How Food Cooks (On An Infrared Grill)

So you have heard of baking and grilling method of cooking food.

But have you heard about infrared cooking?

Infrared cooking is the use of infrared radiation (IR) or sometimes called infrared light.

Cooking on an infrared grill is not as scary as it sounds and in this article, I will break it down for you.

Thermodynamics Of Food And Cooking On An Infrared Grill

How Does an Infrared Grill Work?

They are similar grills to gas but they have a special type of grate that turns the heat into infrared heat.

The upper parts of the grate can get to 500 degrees whereas the bottom grates can get to around 800 degrees.

Direct high-velocity energy is the heat reaching the bottom of the grate. however, it hits the grates and slows down, and is then absorbed into the metal.

When the heat crosses over to the upper side, it is hen mainly infrared. It is usually a more intense but slower type of energy. This is what heats the grill and therefore cooks your food.

Cooking on an Infrared Grill

Infrared radiation is one of the best methods for delivering high temperatures to food on a grill.

A lot of scorching infrared radiation is produced by charcoal grills. This is converted into heat when it strikes food. Pallet and gas grills mainly produce convection heat.

Think of infrared grill cooking like the sun. The sun radiates very intense infrared waves which travel at great distances at the speed of light until then make contact with solid matter, such as your skin, at which stage it starts warming you.

The sun also radiates ultraviolet waves, these waves don’t only cause warmth but also cause sunburn. This basically means that all infrared heat is radiant, but not all radiant heat is infrared.

Recently a number of different gas grills have been showing their superiority because they are using infrared heat, or they boast an infrared sizzle zone or sear burner designed to give off super high temperatures to get a quick, dark sear on the meat. This is mainly an attempt to try and close the gap with the charcoal grill.

An infrared gas grill has a plate of special glass, ceramic, or metal to absorb the heat and light from the flame and re-radiate it to the food in infrared.

Infrared heat is transferred to the food faster than convection but is slower than conduction heating. It can brown food more effectively than a conventional grill but no way near as fast as a hot plate or grill.

5 Advantages of Infrared Grills

Here are the 5 main advantages of cooking with an infrared grill.

Minimal Flare-ups

Not having a naked flame, means you don’t run the risk of flare-ups or food catching fire. Making it a safer grilling experience,

More Energy Efficient

There can heat up twice as fast as your traditional grill, which would translate into 50% less gas being used! Saving you money plus reducing your impact on fossil fuel

Even-Heat

Infrared grills are known to provide even heat across the entire cooking surface. That means you won’t have any hot or cold spots.

High Temperature Range

The grill has a temperature range of up to 700 °F. Therefore it is perfect for food that requires quick high heat, like steak.

3 Disadvantages of Infrared Grills

Here are the 3 main disadvantages of cooking with an infrared grill.

Not Transportable

Once you have this grill installed, they are difficult or impossible to move. T

Not Very Adaptable

The range of temperature can be hard to master on the infrared grill. With insane temperatures it can get to, you want to be careful you don’t incinerate your steak
Plus it does not allow you to cook low and slow as traditional charcoal or gas smokers do.

Costly

Just like everything, when a new technology emerges it does cost a lot more. There isn’t much competition or mass production happening. So you would be looking at the price range of $1500 to $3500

8 Other Methods of Producing Heat for Barbecuing

1. Direct Heat Charcoal or Wood

Radiant heat is produced by the wood/ charcoal at the bottom. The grates above absorb the heat and produce conduction heat on the parts of the meat that touches the grill causing the grill marks.

The closed lid reflects convection heat back on the meat. The exterior of the food absorbs heat from below and converts it into conduction heat, which moves to the center of the meat.

2. Indirect Heat Charcoal or wood

This method of cooking creates both convection and radiant heat. The grates absorb heat and produce conduction heat on the surface of the food leaving grill marks. 

The outside absorbs indirect convection heat from all angles and converts it into conduction heat which heats the center of the food.

3. Lid off Charcoal or Wood

Radiant heat is produced by charcoal/wood. The grills grates absorb heat, creating conduction heat on the food’s surface creating grill marks. 

The food’s exterior absorbs radiant heat from below. Energy absorbed from below is converted into conduction heat, then moves to the center of the food.

4. Flat Top Grill

Charcoal/gas produces radiant heat in the firebox. A solid griddle absorbs heat & creates conduction heat foods surface.

The bottom of the food absorbs conduction heat & browns where it is in contact with the flat top & heat is conducted upwards towards the food.

5. Direct Heat Gas

The gas burners create radiant heat, which heats the metal drip protector, ceramic briquettes or lava rocks. 

They absorb heat and produce both radiant & convection heat.

The grates absorb heat then produce conduction heat on the food surface. The incoming energy is converted to conduction heat and is transferred to the center of the food.

6. Indirect Heat Gas

Burners off to the side produce radiant heat that heats metal drip protector bars, lava rocks, or ceramic briquettes. 

They absorb heat and produce radiant and convection heat. The grates absorb heat and produce conduction heat on the surface of the food. The exterior of the food absorbs indirect convection from all sides. 

The exterior of the food converts the energy to conduction heat and it moves to the center of the food.

7. Lid Off Gas

The gas burners produce radiant heat which heats metal drip protector bars, lava rocks, or ceramic briquettes. 

They then absorb heat & produce both convection & radiant heat. The grates then absorb heat which produces conduction heat on the food’s surface. 

The food’s exterior converts the energy into conduction heat, then, it moves towards the top of the food.

8. Infrared Gas

The gas burners create radiant heat which heats a special plate. The plate absorbs heat, then emits it as radiant heat in the infrared part of the spectrum. 

Metal grates absorb the heat which then produces conduction heat, which is contacts the food’s surface. The radiant heat is absorbed by the food and it is converted to conduction heat, where it moves into the center of the food.

What is The Stall?

At a low cooking temperature such as 125°C, the evaporation rate can be so great that the surface and interior of the meat can stick at around 65°C – 75°C and remain there for hours on end.

This phenomenon is called ‘the stall’ and is feared by many. This freak of nature will not happen if the oven is at a higher temperature, say 165°C +.

Cooking with ‘the stall’ actually has a few benefits. (Providing you try to forget that it will take the meat longer to cook).

What Are The Different Cooking Techniques?

Food becomes hot when the molecules around it vibrate so fast that its temperature rises.

There are three main cooking techniques, each technique transfers heat to food in a different way. The one that you select for your specific food is crucial.

1. Convection Cooking

Convection cooking is when the heat source is transferred through to the food by a fluid. Think water, oil, or air. Imagine cooking a sausage in your kitchen oven where it is surrounded by hot air. This is convection cooking.

Convection cooking is also cooking that same sausage in a deep fryer, and boiling it in a pot of water. 

Convection cooking would also be if you turned one side of your grill on (leaving the other side off) and placed the food on the offside leaving the food to be cooked by the natural convection airflow from the hot side. You will find that a good portion of gas grills use this method of cooking.

Conventional indoor ovens also use natural convection airflow to cook foods, but a convection oven includes an extra fan and an extra heat source close to the fan and uses a forced airflow to cook foods.

Convection ovens in general cook foods 25 – 30% faster. Think wind chill.. But the complete opposite. This is because moving warm is can transfer more energy than still air can.

In both cases, airflow is only able to cook the exterior of the meat. The interior of the meat is cooked through conduction as the heat travels through.

SMOKER WARS! What Do you think cooks better food? Green Mountain vs Camp Chef? You might be surprised what I like best, is it the Camp Chef SE?

2. Conduction Cooking

Conduction cooking is when the heat is transferred to the food by being in direct contact with the heat source. Think cooking that same sausage in the frying pan. The heat from the element is transferred to the frying pan where the molecules vibrate and pass through to the sausage.

As the outer surface of the sausage heats up, heat is transferred through to the center of the sausage by the fats and moisture in the sausage.

A classic example of what conduction cooking can be found on meat after using a grill. The grill marks are branding from where the heat has been transferred from the grill grates to the meat.

3. Radiation Cooking

Radiation cooking is the transfer of heat from direct exposure to an energy source. Think, putting that sausage on a stick and cooking it to the side of a campfire. This method is how a charcoal grill is cooked.

When cooking indoors with radiation cooking there are two more methods of radiation cooking that can be used:

  1. Excitation: This is how a microwave oven works. In short, a microwave uses radio waves to penetrate the food and vibrates the molecules that are inside of the sausage until it gets hot. It does this without heating the air that is around it. This technology is a form of radiation, however, that I am aware of there is not a grill that works with this technology.

  2. Induction cooking: Induction cooking is the latest technique to use on stovetops. It is made up of a copper coil that is placed under a cooktop and uses alternating currents to heat a cast iron or steel pot. The pot then transfers the heat to the sausage without the cooktop or space around getting hot. Induction cooking is one of the most efficient ways to convert energy to heat on a cooktop. This method is very easily controlled (with the knob). Unfortunately, this method is limited to steel or cast iron and does not work with copper, glass or aluminium.

Wrapping it Up

There was a lot of information in here, hopefully, now you understand a little more about what cooking is and how different cooking methods work.

Hopefully, at your next barbecue, you can wow your guests with intelligent conversations breaking down Induction vs conduction cooking, cooking with an infrared convection oven, or why you prefer cooking with ‘xyz’. What category do you think wood pellet smokers fall into?

I always find it very interesting hearing about other backyard BBQ enthusiast’s thoughts and views about their favorite cooking methods, styles and the different ways you clean & maintain your grill.

One issue that I have been faced with in the past is grill mold, which I despise. If you have any thoughts to share about any of these topics I would love to hear from you below!

Happy smoking

Charlie

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2 thoughts on “How Food Cooks (On An Infrared Grill)”

  1. Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.

  2. Heya i am for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.

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