Infrared Grills Review
Why Buy an Infrared Grill?
The top performers in our review are Broilmaster R3B, the Gold Award winner; TEC Cherokee, the Silver Award winner; and Weber Genesis, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing an infrared grilling system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 systems.
Barbecues are a summertime staple. Sweltering heat and biting mosquitoes seem less bothersome when you're sharing perfectly seasoned meats and grilled vegetables with your friends and family. With a side of Grandma's potato salad and some ice-cold lemonade, you've got a meal worth eating. While charcoal and gas grills are the traditional favorites, infrared grills offer burners uniquely suited for searing. Infrared grills are a key component in the best steakhouses.
Infrared Grills vs. Gas Grills
Infrared grills use powerful sear burners to directly heat food. The low air circulation of infrared grills locks moisture into prime cuts of meat and enhances flavor. Infrared grills also heat up fast and provide even heat over the entire surface. In contrast, gas grills typically heat the surrounding air for oven-like cooking. For more information, read our article on infrared versus gas and charcoal.
Infrared Grills: What We Tested
As we set out to find the best infrared grills, we conducted numerous tests to gauge grill quality. As a rule, we focused less on things that change if you decide to get a different model and more on how well the grill performs certain tasks. Specifically, we looked at heat consistency, power and overall grilling experience.
We looked at two things to determine which grills have the best heat consistency. First, we looked at how evenly a grill distributes heat over the cooking surface, which involved placing pieces of bread on the grill surface after preheating. We waited for the bread to burn slightly and turned it over to reveal a grill's hot and cold spots. Some grills produced uniform results, while others had clear hot and cold spots on the grill surface.
Then, we measured how well the grill can maintain stable temperatures for long-term cooking projects. This involved starting the grill on low and using a laser thermometer to check the temperature every seven minutes until 21 minutes had elapsed. Grills that held the same temperature the entire time performed better than those that fluctuated.
Power is a straightforward measurement. First, we tested how fast a grill preheats to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Then we compared this with the grill's BTUs to see if there was a correlation between BTUs and fast heating. The tests showed that there's no correlation between the two. This is why BTUs play a minor role in our review.
While heat consistency and power demonstrate how well grills compare to each other, they don't tell you about the overall grilling experience. To put each grill through its paces, we cooked two servings each or four types of meat: steak, chicken breast, salmon and hamburgers. These meats helped show if a grill can handle a variety of food types that require different cooking methods. To round out the grilling experience, we also considered other factors: easy cleaning, portability and quick assembly.
Infrared Grills: What We Found
Our results create a snapshot of the infrared grilling systems that several key brands use. The grills in our review use a variety of methods to achieve infrared cooking, and our comprehensive tests highlight the strengths and weakness of each method. The grilling systems can be specialized, with ceramic sear burners and radiant glass panels, or achieve infrared-like results with traditional gas grills using extra burners and sear plates. Our results also showed that all of the grills in our review are good for multiple types of cooking, though the most powerful grills had trouble with thick cuts of chicken.
Ceramic Sear Burners
This is the most common infrared grilling system in use. Six products in our review use this method, including our top-rated grill, the Broilmaster R3B. Ceramic sear burners all have the same basic design: a porous slab of a ceramic material that transfers the extreme heat to food with fewer open flames. These burners have the highest temperatures in our review, which produce quality sear marks on meat, most notably on steak. However, they require some skill because they produce extreme heat even on a low setting. To cook chicken and fish with these burners, thin cuts of meat cook well without excessive charring on the outside. The extreme heat of ceramic sear burners vaporizes meat drippings for easy cleanup.
Radiant Glass Panel Burners
Radiant glass panels are unique to the TEC Cherokee in our review. This infrared grilling system is the most effective that we've seen. A specialized burner heats a glass panel that distributes heat over the entire grilling surface with no open flame. This evenness of extreme heat produces solid results with every type of food we tested. This infrared system is easy to master, but doesn't preheat or cook as quickly as others in our review, which may be a drawback if you want speed from your infrared grill. The glass panel is easy to clean, especially when compared to sear plates.
In simplest terms, sear plates are metal panels with many small holes that use the same heating principles that define ceramic and radiant glass panel burners. This grilling system's chief advantage is a distribution of heat similar to, but not as hot as, ceramic burners. Sear plates have two disadvantages: they produce a lot of smoke from meat drippings and they are difficult to clean. Magma and Char-Broil are the only two sear plate grills in our review.
Traditional grills can achieve infrared cooking if there's enough heat coming from the burners. Adding an extra steel tube burner is a simple way to make this possible. Only one grill in our review uses this method, the Weber Genesis E-330. While this is not a true infrared cooking system, it produces the heat and searing qualities that often define infrared grills.
Infrared Grill Buying Tips
When choosing an infrared grill, consider whether it will be a permanent fixture in your backyard or a portable tabletop to take to the park or on campouts. Your budget is also important to consider, since the best infrared grills are often pricey. Less expensive units are available, but they might not produce the same results.
If the grill model in our review doesn't completely meet your needs, other infrared models within the same brand should offer similar performance in different sizes and configurations. For more information on infrared grills, see our articles about infrared grills. All gas grills are for outdoor use only, so an indoor electric grill might be better choice if you live in an apartment with no outdoor access.
Temperature & Power
When choosing your infrared barbecue grill, decide how much coverage you need. If you plan to use the grill's infrared burners often, entire grill coverage is a good option. If you're interested in a traditional gas grill with occasional infrared use, look for a grill where the sear burner is a secondary feature. While the number of main burners varies, more burners can give you the option to have multiple cooking temperatures based on your needs.
All of the grills in our review have the ability to use natural gas as a fuel source if you want that option. However, some grills may not be convertible between the two fuel sources. Many infrared grills have temperature gauges that help you know if the heat is too high or too low. Self-cleaning allows the grill to burn off food residue to make the cooking grates and sear plates easy to clean with a wire brush. Depending on your needs, infrared gas grills with large cooking surfaces and warming racks are great for neighborhood cookouts, while a small surface area is ideal if you prefer quiet gatherings. A meat thermometer might also improve your infrared grilling experience.
When choosing cooking grates, cast iron is the easiest to clean, but stainless steel also works well, though it may require some elbow grease to clean. A removable drip pan simplifies the cleaning process. The size and weight of a grill are important factors to consider as you transport or store the grill.
If you choose a grill with wheels, four-caster wheels can help you move around the patio. For tabletop grills, foldaway legs can help save space when you're not using the grill. Based on your needs, you can also choose a grill with a built-in storage cabinet. Some grills are fully customizable and don't come with stands as a result.
Warranty & Support
Customer support is integral to the best infrared grills. To protect your investment, look for long warranties; companies typically guarantee the burners and other grill parts separately. One- to two-year warranties are standard, though some manufacturers include a five-year, or even a lifetime warranty. Support by telephone and email, along with detailed FAQs and user manuals, help you get fast answers if you have problems or questions.
Infrared Grills: Our Verdict and Recommendations
The top five grills in our review earned our Excellence Award for infrared grilling. Outside the top three, the Better Homes and Gardens BH12 offers the best value with excellent performance, though it lacks some of the build quality of other grills in the review. The Magma Newport 2 is good choice to mount on yachts and boats. In terms of warranty, the Napoleon FreeStyle is worth mentioning. Beyond that, each grill in our review has its own advantages.
This is why it's important for you to choose an infrared barbecue grill that fits your lifestyle, whether it's family meals or block parties. Shish kebabs, corn on the cob, steak and fish fillets all taste better when cooked on the grill. Infrared grills add to that experience and provide you and your guests with steakhouse-quality food.