Infrared grilling is a relatively new cooking technique where instead 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 a consideration.
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 so as 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 the manner in which the heat generated is used to cook the meals.
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 within the grill to cook.
Sounds impressive, right? Well, it is because the radiated heat is distributed evenly within the grill and this will ensure that your meals cook properly. You won’t have to flip your food so as to make sure that every part is cooked properly and this will greatly reduce your cooking time.
But before we declare these grills the best invention since sliced bread, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of such grills so as to help you make an informed decision on whether to get one of these or to stick to what you already have.
In a Hurry? Or You Don’t Like Reading? Then Here’s a Quick Summary
The Benefits of Infrared Grills
Here are some of the advantages that you stand to gain when you cook your meals with an infrared grill.
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 which is enough to cook all your meals in the shortest time possible.
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. You will, therefore, have enough time to hang out with your family and catch up with your friends.
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 incinerate. Then just wipe away any residue.
After that it’s a good idea to season the grill.
Proper Heat Distribution
This is another feature that you will enjoy. The IR element distributes heat evenly within the grill and this will ensure that your dishes cook properly. The heat is not concentrated in one area like with a charcoal or gas grill and this will ensure your meals don’t get charred as a result of too much heat.
There will also not be hot and cold spots in your meals as a result of uneven heat distribution.
Because of how infrared grills are designed, the chance of a flare-up is greatly reduced compared to gas or charcoal grills. 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.
The fact that the radiant heat is distributed evenly within the grill means that very little heat is lost as it used to cook the meals from all the sides.
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 on 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 where they will be stationary.
Their Low Temperature Setting Is Not Actually Low
This is another thing that you should be aware of if you are thinking of buying this kind of grill. 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”
Another thing you should be aware of is that you need to pay close attention while grilling. If you don’t, you’ll easily burn your food. These grills offer very little room for error. So, if you’re planning to grill on infrared, you’ll have to pay quite a lot of attention while cooking.
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.
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 the job of cleaning the grill afterward a whole lot easier.
Consider these these next infrared grill cooking tips:
- 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
- Place the steak on the grid and sear it until you can lift it from the grid 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 while you wait.
- Serve and enjoy
Are Infrared Grills Better Than Gas?
This depends on your preferred cooking method. Simply put, if you like to cook fast and grill 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 you’d like to spend more time at the grill 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 either replace the grates with infrared ones or the burner:
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
That’s it. 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.
Grills that work on infrared technology have changed the way meals are prepared and you should actively 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.