Are you shopping for a grill, but having trouble choosing between gas and infrared options? If you don’t understand how these different types of grills work and how they transfer heat to food, you can't make an informed decision.
When choosing a grill type on a whim, you may end up wasting money on a product that doesn’t meet your unique cooking requirements and lifestyle. For example, many people select infrared grills because they mistakenly believe that gas grills are outdated.
To help you select an appropriate grill for your needs, we decided to compile a list of the pros and cons of each type. This list takes an in-depth look at the benefits and features of gas grills and infrared grills. We also discuss the mechanisms of heat transfer that these grills employ for cooking food.
Read on to learn more about the drawbacks and benefits of the gas versus infrared grills – as well as units that combine gas and infrared technology.
Infrared and traditional gas grills may appear to be similar. Both types use natural or liquid propane gas to generate heat that transfers to your food, and both types are common for outdoor cooking.
The difference between infrared grills and traditional gas grills lies in the way that heat gets transferred from the burners to your food. Conventional gas grills use convection, which is the transfer of heat through air. The burners heat the air around your food which, in turn, heats your food.
Infrared grills use a mode of cooking called radiation. The grill’s burners heat a radiation plate made of ceramic, metal, or glass. This radiation plate then emits infrared waves that are directly absorbed by food particles.
The burners in an infrared grill also increase the temperature of the air around the grill, but the degree of convection in an infrared grill is significantly lower than it is in a traditional gas grill.
Unlike traditional gas grills, infrared grills can reach super-high temperatures in a matter of minutes. Low-temperature cooking was not always possible with infrared grills, but thanks to new technological developments, that is no longer the case.
It is possible to find a high-quality traditional gas grill, even if you have budget constraints. Conventional gas grills generally have simpler construction to their infrared counterparts and are cheaperto manufacture. Also, if you don’t have extensive outdoor cooking requirements, why should you pay a premium for features you will never use?
Conventional gas grills have been around for some time, and reputable manufacturers perfected their products in terms of safety, fuel efficiency, and quality. Many high-end traditional gas grills offer additional features to enhance your outdoor cooking experiences.
Traditional gas grills offer better temperature control than infrared grills. Air heats up and cools down quickly, and if you adjust the temperature on your grill, you will notice the change immediately. Infrared plates, on the other hand, takes a bit longer to adjust to the setting of the burner.
Low-temperature cookingis possible with modern infrared grills, but it is easier to achieve with traditional gas grills. Low temperatures are ideal for preparing dishes, including large and delicate pieces of meat.
Traditional gas grills typically take a long time to heat up. If you don’t like standing next to a grill for a long time, this is a significant drawback. Also, because the grill requires a long time to heat up, you waste a lot of heat and fuel. Because of fuel inefficiency, gas grills tend to have a higher operating cost than do infrared grills.
The heat from a gas grill’s burner is less concentrated than that of an infrared grill. The uneven distribution of heat can result in cold spots and hot spots, which can reduce the quality of your food. You also have to play a more active role in the cooking process to ensure that your food gets cooked thoroughly.
The most prominent drawback of traditional gas grills is that they rely on air as a medium for transferring heat to food. Your food also comes in direct contact with the flames and flare-ups that happen when marinade or sauce drips from the grates. When your food gets exposed to air and heat for an extended time, it loses moisture and flavor. Cooking on a traditional gas grill increases the risk of ending up with dried-out dishes.
Traditional gas grills typically require more maintenance. Cleaning these grills is also a challenge and involves the use of brushes and elbow grease. Most gas grills are not specially developed to make cleaning easier, and models with self-cleaning features are expensive.
Infrared grills can heat up to 1,000 degrees or more in a matter of minutes, which means increased time and fuel efficiency. This speed factor is a significant benefit if you like outdoor cooking as part of a busy lifestyle. Since infrared grills typically require less fuel, their running costs are lower over the long run, too.
There are several reasons why infrared grills produce tastier food than traditional gas grills. Heat transfer with radiation keeps the molecular layer of air and moisture around your food intact. Concentrated heat radiates from the radiation plate, and the flames from the burners don't come into direct contact with your food.
Infrared grills don’t cause a loss of moisture. Drippings from the cooking grates and food that fall on the radiation plate get incinerated, which retains the flavor of your food.
Contemporary infrared models are suitable for a wide range of cooking applications, including searing, grilling, smoking, and barbecuing. You can use your infrared grill to prepare vegetables, seafood, and meat, among other dishes. With the right accessories, you can also use your infrared grill for deep frying and baking pizzas.
Most infrared grills have self-cleaning functionality. To clean them, just turn on the heat and close the hood for about 15 minutes. All the residue that clings to the cooking grates will drip down to the infrared plate. Let the grill cool down before wiping the cooking and infrared plates clean.
The weightiest drawback of infrared grills is their price. If you want a long-lasting and modern unit with all the benefits, prepare for prices of $1,000 or more. High-end infrared grills can cost as much as $5,000.
You might be able to find a portable unit for less than $500, but the products in the lower price brackets typically offer limited functionality.
Infrared grills are best for high-temperature cooking, and food can burn quickly if you don't keep a close eye on your grill. Amateur grillers often end up with food that is overcooked at the surface but raw at the center.
The latest infrared grills offer a wide temperature range that starts at 200 degrees, so try to find one of these units. The grills that can accommodate these lower temperatures are usually more expensive, though.
If you are not sure which type of grill is ideal for your needs, consider the combination units from Blaze, which is our preferred brand. These grills have built-in gas grills with infrared burners, giving you the best of both worlds.
The combination grills heat up quickly, as do the infrared burners. Plus, they come with a wide range of high-value features, including temperature separators, ample cooking space, 304-grade stainless-steel burners, and interior lighting.
The design of these grills also takes care of some issues commonly associated with gas grills, including flare-ups, difficult cleaning, and uneven heat distribution. Combination units offer all the benefits of infrared grills, as well, including moisture retention, high-temperature cooking, and support for a wide range of cooking applications.
The built-in gas grills with rear infrared burners are time- and fuel-efficient, and you can choose between propane and natural-gas models.
The best grill type for you depends on how you cook. If you are looking to grill quickly with a professional level sear, and if you have a generous budget, an infrared grill is perfect for you. An infrared grill is also the top grill choice for professionals with busy lifestyles.
On the other hand, if you are a casual outdoor cook who prefers an affordable grill, a traditional gas grill from a reputable brand will be sufficient for your needs. Gas grills are also suitable for people who like the simplicity of gas grilling.
To find out more about high-quality infrared grills, check out our TEC review. For information about gas grills or combined gas and infrared models, you can read our Blaze grill review. These reviews contain amazing information you won't want to miss.