magical! Touch nothing, just point and shoot, and bam! A fairly accurate temperature reading!

It only measures surface temperature, so liquids should be stirred before measuring and a probe thermometer is still needed for roasting meats. (I do so wish someone would create a laser-guided turkey thermometer. In our latest fiasco, we never fully plugged the sensor's plug into the base of the thermometer, and it kept claiming the chicken was "LO" degrees. I should have known better, as the thing accurately measures room temperature.)

The final test will be whether it lasts the year. If I can keep it dry and away from oil splatters, it should make it.

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