Infrared grills are becoming the product of choice for many backyard barbecue experts because this technology can generate higher temperatures that a regular grill. It can also reach its peak temperature faster, which means you can finish the work in a shorter amount of time without sacrificing the flavor of the food. Some of the current products that are on the market today can reach temperatures that exceed 700F/370C, giving you a surface to use in as little as 7 minutes.
If you love eating foods that benefit from the Maillard reaction, such as steaks, pork chops, and ribs, then you can enjoy a meal that cooks faster and with less effort when compared to other grilling methods.
Since the patent for this technology expired in 2000, numerous manufacturers are creating grills that incorporate this technology in some way. TEC even produces a burner which offers 100% infrared energy for cooking with a completely encased burner to produce only radiant heat.
If you are thinking about adding more equipment to your backyard barbecues, then these are the pros and cons of infrared grills to consider.
List of the Pros of Infrared Grills
1. You will receive a faster preheat with an infrared grill.
All grills must go through a preheating cycle before you can start barbecuing. If you choose charcoal as your primary option, then it can take 10-20 minutes for the heating surface to be ready. Propane is a little faster, but it still takes between 7-15 minutes to reach the correct grilling temperature. When you choose infrared technologies, then your grill can reach its peak temperature in five minutes or less in some circumstances. That means you can start making your meal right away instead of waiting for the equipment to become fully ready.
2. It provides you with an even heating surface.
You won’t experience the gaps in temperature with an infrared grill that are possible with charcoal or gas barbecues. This technology offers an even heating surface across the entire platform, reducing the number of hot or cold spots that can impact the quality of your food. When you combine this benefit with the fact that it cooks faster too, requiring just one minute per side with some foods, you can get outside to grill more often since there is much less work involved in this process.
3. The foods stay moist and juicy with an infrared grill.
As with any grilling surface, there is always a risk that you could burn the foods if you allow them to cook for too long. When you get your timing right with this technology, then you will find that the barbecued items can retain up to 35% more of their natural juices, which means you have foods that emerge moist and tasty. The meat tends to be more tender at this level of cooking as well, so you can use some of the tougher cuts of meat to create a great meal in no time at all. Steaks are great with this system, but short ribs benefit from the method of cooking too to help you save a little on your grocery bills.
4. infrared grills are exceptionally easy to clean.
Have you ever tried to clean up a cooking surface after using a charcoal grill? Not only do you have all of the ash to remove from your product, there are the burnt-on leftovers from the various sauces and juices that congeal. If you use a wire brush, then you run the risk of serving something that could be dangerous to someone’s health. The ash from charcoal can turn into corrosive lye with exposure to water as well.
When you set an infrared grill to its highest setting, then any food particles which are left behind will turn into ash on the surface of the product. Then you can wipe it away according to the manufacturer’s instructions for an easy cleaning experience. Some even offer a self-cleaning feature that runs the infrared technology for 10-15 minutes on high so that it incinerates debris and food drippings.
5. This technology is energy efficient.
You will not be burning propane to create high temperatures when you choose an infrared grill. There are fewer particles emitted from this cooking process, which can help the environment as well. That means this technology is highly energy efficient, so you can spend less on the fuel needed to create a finished product compared to your other grilling options. When you get it right, there will be a steakhouse-quality sear waiting for you at the end of your work, which means you can sit down to a tasty meal with minimal effort.
Char-Broil claims that its infrared grills can use up to 30% less energy than a traditional grill to provide the same results. Much of the savings is possible because of the faster preheating times.
6. There are several designs available from which to choose.
The most common type of infrared grill that you can find today is a ceramic system which features a cooking grid that sits a few inches above the heated surface. Some models can reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees with this design, allowing you to quickly finish meals while still receiving the flavors of flames kissing the surface of the product.
Another option is the radiant glass-panel system that comes from TEC, the inventor of this technology. This system provides a cooking grid that sits above a panel and a stainless steel burner. Choose this option if you need low-temperature grilling to support smoking or roasting.
Heat emitter systems feature a stainless steel tube burner where there are no flare-ups possible, even with temperatures reaching their maximum. This design creates less heat than the other systems, so you may not receive as much searing support.
7. You can use your cookware with the surface.
When you own an infrared grill, then you don’t need to worry about a side burner. You can place your pots and pans directly on the mesh or grate that comes with your preferred product. If you own a TEC model, then you can even remove the glass panels to cook directly on the radiant surface. That means you can have more control over the items you cook outside, reducing the need to run a stovetop and your grill simultaneously to get the results you want for your next meal or party.
List of the Cons of Infrared Grills
1. Infrared grills are brutally powerful with what they do.
If you own an infrared grill, then the dense cuts of meat and solid vegetables (like corn on the cob) can withstand the massive heat levels that this technology produces. Other cuts of animal protein, like a fish fillet, are more challenging to cook properly because of the intensity of the temperature. That is why many grills offer infrared in a combination package with other options so that the other vegetables, poultry, and seafood can benefit from being grilled as well.
There are some models available today that offer low-temperature regulation in the 200-300F range for slow-cooking, smoking, and flavor infusion. These models tend to have the highest MSRPs as well, so most households use the high-intensity models because they are the most affordable.
2. It is easier to make a mistake with an infrared grill.
There is less room for error when you grill with infrared technologies when compared to charcoal or propane options. Because the temperature of cooking surface rises quickly to searing levels, a small mistake can quickly lead to an overcooked piece of meat or burnt vegetables. Most items only take a minute per side when cooking like this, which means you must take a hands-on approach to the searing process to ensure you can serve burgers instead of briquettes.
You can avoid this disadvantage by using the low-temperature designs which are available with some models. If you do so, then you’ll also lose the advantages that come from the high-heat searing that is possible with this type of grill.
3. There are fewer seasoning options available to you.
When you start cooking with infrared technologies, then you have less time to allow spices and seasoning to penetrate the vegetables and animal proteins that are on the grill. Smoky flavors don’t work at all unless you use an artificial product. The quality of the food is not compromised by the high temperatures, but it doesn’t give you enough time to build different flavor levels to enjoy. When you take items off of this cooking surface, the flavor is similar to what you’d receive if you place the item in the oven on high broil.
4. You may need to finish cooking on a different grill or surface.
Because the temperature levels get exceptionally high with infrared grills, it is usually necessary to finish off your food choices in a different grill or an oven to ensure the interior is at the correct temperature. The outer surface of animal proteins will blacken and burn due to the high temperatures without getting the middle part of the food to a safe space. If you are working with poultry or pork, you might discover that a great sear on the outside leads to raw food on the inside unless you finish it off somewhere else.
5. Some people may have carcinogen concerns with infrared grills.
When you burn or char your food instead of focusing on caramelization and browning, then there is the potential to create cancer-causing agents with your food due to the high temperature exposure. You must keep a very close eye on the foods you make with this technology because the cooking time is severely reduced under most circumstances. If you make a mistake, then the burnt food could become problematic if it becomes part of your regular eating habits.
6. You will still receive flare-ups with this technology.
Unless you use a heat emitter system, infrared grills do not eliminate the risk of a flare-up when you’re standing over the food you’re cooking. The ceramic infrared burner systems are the worst offenders for this disadvantage, as the escaping juices from seared meat can trigger flames to rise. Some people feel like this charring can lead to better food flavors, but it can also create a fire hazard in some situations. That is why you must always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter to ensure that your grill won’t set other items on fire.
7. Cost is a significant issue with this technology.
You are not going to find a high-quality infrared grill for less than $900 in most markets today. If you want to receive a ceramic infrared burner that is preinstalled on your equipment, then the costs begin at $1,200. Some of today’s best infrared grills from brand names like Saber or Lynx are priced above $1,200 as well, with the Lynx Professional 30-inch all infrared trident grill with a rotisserie priced above $5,000.
Since you can purchase a charcoal grill for less than $100, it takes a considerable amount of time for an infrared product to start paying for itself. If you only grill a couple of times each year, the expense of this technology might not make sense.
8. There is minimal portability available with an infrared grill.
Infrared grills usually come with a bulky configuration that makes it challenging to move the unit after you finish installing it. Some of the models are designed for portability that is similar to what charcoal or propane products provide, but most require something closer to a permanent installation. Even if you decide to use a portable model, most are not suitable for regular use. There may not be enough capacity with the smaller models to handle the needs of a barbecue party either.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Infrared Grills
Although it takes some practice to get used to using an infrared grill in the backyard, the results that you can achieve with your food are profound. This investment allows you to cook faster, create deeper sears, and produce consistently good meals in almost any season.
It will be an investment. You can pay up to 5 times the amount of a new propane or natural gas grill if you choose infrared as your primary option. Infrared is also about 10 times more expensive than a standard charcoal grill.
The pros and cons of infrared grills let us consider it to be an ideal method of cooking when time is of the essence. As more features become standard with this technology, you may find that costs can go down as interest levels rise thanks to the ongoing innovation that occurs.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.