Infrared Gas Grills can be a quick, delicious alternative to traditional grilling.
Although many people have been using the infrared grill for quite awhile there are still many people who don’t know what it is, how it works, or that it even exists! The very first infrared grill was invented by a company named TEC in the 1980’s and held a patent on it as well. The patent that TEC held on the infrared grills did not allow other comapnies to create an infrared grill until the patent expired in early 2000. Since then many other companies have begun creating infrared grills to sell to the general public at lower prices than what was previously offered by TEC. Now that the monopoly is up with TEC and their infrared grills they will become more affordable and prices will be competitive which is good news for consumers. As time goes by the popularity of the infrared grill is increasing and is slowly replacing other traditional means of grilling as people become aware of the advantages it has to offer. But is it really worth the money? Is it safe? Will the food that it cooks still taste natural?
These and many other questions keep people from purchasing infrared grills simply because people do not like change and don’t like to get involved with something they are unsure of. This is similar to the release of microwave ovens after world war II; people knew that it was faster and more convenient and cleaner but were not sure of the safety of it or how it worked but as time went by and people became more knowledgeable about the product so did the frequency of use. Today you would be hard-pressed to find a household in America that did not contain a microwave oven–the infrared grill is on this same path and as it becomes more and more popular it will most likely completely replace traditional grills and you will only see about them in a museum or history books. Infrared grills take advantage of today’s technology and put it in an easy to use form so that consumers can enjoy their benfits in a way that is safe and convenient. While some people may stick to their charcoal and flame powered grills, eventually they will find these more and more difficult to purchase and will be taken in by the advantages that an infrared grill has to offer.
When purchasing an infrared grill you’ll come across a lot of questions that we hope to answer here. There’s a lot to consider before making your purchasing and deciding which type of grill is the right one for you.
How does an infrared grill work?
There are some misconceptions as to how infrared grills work and we will explain these in this article. When people think of an infrared grill they may think of invisible rays instantly cooking food, or even more off base would be that lasers are somehow involved in the cooking process when actually infrared is not a laser at all. An infrared grill still uses some of the traditional methods for creating heat but then takes that to the next level by increasing the temperature through other means. But how exactly is this done?
First it’s important to understand how traditional grills work and the different heating methods available. Basically you can heat up your food, or any object in three different ways which we’ll describe here:
Heating through Conduction:
Conduction takes place by direct contact between to objects. The atoms on one object touch the other and transfer some of their energy to whatever it comes in contact with. If the original object is hot then the atoms are moving very quickly, which will in turn begin to make the atoms on the other object to move quickly as well. As these atoms start to move faster, heat is also built up. This is why when you touch something hot you can feel it; because the atoms on your skin have sped up so quickly because of the transfer of energy from the heated object you touched. This is how a conventional oven works; by directly transferring the quickly moving atoms energy to your food which in turn heats it. The main idea behind heating through conduction is that it takes place through direct contact.
Heating through Convection:
Heating through convection is similar to conduction except for the transfer of the energy takes place when matter carries the heat to the object. This is done through a liquid or through a gas. A good example of this would be holding a marshmallow over an open fire. The fire is heating the air around the area of the marshmallow which is then heating your treat. However, if were to touch the marshmallow directly to the log at the bottom which is the source of the heat, then you would then be heating through conduction. The main idea of heating through convection is that you are not heating the object through direct contact but rather indirectly.
Heating through radiation (radiant heating)
Radiant heating (as used with an infrared grill) makes use of a direct transfer of energy to the object being heated. Unlike the previously mentioned heating methods, there is no loss of energy or heat in the process. When you use convectional heating, you have to heat up air, or water that is surrounding the food. This takes longer because first you have to heat up that area, then that area has to heat up the food. When you use an infrared grill you are taking a direct stream of particles and focusing them precisely onto the food you are cooking so no time is wasted having to heat other areas. This also makes way for other benefits that we will discuss later.
Now that you understand the three ways to which objects can be heated, let’s talk about how specifically an infrared grill works. When you first turn on an infrared grill you will still create the initial power/heat by igniting either propane or some natural gas. So in this way convectional heating is used but it will be used in combination with radiant heating through infrared. Once this flame is ignited, it then heats a ceramic tile at the base of the infrared grill (through convectional methods).
As you can see convectional heating is still used to some degree even in infrared grills simply because there must be an original source of heat which starts the entire process. But this is only the first portion of the cycle, and is not the main source of heating the food. Once this ceramic tile on the infrared grill is heated it then emits an enormous amount of heat which is created by infrared and is then transferred directly into the food you’re cooking. This is where some of the confusion comes in; people will purchase an infrared grill and expect there to be absolutely no propoane or “fire” involved in the process whatsoever. The term infrared only describes how you are cooking the food, not how the entire process works. They may expect for the heating to be instant, that is to say you turn on the grill and immediately the infrared begins to cook the food as if fire had already taken time to heat it up but this is a misunderstanding. To summarize the initial process of heating the tile will take time, but the time for the ceramic tile to actually cook the food is much less than convectional, or conventional heating methods as well as the overall time taken.
Infrared Grills Heating
How much stronger is an infrared grill vs a traditional grill?
The short answer to this question is “a lot”. But let’s talk about why an infrared grill is so much more powerful than tradition heating methods. First it’s important to understand how different types of fires and heat can create more powerful energy.
When you light a fire or see flames in a traditional grill, you may have noticed that the flames have different shads of colors. While most people would refer to them simply as different colors, technically what you are experiencing when you see this are different colors from the electromagnetic spectrum. The elctromagnetic spectrum is the entire collection of different wavelengths of visible and invisible rays that give off different wavelengths. This is difficult to understand without getting too technical, but basically the spectrum is all the different colors that you see all around you, each one giving off different wavelengths. You may already be aware that how hot certain parts of the flame are determined by the specific color that it’s giving off. That means that although all of a fire is hot, there are certain parts of it that are not as hot as other simply because the wavelenght of that color is not as high or low as another.
Take a look at the magnetic spectrum below and you’ll see the different colors a fire can give off. The further to the left of the spectrum the color is, the hotter it will be. You may notice that blue is to the far right of the color spectrum; you may have also noticed that on traditional grills you will see a bluish outline around the flame. This is because the outside of the flame is the coolest (although still hot to the touch) porition of the flame since it is making the most contact with the surrounding air and is being cooled off by the air which changes its wavelength and in-turn changes the color. At one point that ray may have been red but it changes as its properties are manipulated. So the fire is heating the air around it convectionally and thus some of its energy is lost and that is why we see a blue color. However, towards the base of the flames you will notice that colors more along the left of the spectrum begin to show up indicating that they are much hotter. This is because they are constantly having their energy replenished by the source of the flame at the base and therefore will maintain their hotter properties.
Infrared Grills Spectrum
Now look further to the left of the spectrum and you will notice that we fall into the infrared category. What this tells us is that infrared energy that falls on the electromagnetic spectrum is much hotter than the flames that a traditional grill gives off. Because an infrared grill uses this end of the spectrum to heat the food you can reach temperatures much higher, much more quickly and directly than you can with a traditional grill. With an infraed grill you won’t see blue colors becuase infrared is strictly one porition of the electromagnetic spectrum, so the heat intensity stays the same. Nobody cooks a steak with a traditional grill by holding it on the lowest part of the flame (the red part). It takes too much effort and can be dangerous, but with infrared and the ability to directly transfer this red end of the spectrum you bring the heat to the food instead of the food to the heat so you are able to cook it much faster but without the dangers and effort that you would if you were using a traditional grill. That’s the beauty of infrared grills.
Is an infrared grill safe for my food?
Many people who have issues with the use of microwave ovens on their food also cringe at the thought of cooking with an infrared grill. When we think of radiation we almost immediately relate that to bad things that are harmful to our body. But is cooking with an infrared grill that uses radiation to heat safe for our bodies?
Unfortunately there is much speculation in this area and in the big picture we aren’t positive exactly what the ill affects (if any) are when heating food through methods beyond the center of the electromagnetic spectrum. When you use an infrared grill you are heating through radiation that is just to the right of microwaves but not quite in the visible light spectrum; from this perspective one could say that an infrared grill is safer than using a microwave but not as safe as using a conventional oven (if using a microwave is dangerous at all).
The most common argument against the use of microwaves and radiation is that studies were done in Russia in the 1950’s when microwave ovens first came out and were found to have negative effects on the human body. The microwave ovens were then banned in Russia but taken up by the rest of thw world and considered safe after they lowered their power to only 500 watts. Now you find microwave ovens at 1,500 watts and nobody seems to really care if it’s doing damage to their body or not.
People who believe that microwave ovens and using an infrared grill has no ill effects on the human body will often argue that using an open flame is the same thing has heating through radiation, only slower. The further along to the left of the electromagnetic spectrum you move the faster you will cause molecules to virbrate which will in-turn create heat faster. An infrared grill simply simply does the same thing a traditional grill does only quicker.
Whether or not an infrared grill is safe is going to come down to your personal opinion on how they work and what you want to believe. As of now there has not been any conclusive evidence that the use of an infrared grill is any different than eating food right off of an open fire.
What are the other advantages of an infrared grill?
So we know that an infrared grill can get really hot. But what are the real advantages to getting this over a traditional grill? This is an important question as you need to know if it’s worth the money that you will spend on it. It’s also important as with any purchase to understand what you will be dealing with as some advantages to one person may not be advantages to another. If you’re going to spend the money on an infrared grill you should know the following benfits that you can receive from it:
If you’ve cooked with a traditional grill then you know how long it can take to cook food and what all is involved. Because infrared grills use infrared technology, you are able to heat food with the infrared end of the spectrum directly. This is similar to holding a steak into the red part of a flame and is often why people put more gasoline on the fire; for a moment it flares up the fire and brings the hottest part of the flame to the food. Infrared grilling can be seen as constantly having your food at the hottest part of the flame which as a result can cook food in half the time of traditional grills.
Because the infrared grill heats food directly instead of convectional or conventional, you can use it in almost any weather without having to worry about increased cooking times or a flame going out. If you’ve ever tried to grill something when it’s windy out you may have noticed that while possible, it is more difficult to do so. This is not an issue with your infrared grill which means that you can use your infrared grill year-round.
Ever been to a cookout and seen the cook almost get their face charred off because of a bad flare-up? Flare ups are sometimes accidental and sometimes done on purpose to help cook the food faster and as a fancy way to make you look like a cool chef. But although it may look neat but it can be very dangerous and makes it very important to stand right next to the grill at all times in case it occurs while you are away and a fire breaks out. Because infrared grills do not use a secondary heating source flare-ups are almost completely eliminated as anything that falls toward the bottom is vaporized. This means that you can safely watch the grill from a distance and while it’s still very hot to the touch it makes it much safer for everyone around.
Evenly cooked food
When you look at the way a flame is shaped it’s obvious that it fluctuates and is not even. This means that your food will not be cooked perfectly even as a result. You may think that it doesn’t make too much of a difference but until you have tasted evenly cooked food you can’t completely appreciate this factor. Have you ever had food that was boiling lava hot on one end and cold as ice on the other? You may have been a victim of unevenly cooked food which can often happen on a grill that relies on a flame. Infrared grills don’t rely on a flame that becomes affected by convectional heating and cooling so the food is cooked much more evenly overall becuase the infrared is spread out evenly and is directly transferred into the food. This means that every inch of your steak will be cooked the same way so you can enjoy every part of it, not just the center!
There’s many advantages that an infrared grill has over traditional grills which make it worth the money. All of these add up to a great cooking experience and although you haven’t become a better cook, people will think you cook some of the best steaks they’ve ever tasted–all thanks to your infrared grill!
What are the best types of Infrared Grills Available?
As with most things this is debatable but worth looking into before making your purchase. The quick easy answer would be the inventors of the infrared grill, TEC. Because TEC invented the infrared grill they also claimed a patent on the technology so that other companies could not take advantage of the market. For ten years TEC went on creating, improving, and enhancing their infrared grills. When a company firsts invents something, although it will typically carry out the task as designed, it is usually not without many bugs, unwanted flaws, or unknown hazards (like unexpected flare-ups). When a new product like an infrared grill is first released, there is also much speculation as to the safety of the device.
What this all means for the consumer is that TEC has invented, tested, and had ample time to improve their grills to ensure that you are getting the best quality product that money can buy. While other manufacturers who have joined the infrared grills market since TEC ran out of their patent, they have not had the time or experience that TEC has had in order to learn and improve on their equipment.
TEC has also won numerous awards for their grilling products including the “Kitchen Innovations” award in 2006, the Gas Foodservice Network award, as well as the Hearth and Home award in 2005 for their grilling products. TEC has proven themselves to be a reliable and trustworthy manufacturer of infrared grilling products. You can be sure that when you purchase an infrared grill from TEC that you are getting a top of the line product, but is the extra price tag really worth it? Are there other manufacturers that are just as good?
When a company decides to join a marketing niche such as infrared grills, the first thing they do is research their competitors. You can be sure that for every manufacturer of infrared grills that exists, that is not TEC, they also own a TEC grill that has been torn to pieces for research purposes so they can share those best practices. By doing this they can implement things into their grill that TEC has already gone through the hard task of learning. This is a huge advantage for these people because not only are they going to have their own unique ideas and innovations, but they will also have those of TEC. The difficulty in this is perfecting the process of building the infrared grills to the same specs of TEC.
It will be a difficult road for other manufacturers to take in competing with TEC, but as time goes buy and the marketing battle goes on, loyalties will change, and if not then TEC will remain as the king of infrared grilling. The best thing you can do when searching for your infrared grill is to read reviews and go out to the stores and look at them yourselves. There are other brands that are up and coming and quickly making their name in the infrared grills community, one of those being Texas Sizzler Grills In the end all of the infrared grills will cook your food by the same method and the differences will be overall subtle.
Infrared Similar to Microwave? Not even close!
If you went to a fancy restaurant and were told that your entire meal was cooked inside a microwave you would probalby ask to speak to the manager or just get right up and leave. It’s no secret that cooking with a microwave isn’t exactly the best way to bring out the taste in your food but is more of a way to cook food quicker at the sacrifice of the overall taste. So just like a microwave cooks faster and takes away the taste, should we epxect to see the same thing happen when cooking food on an infrared grill? Will it take away the taste along with the time that it removes from the cooking?
This is a reasonable question but first we need to understand why food doesn’t taste as good in a microwave. When you cook with microwaves you’re not able to get the heat evenly distributed. This is why you will often find rotating trays inside of microwaves, they help to keept he food cooked evenly. Often with microwaves you need to heat up your food, then poke around on it, find the cold spot and heat it up some more. The microwaves simply can’t be targeted evenly. Also, because you’re not cooking with a flame you won’t get that the crisp edged that you would normally get if cooking in an oven or an open flame.
With infrared grilling the heat is evenly distributed all over the steak and the food that you’re grilling, every time. So when you cook a steak and poke around on it, you will find that it is done all the way through instead of biting into one part that will scald your mouth and another part that will freeze your brain. Cooking with infrared is faster than grilling so the food has less time to lose its flavor when it drips out. If you’ve ever seen the bottom of traditional grills you know that quite a bit of the steak juice will flow out of the food which means less taste. If you cook food in half the time then you can expect to lose only half of the taste.
Overall you really can’t compare an infrared grill to a microwave oven because they’re entirely different. Infrared grills actually improve the overall taste of the food you’re eating along with saving you time. Besides, you can combine with electric grill reviews if you want to have delicious meals.