Infrared grilling is a relatively new cooking technique where instead of a burner or charcoal cooks the food, a heating element radiates heat at very high temperatures.
True, infrared grills can use either gas or charcoal as fuel, but because of their different style of cooking (radiation instead of convection and conduction), they fall into their own category.
Just like every type of grill, even this one has its own benefits and disadvantages.
One major benefit of having an infrared grill is its high efficiency.
Ironically, this benefit impacts its major disadvantage – the price.
Of course, just because they are expensive that doesn’t mean they are not worth it.
You need to consider all of the infrared grills pros and cons before making your final decision.
The truth is whole and not just a piece here and there.
Whether you’re searching for your first grill or looking to pimp your backyard with another one, infrared grills are worth considering.
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Understanding Infrared Grills Pros and Cons
Before I get to analyze the pros and cons, I will take a look at the working mechanism of the infrared grill to understand what makes them different from the conventional grills in most of our homes.
How Does an Infrared Grill Work?
Just as I have mentioned earlier, these grills use either charcoal or gas as fuel. The only difference between these types of grills is how the heat is generated.
With charcoal and gas grills, the heat generated when the fuel is burned is used to heat the air which in turn cooks the meals.
With the infrared grill, however, the heat generated is used to heat an infrared element within the grill which then radiates the heat in order to cook.
Sounds impressive, right?
Well, it is because the radiated heat is distributed evenly.
But before we declare these grills the best invention since sliced bread, let’s take a look at their advantages and disadvantages to help you make an informed decision on whether to get one of these or to stick to what you already have.
The Benefits of Infrared Grills
Reduced Cooking and Preheat Time
If you want to cook your meals in the shortest time possible, then you should consider getting this grill.
Such grills can generate temperatures in excess of 700°F / 371°C.
The heat generated is higher than that of charcoal and gas grills and this will ensure that you don’t spend a lot of time cooking.
No spending an hour tending to the charcoal just to make a few burgers.
Remarkably Simple to Clean
They are much simpler to clean than gas and charcoal grills.
How Do You Clean an Infrared Grill?
The simplest way is to turn on the grill and set the temperature to max. Then close the lid and leave the grill alone for 15 – 20 minutes. During this time, any remaining debris will be incinerated.
Then just wipe away any residue.
After that, it’s a good idea to season the grill.
Proper Heat Distribution
The IR element distributes heat evenly.
The heat is not concentrated in several areas like with a charcoal or gas grill.
There will also not be hot and cold spots in your meals.
Because of how infrared grills are designed, the chance of a flare-up is greatly reduced.
Thanks to high heat, anything that drops below the grates gets instantly vaporized.
How Do I Stop My Grill From Flaring Up?
If you use a heat emitter system, then you won’t get any flare-ups.
Infrared grills are very efficient in the way they use all the energy to cook your meals.
They hardly require any form of pre-heating as the heat is distributed evenly when the IR element is heated and this ensures that you don’t get to waste any heat.
Retains the Foods Moisture and Juices
The radiant heat doesn’t break the foods’ moisture barrier and this ensures that your meals will be moist and tasty.
Charcoal and gas grills will burn your meals if you are not careful and this will leave them dry and tasteless.
You Can Use It as a Stove
You can use an infrared grill as an outdoor stove and place the pots and pans directly on the grates. That’s why not so many infrared grills have a side burner.
This is a pretty convenient way of making lunch outside for the whole family without dragging half of the kitchen to the backyard.
Disadvantages of Infrared Grills
Here are some of the drawbacks of infrared grills.
They Can Be Too Efficient
Its biggest pro is also one of the biggest cons.
Some foods that need to be cooked slowly for best results won’t be cooked well on an infrared grill.
Some infrared grills can get very hot even in low-temperature settings.
These types of grills are more expensive than their charcoal and gas counterparts as a result of their complex nature and the technology used to develop them.
You should, therefore, be prepared to pay a little bit more if you decide to go the infrared way.
These grills are not portable and this can be attributed to the features within it such as the IR element.
They are, therefore, ideal for establishments such as restaurants and backyards where they will be stationary.
There are a few exceptions to this case but these are only a few.
Their Low Temperature Setting Is Not Actually Low
The lack of a low-temperature settings means that you will not be able to cook soft dishes such as fish.
There’s a Thin Line Between “Cooked to Perfection” and “Burnt”
These grills offer very little room for error.
You need to pay close attention while grilling.
If you don’t, you’ll easily burn your food.
Infrared grills are a smoking-free area.
Because of high heat and very short cooking time, smoking is out of the question.
Barbecue lovers should avoid this type of grill.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Cook With an Infrared Grill?
The process is basically the same as with other types of grills.
You just need to preheat the grill with the lid closed for 10 – 15 minutes and off you go cooking.
Pro tip: If you apply oil on the grates beforehand, you’ll make cleaning afterward a whole lot easier.
A few tips to consider:
- Cover your food with oil before placing it on the grill
- To get the steakhouse sear marks, cook the food fully on one side before flipping it
- Add sauces 5 – 10 minutes before you remove the food from the grill and not a minute sooner
How Do You Cook Chicken on an Infrared Grill?
I’ve found out the best way to cook chicken on an infrared grill is this way:
- Leave the skin on. If you don’t like it, then marinate the chicken in oil and spices
- Set the cooking zone to indirect cooking and preheat the grill
- Let the chicken rest until it reaches room temperature
- IMPORTANT: place the chicken on the grill and cook it on low or medium temperature
- Add sauces at the end of the cookout
- Flip the bird and repeat steps 4. and 5.
To really master cooking chicken on an infrared grill, check out this guide.
How Do You Cook a Steak on an Infrared Grill?
- Season your steak to taste
- Set the cooking zone to direct
- Preheat the grill to around 350°F for 10 – 15 minutes
- Sear the steak until you can lift it from the grates without sticking, which is about a minute or so
- Turn the steak around and repeat
- Do the same on the sides and edges
- Once you seared every inch, set the cooking zone to indirect
- Cook the steak for another 10 – 20 minutes, depending on how rare you want it to be
- Remove the steak and let it rest for about 5 minutes
- Prepare sauces and set the table
- Serve and enjoy
Are Infrared Grills Better Than Gas?
This depends on your preferred cooking method.
Simply put, if you like cooking fast and in just one place (like your backyard or the patio), then choose an infrared grill. In this case, they have the advantage over gas grills because they heat up faster and reach a higher temperature.
But if you’re a camper, traveler, or something similar and/or you’d like to spend more time cooking low & slow, then go for a gas grill.
Gas grills are much more portable than their infrared counterparts.
I must admit, temperatures and portability aren’t the only differences between these two grill types.
There are more of them, but this debate deserves a title of its own.
Overall, infrared grills outperform gas grills on many levels.
Can You Convert a Regular Gas Grill to Infrared?
Yes, you can, fortunately. If you already own a gas grill, you can replace the burner with an infrared one:
or replace your current side burner with an infrared one:
Granted, you won’t get the 100% infrared grilling experience but this is the closest you can get without buying an actual infrared grill.
How Do I Season My Infrared Grill?
The steps are nearly the same as with a charcoal grill:
- Clean the grates and emitters
- Coat both with cooking oil (the simplest way is with a spray, like PAM)
- Spread the coating evenly with a paper towel and remove the excess oil
- Start the grill and leave it cooking for about 15 minutes until you see smoke
Apply the oil after each and every cookout for best results.
Is an Infrared Grill Worth It?
Considering how well they perform and outperform even the best leading charcoal and gas grill, a big yes.
This kind of grills has changed the way meals are prepared and you should consider getting one of them if you want to prepare the best dishes possible.
From the infrared grills pros and cons mentioned above it is quite clear that there are things to consider but you should get one for your exact cooking needs.
You should, however, be aware of its high cost and the fact they are heavy and bulky and, therefore, difficult to move around.
How much are you willing to spend on an infrared grill? Tell me your budget in the comment section below.