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Many restaurants rely on an infrared thermometer (IRT) to verify that the food in their hot and cold holding stations and buffet tables is within a range specified by their local food safety regulator. IRTs are accurate enough to do that job - and many more - in the privacy of your home kitchen. Following is a partial list.

Check your oven temperature. Most ovens run pretty close to the temperature shown on their digital readout or analog knob. But accuracy can deteriorate over time.

Check your refrigerator and freezer temperatures. Infrared Thermometers (IRTs) give actual temperature readings - unlike dials calibrated from 1 to 5.

Measure food and beverage temperatures. To be "piping hot", coffee and tea should be about 150oF. Because IRTs measure surface temperature, be sure to cut open meats and poultry so you're actually checking internal temperature against what's recommended for rare, medium and well-done. That is, fridgecontentsunless you're cooking with a microwave oven. Because microwaves heat substances from the inside out, the surface temperature of a microwaved solid or liquid is within a degree or two of its internal temperature. By the way, the best way to check soups, sauces and other liquids with an infrared thermometer is to pull a ladle full of liquid up from the bottom of the pot before taking a measurement. Doing so will allow you to closely approximate the temperature of the whole batch. Whether it's a first batch of soup, or a plate of leftovers that's being reheated, you need to be sure to bring the liquid up to 165oF for at least 15 seconds to make the serving "ready to eat."

IR thermometers are also perfect for ensuring that semi-solids like stuffing, corn or mashed potatoes, have reached a temperature high enough to have killed off most bacteria present. Insert a spoon into the center of the material, pull it back to create a void, and immediately point your infrared thermometer into the void. A minimum temperature of 165oF should be reached before the food is considered ready to eat.

Make yogurt. IRTs are great for checking the temperature of boiling (185oF) and cooled (115oFMan in kitchen cooking lunch - Focus on food) milk used to make yogurt. If the milk gets too hot or isn't allowed to cool enough, the culture used to make the yogurt will die.

Measure the temperature of hot oil. For deep frying, an infrared thermometer is as accurate as (and faster than) a stem thermometer. But stem thermometers cannot measure oil temperature in shallow frying or sauteing because the pan isn't deep enough. Be aware that IRTs can't accurately measure the temperature of anything shiny, like a dry steel pan. They do, however, work well on matte-finish cast iron pans, however. A quick point-and-shoot with an IRT will let you know when a skillet, pan or pot has come to temperature (500oF), allowing you to create a perfect sear on steaks, roasts or chops. Infrared thermometers are ideal for recording fryer oil temperature (350oF), giving you the ability to perfectly gauge when your batter-dipped chicken is ready to fry.

Make yeast for bread or homebrewed beer. Yeast needs to be at a specific temperature to grow, but make it too hot and it will die. An infrared thermometer is great for proofing yeast in bread or pitching yeast when making a homebrew beer. IRTs are especially good for bringing the temperature of microwaved milk or water to exactly 100oF when making yeast breads--at least in this writer's experience.

Measure the temperature of hot water - NOT! IRTs aren't very good at measuring the temperature of boiling water because their infrared sensors get confused by the cooler water vapor coming off the surface. Boiling water actually measures 200oF on an IRT.

Temper spices. In Indian cooking, you add spices to hot oil or butter to release their natural oils and flavors. But too much heat burns and ruins the mixture. Oil at 400oF usually gives the best results.

Here is Our #1 Recommended Thermometer for the Kitchen!

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