Wondering what would suit your style of cooking up a barbecue meal? Confused which grill to choose from – infrared or the convection gas grill? Find the answers to all your questions in this article.
Many factors differentiate a gas grill from an infrared grill and on the other hand, several factors are common as well between the two. For example, both the grills use natural/liquid propane gas to generate heat for cooking, but the way in which the heat is transferred from the source to the food differs in a major way. To get a better understanding about the way in which food is cooked in each of these grills, let us first understand the modes of transfer of heat.
The most important thing needed in the cooking process is heat. Without heat, any of the above mentioned ways of cooking would be impossible. Heat is nothing but energy, and while cooking, transfer of energy from the heat source to the food takes place. The different ways in which you can cook food are frying, boiling, grilling, broiling, baking, simmering, steaming, roasting, cooking over a fire, toasting, deep-frying, etc. Heat can be transferred from the source to the food in three ways – conduction, convection, and radiation.
Convection: This mode of cooking is characterized by the presence of a second medium that transfers heat from the heat source to the food to be cooked. The medium could either be air or liquid. For example, when food is boiled in hot water, the heat from the source is transferred to the water which then transfers the heat to the food. This heat is responsible for boiling the food. Baking, roasting, steaming, and deep frying are other examples of convection cooking.
Radiation: This mode of cooking is characterized by transfer of heat that occurs due to electromagnetic radiation. The heat is radiated by the element that is heated. This radiated heat is transferred from the source to the food by energy waves. For example, a microwave or an oven has a heating element that radiates heat which is absorbed by the food particles, and food is cooked. Grilling and broiling food are examples of radiation cooking, where convection is present, but the heat is primarily radiated.
Now that you know about the ways in which food is cooked, let us look at grilling in detail.
Grilling is the process of cooking by direct exposure to radiant heat, for example, directly over a fire or under a grill. It basically involves all the heating modes. When meat is grilled over a grate or barbecue grill, it is subjected to primary radiation from the heat source, secondary conduction from the grill, and also convection from the air present between the heat source and the meat. There are many different types of grills available in the market. Here, we try to understand the difference between a conventional gas grill and an infrared grill. Gas grills have been around for ages, whereas infrared grills are a recent development.
Difference Between Infrared and Gas Grill
|Infrared Gas Grill
|Convection Gas Grill
|The principle behind the transfer of heat to the food is mainly radiation.
|The principle behind the transfer of heat to the food is mainly convection.
|Food is cooked faster.
|Food is cooked comparatively slower.
|Locks the moisture in and keeps the food moist.
|Continuous loss of moisture and meat juices makes the food dry and hard.
|The heat radiated from the heat source is more concentrated.
|The heat radiated from the heat source is less concentrated.
|The medium of heat transfer is an electric/gas element.
|The medium of heat transfer is hot air.
|Since it requires very little time to heat up, it is more time-efficient.
|Since it requires more time to heat up, it is less time-efficient.
|Since the grill heats up quickly, there is very little loss of heat and fuel.
|Since the grill takes more time to heat up, a lot of heat and fuel is wasted.
|Allows flexibility of temperature control.
|No flexibility of controlling the temperature available.
|The fire flames don’t come in direct contact with the food.
|The fire flames generally come in direct contact with the food.
|Very low maintenance and easy to clean.
|Requires high maintenance and not very easy to clean.
|The safety mechanism is stronger
which avoids major fires or flare-ups.
|The safety mechanism is not as strong, which increases the possibility of fires.
Working of an Infrared Grill
Infrared grills work on the principle of radiation of heat. Its construction includes a burner made up of a housing case of stainless steel and a ceramic top. Such construction allows uniform distribution of heat over the grill.
Unlike a conventional grill, where the heat is transferred from the source to the food through an air medium, the infrared grills make use of a heated electric or gas element, which radiates heat and emits infrared waves into the food on the grill. It is not like radiation is the only way in which heat is transferred on an infrared grill. The heated element also increases the temperature and circulation of the air around the grill, which causes convection. But, compared to that, in a gas grill, less amount of heated air is circulated. In a nutshell, infrared grills provide instant ignition, better heat control, and a uniform heat source which cooks up a better-tasting barbecue meal.
Working of a Gas Grill
Gas grills work mainly on the principle of convection. A small percentage of radiation and conduction is also observed. The construction of a convection gas grill is simple, with drip deflectors, grates, burners, and the grill (usually long iron tubes with equidistant holes in them).
As soon as the burners are ignited, they produce convection heat which rises through the air in the fire box. The drip reflectors/drip protector bars/ceramic plates absorb part of this heat and generate radiant heat. They also generate conduction heat which is transferred to the food when they come in contact with it. So, the food on a gas grill is cooked with a combination of convection, conduction, and radiant heat. The following list of comparisons between the two types of grills is based on factors like efficiency, taste, safety, temperature control, and maintenance.
Fuel and Time Efficiency
The infrared grill is more efficient than the conventional gas grill in a way that it takes less time to heat up. As soon as an infrared burner is ignited, the temperature of the grill rises above 1000° F in less than sixty seconds. It does not take more than three minutes for an infrared grill to reach a temperature of 1400° F.
A gas grill, on the other hand, takes some time to reach the desired temperature suitable for searing or grilling food. Due to this, the food needs to be grilled for a longer time. Cooking for long makes it dry and drains all its moisture content. The maximum temperature that a gas grill reaches is 500° F. This saves a lot of time.
When cooking meat, each side of a fillet or steak is done under a span of two minutes. Once the meat has been seared on both sides, the flavor, moisture, and juices are all locked and sealed in. Further cooking of the fillet will not let the moisture or flavor drip out. The heat on an infrared burner can be adjusted to slow cook through the meat without burning the outsides.
Since food cooks faster on an infrared grill, less fuel is used. So, a lot of energy and money is saved. On the contrary, a gas grill consumes more time and fuel, and is thus expensive.
When it comes to grilling, taste is a very subjective matter. As already mentioned, food needs to stay longer on a gas grill due to spotty temperature distribution. This results in dried up food, which doesn’t appeal to the taste buds. But, with the right amount of circulating air and the right temperature, it is possible to create wonderful, smoky, perfectly cooked barbecues.
Convection gas grill users swear by this method. However, avant-garde chefs using infrared grills, have been dishing out, if not the same, better-tasting, smoke-induced barbecue cuisine. According to them, infrared grills, which are faster, easier, and more efficient, are the next big thing in the world of barbecues and grills. The only time you need to be careful is when the outside has been seared and you are waiting for the inside of a meat fillet to be cooked. If left unmonitored, the steak or fillet will burn right through, ruining what could have been perfectly cooked meat.
Controlling Flare Ups
This is where the infrared grills earn a brownie point, or two. Most of the cooking grates in an infrared grill are concave in shape. These concave ducts above the burners are meant to hold the liquids and juices dripping out from the food while it is being seared.
Later, the moisture and juices stuck on the grill are vaporized by the heat from the burner which re-enter the food placed on the grill as flavored smoke. This acts as a safety mechanism too. The juices don’t drip over actual fire. This prevents the possibility of flare ups and eruption of fire flames. In a gas grill, on the other hand, the juices drip directly over the fire flames which can result in huge fire eruptions and flare ups.
Regulating the Temperature
It is possible to control the temperature of the gas burners in an infrared grill. This is its biggest advantage. The temperature can be adjusted according to the type of meat being cooked and the amount of tenderness or crispness that would be liked. This option of temperature control also makes the infrared grill suitable for any type of barbecue-cooking, like slow-roasting, searing, grilling, or whether the grill is being used to grill, sear, roast, or barbecue food.
On a convection gas grill, since it is an open fire flame, the temperature of the gas burners cannot be grilled. The food to be cooked is exposed to air and the heat for a longer time, resulting in dry food, devoid of any moisture or juices. There is also the problem of hot spots and cold spots developing on the grill due to uneven distribution of heat. This affects the quality of barbecued food.
Upkeep and Care
The infrared grills require very little but thorough maintenance. It should be checked for wear and tear, burned grills, and grates, damaged heating element, at least twice a year. If there is very little or no change in the physical condition of the grill, you can clean it using very quick and easy DIY cleaning tips. Infrared grills are designed to be ergonomically efficient because of their compact sizes, availability of side-drawers to store kitchen supplies and they are extremely easy to handle. Gas grills are high maintenance and need to be cleaned more frequently.
Other Types of Grills
- Charcoal Grill (requires charcoal briquettes or wood, or a combination of both for cooking)
- Gas Grill (requires liquid propane (LP) for cooking)
- Electric Grill (runs on electricity; doesn’t require gas or coal)
- Portable Grill (can run on propane or charcoal; has an added advantage of being portable)
- Smoker Grill (is used to slow-smoke food over a low heat; additional aromatic smoking woods can be used to intensify the flavor and tenderize the meat)
- Infrared Grill (makes use of electric/gas media that radiate heat to cook the food)
- Fire Pit Grill (makes use of firewood and natural fire for cooking)
- Barbecue Rotisserie (is used to roast meat that is skewered on a ‘spit’)
- Infrared Grill
- Natural Gas Grill (requires natural gas for cooking)
- Built-in Grill (a permanent barbecue grill in your backyard which can work on either propane or natural gas)
Progress and Future
If you thought, it couldn’t get better than infrared cooking, it is time you think again. Hybrid infrared gas grill is the next big thing. It gives you a charcoal burner, a natural gas burner and an infrared burner all in one place. Although, it still needs to catch up with the popularity of infrared and gas grills, chefs and cooks all over the world believe, the hybrid technology is here to stay.
In the end, it is, of course, a personal choice to decide which kind of grill would suit your needs the best. It is up to you, to carefully measure the pros and cons of each type and make the right decision.