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What Is a Surface Thermometer?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2014
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A surface thermometer is a device used to read the surface temperature of something. These devices may work by being left in direct contact with a surface, and they can also be remote, using non-contact methods to get information about temperature readings. They can be purchased through a variety of sources, including kitchen suppliers, scientific equipment catalogs, and suppliers of materials used in manufacturing.

A simple surface thermometer attaches with clips, straps, or magnets to the surface of an object. A sensor on the thermometer provides feedback about fluctuations in temperature and may feed this information to a remote display, depending on the application. Other surface thermometers work by measuring infrared radiation from the surface, often using a laser for guidance. The measuring range can vary, depending on the product; some are tolerant of very high temperatures, while others are designed for applications like cooking, where the temperature range is relatively limited.

In cooking, a surface thermometer can be used to check the temperature of a grill or griddle to make sure it's ready for use and address concerns about food safety, in settings where low temperatures might expose people to the risk of bacteria from undercooked food. In other settings, it may be important to monitor the surface of equipment in a workspace, for doing everything from processing products on slabs of the correct temperature to stopping production if equipment gets too hot.

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When selecting a surface thermometer design, it is important to note the temperature range, as the device may fail or break if it gets too hot or too cold. Other considerations can include how the device attaches, and ease of reading when it comes to the display. If the thermometer is going to be situated in a hard to reach location, it may be necessary to have a big display for high visibility, or a remote display, allowing people to check temperatures without having to be directly in front of the temperature sensor.

Like other devices used for measuring, a surface thermometer should be calibrated with something of a known temperature if it is going to be used in a setting where small temperature fluctuations are critical. Devices requiring calibration are usually shipped with brief overviews on how to do this, and people can also send them back to manufacturers for inspection, calibration, and repair, if it is needed. Some companies provide this service for free over the life of the device as part of the product guarantee.

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