A new device for measuring the depth of surface tissue burns based on the rate at which the skin temperature responds to a sudden differential temperature stimulus. This technique can be performed without physical contact with the burned tissue. In one implementation, time-dependent surface temperature data is taken from subsequent frames of a video signal from an infrared-sensitive video camera. When a thermal transient is created, e.g., by turning off a heat lamp directed at the skin surface, the following time-dependent surface temperature data can be used to determine the skin burn depth. Imaging and non-imaging versions of this device can be implemented, thereby enabling laboratory-quality skin burn depth imagers for hospitals as well as hand-held skin burn depth sensors the size of a small pocket flashlight for field use and triage.