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Quantifying heat levels (i.e. low, medium, high,etc.)?

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    Quantifying heat levels (i.e. low, medium, high,etc.)?

    This is something I've been thinking about for some time. One of the more strangely imprecise things in cooking is the heat levels on stoves (and grills). We've all heard the terms low, medium, medium-high, etc. On a stove there is at least a way to dial it in close, but on a grill.....what the heck is "preheat to medium high"?

    One thing I learned early on is that my resistive-element electric stove can get way hotter than a gas stove to which many (most?) recipes are calibrated. Where someone might put a gas stove on near maximum heat, I might put my electric on 7 or 8 (out of ten).

    It seems to be the case that slowly, more internet recipes are referencing specific temperatures (350 F, 450 F) for pans and stoves. This is probably due to the inexpensive and wide availability of infrared thermometer guns. And for cooking, I think we're looking for an accuracy of +/- 25 degrees F, which these guns can easily do.

    I've started to take more measurements of my pans and especially pans + oil before I add food, if only to help me in consistency from cook-to-cook.

    Anyone else going down this road?

    Me too. My IR gun sits right next to the stove


      I use a regular powered gas range. If a recipe says to cook on medium-high I use my most powerful burner and set it right between high and medium. From there I may adjust it if I deem it necessary. Usually, it's just about right.


        I ALWAYS use my thermagun before I put food in a pan. And we cook so much, it’s basically used every single day.

        eggs (350-400)
        pancakes (375-400)
        anything that thing needs to cook but not burn (generally 350-400)

        searing is always 500+


        • Mosca
          Mosca commented
          Editing a comment
          That thermagun has made a huge difference with pancakes.

        • scottranda
          scottranda commented
          Editing a comment
          I can also add that "low" setting on one of my burners can get 500+ if you leave it there long enough. That’s why I always use my thermagun.
          Last edited by scottranda; March 9, 2021, 05:31 PM.

        I'm a "wing it" kind of cook. I cook more by feel and past experience, which includes knowing how my pans work with the various burners on the gas cooktop. With that, I did invest in a set of AllClad Coppercore pans. They're not cheap, but the difference is truly remarkable. Baking and deep frying are another story and I will use the appropriate thermometer with those endeavors.


          Years ago I made this chart after doing research on this subject. Maybe it will help but none of my formatting copied over.

          Cooking Temperature Ranges
          Heat Range, Mid, Hand Over Grill in seconds
          Low 225-250 235 11-15
          Medium-Low 250-325 285 8-10
          Medium 325-375 365 6-7
          Medium-High 375-450 415 4-5
          High 450-650 550 2-3


          • CaptainMike
            CaptainMike commented
            Editing a comment
            The science is now settled.

          • bbqLuv
            bbqLuv commented
            Editing a comment
            That is why cooking is an art but is becoming more of a science.
            Happy BBQ'n to you

          I've used my IR gun for shallow pan frying


            Like many others here, I use my IR gun all the time to check hot pan temps. It's great for the wok, too. I even use it to check the coffee temperature in my cup (144° is preferred).

            I've come a long way via a different route from my Grandma and Mom who slung pans on the stove and hoped for the best.

            FWIW, I also Thermapen every reheated leftover to make sure it's up to the food safety recommendation of 165° before serving it.

            Last edited by fzxdoc; March 10, 2021, 08:24 AM.


              I've always wondered that myself. My wife goes by feel as she does 99% of the indoor cooking. I do all the outdoor cooking and use my IR gun only when doing smash burgers on the flat top. There I shoot for about 375. I think I've read that's the temp in which most things are griddled in restaurants? She'll do stir fry and breakfast on the same griddle and goes by feel there as well.



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