Cooking our food over an open flame is something humans have been doing since we discovered fire. In the ensuing millennia, however, little has changed about the basic process of outdoor cooking. That is until the 1980s came along. That’s when infrared cooking technology was developed by Bill Best, founder of the Thermal Engineering Corp.
Infrared cooking employs radiation to help gas grills cook food faster and more evenly. Gas burners super heat an emitter plate, made from ceramic or stainless steel, which sits just below the grill’s grates. Heat from the plates then radiates evenly to the food on the grill, rather than flickering and flaring as can be the case with standard gas grills.
Initially, due to its high cost, this technology was only used in high-end commercial kitchens. But in 2,000, the expiration of Thermal Engineering Corp’s patents opened up the technology to home chefs. While early consumer infrared grills were eye-wateringly expensive, that’s no longer the case. Today, infrared grills are similar in cost to standard gas grills. In many higher-end grills, an infrared burner is incorporated in the design along with the standard burners, giving you more options for cooking your meats and veggies.
So why would you want to incorporate infrared into your grilling arsenal? Because it cooks meat faster and more evenly for a juicier result than its traditional gas grill counterpart. Here’s a rundown of the benefits of infrared grills.
Gas and charcoal grills cook primarily through convection: hot air circulating the food, trapped by the lid of the grill. This can lead to food drying out. With infrared, the heat radiates directly into the food, cooking it more quickly so that it stays juicy. It also means you can leave the lid open when cooking, helping you keep a closer eye on how your food is cooking.
Infrared grills can heat up to extremely high temperatures in two to three minutes (compared to 10 minutes for traditional gas and closer to 20 for charcoal grills). Food also cooks in around half the time. Because consistent heat is given off, the ambient air temperature has no effect on the grill—meaning you can cook the same way in the dead of winter as you do at the peak of the summer.
Need even more convincing? Quick preheat times and half the cooking time mean less fuel used overall, making infrared grilling a very energy-efficient method of cooking.
More Even Cooking
In many infrared grills, the ceramic or stainless steel emitter plate are layered with glass plates that direct air flow away from the food, providing more evenly diffused heat. That consistent heat flow results in more evenly cooked foods than traditional convection-based grills.
While some people might like the charcoal-y taste of burnt skin, with infrared those meat-charring flare-ups are a thing of the past. Because of the design of the burner, dripping fat is less likely to reach the open flame, preventing those unexpected flare-ups.
Adapting to cooking with an infrared grill can take some time, so don’t be surprised if you burn a few steaks at first. It cooks so much faster that you will need to stay with the food until you’re used to the differing cooking times. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll find cooking with infrared means far less time hovering over the grill and far more time to spend hanging out with friends and family over a good home-cooked meal.
Jennifer Tuohy writes for a variety of publishers, including The Home Depot, on several subjects, but her passion lies with technology. She is fascinated with topics such as infrared grilling and home automation. To find more grilling options like the infrared grill Jennifer talks about in this article, visit The Home Depot.
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