Infrared Grill Information & Buying Guide
Infrared grills provide a wide range of benefits for any backyard chef, from faster cooking to better-tasting food. Meats retain more of their natural juices, resulting in tender and tasty meals.
As infrared grills are becoming more popular, you have a variety of options, which presents a new problem. How do you find the best infrared grill?
Use this infrared BBQ grill buying guide to uncover the most important features while learning more about the technology behind these grills.
- How Does an Infrared Grill Work?
- Benefits of Choosing an Infrared Grill
- What to Look for in an Infrared Grill
How Does an Infrared Grill Work?
Before choosing an infrared BBQ grill, you should know how it works. Unlike a typical gas grill or charcoal grill, an infrared BBQ grill uses heat waves to cook your food.
The grill contains a heating element that produces infrared waves that are absorbed by the food and anything else in the grill. This is a type of radiant heating.
Radiant heat is the same heat that you feel when standing in the sun or near a radiator. It is also the same heat that you feel when hugging someone warm. Radiant heat does not heat the air as air does not hold heat well.
Standard ovens and charcoal grills also produce radiant heat as the racks heat up. However, most of the heat comes from convection heating. With convection heating, the air is heated and this heats your food.
By heating the food and not the air, infrared grills offer a more efficient cooking method along with many other benefits.
Benefits of Choosing an Infrared Grill
Infrared heating technology is not new. The first infrared burner came out in the early 1960s but was mostly used for industrial purposes. In the 1980s, ceramic infrared burners started appearing in commercial grills for steakhouses and restaurants. However, it remained a costly option for home use.
In the early 2000s, infrared grills finally reached consumers. Infrared grills gained in popularity due to the following benefits:
- Cooks more quickly
- Locks in moisture
- Helps retain flavor
- Makes less of a mess
Infrared grills heat up almost instantly. Instead of waiting 20 minutes to create a bed of hot coals, you simply press a button. Most infrared grills preheat within three to five minutes.
A charcoal or gas grill can reach temperatures of about 700 degrees Fahrenheit. Weber gas grills only reach temperatures of 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the top infrared grills, such as the Original Beefer, offer temperatures of 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. With hotter temperatures, your food cooks much more quickly.
Using infrared heating also provides even distribution of heat and prevents the food from drying out. With other heating methods, the air is heated. Heating the air around the food dries it out quickly, which is why overcooking your food results in hard, shrunken pieces of meat.
An infrared grill can help food retain 35% or more of its juices, locking in the moisture and flavors added to your marinade.
Infrared grills are efficient machines as they burn less gas compared to a standard gas grill, even when producing temperatures of 1500 degrees Fahrenheit.
When you are done cooking, cleanup is a breeze. Turning the temperature to high should quickly burn any remaining food debris, leaving you with nothing but ash and soot to sweep away.
What to Look for in an Infrared Grill
Now that you know why you should buy an infrared grill, you just need to know how to find the right one. Here are the main features to look for when comparing infrared grills:
- Fuel source
- Total cooking area
- Infrared technology
- Overall design
Along with these features, you may want to pay attention to the cost. Infrared grills tend to cost more compared to traditional gas grills. If you have a tight budget, focus on the portable grills as they are often the least expensive.
As with regular grills, infrared grills come in a wide range of sizes. You can find free-standing grills with shelves and small portable units that you can set on a table.
Portable infrared grills are convenient as you can take them anywhere. However, they also offer less cooking space compared to most free-standing grills.
Most infrared grills use propane as a fuel source. It is affordable and efficient. You can also refill most propane tanks or exchange empty ones for new ones for the cost of the propane.
Some of the high-end free-standing grills use natural gas as a fuel source. Natural gas is also affordable but not portable. You typically need a qualified plumber to run a natural gas line to your grill. However, this option is convenient if you plan on adding a built-in grill to your backyard kitchen.
Total Cooking Area
For most people, the total cooking area is one of the most important features in any grill. If you do not have enough space, you may spend more time cooking for large groups as you can only cook in small batches.
The total cooking area is typically measured in square inches and includes the cooking rack and the warming rack. The standard size for feeding a family of four is about 400 square inches. Some of the larger infrared grills offer over 1000 square inches.
Compact portable units offer less space. For example, the Char-Broil Grill2Go infrared Grill has 200 square inches of cooking space. This provides enough room for about three or four hamburgers or two large steaks. While that may feed a small family, you need something bigger for larger gatherings.
The Number of Burners
Small, portable grills often have a single burner. With a smaller cooking area, a single burner can evenly distribute heat to the main cooking rack. With a large cooking area, a single burner is less efficient and may not cook food evenly.
Purchasing an infrared BBQ grill with at least two burners ensures that the main cooking area heats quickly and evenly. If the grill has a large cooking area, it may need three burners to achieve even heat distribution.
Along with distributing heat evenly, multiple burners give you more control over the temperature. You can turn one burner off, creating separate heat zones for the main dish and the sides.
Infrared grills use various infrared technologies to produce heat. The most common burner systems include:
- Ceramic burners
- Radiant glass panels
- Metal heat emitter
Ceramic burners are found in most infrared grills. With this system, a stainless steel burner is coated with ceramic. The ceramic surface gets hot extremely quickly and distributes heat evenly throughout the cooking area.
Infrared grills with ceramic burners typically offer a temperature range between 600 and 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. As mentioned, some may reach up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The drawback of a ceramic burner is that it cannot achieve lower temperatures. 600 degrees Fahrenheit is often the lowest temperature, which may make it difficult to warm a side dish that requires less heat.
Infrared grills produced by TEC may include the company’s patented radiant glass panel system. TEC was founded by the inventor of the modern infrared grill. Instead of a ceramic burner, these grills have a glass panel positioned between a stainless steel burner and a cooking grid.
The radiant glass system offers a temperature range of 200 to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. While it may not get as hot compared to some ceramic burners, the glass system provides lower temperatures.
A metal heat emitter is found on a few infrared grills. As with the glass panel system, the metal panel is placed between a stainless steel burner and the cooking grid. This provides a temperature range of 300 to 650 degrees Fahrenheit, which is closer to the temperature range of a standard gas grill.
Infrared grills with metal heat emitters rarely produce flare-ups and offer superior heat distribution. However, they have a limited temperature range compared to the other options.
Grills tend to come with a variety of accessories. Even the cheapest models include a grill rack. Side tables are commonly found on free-standing models, such as the Weber Spirit II 2-Burner Infrared Grill. You may also find hooks, shelving, and drip trays.
Other common accessories include gloves, food trays, warming racks, cleaning brushes, covers, and grilling utensils.
The final detail to examine when comparing infrared grills is the design, including the size, shape, and appearance. Some grills are circular-shaped while others are wide.
A wider grill may offer more cooking space and separate heat zones. A circular grill is likely to contain a warming rack and offer a single grill rack.
While the appearance of the grill will not impact the quality of your food, you may also want to find a grill that matches your personal tastes. For example, when adding a built-in infrared grill, you may need it to match other appliances.
Infrared grills offer even heating and help keep your food from drying out. While these grills come with many advantages, choosing the right one depends on how you plan to use it.
If you want a new grill for camping or tailgating, look at the portable options. When cooking for a large group, pay attention to the total cooking area.
No matter which grill you choose, you should have no problem preparing mouth-watering food for your guests or family.