Gas or charcoal is probably the main question people ask themselves before buying a grill, but there’s also another one they should be asking: Do I need an infrared grill? The answer will depend on what they like to grill the most and if it’s steak, then an infrared grill should be on the list of options.
This type of grill has other benefits too, but it will definitely help produce meats that rival the best high-end steakhouse offerings. Before shopping around for an infrared grill, it’s a good idea to explore the different types of infrared cooking systems, the various features different grills offer and the range of price points.
What Is an Infrared Grill and how is it different?
Much as an infrared space heater heats the objects in the immediate area and not the surrounding air, an infrared grill heats the food, not the air in the grill. Traditional gas grills cook by convection: hot air interacts with the moisture surrounding the food to cook it. Infrared energy doesn’t affect the outer layer of moisture. What all this means is that food is less likely to dry out and experts say that infrared cooking helps meat retain about a third more of its own moisture, which equals juicier meats!
Some regular gas grills include an infrared element for use with a rotisserie in a separate area for searing meats. This is because infrared elements create more heat than a regular gas grill, making them great for searing.
How Does Infrared Cooking Work?
Infrared grills use radiation in the segment of the electromagnetic spectrum we can’t see – it’s similar to the one in a television remote. But while the remote works with a very short wavelength that you can’t see or feel, the one in a grill uses longer wavelengths that generate heat. It’s a really natural heating process – like when you feel warmth from the sun or from the coals in a fire. Infrared technology was first introduced into barbeque grills in the 1980s by the Thermal Engineering Corporation. It took a while before it caught on with consumers and once the patents on the technology expired, infrared grilling started to become popular after 2000.
Inside a regular grill, the grate gets hot from the gas flame directly below it. In an infrared grill, the gas flame heats the infrared element and that is what creates the waves that move up to cook the food. The infrared element in a grill is usually made of steel, ceramic or glass and it sits atop the gas flame. The bottom line is that an infrared grill puts out more heat to cook the food.
The Three Types of Infrared Cooking
Different grill brands use different types of infrared cooking. It’s important to understand the various types as well as what they can and cannot do. More importantly, often with infrared grills, you get what you pay for so seek out quality. It won’t be a bargain if you have to replace a lot of worn-out components.
Ceramic Infrared Burner System
Ceramic infrared burner systems are the most common kind. These grills have a stainless steel burner covered by a ceramic surface. The cooking grid is a few inches above ceramic, which gets extremely hot very quickly. Actually, the cooking surface will heat up to about 600 to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. Food drippings on these types of burners might lead to some minor flare-ups, but they only add to the flavor of the meat. Many brands with a Ceramic infrared burner system can only be. Used at high temperatures but there are some that have a specific burner that lets you cook at temperatures as low as 300 degrees.
TEC’s Radiant Glass Panel System
TEC is the company that launched infrared grills. They went on to reconfigure the burner system, creating the radiant glass panel infrared system. This set-up puts the cooking grid directly on top of the radiant glass panel. Underneath the durable stainless steel burner. The heat this puts out is unbelievable even and it nearly eliminates all flare-ups. These systems are very versatile, allowing you to cook at temperatures as low as 200 degrees and as high as 900. The minor trade-off with these is that they don’t get quite as hot as the ceramic burner systems do, but they still do a superb job searing your steaks!
Heat Emitter System
This infrared system uses a stainless steel tube burner. A metal heat emitter panel sits right on top of the burner and the cooking grid is directly on top of that. Heat from this system is distributed very evenly and like the glass panel system, it has almost flare-ups. The heat emitter system is also versatile, with cooking temperatures ranging from 300 to 650 degrees. You’ll note that this is not as high as the other systems and this is because the pipe burners on these systems create less heat.
What About Hybrid Systems?
Some grills combine the benefits of a standard gas grill with a separate infrared burner in a specific area of the grill. This lets you sear meats and then move them to the main part of the grill to finish cooking. Some models offer the option of adding in an infrared burner either when you purchase it or at a later date. Some wood/charcoal grills offer this option as well.
Devotees of infrared grills say nothing beats them when it comes to perfect steaks in a snap,. But others say you can have the same thing with a high-end gas grill. A lot of this comes down to personal preference so it’s important to do your own research and ask questions about the things that matter to you.
Pros and Cons of Infrared Gas Grills
Like anything else, an infrared grill has pros and cons and whether it right for you depends on what and how you prefer to cook. The advantages and disadvantages also depend on the model you buy and what specifics it offers. That said, there are some general things to consider when looking to buy an infrared grill.
- They heat up very quickly. Because infrared grills can put out a great deal of heat – more than a typical gas grill- — they also heat up extremely quickly. In fact, heat up roughly 30 percent faster than a conventional grill. This is because the infrared heat cooks the food directly, the preheating of the grill doesn’t take nearly as long.
- They put out very high heat. Infrared grills can produce temperatures as high as 1200 degrees. A typical gas grill goes to around 500 or 600 degrees while egg-style charcoal grills can top out around 800 degrees. This means that infrared grills are superior for searing meats and cooking very quickly: If you cook a lot of steaks – and for a crowd — the infrared grill will be the choice for you. The high heat and quick cooking time will keep the meat tender and juicy, while creating a fantastic exterior crust – just like at your favorite high-end steakhouse!
- The heat produced is very even. In an infrared grill, the heat source sits below the infrared element, whether that’s tile or metal, and that in turn distributes the heat more evenly. And, because the food’s not being cooked by hot air, it stays juicier.
- Food tastes better. As already noted, foods cook quickly and retain more moisture, so the are tastier.
- Infrared cooking is more energy efficient. Basically, because you’re not spending so much time preheating the grill, you’re not wasting so much gas. The cooking time is shorter too, which also saves energy.
- No flare ups! Because the element that sits between the food and the heat source is so hot, anything that drips onto it is vaporized. Almost nothing can make its way down to the flame to catch fire.
- Most infrared grills are easier to clean. For the same reason that flare-ups are minimized, any food particles will be turned to ask by the high temperatures, meaning you won’t have anything to scrape or scrub.
Cons of Infrared Grilling
- High temps only. If you like to do some smoking or roast meats in your grill at lower temperatures, you can’t do that with an infrared grill. You’ll have to look for a hybrid model gas grill with just an infrared section. The high infrared temperatures also make it a poor choice for vegetables and fish. That said, there are some infrared models that offer lower temperatures and it’s up to each consumer to decide if an infrared grill is worth the extra cost.
- Easy to overcook food. The same high heat that’s sooo desirable for steaks is also the same think that presents a risk for overcooking food. Because it heats much more quickly and at higher temperatures than most people are used to, there’s a learning curve. It’s very easy to overcook things.
- They’re more expensive. The added technology and more complex construction unsurprisingly mean that infrared grills cost more. It’s important to consider how much you really want or need this type of cooking tech.
- They’re very heavy. Because of the extra components, infrared grills are much heavier than standard gas grills, so moving them around is not easy or recommended.
- Possible added health risk. The high temperature of an infrared grill may cut down on cooking time but it can increase the health risks from eating charred food. Studies have shown that burned food may increase cancer risk. According to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, “Although some studies show burnt, fried, or barbecued meat is associated with a higher risk of certain cancers in lab tests, the connection between charred food and increased cancer risk is not proven for certain.”
If you’re ready to explore some of the best-infrared grills out there, start with these.
Made by the creators of the original infrared grill, this TEC Patio FR 44-inch natural gas grill model is new and improved, with a wide and versatile temperature range from 200 to 900 degrees, meaning that you can sear steaks as well as slow-roast meats and grill delicate veggies. The infrared cooking system is amazingly even and the two super-efficient 30,000 BTU burners quickly heat up, saving you fuel. In fact, you can hit 900 degrees in just 10 minutes, which makes weeknight grilling fast and easy. And, you can fire up with just the touch of a button with the electronic ignition. This TEC design virtually eliminates flare-ups too.
A spacious 592-square-inch cooking surface has U-shaped cooking grates and a stainless steel heat zone separator between the burners. This is fabulous because you can cook different foods at different temperatures at the same time. This also makes a side burner unnecessary because you can use the grill like your stovetop and put pots and pans right on the cooking grids. Clean-up is easy too: Set the grill on high and the self-cleaning cooking surface will incinerate anything left behind in about 10 or 15 minutes. Made in America, the built-in grill has a double-lined hood and is made of heavy-duty, quality, 304-grade stainless steel with chrome control knobs. TEC covers the structure with a lifetime warranty, the grates for 10 years and other components for one year.
- Easy cooking success for new infrared grill users
- Super easy to clean
- Able to cook simultaneously ar different temperatures
- Smoking and roasting accessories are available separately
- Not as stylish as some other comparable infrared grills.
- TEC grills create a lot of clean white smoke and need good ventilation.
For steakhouse-level meats in your own backyard, Saber’s 670 40-Inch 4-Burner Built-In Infrared Natural Gas Grill is hard to beat. The brand’s patented infrared cooking system gives you professional-grade results using 30% less fuel than a traditional gas grill. This grill has unique cooking grates and infrared emitters that together prevent flare-ups and give you incredibly even heat across the grill thanks to the four 8,000-BTU gas burners. Also, they fire up with the push of a button with the integrated electronic ignition. The 304 commercial grade stainless steel lid, burners, emitters and grates all mean that you’ll enjoy long-lasting performance and quality.
This Saber infrared grill also features four cooking zones that have individual burner control knobs so that you can manage the grilling temperature across the full grill. Grate-level temperature gauges — which not may grills offer — allow you to grill with the lid up. In addition, this model has an adjustable, stainless steel warming rack that can be folded away for extra space when using the optional rotisserie kit, which is sold separately. In fact, the warming rack can be used for roasting. And, don’t worry about grilling after dark: It has two 2 internal halogen lights so you can cook as late into the evening as you like.
- Versatility thanks to heat zone separators
- Buyers praise the quality of construction
- Virtually no flare-ups
- Easy to clean
- Can’t cook at low temperatures
- Firebox, heat zone separators, and drip pan are not stainless steel
- Zone thermometers can be inaccurate
If you’re looking for a free-standing infrared grill that won’t break the bank, check out the Char-Broil infrared grill Performance 3-Burner Propane Gas with Cabinet. This stainless steel grill has a 450-square-inch main cooking surface that can accommodate up to 20 burgers at one time, so party away! It actually has a total of 600 square inches of cooking space when you add the warming rack, which can swing out of the way. Fueled by propane, the grill’s three stainless steel burners put out 24000 BTUs thanks to the TRU-Infrared technology. You can also get cooking quickly with the electronic ignition system that starts the grill with the push of a button. This Char-Broil also features a lid-mounted temperature gauge so that you can easily keep an eye on the cooking temperature.
Inside, durable and rust-resistant porcelain-coated grates cook your evenly and make cleanup easy. Next to the main frill., a 10,000-BTU side burner is handy for cooking side dishes or warming sauces. A side shelf and the lid of the burner offer extra prep space. The grill comes with the cabinet on locking wheels, a grease cup. drip pan, the burners and the integrated thermometer. Assembly is required and Char-Broil covers the grill with a limited warranty.
- Buyers love the cooking versatility
- Incredibly even heat across the cooking surface
- Reviewers say it is well built and cooks beautifully
- Cannot be converted to natural gas
- The firebox is not stainless steel
- Assembly instructions can be challenging
If you’re after great versatility — and perfectly seared steaks — check out the KitchenAid 5-Burner Propane Gas Grill with Side Burner. The total cooking area is a massive 1,057 square inches, meaning that you can easily cook all kinds of food for a crowd: You can grill at least 26 burgers on the large side and up to 15 on the small side! KitchenAid’s grill has stainless steel burners and angled flame tamers that provide even heat across the whole cooking surface. It also features enhanced stainless steel wrapped main cooking grids and 445 Stainless Steel Wrapped, V-Shaped flame tamers that help in distributing the heat and reducing flare-ups.
More than just a grill, this model is a cooking system that includes a ceramic infrared searing burner that puts out 16,000 BTUs, a ceramic rotisserie burner with 13,000 BTUs of cooking power and a brass and stainless steel side burner with 12,000 BTUs. This freestanding model runs on propane and comes with a cabinet with wheels so that you can move it out of the way when you’re not using it — or store it for the winter if necessary. The stainless steel cabinet has a shelf and a drawer as well as the cabinet for the propane tank. Assembly is required and KitchenAid covers this grill with a 10-yer warranty.
- Very versatile grill that combines a searing station, large main grill, side burner and rotisserie.
- With all four- and five-star reviews, buyers love it and say that it has everything a person could possibly need for grilling.
- It’s very spacious and reviewers say it’s beautiful too.
- Cannot be converted to natural gas
- While certainly not the most expensive, this grill is pricier than most regular grills.
Whether you go for the high-heat features or want something a little more versatile, there’s an infrared grill that will meet your needs. Just make sure that you consider how and what you like to grill the most before you buy so that you’ll be happy with your choice.