You’ve likely heard about an infrared grill from a sales associate or sale flyer. As with all types of grilling technology, it’s advertised as a must-have for backyard chefs.
Although it might sound like a kitschy feature, infrared grilling can significantly change the way you cook. Is it the right grill for you, though?
With this guide, we’ll help you determine whether an infrared grill is something your outdoor kitchen needs or not.
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What Is the Difference Between Infrared Grills and Regular Gas Grills?
Before anything else, we will explain the difference between IR grills and regular gas grills.
The main difference lies in how your food will be cooked, as traditional grills have an open blue flame. IR grills, on the other hand, use radiant heat at high-temperatures.
What Is an Infrared Grill?
Instead of using an open flame, as you would with a regular grill, IR grills will rely on radiant energy. This process of heating is said to help promote more prominent flavors in your food.
When grilling, you will be required to leave the hood open, as the temperatures are bound to get substantially hotter than the average grill.
By heating the food using radiant energy, there’s no need to use hot air circulation for cooking food throughout.
Many find that this type of technology helps to ensure your ingredients stay moist without losing its flavor.
You’ll also find they’re not as likely to experience flare-ups as traditional grills, making them more accessible and safer to use.
Even though this technology is sold as something new and innovative, infrared grilling has been around since the 1980’s.
Most of the most prestigious steakhouses use these grills to get the perfect sear without drying out their meat.
Benefits of Infrared Grills
There are many benefits cooking with infrared grills.
1. High-Temperature Cooking
For specific cuts, particularly steaks, the hotter you can cook them, the better.
One of the most significant benefits of infrared grills is giving you access to exceptional heat levels to cook your meat.
This benefit is essential because the longer you have a steak on heat, the tougher and less juicy it will be.
Some IR grills can get as hot as 1,000°F, which is at least double what the average gas grill can achieve.
Instead of taking several minutes to cook your steak, you can get the perfect level of cook in far less time. You’ll also find that more of the juices will be retained.
Due to their high temperature, it can be a great idea to brush up on grilling safety for your home.
2. Heats Quickly
With a gas grill, you’ll have to wait a while for it to heat up (up to 20 minutes). Fortunately, IR grills don’t take as long to preheat, often taking less than five minutes to reach the perfect temperature.
This feature means you can spend less time waiting around and get to grilling straight away, especially if you’re home late from work or entertaining.
3. Better Heat Distribution
Using an open flame for grilling can be frustrating when you need even heat distribution. Your gas grill likely has parts that are hotter than others.
Dealing with hot spots can be tough, especially with large batches of food. You’ll also find that with gas grills, you have to adjust food to cook it evenly.
Instead of having to babysit the grill, an infrared grill makes everything much more manageable.
The radiant heat provides a more even distribution system across the entire cooking surface.
Typically, IR grills will have different materials to ensure the heat is evenly distributed. In turn, there are no hot spots, so the heat gets into your meat perfectly.
4. Moisture Retention
Unless you’re a regular backyard cook, you’ve likely overcooked meat and vegetables at one point.
Specific cuts of meat won’t retain their moisture, though, which causes a chewy and unappealing texture. This occurs with regular gas grills because of convection heat rather than radiant heat.
When you close the grill’s hood, you’re allowing warm air to circulate to cook your food. The longer it stays in the heat, the more likely it is to dry out, which can lead to overcooked cuts.
On the other hand, infrared heating helps retain moisture for the perfect juicy steak every time.
It is said that these grills aren’t capable of permeating your vegetables and meat’s moisture boundary.
As a result, on average, you should be able to retain up to 35% of your food’s original moisture.
5. Fuel Efficiency
You won’t be able to get rid of gas entirely, but IR grills are far more fuel-efficient than their counterparts.
Because they reach higher levels of heat in less time, your grill will use much less gas. Over time, you’ll find that these savings can offset the cost of buying a new grill.
Another way that these grills save gas is by taking less time to cook your food.
You’ll not only be able to save fuel but also time and effort, so you can enjoy entertaining more than cooking.
6. Fewer Flare-Ups
One of the most significant concerns homeowners have with grills is their likelihood of having flare-ups. Not only do they take you by surprise, but they can also be damaging to your grill.
Flare-ups can also be responsible for engulfing your food in flame, inadvertently scorching it.
If you’re someone who takes grilling safety seriously, you’ll want the safest option when it comes to flare-ups.
By opting for an infrared grill, you’ll find that the drippings and fats from your meat will turn immediately into smoke.
Due to the high temperatures on the grill, the smoke will envelop your food and offer a more prominent flavor.
7. Higher Quality Meals
By now, you can likely tell that infrared grills are one of the best options for higher quality meals.
In fact, since many steakhouses in your area use these types of grills in their kitchens, they must prove useful.
By retaining a lot of the moisture of your ingredients, they will be juicier and more flavorful.
Precision cooking will also be more straightforward with an infrared grill, as they have easy-to-use features.
For example, the temperature control on your new grill will be more precise than a gas grill. This feature allows you to achieve the perfect sear and caramelized texture.
8. Potential for Self-Cleaning
Although you will want to make sure you properly maintain your grill, infrared ones are likely self-cleaning.
Because they reach extraordinary temperatures, all you have to do is increase the heat after cooking to vaporize residue.
You’ll likely be able to find the best cleaning instructions in the user manual for your specific IR grill model.
What Is a Gas Grill?
Gas grills are a very popular outdoor amenity because they give homeowners easy access to cooking outside.
They are also known to add a particular flavor to food compared to convection ovens or stovetop frying.
With these grills, you will require either natural gas or propane to fuel the fire, and you will cook your food over an open flame.
There are also valves on the outside of the grill that allows you to adjust the flow of gas as well as the heat.
By changing these levels, you can increase or decrease the size of the open flame for more or less heat.
It’s common to close the hood of your grill to let the hot air in the unit cook your food thoroughly.
Gas grills are incredibly popular not only thanks to their availability but also their affordability.
You can find them in several different sizes and at various price points that fit your budget well.
Disadvantages of Infrared Grill
1. Learning Curve
The high-heat temperatures while cooking with infrared grills will take some trial and error. In fact, you can expect to burn a couple of steaks until you get a handle on how it works.
You’ll likely have to spend more time in front of the grill to ensure your food doesn’t burn.
The more you use it, the easier it will be to master so that you can create exciting recipes for your family.
However, dealing with the learning curve can take a lot of time and effort. You’ll also have to take the time to figure out what ingredients work best together on an infrared grill.
For example, if you use high temperatures for your steaks, you might not want to grill vegetables simultaneously.
Otherwise, your veggies could get burnt to a crisp while your steaks are perfectly seared.
2. Babysitting the Grill
Out of the most significant disadvantages of infrared grills, babysitting your food is the worst.
It’s not designed like a smoker, where you can set the temperature and let the grill do the work for you.
Even though your food will cook much faster than the average grill, and you won’t need to watch it as often, you’ll want to make sure nothing burns.
Is Infrared Grilling Safe?
An issue that has become more prevalent in grilling and smoking communities is whether high-heat cooking leads to cancer.
There are a couple of health concerns to note, especially if you char your food by cooking it at high temperatures.
When food is cooked at heats above 300°F, HCAs and PAHs become more prevalent. Heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed chemicals that could be mutagenic.
Unfortunately, these changes in your DNA could increase your cancer risk, although more research is needed.
Regularly eating meats that are cooked at extremely high temperatures increase the HCAs and PAHs.
To know whether or not is infrared grilling safe, you’d also need to consider their possible hazards.
The idea of grilling at temperatures around 900°F to 1000°F is overwhelming for many. This point is especially true if you have limited experience with searing.
As long as the model you choose has a low likelihood of flare-ups, you won’t expose yourself to more danger.
Fortunately, manufacturers are aware of how dangerous flare-ups can be, which is why their models are designed to prevent them.
It is also vital you keep the grill out of reach of children and small pets.
Are Infrared Burners Worth It?
You can tell that there are far more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to infrared burners. However, they might not be the best choice for every household.
If you’re delighted with your traditional gas grill, there won’t be any need for you to upgrade.
Some infrared burners can be expensive, so you’ll want to make sure you need one before buying one.
You can often get the perfect caramelization and sear on your meat without needing 1000°F of heat.
Also, you’ll have to pick and choose what you cook on your new grill if it’s infrared-only.
For backyard chefs still asking whether or not are infrared burners worth it, consider hybrids. Hybrid grills are dual-purpose, and you can also find smokers with the same features.
With these appliances, you’ll have the benefits of a regular gas grill and a special section for searing. Typically, you’ll have a separate section of the cooking surface known as the “sear zone” that uses infrared heating.
What Are the Types of Infrared Grills?
All IR grills cook with the same method, but they can vary in numerous ways. Specific cooking systems could be a better option, while others are for particular purposes.
1. Metal Heat Emitter and Tube Burners
Most of the least expensive specialty grills on the market will have a metal heat emitter and stainless steel tube burners.
With these models, a plate sits above a tube burner, typically made from stainless steel. The tube burner heats the plate, which then transfers the heat to the cooking surface.
They’re not as hot as other infrared systems, though, with these models peaking at 650°F. This means they could be preferable for first-time users who don’t want to deal with extreme heat.
Another advantage of metal heat emitter grills is that they’re less prone to flare-ups because they have lower temperatures.
With that said, you can’t expect to get the same results as you would from a more expensive model.
2. Ceramic IR Grills
Ceramic plated grills are an excellent option for even heat distribution.
With these models, you’ll have ceramic plates on top of a stainless steel burner, which provides the heat.
The plate will have an assortment of small flames that spread across the surface. Due to the numerous small flames, there is a substantial amount of heat produced by these models.
Often, you’ll find they have a minimum temperature of 600°F and get as hot as 1,000°F.
However, they are also more likely to flare-up than metal heat emitters because of the flames right below your food.
Because ceramic infrared burners were some of the first models to emerge on the market, they are also the most common.
Some of the most popular brands that carry ceramic grills include Solaire, Twin Eagles, and Alfresco.
3. TEC Systems
TEC is seen as the godfather of IR grills; they introduced their first model in the 1980’s.
Over time, they have improved their systems to provide even more convenience when switching from conventional grills. They have two infrared systems to consider:
Radiant Glass and Stainless Steel IR Burner
The two main components of this system are a stainless steel infrared burner and a radiant glass panel.
There is a built-in stainless steel burner with a radiant glass panel that sits on top. The cooking grates then sit on top of the glass panel for efficient heat transfer.
Radiant glass and stainless steel IR burners are a great median option for everyday backyard chefs. You won’t have to worry about high temperatures, as these reach 850°F.
There is also no issue with flare-ups because there aren’t any exposed flames as there are with ceramic models.
Radiant Glass and Stainless Steel Conversion Burner
This is another popular option from TEC, with a similar design to the IR burner. The cooking grate in this model sits on the radiant glass, but the difference is in the burner.
Some suggest the stainless steel conversion burner is more reliable in these models. You can find this on a few different TEC models, though they are more expensive.
Many will find that there are extra features, as well, such as being able to cook at low temperatures. This is why it’s another fantastic option for beginners who don’t always need high-heat for their food.
Most of these designs can get as low as 200°F, with the high end topping out around 900°F.
Out of the majority of models we’ve explored this far, this cooking system is best for delicate foods.
3. Lynx Trident Infrared Burner
Another famous brand in regards to IR grills is Lynx. The Lynx Trident is a unique design that offers versatile cooking with infrared heat.
On these grills, you’ll find a three-pronged burner that will increase your cooking area.
Even though you’ll have far more space for cooking, you can also opt to use lower temperatures.
If you like working with delicate meat and still want the benefit of an infrared grill, these are an option. Most have a minimum temperature of 300°F and a maximum of 1,000°F.
4. Hybrid Grills
Still, you might not be interested in ignoring the benefits of standard gas grilling in exchange for infrared. Fortunately, you won’t have to with the help of hybrid grills.
As earlier mentioned, these grills combine both conventional grilling and more advanced infrared technology.
The cooking surface will typically be divided into two sections. The first section is where you’ll cook the bulk of your ingredients with a separate part for searing.
Both sections will have independent controls, allowing you to manage the temperatures separately.
If you are unable to find a hybrid grill, you might be able to find a standard one with an infrared attachment.
These optional burners can be installed and fitted when you purchase your grill, at an additional cost.
Sometimes, you may even be able to retrofit your existing grill with an infrared add-on.
Interestingly enough, adding a searing zone to your grill isn’t anything new. Backyard chefs have been using these attachments for many years, especially with pellet smokers.
Some of the best pellet smokers will have an optional searing box to help you use higher heats separate from delicate ingredients.
What to Look for in an Infrared Grill
When you start searching for an infrared grill, we recommend you look for one with a minimum of one infrared burner.
Beginners could be better suited for a hybrid grill, as it has the best of both worlds without being too advanced.
You can also find certain manufacturers, such as TEC and Lynx, that have low- to high-temperature models.
A few other essential features to keep an eye out for include:
These grills can get as expensive as $1,000, depending on the size you choose. There are also plenty of moderately priced units available for around $500.
2. Temperature Range
You’ll need to choose a temperature range based on the food you usually cook. If you use delicate meats, you’ll need a model that goes down to 300°F or less.
Also, you might find that you don’t need 1,000 degrees of heat to sear perfectly.
Aside from knowing you’re buying a quality unit, opting for a well-known local brand is essential.
It is quite challenging to find replacement parts, such as additional sear burners, for imports. Also, if your appliance needs repairs, they’ll be less expensive with North American models.
Do you intend to bring your IR grill camping or tailgating like a portable barbecue? If so, you should try to find a model that is easy to pack.
The infrared grill you choose should be just as high-quality as your existing gas grill, if not more. This is especially crucial if you’re spending over your budget for the added searing feature.
You should be able to keep the grill outdoors during the summer and easily store it in the winter. Also, it should be made from high-quality materials that won’t show signs of wear and tear.
Infrared Grills: Are They Worth It?
Having an infrared grill at your disposal can give you plenty of options for searing and cooking meats.
By tackling the learning curve, you can transform your backyard into a steakhouse-quality kitchen.
Not to mention, there are only a few disadvantages to cooking with an infrared grill that you’d have to worry about.
This is especially true when you compare it with cooking with a gas grill.
Again, if you think you still need the benefits that traditional gas grilling provides, along with the innovative solutions that infrared grills offer, you can always go for hybrid grills.