The Best Infrared Thermometers for All Your Cooking Needs, Tested

These infrared thermometers will level up your barbecue and grilling game instantly.

Best Overall

The ThermoWorks Industrial IR Gun Infrared Thermometer on a white background.

ThermoWorks Industrial IR Gun Infrared Thermometer

See It

Runner-Up

The Klein Tools IR5 Dual-Laser Infrared Thermometer on a white background.

Klein Tools IR5 Dual-Laser Infrared Thermometer

See It

Best Bang for the Buck

The Inkbird INK-IFT04 Infrared Thermometer on a white background with inset images of the display screen and a set of batteries.

Inkbird INK-IFT04 Infrared Thermometer

See It

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Using an infrared thermometer can help anyone take accurate temperature readings and ultimately cook better food. Infrared (IR) thermometers allow grillers and chefs to check the temperature of their grill, smoker, griddle, or cooking water, as well as their food’s external temperature, without physically touching it. Getting immediate, accurate readings on the temperature of cooking surfaces is important, especially when searing steaks or using equipment that needs to reach a specific temperature, such as a grill or pizza stone.

After researching more than 20 different models to determine which ones offer the best features and accuracy for cooking and grilling, we chose the top seven and then subjected them to rigorous hands-on testing. Here’s what we discovered.

  1. BEST OVERALL: ThermoWorks Industrial IR Gun Infrared Thermometer
  2. RUNNER-UP: Klein Tools IR5 Dual-Laser Infrared Thermometer
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Inkbird INK-IFT04 Infrared Thermometer
  4. BEST COMBINATION: ThermoPro TP420 Meat Thermometer 
  5. BEST FOR THE KITCHEN: Cuisinart Infrared Surface Thermometer
  6. BEST FOR ACCURACY: Fluke 62 MAX Mini Infrared Thermometer
A person testing the surface temperature of a cast iron pan on a grill using the Cuisinart Infrared Surface Thermometer.
Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Infrared Thermometers

While many infrared thermometers are designed for use in industrial settings, such as to check the temperature of electrical boxes, machinery, and HVAC systems, they also work well for gauging the temperature of various cooking surfaces.

“Infrared thermometers are great for checking the surface temperatures of grills, pans, oil for frying, among other things,” says Lindsey Chastain, founder of The Waddle and Cluck, a website devoted to cooking, homesteading, and gardening. “They quickly measure temperature without contact.”

While selecting our favorite infrared thermometers, we considered some of the most important characteristics of these tools to suit both culinary and industrial needs. Chastain says it’s important to look for one that’s accurate, has a wide temperature range, and comes equipped with a laser guide and an alarm for target temperatures.

“With both probe and infrared thermometers, make sure they have clear, easy-to-read displays. Evaluate durability and battery life as well,” she recommends. “And check that probes are oven-safe for the temperatures you’ll use.”

It’s also important to choose a thermometer that includes emissivity settings, which allow one to take accurate readings of shiny surfaces. Our list includes IR thermometers that have features for industrial use. These include thermometers with broad temperature ranges and durable housings that can withstand more wear and tear.

We tested our selections in a variety of real-life household applications to determine their accuracy and ease of use. Our tests involved measuring the temperature of hot, dark surfaces, such as a cast-iron grill grate, cast-iron frying pan, nonstick skillet, and oven interior at temperatures between 450 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

To measure the temperature of reflective hot surfaces, which required us to make adjustments to the IR gun’s emissivity, we measured the temperature of a stainless steel frying pan. In order to test cold surfaces, we took readings of the interior of a refrigerator and freezer, taking note of each one’s thermostat settings to determine accuracy.

During testing, we also considered the readability of the display in both dark conditions and direct sunlight, as well as how easy it was to change the settings on the thermometer. Read on to find out which infrared thermometers made the grade—and which one didn’t.

Our Top Picks

Below is a roundup of some of the best infrared thermometer options on the market, all of which we tested ourselves. It could be helpful to consider these recommendations while shopping for an infrared thermometer.

Best Overall

ThermoWorks Industrial IR Gun Infrared Thermometer

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Noncontact
  • Accuracy: 2 percent
  • Range ratio: 12:1

Pros

  • Provides very accurate readings on cold, temperate, and hot surfaces
  • Durable plastic build can endure drops and other abuse
  • Equipped with adjustable emissivity, backlight, and high- and low-temperature alarms

Cons

  • Lacks the ergonomic rubberized housing and handle of other IR thermometers at this price point

Accuracy is the most important factor when it comes to an IR gun, and it’s hard to find one that registers more precise readings than this model from ThermoWorks. This infrared gun has a 12:1 distance-to-spot ratio and a laser pointer for accurate readings. It can register temperatures ranging from -76 degrees to 1,022 degrees Fahrenheit, making it a great option for anyone from HVAC technicians to chefs.

We loved the features and build quality of this IR gun. It displays maximum and minimum temperatures, allows one to set high and low alarms, and offers adjustable emissivity. The display is easy to read thanks to a backlight, and the three button controls allow one to quickly adjust the emissivity settings, cycle through stats, or turn the backlight on and off.

While it lacks the ergonomic rubberized covering of other IR thermometers, the ThermoWorks IR gun does have a sturdy feel. The housing is made from high-grade plastic that feels like it could take a beating. Of course, accuracy is the hallmark of a good IR gun, and this one is very accurate. In our tests, temperature readings for both cold and hot surfaces were accurate within one or two degrees Fahrenheit. While this gun’s collection of features, high level of accuracy, and price tag make it a great option for HVAC, construction, and maintenance uses, it can also be a very valuable tool for serious chefs.

Read our full review: ThermoWorks Industrial IR Gun Infrared ThermometerGet the ThermoWorks infrared thermometer at ThermoWorks

Runner-Up

Klein Tools IR5 Dual-Laser Infrared Thermometer

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Noncontact
  • Accuracy: 2 percent
  • Range ratio: 12:1

Pros

  • Durably constructed with a heavy-duty housing and rubberized coating
  • Adjustable emissivity for accurate readings on both shiny and dull surfaces
  • Backlit display is easy to read, and the button controls make changing settings a breeze

Cons

  • Has a lower maximum temperature reading than other infrared thermometers

Serious home chefs and

grill masters

will want to consider this durable option from Klein Tools. With an accuracy rating of plus-or-minus 2 percent, a 12:1 measurement distance, and adjustable emissivity for materials that are difficult to measure, this infrared thermometer carries on the company’s tradition of producing high-quality tools.

This brand’s tools are known for their durable build and ergonomic handles, and this infrared thermometer is no exception. With its solid feel, beefy housing, and rubberized coating, we have no doubt it can live up to its 6.6-foot drop rating. It also happens to be the heaviest model we tested at about 10 ounces. The ergonomic handle fits nicely in the hand, and the rubberized buttons on the control panel are easy to manipulate with the thumb. The IR5 also comes with a handy carrying case, which is a nice bonus feature.

We liked how easy it was to cycle through display settings, set high- and low-temperature alarms, and turn the laser pointer or backlight on and off using the three-button interface. The display is also easy to read in all light conditions thanks to the large backlit display.

In terms of performance, the IR5 also takes precise temperature readings that are accurate within a degree or two, and it also works effectively with shiny surfaces thanks to the emissivity controls. We had no trouble getting accurate readings during our grill test and stainless steel test. We were a little disappointed in the IR5’s max temperature range of 752 degrees Fahrenheit, which could fall short when measuring the surface temperatures of kamado grills, which can exceed 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Get the Klein Tools infrared thermometer at Amazon, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot.

Best Bang for the Buck

Inkbird INK-IFT04 Infrared Thermometer

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Noncontact
  • Accuracy: 2 percent
  • Range ratio: 12:1

Pros

  • Controls make it easy to change the display and turn features on and off
  • Registers temperature readings accurately within a few degrees
  • Covers a very broad temperature range, making it applicable for high-heat grilling

Cons

  • Cheaper build quality than other pricier IR thermometers we tested

Anyone who finds themselves intimidated by sophisticated technology and tons of buttons will want to check out this infrared thermometer from Inkbird. This model features a reading range between -26 and 1,122 degrees Fahrenheit, an accuracy rating of 2 percent, and a range ratio of 12:1. It’s equipped with adjustable emissivity as well as a backlit display, allowing users to get readings from virtually any surface in all types of lighting conditions. It even includes an auto-off function for saving battery life as well as a hold function for checking previous readings. All this, and it sells for an extremely affordable price.

We loved how easy this infrared thermometer was to use. Simply aim and pull the trigger and the thermometer provides an instant temperature reading for a variety of surfaces. We also found the settings to be more intuitive than other higher-priced infrared thermometers. Accessing the emissivity controls, turning the laser pointer on and off, and switching between display modes can all be accomplished with the touch of one of the three buttons. We only wish the labels on the buttons were a bit easier to read. That said, the digital display is visible even in bright sunlight, and we liked that the emissivity value displays in the corner of the screen at all times.

If we have any gripes, it’s with this thermometer’s build quality. The Inkbird lacks the ergonomic handle of other infrared thermometers, and it feels more cheaply made. We don’t think it would survive a fall on a hard surface from more than three or four feet, nor do we think it could endure too many nights left out in wet weather. That said, it’s one of the lighter thermometers we tested, and its compact size makes it easier to store in a drawer or a storage cabinet of a grill.

Get the Inkbird infrared thermometer at Amazon

Best Combination

ThermoPro TP420 Meat Thermometer

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Noncontact (with fold-out meat probe)
  • Accuracy: +/- 3 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Range ratio: 12:1

Pros

  • Good build quality with rubberized grip and feet, integrated magnet, and tough housing
  • Large display shows both probe and IR thermometer readings simultaneously
  • Includes a backlight, various display modes, and hold function

Cons

  • Position of display makes it difficult to read while taking infrared thermometer readings

This combination meat probe and IR thermometer allows users to test the temperature of their cooking surfaces as well as the internal temperature of the meat, all in one device. It features a built-in thermopile sensor that takes temperatures like other IR thermometers, but it also includes a probe that folds out to convert the device into a standard digital meat thermometer. Other notable features include a backlit display, minimum/maximum/average temperature readings, and a hold button that locks the current temperature reading on the display. This means the user can pull the thermometer away from the heat source to read the display without losing the reading.

ThermoPro has made a name for itself thanks to the accuracy and affordability of its IR thermometers and meat thermometers, and this model is no exception. The surface temperature readings were accurate to within about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, it lacks emissivity settings, which makes it difficult to use on stainless steel cookware.

Another feature we liked was the build quality of this thermometer. The rubberized grip that runs along the sides makes it comfortable to hold. We also liked the rubber feet on the backside of the unit, which prevent the unit from sliding off the surface. The built-in magnet, which allowed us to stick this meat thermometer to the control panel of our gas grill, was also a nice feature.

The thermometer housing, though plastic, feels tough enough to survive drops. There’s also a handy meat temperature guide printed on the back of the thermometer for quick reference.

The display is easy to read in all light conditions thanks to the backlight. We particularly liked that it shows temperature settings for both the probe and IR thermometer simultaneously, eliminating the need to change viewing modes while cooking. Our only gripe is that the position of the display makes it difficult to read while taking a surface temperature. We also wish it had a laser pointer function.

Get the ThermoPro infrared thermometer at Amazon or The Home Depot.

Best for the Kitchen

Cuisinart Infrared Surface Thermometer

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Noncontact
  • Accuracy: 2 percent
  • Range ratio: 12:1

Pros

  • Settings are easy to adjust with 1 hand while cooking or grilling
  • Backlight and large numbers make the display easy to read
  • As accurate as infrared thermometers that cost significantly more

Cons

  • Lacks emissivity controls, making it difficult to use on reflective surfaces

The simple design of this infrared thermometer from Cuisinart makes it a great kitchen assistant. It has a broad temperature range that goes up to 932 degrees Fahrenheit and is accurate within 5 degrees Fahrenheit. It also has a 12:1 measurement distance, a backlit display, and a laser pointer.

During testing, what we loved most about the Cuisinart infrared thermometer was how easy it was to use. It takes readings instantly, and all of its features have dedicated buttons, which turn on the backlight, take a measurement, and enable the use of the laser pointer. This makes it a breeze to change settings on the fly while cooking. We had no problems reading the display in bright and dim lighting—and even at odd angles—thanks to the built-in backlight in the display.

We were also impressed with how accurate this Cuisinart thermometer is given its affordable price tag. It matched the accuracy of much pricer digital thermometers we tested for both cold and hot surfaces, albeit with one caveat. This surface thermometer lacks emissivity controls, which makes it less accurate when taking temperature readings of shiny surfaces. This results in difficulty when trying to get a reading on stainless steel, which has a much lower emissivity value than the 0.95 default value on the Cuisinart thermometer.

In terms of build quality, this thermometer isn’t the most durably built option we tested, but that’s OK. While it may not be tough enough for industrial uses, it’s certainly tough enough to handle kitchen duty. It’s also more compact than some, so it fits more easily in a kitchen drawer.

Get the Cuisinart infrared thermometer at Amazon, Lowe’s, or Walmart.

Best for Accuracy

Fluke 62 MAX Mini Infrared Thermometer

See It

Product Specs 

  • Type: Noncontact
  • Accuracy: 1.5 percent
  • Range ratio: 10:1

Pros

  • Packed with features, including a backlight, multiple display modes, and high/low alarms
  • Extremely accurate readings of within a few degrees Fahrenheit for both cold and hot surfaces
  • Tough shock-, water-, and weather-resistant construction makes it very durable

Cons

  • Bulky size and heavy overall weight compared to other infrared thermometers

When it comes to accuracy, the Fluke 62 MAX is in a class of its own. This pick for the most accurate infrared thermometer features a measurement range of -22 degrees to 932 degrees Fahrenheit, with an accuracy rating of 1.5 percent. It has a 10:1 measurement distance and adjustable emissivity.

One of the first things we noticed about the Fluke 62 MAX during testing was the quality of its construction. Fluke claims this infrared thermometer can survive a drop from nearly 10 feet, and based on its solid feel, we don’t doubt it. It’s also IP54 rated, so it can survive splashes of water. The Fluke 62 MAX also has the most impressive build quality of any infrared thermometer we tested. With its rubberized coating and buttons and its ergonomic shape, it has a more comfortable feel in the hand than any other infrared thermometer we tested. That said, the Fluke is also heavier and bigger than other infrared thermometers.

We also like how easy it is to scroll through the various options the Fluke offers by simply pressing the Select button. Users can set emissivity, turn the laser and backlight on and off, set display modes, and set alarms for specific temperature readings. And, with the Fluke thermometer’s built-in backlight and large display, its temperature readings are visible even in bright, sunny conditions.

During testing, we found the Fluke to be one of the most accurate infrared thermometers we tested, registering within a few degrees Fahrenheit of the actual temperature when testing it on both hot and cold surfaces. If we have one complaint, it’s with the Fluke 62 MAX’s high price. This is a digital thermometer designed and priced for professional use.

Get the Fluke infrared thermometer at Amazon or Lowe’s.

Also Tested

The Etekcity Lasergrip 1080 Infrared Thermometer boasts features usually reserved for more expensive models: It has a temperature range of -58 to 1,130 degrees Fahrenheit, and the 12:1 measurement distance is comparable to high-end models. Other features we liked were the backlit LCD display, a hold feature, and adjustable emissivity.

What we didn’t love was its accuracy. We found the thermometer to be off by significantly more than its 2 percent accuracy rating during testing. When we measured our hot pan, the Lasergrip 1080 registered temperatures that were about 20 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the actual surface temperature. This is a large enough discrepancy that it could throw off one’s grilling or cooking. Readings for cold temperatures were more accurate, though the thermometer was still off by about six or seven degrees Fahrenheit. Nevertheless, we couldn’t recommend this model given that the other thermometers we tested were significantly more accurate.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing an Infrared Thermometer

Equipping a kitchen with the best infrared thermometer is a sure way to enhance a barbecue. But knowing what to look for in an IR thermometer is key. These little tools can be complex, so be sure to give each point some thought while shopping.

A person testing the surface temperature of a cast iron pan on a grill using the ThermoPro TP420 Meat Thermometer.
Photo: Tony Carrick for Bob Vila

Thermocouple Probes vs. Infrared

Before deciding on an infrared temperature gun, it’s important to understand what they can and cannot do. It’s also a good idea to know which tools to use when the infrared falls short.

Infrared thermometers will only display the surface temperature of an object. One can use an infrared thermometer to measure the temperature of grates on grills, cast-iron pans, or even freezer temperatures. Every object emits a particular amount of radiation, which the infrared thermometer detects and converts to electricity to then provide a reading based on the electricity. However, not even the best noncontact thermometers can provide an internal temperature reading.

Internal readings are the function of thermocouple probes, such as a typical oven thermometer or meat thermometer. These probes insert directly into the meat, soup, sauce, or other food item, providing an accurate reading from the inside. They work best when the probe is inside the item, which is why they don’t function well for surface temperature readings.

Application

Different types of infrared thermometers are better suited for different situations. There are standard infrared thermometers, which are useful in cooking and mechanical applications, and there are infrared temporal scanners used in the medical field to read body temperature.

Temporal scanners aren’t useful for cooking applications because their temperature ranges are too small. Standard infrared thermometers can read a much larger temperature range than a temporal scanner. Unlike temporal scanners, standard infrared thermometers can handle the extreme temperature ranges that chefs typically work within.

Temperature Range

An infrared thermometer is helpful for myriad uses in the kitchen, such as determining the temperature of a freezer, a refrigerator, a cooking surface, an oven’s internal temperature, and more.

This multifunctionality requires a working range that will encompass all of those temperatures. Generally speaking, an infrared thermometer with a range of roughly -20 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit should provide enough range to check anything from a deep-freeze freezer to a commercial kitchen fryer. Most infrared thermometers will display their working range in plain sight on the side of the thermometer.

Emissivity

Emissivity sounds complicated, but in this context, it really boils down to just one thing: how easily an infrared thermometer can read the temperature of certain materials. For a more scientific explanation, it refers to the efficiency with which a surface emits thermal energy.

Certain cooking surfaces, like copper or polished stainless steel, can be difficult for an infrared thermometer to measure. Models with adjustable emissivity capability can be useful, as the user can adjust the thermometer until it displays an accurate reading.

Without an adjustable emissivity rating, an IR thermometer might have trouble detecting temperatures on stainless steel, copper, anodized aluminum, and other typical cooking surfaces.

Accuracy

It’s important to control the temperature of the surface on which food is being cooked. For example, achieving the perfect sear on an expensive steak requires a specific surface temperature that can be impossible to judge with an inaccurate thermometer.

The best infrared thermometers prioritize accuracy. The manufacturer will typically list the accuracy—described as a plus-or-minus percentage—on the unit. A thermometer with an accuracy of around 2 percent is very accurate. If a recipe calls for a surface temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit, an accurate thermometer will only be off by up to 7 degrees in either direction. That’s plenty accurate for the purpose of cooking or grilling.

Manufacturers often use a ratio to describe the area a thermometer is capable of measuring from a specific distance. For instance, 12:1 means an infrared thermometer can test a 1-inch-diameter circle of a surface from a 12-inch distance. When it comes to cooking and grilling, this 12:1 distance is usually more than sufficient.

Ease of Use

One of the most desirable facets of owning an infrared thermometer is how easy it is to use. In most cases, all it requires is a somewhat steady hand and a squeeze of the trigger. Simply lift the grill cover or open the oven, point it at the food, and take note of the reading.

Most infrared thermometers can switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius with the press of a button. Others even have features that temporarily save the previous temperature on the screen, providing an easily accessible reference.

FAQs 

There’s a lot of information to take in about the best infrared thermometers. Below is a collection of common questions about how to choose the right infrared thermometer, so check to see if there’s an answer to any of your remaining queries below.

Q. How does an infrared thermometer work?

The concept of how infrared thermometers work is beyond the scope of this article, but here’s the gist: Everything produces a certain amount of heat radiation. An infrared thermometer measures that radiation by turning it into electricity and producing a measurement.

Q. What should I look for when buying an infrared thermometer?

There are a few things to look for when buying an infrared thermometer. They include:

  • Adjustable emissivity to provide readings on shiny cooking surfaces
  • An accuracy of 2 percent or lower
  • A range of up to at least 700 degrees Fahrenheit (though you might have to sacrifice a bit of range for additional features, such as a thermocouple probe)

Q. Are infrared thermometers safe?

There are no proven risks involved with using an infrared thermometer. However, it is advised not to expose anyone’s eyesight directly to built-in lasers.

Q. How accurate are infrared thermometers?

The best infrared thermometers are accurate to within 2 percent of the measurement. For example, when an infrared thermometer gives a reading of 400 degrees Fahrenheit, the actual temperature will be somewhere between 392 and 408 degrees Fahrenheit.

Q. How do I calibrate an infrared thermometer?

Most infrared thermometers cannot be calibrated, but it’s easy to check a thermometer’s accuracy:

  1. Fill a glass with ice and then top it off with water
  2. Let it sit for 5 minutes
  3. Hold the thermometer directly over the ice bath and take a measurement

The measurement should read 32 degrees. If it doesn’t, contact the manufacturer.

Why Trust Bob Vila 

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

Meet the Tester

Tony Carrick is a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, landscaping, technology, home security, and design. His articles have been featured on such sites as Angi, Popular Science, Futurism, 360 Reviews by U.S. News & World Report, Domino, and more. Carrick has conducted rigorous product testing on everything from power tools to home security systems to backyard grills. With each review, his goal is to help readers determine whether a product meets their needs and if it is or isn’t worth its price tag.

Additional research provided by Tom Scalisi. 

Share
Tom Scalisi Avatar

Tom Scalisi

Contributor

Tom Scalisi is a freelance writer, author, and blogger with a passion for building. Whether it’s a DIY project or an entire website, Tom loves creating something from the ground up, stepping back, and admiring a job well done.

WHY YOU CAN TRUST BOB VILA