The grill type that most enthusiasts are used to is a convection grill. Whether fueled by wood, charcoal, or gas, a convection grill uses fire to heat the air above the flame. This hot air then cooks the food.
An infrared (IR) grill is a different sort of technology. It uses a section of the electromagnetic spectrum invisible to the human eye to grill the food.
For more on this, read on.
- An infrared grill uses a section of the electromagnetic spectrum to cook food, offering quick heating, high temperatures, and fuel efficiency.
- Infrared grills provide even heat distribution, reducing cooking time and enhancing food flavor by retaining natural juices.
- Despite their benefits, infrared grills can be expensive, less versatile at lower temperatures, and heavier than traditional grills.
How Does an Infrared Grill Work?
The frequency of infrared energy is just slightly lower than the visible light spectrum . This means that infrared is just outside the range of human sight.
The Sun is an example of a source of infrared energy. Indeed, the Sun puts out visible light, but we are all aware that the Sun heats the ground, pavement, or a car hood in a way that we cannot see. This radiant heat arises because about half of the energy the Sun puts out is infrared .
"Grilling is not just about lighting a fire."
- Bobby Flay, Chef
An infrared grill uses conventional gas burners to heat a plate made of metal, glass, or ceramic.
This surface heats rapidly, faster than air, and then conducts that heat upwardly into whatever you intend to cook - infrared energy at work.
This mechanism differs from traditional convection grilling, wherein circulating hot air surrounds the food and cooks it.
That’s why you need to close the top of a conventional gas grill - leaving it open allows the hot air to escape.
IR Grill Benefits
Now that you understand how an infrared gas grill works and how it differs from a traditional gas grill let's look at some of the advantages that an IR grill offers.
1. Quick Preheating
Infrared grills heat rapidly, so they are ready to cook in a shorter amount of time compared to other types of grills.
In fact, you can go from turning the gas on to grilling your meal in as short as 3-5 minutes. It is a significant advantage compared to traditional grills, which may take up to 15-20 minutes to preheat.
2. Even Heat Distribution
A convection gas grill cooks food as air is heated and rises, leaving some parts less well done than others.
On the other hand, an infrared grill uses a reflector to spread the heat evenly across the food being cooked.
Your food will be cooked more evenly with infrared grills than with traditional charcoal or gas-fueled grills, and you will have fewer hot and cold spots.
3. Reduced Cooking Time
Infrared technology helps the grill preheat more quickly than a convection grill, and the actual cooking time is also reduced.
You can enjoy your barbecue sooner than you might with a conventional grill.
Additionally, convection grilling may increase the risk of carcinogens developing on the surfaces of your meat.
Since an infrared grill cooks foods quickly, it reduces the danger of carcinogens forming.
Related Article: Is Smoked Meat Bad for Our Health?
4. Better Tasting Food
Standard gas grills use hot air for cooking food, which can dry out meats and fish.
The infrared cooking process is fast and uniform, and it won’t dry out your food. The food will retain its natural juices, and it will taste better.
5. Top Quality Searing
The higher temperatures of infrared grills are perfect for searing steaks and other meat. In fact, an IR grill can get to temperatures close to 1,000 degrees .
Since an infrared grill gets hotter and has better heat distribution than regular grills, you end up with superior searing on your meat.
6. Fewer Flare-ups
A flare-up is a mini-grease fire, and it can be dangerous. Using an infrared grill will help reduce the chance of this happening.
Flare-ups happen when the grease in the meat drips on the flame. An IR grill has more controlled heat compared to a gas grill as the flames are not openly exposed, thus reducing the risk of flare-ups.
7. Fuel Efficiency
An added benefit of infrared grills is fuel efficiency. Since IR grills preheat quickly and have reduced cooking times compared to traditional gas grills, they will consume less fuel.
Also, less heat will escape when opening the lid, which means less fuel is needed to reach the desired cooking temperature again.
8. Easy Cleaning
One drawback that many people cite about using a gas grill is the cleanup afterward. Ashes and soot can build up over time and leave a mess on the cooking surface and burner tubes.
With an infrared grill, the cooking grate and metal reflector are easy to clean. By setting your infrared grill to a high setting, the temperature will turn any remaining food to ash.
IR Grill Disadvantages
An IR grill comes with many benefits not seen in a traditional grill. However, no grill is perfect for all occasions, and an infrared grill does have a few cons.
1. Not as Versatile
An infrared grill is a better choice when it comes to high-temperature cooking. This is why steak-lovers swear by the intense heat of their IR grill.
However, many infrared grills lose some of their appeal at lower temperatures (less than 200 degrees Fahrenheit). If you grill fish or vegetables, you may be better off with a traditional gas or charcoal grill.
2. Heavy and Immobile
Infrared grills are heavier than a portable charcoal or gas grill. The infrared element is heavy and brittle because of its material properties.
It can make the grill difficult to move around, and you may be better off leaving your infrared grill in one place.
An IR grill can be expensive because infrared grilling technology is newer and more complex than the technology used in traditional gas grills.
Prices have come down with more competition in the marketplace, but you still may end up spending more money than expected on an infrared grill.
A large IR grill can cost up to $3,000, and small infrared grills start at around $500.
Types of Infrared Grill Systems
Infrared grills come in a few different versions. Here are some of the most common types.
1. Ceramic Infrared Burner Systems
The most common infrared system is the ceramic infrared burner. These grills use a stainless-steel gas burner overlaid with a ceramic substance.
When heated with the gas flame, the heat source induces tiny flames in the ceramic, which becomes the focus of radiant heat.
The cooking grid is situated just a few inches above the ceramic plates and disperses heat across the food. The result of having this ceramic surface is getting high heat, up to 1,000 degrees.
2. Radiant Glass Panel System
The infrared cooking surface of these grills sits on top of radiant glass panels, which are heated by stainless steel gas burners.
This allows for the infrared heat to cook food evenly across the entire surface without flare-ups.
The cooking temperature does not get quite as high as a ceramic infrared burner grill, but at 900 degrees, it is plenty high to cook a steak.
Also, the temperature of these grills can get as low as 200 degrees, thus offering more variety.
3. Heat Emitter
This system has stainless steel burners sitting below a metal heating element. The grilling surface sits directly over the emitter. This type of IR grills is less expensive compared to the previous two types.
The temperature range on heat emitter grills is between 300 and 650 degrees - less than the other systems on the high end but more than the radiant glass grill on the low end.
4. Hybrid Infrared Gas Grills
The latest advance in grilling is the creation of a hybrid grill that can operate in a traditional convection mode or an infrared mode.
This allows you to choose the preferred mode of cooking.
It also lets you transition quickly from searing your food over high heat to low-temperature cooking as needed.
Is Infrared Grilling Safe?
Yes, infrared grilling is safe. Infrared grills do not use radioactive materials or rays to generate heat. 'IR radiation' is simply a scientific way of saying 'IR heating.'
"Whether you are new to the scene or a long-time grillmaster, everyone has unique preferences when it comes to their cooking method of choice."
- Homaro Cantu
Because there are no radioactive materials involved in the cooking process, the grill does not change the DNA structure of your food.
Also, infrared grills do not increase your risk of cancer. In fact, since this type of grill is less likely to burn your food, produce char marks and flare-ups, it puts you at a lower risk of cancer than a standard grill .