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If you’re trying to decide between gas vs infrared grills, there’s plenty to know about how they differ when it comes to performance, cost, and versatility. The best grill for you may be either one.
Each has its advantages, depending on your needs and budget, so understanding the pros and cons of each is important even if you’re a casual cook. You may also want to look into the benefits of cast iron vs. stainless steel grills, and whether charcoal vs gas grills are better for you health-wise.
Infrared grilling’s high temperatures make it better for searing meat than charcoal grills or standard gas grills.
Although some infrared grills are electric, the majority use propane as a fuel source, like many conventional grills. What makes infrared grills different is that they use a heating element to heat food as opposed to an open flame as gas grills do, which makes them better for certain kinds of cooking. Beyond that, there are significant differences in cost, versatility, and temperature that are important to note.
One of the biggest differences in performance between standard gas grills and infrared grills is the intense heat the latter are capable of. Infrared grills can cook at much higher temperatures than gas grills, some up to 700 degrees, and have better heat distribution, making them better at cooking steaks and other tougher cuts of meat that can be difficult to pull off at lower temperatures.
In gas grills, the flame is in direct contact with the food, and temperature controls aren’t as precise. This can lead to inconsistently cooked food, especially for less experienced cooks. Infrared grills use a heating element, so food isn’t in direct contact with the heat source, which cooks food more evenly. Moreover, infrared grills have precision control over temperature, making them more versatile and reliable, and cool down in a matter of minutes after use.
Both infrared and traditional gas grills use propane or natural gas for their fuel source, but if you’re concerned about efficiency, there’s definitely a difference. Infrared grills are, as a rule, more fuel-efficient than gas grills, despite their higher performance and maximum temperatures, which could mitigate their increased price point in energy savings.
Infrared grills offer a lot of advantages over gas grills, depending on what you want in a grill, but it all comes at a much higher price point. Both propane and electric infrared grills are a much bigger investment than a standard gas grill, and there are far fewer entry-level, budget-friendly models available compared to gas grills.
For many cooks, the superior performance of infrared grills may not justify their significantly increased cost, though their fuel efficiency can make up for it, depending on how often it’s used.
Is there a taste difference between charcoal and propane grills?
Yes, charcoal gives meat the classic smoky BBQ flavor many people are looking for when grilling. Propane grills create “clean” tasting food and simply can’t produce a smoky flavor without products like liquid smoke.
Is cooking with charcoal unhealthy?
Unless you’re eating charcoal-grilled meat every day, then any health risks are minimal. Charcoal grilling does put a certain amount of carcinogens into meat, but in amounts that aren’t a serious health risk if you’re only eating it a few times a month.
Is steak better on propane or charcoal?
Most of the time, you’ll get better results with steak and other tougher meats using charcoal, because of the higher temperatures it’s capable of. This also means a great sear is much easier to get with charcoal.
STAT: Infrared cooking doesn’t use hot air, which allows meat to retain around 35% more of its juices than other grilling methods, noticeably improving its flavor. (source)