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Infrared grills, which use radiation to cook food, are all the rage, but are they worth the extra cost? They are generally a lot more expensive than other types of grills like wood pellets, charcoal, gas, and electric. However, they are innovative and, in this article, we will take a look at infrared grills and discuss their pros and cons.
Table of Contents
How Does an Infrared Grill Work?
Infrared grills cook food very quickly and this is because electronic waves of energy are emitted from the heated surface. They travel at the speed of light making them very efficient, both in the amount of fuel used and in your cooking time. If you’re not a person who likes to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, an infrared grill could be for you. Some people worry that these electronic waves of energy can cause health issues such as cancer, but in reality, they are no more dangerous than the heat which comes from a charcoal or wood pellet grill.
Different Types of Infrared Grills
Not all infrared grills are the same, so we’ll take a look at some of the different types out there. They can vary in temperature range, whether or not they have flare-ups, and how evenly they cook the food.
Ceramic plates were the first to be used when infrared burners were introduced. The plates are positioned above stainless steel burners and the plate produces tiny flames that flicker across the surface. This brings on intense heat, the temperature range being 600F – 1,000F. This is great for steaks, but not for slow cooking of any kind such as pork shoulder, ribs, or brisket. Although most infrared burners aren’t prone to flare-ups in the same way as gas burners and charcoal grills are, with ceramic plates the chance of flare-ups is greater than with other types of infrared grills. This is because the naked flame is heating the plate just a few inches below the food.
Stainless Steel Tube Burner and Metal Heat Emitter
With this type of infrared grill, you have a stainless steel tube burner, above which is a metal heat emitter plate. The cooking grate sits on top of this. This type of grill is usually more reasonably priced because it doesn’t emit such intense heat. The temperature range is 300F – 650F. This means that you can still sear steaks at the top end of the temperature scale, but you could cook delicate foods such as fish and chicken at the lower end. Because the heat isn’t so intense and because the flame is further away from the food, you won’t get too many flare-ups with this type of infrared grill. It also cooks evenly as do the ceramic grills and you won’t get food burnt in one area and underdone in another.
Stainless Steel IR Burner and Radiant Glass Panel
This system provides even cooking and a few flare-ups, if any. You get a stainless steel burner with stainless steel mesh on top. Above this is a glass panel and then you have the cooking grates. The temperature range of this system is 350F – 850F so you can cook sausages and burgers as well as steaks.
TEC Stainless Steel Conversion Burner & Radiant Glass Panel
This is similar to the IR burner but the stainless steel burners are more durable. As with the IR, the cooking grates sit on top of the glass plates. It has a wide temperature range between 200F – 900F. At 200F you could even slow cook a brisket. This system cooks evenly and doesn’t have flare-ups.
Lynx Trident Infrared Burner
This system is innovative. It has a three-pronged design with ceramic plates, which makes the cooking area larger while still being able to dial down the temperature. The temperature range is 300F – 1,000F so you can cook both delicate meat and sear steaks.
You can also get grills that only have one infrared burner and the rest gas, or you can get a searing station on your outdoor grill.
Advantages of an Infrared Grill
- They are extremely fast. They can reach a temperature of 700F in just 7 minutes. This means that you can sear your meat quickly, which is important especially when you are cooking steaks.
- It is claimed that because infrared grills cook food so quickly, they lock in the juices better than other types of cooking. The outside of the food becomes crisp and brown, while the juices are held inside. However, not everyone agrees and really it is up to you to decide if your meat is juicier when cooked on an infrared grill.
- Infrared grills provide even heat, so you won’t get hot or cold spots on your meat.
- Infrared grills are efficient when it comes to energy. Because they heat food so quickly, you don’t use as much energy as with ordinary grills and your bills will be reduced.
Disadvantages of an Infrared Grill
- Because the heat is so intense, it’s not difficult to burn food. Some medical professionals say that burnt food causes cancer, but this is debatable and there is more research to be done. Of course, burnt food doesn’t taste good so the aim is not to burn your meat, and then this problem won’t arise.
- It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of using an infrared grill.
- Delicate food like fish and vegetables don’t do so well on an infrared grill as the heat is so powerful. It is better to stick to tougher meats like steak and pork until you have got used to cooking on the appliance. Generally, an infrared grill is not versatile as it uses such intense heat and you can only cook certain things on it. An answer to this is to get an ordinary grill which has either one infrared burner or has a searing station. With this, you can start off with your meat on the searing station and then move it over to the ordinary burner to finish it off, or vice versa.
- Older grills with ceramic burners can crack, though this is less of a problem these days. If your plates crack, they won’t get as hot as they should. Also, mind that you don’t splash cold water on the plates to clean them while they are still warm as this can also cause them to crack.
Are Infrared Grills Worth the Cost?
This is a debatable question. Some people love infrared grills, saying that you can’t beat the technology and that these grills cook a perfect steak with ease. However, there are others who say that you can still sear a good steak on a gas, charcoal, or electric grill. Some of the higher end ordinary grills are still cheaper than infrared grills and will still cook a steak perfectly. The best thing that infrared grills do is to sear steaks and is it worth spending all that money for this reason? Of course, if you are doing this often and for big groups of people, it can well be worth the extra money. However, if you buy an infrared grill with a lower range of temperature you will be able to cook other meats and vegetables but then of course you can do this with an ordinary grill at a fraction of the cost. If you get one which goes down to 225F you will even be able to barbecue a pork shoulder, pork butt, or a brisket.
If you are going to buy an infrared grill, remember that it will be a learning curve and don’t expect to cook perfect meat first time round. The intensity of the heat takes some getting used to and you will have to work out the cooking times to the second otherwise you might burn the meat.
An advantage of an infrared grill is one that you’ve probably never heard of. Because the grilling surface is close to the heat, dripping fat is usually burnt up, producing smoke that flavors the food with a delicious smoky aroma. Who needs wood pellets?!
Probably a better option would be to buy a hybrid grill that will work out less expensive than a complete infrared grill. You will get the benefit of both worlds. You will still be able to sear a steak but can use the conventional grill to cook everything else. You don’t really need to spend the extra money for an infrared grill when you can cook most things just as well on a conventional grill.
We hope we haven’t put you off buying an infrared grill. They’re not just a gimmick for people who like to have all the mod cons. They work as they are supposed to, and you can cook other foods on them apart from steaks. However, is it worth it for the money? We’ll leave it up to you to decide if an infrared grill is for you.