Any well-stocked kitchen should have a good thermometer on standby in a cupboard somewhere. With an IR thermometer, you can immediately learn the temperature of nearly any object simply by pointing the thermometer at its surface and pressing the trigger. These non-contact thermometers make your temperature estimations on everything from stovetops to BBQ grills much safer and easier.
What’s the Use of an Infrared Thermometer in a Kitchen?
IR thermometers exploit a fascinating physics phenomenon.
Everything around us, including our own bodies, emits thermal radiation generated by the object's heat. The intensity of thermal radiation corresponds to the object's temperature, meaning that hotter objects emit stronger or "brighter" thermal radiation.
Appliances and household objects typically emit this radiation as infrared (IR) light. Infrared wavelength is invisible to the naked eye but detectable with specialized equipment like an IR thermometer. The device translates the intensity of that radiation as a temperature reading!
An IR thermometer is an essential tool for your kitchen. It lets you measure the surface temperatures of stovetops, ovens, grills, and other appliances without direct contact. This makes it safer to use than other kinds of best kitchen thermometers that we’ve covered..
Note that infrared thermometers won’t be able to measure the internal temperature of food, like meat. For that, check out the best meat thermometers.
How We Tested Infrared Thermometers
We put each thermometer through a testing battery consisting of three major sections, and each portion has different weightings in the final score: Performance (70%), Design (20%), and Usability (10%).
In the performance section, we conducted two small tests to evaluate the thermometers.
The first test, known as the cold test, involved ice. We filled an insulated box with icy water and waited until the temperature stabilized at 32°F. To ensure accuracy, we used a temperature probe to measure this temperature. Once the water hit the proper temperature, we took IR-thermometer temperature readings at two distances: 12 inches and 16 inches from the surface.
We then compared these readings to the temperature of the ice. The scores were based on how closely the IR thermometer was to that actual value of 32°F.
The second test (the hot test) called for cooking oil. Following a similar methodology, we heated a pan of cooking oil on a stovetop and maintained a temperature of 321°F. We took two measurements—one at 12 inches and one at 16 inches from the oil—and compared them to the oil's actual temperature (321°F). The closer the thermometer's readings were to the oil's temperature, the better the performance score.
The cold test with ice accounts for 40% of the overall performance evaluation, while the hot test carries a weight of 60%.
To calculate the performance score for each model, we take the score obtained in each section and divide it by the respective weighting. Then those two numbers can be averaged.
In the design section, we look at the overall build quality and the solidness of its construction. From the battery compartment’s lid to the display panel to the laser emitter, our reviewer examines every detail to ensure that the thermometer is likely to last a long time.
The quality of certain details like the handle and the display panel, tie into the usability section, too.
Speaking of usability, this section has to do with the user experience. We seek to answer questions about how comfortable the thermometer feels in the hand and how easy it is to use. We also look into how functional the thermometer is by investigating its additional features and measurement modes.
Check out full How We Test Infrared Thermometers for more information.
Reviews of The Best Infrared Thermometers in 2023
Here’s a round-up of the top five IR thermometers we’ve tested in our lab as of June 2023.
Things We Like
- Great IR sensor that returns accurate readings
- Well-built outer housing and parts
- Bright laser emitter
- Handling experience is decent
- Decent complement of measurement modes for the kitchen
- Speakers give audio cues when the thermometer has finished scanning
Things We Don’t Like
- The product looks and feels cheap
- The handle isn’t textured which can make it slippery in wet hands
The Eventek ET312 thermometer outperformed all other models in our database as of June 2023. Besides the performance test, the Eventek did well in our assessment's design and usability evaluations. It easily reached the top of our list as the best IR thermometer in 2023.
The Eventek ET312 performed exceptionally well in our tests. In the cold test with ice, it received a score of 8.35 out of 10. Combined with its score of 8.12 in the hot test with cooking oil, the Eventek ET312 achieved an impressive overall performance score of 8.2 out of 10, the highest among all the thermometers in our database.
When it comes to build quality, the Eventek ET312 is decent, considering its price. It is made entirely of smooth plastic but lacks textured parts, giving it a more pedestrian look and feel than other thermometers. The absence of texture also affects its usability, particularly when gripping the handle with wet hands.
In other usability terms, though, the Eventek ET312 fares well. It’s easy to grip as long as your hands are dry. The thermometer offers four different measurement modes, including an EMS mode that allows you to reset the emissivity setting of the IR sensor. And it’s one of a select few that have a calibration mode that you can use to fine-tune the IR sensor.
Overall, the Eventek ET312 is an excellent choice for kitchen use, meeting all your needs. It may also be useful for DIY enthusiasts and handypeople outside the kitchen.
Price at time of publish: $14.66
Things We Like
- Moderately affordable
- Very good measurement accuracy
- Multiple measurement modes
- More precise temperature tolerance than other IR thermometers on the market (±1.5°F)
Things We Don’t Like
- The battery compartment has a very loose lid
Second to the Eventek ET312 is the Wintact WT530. It scored just a smidge lower in terms of performance and received great scores in the design and usability sections. The only significant issue we found with the Wintact IR thermometer was its loose-fitting battery compartment door.
The Wintact WT530 infrared (IR) thermometer performed better in the cold test than the hot test, although it still received excellent scores in both scenarios. Overall, the thermometer achieved an impressive 8.0 out of 10 — only 0.2 points behind the front-running Eventek ET312.
The thermometer weighs 4.36 ounces and visually doesn’t differ much from other models in our database. And while the overall build quality is decent, the loose battery compartment lid affected its final score in our build quality assessment.
This thermometer has four measurement modes. Two are based on emissivity—you may select a setting of 0.8 or 0.95. Unlike other adjustable infrared (IR) thermometers, it has no settings between these values. The remaining measurement modes are the minimum and maximum reading and calibration modes.
Overall, the Wintact WT530 is a great alternative to the Eventek ET312 if you want an even more affordable model.
Price at time of publish: $17.31
Things We Like
- Accurate IR sensor that produces very good readings
- Decent build quality
- Bright, single-dot laser emitter
- Loud speakers
Things We Don’t Like
- The thermometer itself feels quite cheap
- Lacks many measurement modes
- The display panel is dim
We had a tough time deciding on our third-place pick. This Helect thermometer ranked just below Eventek and Wintact IR thermometers in terms of measurement accuracy, but it was significantly less friendly when it came to usability. The Helect has no extra measurement modes, so it's less versatile than many others.
Still, ultimately, we decided to award the thermometer the third place anyway because of its great measurement accuracy.
The Helect IR thermometer achieved reasonable scores in the performance tests. It scored 7.45 in the cold test and 8.45 in the hot test. Our hot test is weighted higher, giving the Helect a performance score of 8 out of 10—equal to the Wintact WT530.
Despite being an average product with a budget feel, it has a solid build quality, weighs 5.73 ounces, and features a 1.25-inch backlit LCD screen. The laser emitter’s single dot is bright enough to do the job.
While it serves its purpose within its price range, the Helect thermometer’s limitations may render it unsuitable for some users. In particular, we deemed it only “passable” in terms of handling because the curved grip felt uncomfortable (especially for users with small hands).
It also lacks extra measurement modes, which could be a drawback for those seeking more versatility.
Overall, the Helect IR thermometer exceeded our initial expectations in terms of performance, but it has drawbacks regarding design and usability. Pay attention to these aspects before you buy.
Price at time of publish: $19.32
Things We Like
- Fairly accurate and reliable temperature readings.
- Rugged, industrial design
- Extremely bright laser emitter
- Color LCD VA screen panel
- Comes with a good selection of measurement modes
- Very loud speakers
Things We Don’t Like
- Measurement accuracy could be better.
Although the Sovarcate HS980E’s measurement accuracy won’t put it at the top of the chart, its design and build quality are excellent. Besides a solid, industrial-grade build, the Sovarcate HS980E also has a colored LCD panel, giving the thermometer a refined look and feel.
The Sovarcate HS980E outperforms models like the Lasergrip GM400 and the ThermoPro TP-30. However, it still lags behind top performers such as Wintact and Helect.
In the hot test with cooking oil, the Sovarcate HS980E received a performance score of 6.95 out of 10. The cold test garnered it a score of 7.15 out of 10. Together, that gives the Sovarcate HS980E a composite performance score of 7.1 out of 10.
As mentioned earlier, it’s not the best, but it’s not bad.
Where the Sovarcate HS980E shines is in terms of build quality. The thermometer is well-built and contains a reliable laser emitter and a clear, 1.18-inch color LCD panel.
Handling is another area where the Sovarcate HS980E stands out, featuring a nicely textured handgrip that’s easy to hold even when it’s wet.
The thermometer provides several measurement modes, including emissivity adjustment, maximum reading display, and an alarm feature that triggers a loud beep from the speaker when the set temperature is reached.
Overall, if solid build quality is what you seek, the Sovarcate HS980E is up to the task!
Price at time of publish: $19.19
Things We Like
- Rugged, industrial-grade design
- Quality IR sensor provides relatively accurate readings
- Bright laser emitter
- Bright backlit LCD panel
Things We Don’t Like
- Doesn’t come with any extra measurement mode
- A screwdriver is needed to access the measurement unit switch and battery
From the moment we unboxed the Klein Tools IR1, we knew it would rank highly on our best thermometer list. Besides solid build quality, the thermometer also comes with a holster accessory. That alone will make it an appealing choice for many people, especially outdoor BBQ enthusiasts.
The Klein Tools IR1 thermometer demonstrates very good measurement accuracy on hot surfaces, achieving a score of 8.66 out of 10 in the hot test. However, its performance during the cold test was not as impressive, resulting in unstable readings and lowering its total score to 6.7 out of 10.
Despite this setback, the Klein Tools IR1 remains one of the best-performing IR thermometers. Our formula gives it a total performance score of 7.9 out of 10.
The design of the Klein Tools IR1 is impressive for its price. Weighing 6.3 ounces and featuring average dimensions for an IR thermometer, it is constructed with durable plastic and boasts excellent build quality. However, one notable drawback is the lack of control buttons. The only switch—the toggle between °C and °F measurement units—is concealed within the battery compartment.
The thermometer features a textured grip for easy handling. The Klein Tools IR1 does not offer extra measurement modes or even a speaker for audio signals.
Price at time of publish: $31.58
Factors to Consider
IR thermometers may seem pretty straightforward, but there’s a lot of complex physics under the hood.
Here are a few things we check with each thermometer.
This is the most important part of our test: how accurately the thermometer can measure the temperature of a surface. Our testing methodology for IR thermometers contains two sections to evaluate the accuracy: a cold test using a chest filled with icy water and a hot test using hot cooking oil.
Temperature range and emissivity settings
For kitchen-grade thermometers, the range typically spans from -58°F to 1,122°F (-50°C to 600°C).
The thermometer will display an error message if the surface temperature falls outside of this range. You should select a model with a functional range that matches how you expect to use it.
One factor that affects what surfaces you can measure is emissivity. Emissivity refers to how surfaces emit IR energy, and it is expressed as a numerical value between 0 and 1.0.
A black-body object, which reflects no energy, has an emissivity of 1.0.
Many IR thermometers feature an option to adjust their emissivity settings. They give you more accurate results if you select the emissivity setting that closely approximates that of the object you’re measuring.
Models that don’t allow users to modify the emissivity setting are fixed at 0.95.
The Distance-to-Spot (D:S) ratio refers to the relationship between the distance from the sensor to the target and the diameter of the measurement area. A thermometer's claimed D:S ratio can help us determine how big its target must be when measured from a given distance.
For example, if we say a thermometer has a D:S of 10:1, then the diameter of the area that it can measure is equal to around one-tenth the distance between the thermometer and the object. So, if you were to measure an object from 10 inches away, the sensor would collect thermal data from a target area 1 inch in diameter.
Thermometers with higher D:S ratios can sense the temperature of smaller areas from greater distances.
Since IR thermometers are industrial tools, they’re often built to last. Most are constructed from shockproof plastic that can withstand drops and impacts. A good IR thermometer shouldn’t need replacement for years.
Display and interface features
Every IR thermometer has a display panel on the back. This main interface will tell you the temperature readings and the current settings.
Most models feature black-and-white LCD panels. Some even include a backlight that can be toggled on and off for use in dark conditions.
However, there are also premium thermometers on the market that boast color LCD panels. One such example is the Sovarcate HS980E.
Another noteworthy feature is the laser emitter. It's important to note that the laser itself doesn't measure the object's temperature. It’s there to show you exactly where the IR sensor is pointing.
While most models have a single-dot laser emitter, a few project more unique patterns. For instance, the Mecurate IR thermometer sports a 13-point laser emitter, with the outer dots forming a circle. This circle shows you the measurement area’s diameter.
Using infrared thermometers is incredibly simple. Just press and hold the trigger, aim the laser pointer at the point you wish to measure, and the temperature reading will instantly appear on the screen. Once you release the trigger, the thermometer will hold the last temperature reading on the screen for your convenience.
Some thermometer models allow you to switch between measurement modes to display the average, minimum, and maximum temperatures.
Accuracy differs from model to model. Most in our database claim to measure within ±2°F of the actual temperature. You’ll have to read your IR thermometer’s manual for more details.
Accuracy depends on many factors, some of which are outside of your control (at least with a standard consumer-grade IR thermometer).
Emissivity is one. Every surface and material has a different emissivity value. Lots of thermometers allow you to choose between several emissivity settings to better tune your sensor to the material you’re measuring. It’s not exact, but it gives you some measure of control.
Distance is another factor. The acceptable sensing distance will depend upon your device’s D:S ratio.
Most unpredictable are environmental factors. Ambient temperature, humidity, and air currents around the object will all impact the measurement accuracy. You can try to control these as much as possible, but it’s not always doable.
This is why you’ll rarely get perfect accuracy with any thermometer and why most IR thermometers have an “error tolerance.” A tolerance of ±2°F from the actual temperature is most common.
Thermometers designed for measuring body temperature belong to a different product class and have far higher precision.
As a result, IR thermometers intended for industrial or kitchen use explicitly state in their user manuals that they should not be used to measure body temperature.
The greatest advantage of an infrared (IR) thermometer is its non-contact measurement ability. That means you can measure the surface temperature of your target without making physical contact with it.
Cheap IR thermometers can provide precise readings within a 1-inch spot from 12-16 inches away. This makes them invaluable in your kitchen, enabling you to effortlessly monitor the temperatures of your grill, stovetop, oven, and other appliances.
Yes, you can use an IR thermometer on liquids. However, keep in mind that it will only be able to measure the surface temperature of the liquid. It won’t be able to tell you the temperature at the bottom or center of the liquid body.
Why Trust Us?
All of the thermometers we’ve tested were bought using our own funds. We are not associated in any way with the manufacturers. As a rule, we also don’t accept any sponsorship or incentive in exchange for positive reviews.
Each review is based on our in-house testing methodology. The methodology is developed to illustrate the thermometer's performance and overall quality. It’s also designed such that you can replicate the process yourself using items most people have access to.
The reviewer behind this project, Matthew Lee, has had over three years of experience working with HealthyKitchen101 on a variety of review projects. Besides IR thermometers, he’s also had a hand in developing our waffle maker testing procedures.
Matthew is part of the Research, Testing, and Review (RTR) Team, typically setting up the logistics for each review session. The team is headed by Test Lead, Lap Vo, and works under the direct supervision of Luna Regina.
In total, it took the team over 300 hours to brainstorm, refine, and standardize the testing methodology for IR thermometers. After that, they spent another 200 hours running the tests themselves and compiling the results into a simple, presentable form.
The testing process is recorded from the beginning to the end, with Matthew personally assessing and recording each thermometer’s performance.
So, these are the five best infrared thermometers in 2023 based on our latest testing methodology. Whatever your budget and requirements are, rest assured that each option will give you great measurement accuracy and durability for the price. Choose the one that suits you best, and it will serve you well for years!
About your guide
Luna Regina is an accomplished writer and author who dedicates her career to empowering home cooks and making cooking effortless for everyone. She is the founder of HealthyKitchen101.com and HealthyRecipes101.com, where she works with her team to develop easy, nutritious recipes and help aspiring cooks choose the right kitchen appliances.
Matthew Lee is a writer and editor for HealthyKitchen101. With over 8 years working for various outlets and agencies, specializing in tech review and other subjects of note, such as current affairs.
Lap is Head of the Research, Testing, and Review Team (RTR Team) at HealthyKitchen101.com, where he directs and supervises the testing of kitchen gadgets and appliances.