How Does Infrared Cooking Work | Infrared Grill Basics

In the market for a new infrared grill? Infrared grills offer several advantages over traditional gas and charcoal grills, such as even cooking, fuel efficiency, and not drying out the food.

They achieve this because they use a completely different method of cooking.

This guide is about this. Here, I’ll explain how does infrared cooking work, what are the advantages and disadvantages of infrared grills, and how they differ from gas and charcoal grills.

In the end, you’ll learn everything you need to know about infrared grills, and will decide whether this type of grill is right for you or not.

Trying to Understand “How Does Infrared Cooking Work”

searing steak on infrared grill

If you have been wondering how infrared technology works, then you are in the right place as I have written a detailed explanation.

These grills are built just like the gas grills that you are used to with the only difference being the manner in which meals are cooked within the grill.

The heat transfer method with which heat gets to the foods to be able to cook them, however, varies and this is what sets infrared grills apart from the rest.

The Methods of Heat Transfer

The other types of grills such as gas and charcoal grills use conduction and convectional currents to cook food.

What Is Conduction and Convection?

Conduction is the process by which heat energy is transferred in solid objects and when it comes to grilling, the grill grates are heated by the flames from the fuel and when food is placed on the grates, it gets cooked by the heat energy present in the heated grill grates.

You will have to turn your foods over several times so as to ensure that your meal gets cooked properly. Otherwise, the side in contact with the grates will get burned while the other will remain raw.

Convection, on the other hand, is the process in which heat moves in a medium such as air or water. As it regards grilling, the air just above the flames gets heated and rises up. The heated air comes into contact with your foods and this is what it cooks them.

conduction vs convection v2

Just as I have mentioned with the conduction process above, you will have to turn the food getting cooked several times otherwise, the food surface close to the flames and in directed contact with the heated air will get burned up.

Gas and charcoal grills use these two methods to cook your meals but that is not the case with an infrared grill.

Infrared Cooking – How It Works

An infrared grill uses radiation as the primary method to cook your meals.

radiation warning symbol
I’m just kidding. Not this radiation, the other one.

They have infrared elements within that radiate the heat needed to cook your meals. The elements are heated when the fuel is burned and then radiates heat within the grill. Foods placed on such grills are then cooked by the radiated heat making (thermal) radiation the primary method used to cook your meals.

This radiated heat is distributed evenly within the grill and this ensures that your meals are cooked properly. This is better than the conventional gas and charcoal grills where heat is concentrated in one area and those using such grills will have to remain vigilant to prevent their meals from burning up and to ensure the meals are cooked properly on all sides.

The Benefits of Infrared Grills

Other than ensuring an even cookout, there are other benefits that you stand to gain when you use an infrared grill such as;

Energy Efficiency

This kind of grills is more energy-efficient than the other types of grills such as gas and charcoal grills. The convectional currents employed by charcoal and gas grills to cook foods on the grills result in a lot of wasted energy.

They Don’t Dry Up the Food

The convectional currents used in gas and charcoal grills are not responsible for energy wastage alone. They also cause the foods that you are cooking to dry up as the currents take any moisture that is present in the food.

Dry foods are not enjoyable and you will require some sauce when consuming them. That, however, is not the case with infrared grills as they have been designed to protect your food’s moisture barrier.

They don’t break this delicate moisture barrier when cooking your meals and this will ensure that you enjoy juicy and succulent steaks when you are done the cooking.

Infrared Grill Disadvantages

There is hardly anything negative to write about a grill that uses infrared technology but there are a few things that you have to be aware of before you jump into the world of infrared grilling: such grills are heavy and bulky and as such, moving around with them is a bit of a challenge.

They are also a bit costly than the other types but you can still find some budget models when you search the market properly.

For a complete list of infrared grill pros and cons, take a look at this article.

Infrared vs Gas Grill

As mentioned above, gas grills use convection and conduction to cook, while infrared grills rely solely on radiation.

But this is not the only thing that differentiates these two types of grills. Another major difference is also this: the burners of a gas grill indirectly cook your meals while infrared ones are in direct contact with the food. That’s why infrared grills take less time to cook.

The Burners

infrared vs gas burner

Infrared grills are much more complex than gas grills. The principle of operation of a gas grill is pretty much simple: a burner heats up the air and the grates which then cooks the food. Infrared grills, however, utilize a much more advanced technology: the gas flame heats a ceramic tile covered in thousands of microscopic holes that radiate infrared energy into your food.

Performance in Windy Conditions

It’s a well-known fact in the grilling community that gas grills are very susceptible to winds. The slightest breeze can greatly reduce the cooking performance of a gas grill.

Infrared grills are not affected by this, thanks to their unique design.

I’ve covered some of the most noticeable differences. If you want to find out all the differences, then take a look at this ultimate gas vs infrared grill comparison guide.

Infrared vs Charcoal Grill

The most obvious difference between these types of grills is the fuel they use. Infrared grills are in the end, gas grills. There are some infrared charcoal grills out there, but these are not “true” infrared grills.

Cooking Time

Infrared grills heat up faster and reach higher temperatures than charcoal grills. This means that the cooking time is reduced as the food will cook quicker.


While you can smoke meat while cooking on an infrared grill, the smokey-flavored taste is not the same as you can get with an actual charcoal grill. But it’s better than nothing, I admit.


Because of how they’re designed, infrared grills have fewer or no flare-ups compared to charcoal grills.

charcoal grill flare up


Some of the cheapest charcoal grills are as low as $20 while you can’t really get a decent infrared grill for less than $300.

Charcoal grills are very simple devices: you just need a container for burning the charcoal and grates to place the food on. If you love DIY, you can make one yourself for just a few bucks, depending on what components you already have. You can’t really make an infrared grill.

Sear Marks

If you want that steakhouse sear marks, you need an infrared grill as you can get them only with really high heat.

Fuel Consumption

When you fire up your charcoal grill, you need not only fresh charcoal (you can’t really reuse already burnt charcoal) but also something to make it burn (lighter fluid, newspaper, etc.). If you already own a charcoal grill, you realized that these grills consume just as much charcoal as you do food.

Infrared grills use propane tanks. Propane is cheaper than charcoal. And if you have a natural gas line, even better as natural gas is even cheaper than propane.

Because of their higher cooking efficiency, infrared grills consume even less gas than gas grills.

Prep Time

Charcoal needs time to get hot before you can actually start cooking. This is a big no to someone living a hectic lifestyle.

After firing up the infrared grill. you just need to wait 5 – 10 minutes for the grill to reach the desired temperature.

Should I Get an Infrared Grill?

Infrared grills are a grilling marvel and not a marketing gimmick. They outperform charcoal and gas grills on many levels. If you have some extra money lying around, get one. You won’t be sorry. I was putting off buying an infrared grill for a long time but when I got one, I was really impressed.

This article explains how does infrared cooking works and if you want to make the switch to grills that work on infrared technology, you will find this article to be quite helpful.

Do you already own an infrared device, like a heater or an oven?

About Mario 130 Articles
I am the owner of the Kitchen Guru Ideas. I've set up this site so I can share my kitchen tips and hacks that have been passed on to me from my parents and grandparents and show you how a wonderful experience cooking is and not just a way to save money. Even in this hectic lifestyle, there is time to prepare and most important enjoy a home-cooked meal.

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