Gas grills have been around for a long time and are among the popular options for grilling. Gas grills have been marketed as an easier way to grill when compared to charcoal grills. Infrared is a newer option that aims to do away with some of the drawbacks of both gas and charcoal grilling. What are the pros and cons of each? Is one easier to use than the other? Below are answers to these and other questions as we look at infrared grills vs. gas grills in another BBQ Showdown.
Like charcoal grills, gas grills cook food using convection. In other words, they heat air and that air is circulated through the grill grates and around the food to cook it. The flow of air is essential and has certain drawbacks, some of which may be prevented with the use of an infrared grill.
Infrared grills do not rely on convection. They use gas or electricity to heat a ceramic plate and the infrared that radiates from the plate is what cooks the food. The waves are emitted within a particular wavelength range that is optimal for cooking. Some are designed specifically to limit air circulation and to provide even heat.
What does each do best?
Infrared grills are able to achieve far higher temperatures than traditional gas grills. This means that they can cook food in less time. Infrared grills may also make food taste better since they vaporize drippings that then provide flavor to food, much like charcoal. Most infrared grills have channels for collecting drippings so that they can be vaporized. Yet another benefit is that the heat from infrared grills is even. There are no hot spots or flare-ups when using infrared. The high, even heat makes infrared grills perfect for steaks and other fast-cooking foods.
Gas grills are better for cooking at lower temperatures. While the heat of infrared grills is adjustable, they are not as good as standard gas if you are cooking items that do not require high temperatures. While you can slow-cook foods using infrared, it takes a lot of practice and extra care. Gas is better than infrared for cooking items like bone-in chicken, or thicker burger patties.
Are there any negatives that make one better than the other?
The lack of flexibility with regard to temperature on infrared grills is a significant drawback as you are likely to burn or dry out food while you learn to use it for low-temperature cooking. You will probably not be slow-cooking items like ribs or pork shoulders on an infrared grill. In addition, higher end infrared grills have more complex components than gas grills and typically require more time and effort to clean.
Gas grills do not put out the kind of heat that you would get from an infrared grill, which makes them less suitable for grilling items like steaks. Steaks require very high temperatures in order to get an optimal sear. Gas grills also have a tendency to flare-ups that can char your food. They do not vaporize drippings the way that infrared and charcoal grills do, which means that the food cooked on them may not have a grilled taste.
Is it easier to grill on one than on the other?
Which grill is right for you depends on your level of experience and the types of items that you intend to cook. Because of the difficulty of cooking at lower temperatures with infrared grills, they are best for experienced grill chefs. The learning curve can be very steep for grilling novices. However, infrared outranks gas when it comes to flavor and cooking items that require high heat and short cooking times.
Gas is more forgiving and thus is more suitable for inexperienced chefs. It puts out less heat, which makes it better for items that take longer to cook. You are less likely to accidentally burn your food on a gas grill than you are with an infrared grill.