Infrared: Good or Gimmick?

There are many types of grills and heating technologies, but perhaps one of the most advanced and mysterious is the infrared grill. Unlike other grills that use a more common heat source, like gas or charcoal, these grills use infrared rays to cook meat and veggies. This technology was originally developed for the auto industry to help dry car paint faster, and it was first used for grilling in the 1960s. While this technology has been around for several decades, it has only recently become popular since the patent expired and now every grill manufacturer can use infrared heating. Is this all smoke and mirrors, or is infrared the way to go?

Heating
If there’s only one thing that you understand about infrared grills, then it should be this: these grills are hot. Most grills can reach temperatures around 600 to 700 degrees with some coaxing, but an infrared grill easily reaches temperatures above 1,000 degrees. Not only that, but the heating is very direct.

When you cook with gas or charcoal, the surrounding air is being heated. While this obviously cooks the meat, it also wastes a lot of energy and it can easily burn the food if you aren’t careful. Infrared technology uses the light spectrum to heat your food, much like a microwave. You still need to be careful, but most food cooked on these grills will be done very quickly while still being moist and delicious.

The vast majority of these grills do not have a temperature setting. It’s either on or off. While temperature settings are becoming more common as the technology advances, you typically can’t choose between a high and low setting. If you prefer to quickly change temperatures while switching between different meats, then these grills may not be right for you.

Heat Distribution
As you may have guessed from the above section, heating distribution is immaculate with these grills. Most grills have hot and cold zones. For example, the area right above the charcoal will be hotter than the areas away from it. The same goes for gas grills. That’s because they are heating the surrounding air.

Instead of placing your food on a flame or heating zone, these grills evenly distribute light and heat to the entire cooking area. It’s very difficult to get this level of consistency with any other grill. Not only that, but these grills are made to catch and vaporize juices from the meat, which keeps it moist and reduces the mess.

Veggies and Lighter Meats
One major issue with infrared grills is that it’s easier to burn meat since the temperature is so high. This is usually mitigated if you have a thicker piece of meat or something with a lot of fat, like beef, but you’ll really notice the difference with lighter meats and vegetables.

Fish, chicken and most vegetables are very easy to burn if you aren’t careful. Most users will be able to fix this by cooking a few test meals and getting used to their grill, but it will be a problem when you first get it. Be sure to pay attention to the cooking times before setting anything on the grill. Everything cooks much faster than usual.

Expense
Perhaps one of the biggest problems with infrared grills is the cost. The price tag is coming down steadily, but these are still the most expensive units. You really need to consider your preferences to see if the price is right.

If you want a durable grill that heats quickly, is very energy efficient and can cook meat in minutes, then this is the perfect choice. If you want a smaller grill with lots of control that will only be used occasionally, then it’s best to stick with something more traditional. While it might have some issues here and there, infrared technology delivers on all of its promises.

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