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How Does An Infrared Grill Work

by Outdoor Cooking Pros September 25, 2020

Best Gas Grill and Smoker Combo

Infrared grills make use of a radiant heating cooking system and can enhance the flavor of your meals. However, because it’s a relatively new system, many people struggle to use it effectively which can lead to burned or undercooked meats at your barbecue.

How does an infrared grill work? Here is our guide to learning how these grills work and using them effectively.

How Infrared Grills Work 

How does an infrared grill work? The grill essentially makes use of infrared energy to heat up your food to cook it. Here’s an explanation on what infrared energy is and how it cooks your food.

What is Infrared Energy? 

Infrared energy [1] is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum and cannot be seen with the naked eye. However, we can typically sense this energy in the form of heat at longer wavelengths. The Earth absorbs infrared energy from the Sun to maintain its temperature for living things and this is the heat you feel from the Sun. 

How Does an Infrared Grill Work?  

Infrared grills heat a metallic or a ceramic surface which then produces infrared energy that cooks food directly. These surfaces are specially designed to emit heat in the infrared wavelength range. 

Chicken being grilled

While typical charcoal and  gas grills rely on the movement of air through convection currents to cook food, infrared grills directly emit infrared energy into the food. This prevents the food from losing moisture unnecessarily since less air moves around. 

How long should an infrared grill be preheated to kill bacteria? 

A traditional gas grill can take up around 10 minutes for preheating and a charcoal grill requires preheating for about 20 minutes. However, with an infrared grill, you only need to preheat the grill for 3 to 5 minutes to kill bacteria.

Meats need to be cooked at a sufficient internal temperature in order to kill bacteria. As an infrared grill can increase cooking temperature more quickly, it typically requires less time for preheating.

Advantages of Cooking in Infrared Grills

Infrared grills can heat up much more quickly and cook your heat evenly. Here are some other advantages of cooking with infrared grills.

Quicker Cooking Time

Infrared grills significantly reduce cooking time. They only take about 5 minutes to preheat as opposed to traditional grills with an average preheating time of 15 minutes.

This is because they directly heat the food instead of relying on convection currents and the movement of hot air to cook food. Traditional grills need more time to heat up the air inside the grill. 

Premium Quality Of Food

Due to the faster cooking speed of infrared grills, the juices can be retained in the meat which contributes to tastier and more tender meats. Infrared grills can also reach higher cooking temperatures much more quickly so that it can sear your steaks faster, giving you that wonderful flavorful brown crust.

Slices of meat

Infrared grills can cook food more evenly since they can distribute heat more evenly throughout the meat. This reduces the risk of the meat being burned in some parts while other parts of the meat remain undercooked.

Easy Cleaning and Maintenance

You can turn up the heat and leave it on for 5 minutes to burn any food debris into ash which you can easily clean off.  

Infrared grills also aren’t as prone to flare-ups as any juices or bits that drop onto the grill will be quickly vaporized due to the high cooking temperature of the infrared grill.

Less Fuel 

Infrared grills use less fuel due to their ability to heat up food more quickly, which can help you save on fuel costs.

Disadvantages of Cooking in Infrared Grills

Some of the disadvantages of cooking include its cost and difficulty to control its cooking temperature. An infrared gas grill can be more expensive than gas grills due to their use of infrared energy. 

It can also be difficult to control the cooking temperature since infrared grills heat up so quickly, so it may be challenging to maintain low cooking temperatures needed for some foods such as vegetables and fish. You either need to get an infrared grill with variable cooking temperatures so you can cook food at low temperatures or get a hybrid grill.

Some people also report that the chances of burning food is higher if a person does not closely monitor the temperature and the food that is cooking on the grill.

They can also be quite bulky and heavy as they were initially designed for commercial kitchens and not designed to be portable. 

How Does Infrared Cooking Work On A Gas Grill?

How does an infrared grill work with gas burners? Gas burners are still required to heat up the grates, however there is an infrared element between the grates and the gas burners which are specially made to emit infrared energy. Some gas grills even have infrared heating as an option. 

It’s also possible to purchase infrared heating elements that can fit into a gas grill. You will need to do some installation work to install the infrared heating element but this gives you the flexibility to use infrared cooking when you need the benefits of faster cooking times and higher temperatures.

Steak on gas grill

However, you need to check if you can install infrared heating elements with the grill you are using as this may be difficult or dangerous depending on how your gas grill works.


Infrared grills make use of infrared energy to cook your food. Infrared energy is emitted directly into the food which leads to faster cooking times and the ability to reach high cooking temperatures in a short time. You also require less time to preheat the grill and better tasting meats since the meat can retain its juices if it is cooked quickly.

However, infrared grills may need some adjusting to when you need to cook foods that require lower cooking temperatures on the grill. They can also be slightly more expensive and heavy. While it may be possible to install infrared heating elements to convert an existing gas grill into an infrared grill, you need to check with your manufacturer to get specific advice about safely installing infrared heating elements into your grill.

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