High-heat infrared gas grills are…pardon the pun…hot! Fans say they take grilling to the next level. But, just exactly how are they different from traditional gas grills, and are they worth the hype?
Both grills use propane or natural gas for fuel, but they cook differently. In a traditional grill, flames from the burner heat the grilling grid and the air within the closed hood to cook by a combination of conduction cooking (when food contacts the hot grilling grid) and convection cooking (when hot air circulates around the food like an oven). Traditional gas grills work great, but there are some downsides. For one, cooking temperatures don’t always get high enough to produce a restaurant-quality, crusty sear. And, the circulating hot air can dry out foods.
An infrared grill cooks by radiant heat – the type of heat produced by the sun, and the same glowing, red, energy waves produced in a charcoal or wood fire. In an infrared grill, an emitter made of ceramic, stainless steel or glass, is either incorporated as part of the gas burner or positioned directly above it. Flames from the burner heat the emitter, which radiates infrared energy waves. These waves directly penetrate the food to cook it. The emitter also dramatically reduces or eliminates the hot air convection effect, preventing food from drying.
Early versions of infrared grills were one-trick ponies. They were great at searing and super-high-heat grilling, but lacked the ability to turn down the heat to cook at lower temperatures. Newer models have much wider temperature ranges and, as a result, much broader cooking capabilities
Food is Juicier — Infrared heat transfers to food without disturbing or destroying the moisture molecules that naturally exist as a protective barrier on the surface of proteins. Infrared’s super high heat quickly sears the meat, so juices are “locked in.” In fact, studies show infrared-cooked foods are 30-percent larger and heavier than traditionally grilled foods due to moisture retention.
Steakhouse Results – The high heat of an infrared grill – up to 1,000 degrees or more – produces a restaurant-quality sear that’s hard to replicate on most traditional grills.
Saves Time and Money — Infrared grills are very efficient, converting nearly all the fuel into heat energy. They also preheat in three to five minutes versus 10 minutes for a traditional gas grill, and can cook twice as fast as traditional gas grills. Because they use between 30- to 50-percent less fuel, they save cash.
Through Wind, Rain or Snow – A traditional gas grill loses temperature in cold or inclement weather. Cooking temperatures also drop every time you lift the lid to turn the meat or take a peek. Infrared energy is not impacted by weather, or by lifting the lid, so the grills maintain temperatures no matter what the conditions or whether the lid is open or closed.
Easy Cleaning – Because infrared grills cook at such high temperatures, drippings are usually vaporized before they ever reach the grease tray. Bottom line: less maintenance and clean-up.
Prices Have Come Down – When the original patent on infrared grills expired in 2000, more manufacturers started to offer them. More competition = lower prices. In addition, the technology has evolved in budget-friendly ways. Second- and third-generation units can now create infrared heat using standard gas burners in combination with metal or glass emitter plates – a much less expensive system than the costly, original ceramic infrared burners. The good news for backyard chefs: though still more expensive than many traditional gas grills, infrared grill prices have dropped.
Infrared grills can be configured in multiple ways. Some are made with only infrared burners. Others might have one infrared searing burner combined with two, three or more traditional burners in the base of the grill. Or, there might be a separate infrared side burner, sometimes called a searing station, built off to the side of a traditional grill. On these combination grills, meats are usually seared on the infrared burner, and then transferred to finish cooking over the traditional burners. If your grill has a vertical rotisserie burner at the back, chances are it is infrared, as well.
It takes a little trial and error to master infrared grilling. Because food cooks faster, timing on recipes may have to be adjusted. And, when you’re cooking at these high temperatures, you definitely don’t want to walk away from the grill, or you may come back to hockey pucks. But with a little practice, an infrared grill is just as easy to use as a traditional grill and yields very tasty, restaurant-worthy results.
For a complete list of replacement parts for infrared grills, visit www.appliancefactoryparts.com/gasgrillparts/
Lisa Mayer August 4th, 2015
Posted In: BBQ Maintenance