There was a time not very long ago, when there were primarily two different classes of outdoor grills – charcoal and gas. People were likely to favor one over the other, based on convenience, time, and flavor. Generally speaking, charcoal grills take longer to heat but offer an authentic grill flavor that you can’t get with other types of grills. Gas grills, on the other hand, ignite quickly and are easier to maintain at consistent temperatures for even cooking.
In the past twenty years, a new type of grill has entered the marketplace. Based on technology that was originally designed for restaurants, the infrared grill is now available to consumers for backyard use. It has become the favorite grill of people who are emphatic about the expediency of the infrared grill. For those who are looking for a super fast-heating grill that can give you fantastic results in searing your food, this may be the grill for you.
Infrared grills work in a unique way, unlike any other grill. It is a departure from the type of cooking that you do over your traditional gas grill which works by heating the grates that come into contact with your food, which further heats the air that surrounds your food on your grill. Infrared grills work with the use of an infrared burner that is located above a conventional gas burner and the cooking grate. As the gas burner heats the infrared burner intense heat is radiated directly to your food.
Both gas grills and infrared grills operate on the same fuel – either liquid propane or natural gas. It might seem that these two types of grills function similarly, but that could not be further from the truth. Once you understand the way these grills work, you are halfway there. In order to make the best decision between a conventional gas grill and an infrared grill, it will help you to understand how they perform best.
In this article, I will highlight several areas that will showcase the pros and cons of these two types of grills. In the end, my goal is to help you decide which one is the best option for your needs. I will walk you through a variety of comparisons to help you choose the type of grill that will make your backyard cooking a joy for you and your guests.
Which Is More Efficient?
There are two ways we will compare the gas grill and the infrared grill in terms of efficiency. First of all, which one is the most time-efficient?
It is arguably true that an infrared grill will heat up much more quickly than a conventional gas grill. Within a window of 3-5 minutes, you can ignite, heat, and begin grilling a steak. A gas grill, on the other hand, can take quite some time to get up to a temperature that is hot enough to sear a steak. With all of the burners on high and the lid closed, it can take between 10-15 minutes to get up to the right temperature. There is no disputing it, if you are looking for the quickest way to cook at high temperatures, the infrared grill wins, hands down.
How do these grills compare in terms of fuel efficiency? It turns out that the infrared grill takes first in this one, as well. Because it works on radiant heat, it does not waste energy heating the air that surrounds your food. A gas grill, on the other hand, expends more energy that is lost to the air around your food.
In the end, you will use less propane when cooking with an infrared grill, making it the best choice for efficiency.
Which Is Better at Grilling Steaks?
There are so many ways to use your backyard grill. It probably comes as no surprise to hear there are certain grills that perform best with certain cuts of meat. Before you head out and purchase a grill of any kind, it is best if you can define the ways you intend to use it.
If you are looking to use your grill for primarily grilling steak, the infrared just may be a great fit for you. These grills work best when you are looking to get a really nice sear on your food because they can achieve a great deal of browning and caramelization in a short period of time. This type of cooking helps retain more of the natural juices that are sometimes sacrificed with slower cooking methods. Cooking items that are more delicate, however, like fish or vegetables, may suffer from this kind of intense heat.
A gas grill, on the other hand, operates more like an oven by heating the air that circulates around your food. Of course, you can achieve some degree of searing with this option, but you will not get the same level of caramelization as you would with an infrared grill. You can expect to lose some of the moisture with this type of convection cooking, as well. The outcome will be slower and less desirable for certain cuts of meat.
It is worth noting that there is a pretty big learning curve with the infrared grill. It definitely takes some practice to get it right, but in the end, these grills excel at cooking steaks that require a hot and quick method for ultimate flavor and texture.
Which Is Better at Low Temperatures?
There may be times when you want your grill to cook things other than steak. Perhaps you plan to grill something like a brisket, that benefits from a slower cook time at a low temperature, or even fish or vegetables that all require lower temperatures to cook properly. Let’s have a look at how the infrared and gas grills compare.
First, the infrared grill. With its intense heat, cooking something like a brisket over infrared heat will not offer the time it needs to cook properly. Fish and vegetables would suffer here, as well, because the heat is just too intense.
As far as a gas grill goes, you can grill fish or vegetables with convection cooking as the air circulating around your food works more like an oven. Beyond that, larger cuts of meat like a brisket or pork shoulder benefit from this same type of cooking, allowing the meat to cook as the internal fat renders, further tenderizing the meat.
It stands to reason that the gas grill wins in this comparison, giving you more flexibility with low-temperature cooking.
Which Has Fewer Flare-Ups?
If you have ever grilled a fattier piece of meat over a gas grill then you are familiar with a flare-up. Essentially, a flare-up occurs when fat renders out of your meat and drips through the grill grates. Naturally, this will cause the flame to jump up. The result of this is not only dangerous to you, but it can also ruin your food.
With an infrared grill, the flare-up is really never a problem. Because of the infrared burner plate that diffuses the heat, flames never come into direct contact with your food. The result is a grill that allows you to get super high temperatures with no flare-ups, even when basting your food with sauces, butter, or marinades. Your end result is better tasting food with less risk of flare-ups.
The infrared grill wins in this comparison, eliminating the risk of flare-ups entirely.
Which Is Cheaper?
There is no question, you can expect to pay more for an infrared grill than you would a gas grill. With the technology that defines the way these grills work, there is just more that goes into it. Besides the conventional gas burner, an infrared grill has an infrared burner plate that is made of either glass, ceramic, or metal. This translates to a higher cost across the board.
Or course, there are options available that are more affordable. Portable and compact sizes are out there for those interested in an infrared grill without sinking a lot of money into it. But for grills of comparable size, the infrared grill will cost you more than the conventional gas grill, hands down.
How Do I Season an Infrared Grill?
Before grilling with your infrared grill, you will need to properly season the grates if they are made of stainless steel, much like you would with cast iron or carbon steel cookware.
While the grill is cool, lightly coat all cooking surfaces with a neutral oil that has a high smoking point (such as canola or peanut oil) using a spray bottle or cloth. Ignite and heat up the grill for 15 minutes. The grates will darken considerably, losing their shiny surface. Your grill is now seasoned and ready for use. After each time you use your infrared grill, you should wipe the grates lightly with that same high smoke point oil. This will continue to keep the grates in good shape and ready for grilling, creating a more non-stick surface on your cooking grates.
How Do I Season a Gas Grill?
Seasoning the stainless steel grates of your gas grill before you plan to use it for the first time will help prevent food from sticking to the grates. Much like an infrared grill, you season a gas grill by lightly coating the cooking grates with a neutral oil, like canola or peanut. Next, light your grill and heat it for 15 minutes on high. You will notice that the stainless steel grates will darken to a degree, which is what you are looking for. This is just the patina that will provide a surface that will better release your food when you grill. To maintain this surface, you should plan to clean the grates after use and follow that up with a light coating of oil. Over time, your grill will continue to serve you well if you season it properly.
What Are the Best Infrared Gas Grills?
#1. Char-Broil 463370719 Performance TRU-Infrared 3-Burner Cart Style Gas Grill, Stainless Steel (Best Value)
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My choice for the best value in an infrared grill is the Char-Broil 463370719 Performance TRU-Infrared 3-Burner Cart Style Gas Grill. Char-Broil is a reputable brand that has a strong reputation for making a wide variety of high-quality grills. The beautiful thing about this grill is that you get infrared technology with a durable stainless steel grill that is actually rather reasonably priced.
This grill features 450 square inches of cooking space which is ample room for a family of 4-6. Porcelain-coated cooking grates are easy to maintain, durable, and resistant to rust.
Reviewers commented that flare-ups were eliminated with this grill and that it cooked very consistently across the entire cooking area. Some indicated that keeping the grilling surface clean was challenging as food tended to clog the holes that transfer heat. It seems like this would be the biggest setback if you were considering adding this reasonably priced infrared grill to your backyard or patio.
#2. Saber Grills R50SC0017 3-Burner Grill (Best Overall)
My choice for the best overall infrared grill is the Saber Grills R50SC0017. Saber is a well-known company that makes solidly constructed grills. This particular grill is made with premium stainless steel which is very durable. It goes together rather easily. Reviewers indicated this grill can be assembled in under thirty minutes.
This particular model features three separate cooking zones which give you a lot more control over temperature if you are cooking a variety of foods at once. In addition, it is equipped with a side burner which is good for sauce, sauteeing, or keeping things warm. The size of this three-burner grill is ample for larger families or small gatherings, perfect when you need to cook for a number of people, yet flexible if you cooking for just a couple by firing up just one or two of the zones.
In order to keep this grill functioning well, it is important to keep the grates clean and the infrared plates clear of food or debris. With that, you can expect to get a lot of use out of this durable grill. Yes, you will pay a little more for it, but this premium grill is a fine choice if your budget allows for it.
#3. Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Patio Bistro Gas Grill (Best Budget Option)
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My choice for the best budget option in infrared grills is the Char-Broil TRU-Infrared Patio Bistro Gas Grill. With a rather small footprint, this grill gives you all of the benefits of infrared grilling, even if you are limited to a condo, balcony, or limited patio space. With just 240 square inches of primary cooking surface and an additional 80 inches of indirect secondary cooking space, this is the perfect size for smaller families or gatherings of 4-6 people.
Fitted with a durable porcelain-coated cooking grate, it is relatively easy to maintain and keep clean. It ignites easily and heats quickly with an electric ignition which is integrated into a dial that controls the gas.
This feels like a solid grill, especially for its size. It is rather light and easy to move by picking up one side and rolling it out of the way on two wheels. Your propane tank stores neatly and securely right under the grill. A temperature gauge is conveniently placed in the lid for easy reading.
Overall, this grill has everything you need in a grill but on a smaller scale and with fewer features which keeps it reasonable in price and size.
#4. Magma Products Newport 2 Infra Red, Gourmet Series Gas Grill (Best Portable)
If you are looking for a nice portable infrared grill, the Magma Products Newport 2 Infra Red, Gourmet Series Gas Grill is a great option. Perfect for a day of boating, this little grill operates on standard 1-pound disposable canisters.
Unique in design with a tempered glass window that allows you to keep an eye on your food even with the lid closed, it is constructed of polished stainless steel. The grill grates are stainless as well, which provides a durable cooking surface that is easy to maintain and clean. With 162 square inches of cooking space, you can expect to cook for up to 4 people at a time wherever you choose to grill.
Reviews indicated that even in windy conditions this little portable grill will stay lit. Add to that the fact that you won’t get the flare-ups you would experience with a conventional gas grill, and this is a great option for times when you want to have an infrared grill while you are away from home.
There are infrared grill options that will suit your budget, as well as your allotted space. Here is a breakdown of some of my favorites.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Char-Broil 463370719 Performance TRU-Infrared 3-Burner Cart Style Gas Grill.
If you need a portable infrared grill, try the Magma Products Newport 2 Infra Red, Gourmet Series Gas Grill.
If you want to keep the spend under $200, pick Char-Broil 20602107 Patio Bistro TRU-Infrared Electric Grill.
The bottom line when choosing a grill that will best suit your needs is to define how you intend to use it. My advice is this….
If you are looking for a grill that will give you some flexibility of low temperatures for slow cooking larger cuts of meat, seafood, and vegetables, as well as some high temperatures for searing, you may be best suited for a conventional gas grill.
If you are looking for something that excels at high-temperature searing without unwanted flare-ups, especially for steaks and quicker cooking items, an infrared grill will deliver.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the best grill for you is the one that will make your outdoor cooking experience one that is most enjoyable and delicious.