Infrared grills are honestly not a new technology, but when it comes to seeing this in a backyard grill it almost feels a little space-age, am I right?
While infrared technology first started as a way to quickly dry car paint, it has also transformed the backyard grilling experience since the early 2000s.
This is really the secret to that high-heat cooking that gives you a steakhouse finish to your meat and makes your mouth water just thinking about it.
Some grills may just be claiming “infrared” as marketing hype, in order to seem “fancier” or more elite and push up the price tag. There are, however, some solid and truly elite grills on the market with excellent infrared cooking technology.
We’ll cover more information about what exactly what’s in a best-infrared grill, as well as how they work, what you need to know when choosing one and review the best affordable options for your grilling experience.
What Is An Infrared Grill?
Infrared grills are essentially gas grills with an infrared heating element. Basically, it’s like the “high efficiency” version of a traditional gas grill — it heats faster and uses less fuel during cooking.
The infrared heating element also offers a more evenly heated cooking surface, versus traditional gas flame burners only. They do this by heating a solid heating element (a heat plate) that then passes the heat to the food.
How Do Infrared Grills Work?
When the heating plates — typically made of metal, glass, or ceramic — are heated, the heat spreads evenly throughout the plate. This is essentially radiation technology, where the plates are heated, and that heat radiates to your food.
Because the heat spreads evenly through the plate, you essentially end up with a larger heating element, without any temperature gaps (think how you’ll have “cold” spots at certain places along typical gas flame burners).
You do still get somewhat of the typical “hot air bubble” style (i.e. convection cooking) as the air inside the grill lid becomes hot and circulates. This is secondary to the infrared element.
Different Types of Infrared Grills
1. Heat Emitter System
Probably one of the cheaper configurations, using stainless steel tube burners and a stainless steel heat panel.
These may be one of the better and more versatile options when it comes to buying the best infrared grill since it reaches more “normal” temperatures of around 350-600 degrees F.
2. Ceramic Infrared Burner
These grills use a ceramic plate above the burner. The plate essentially generates a ton of super tiny flames that turn the entire surface into an intense almost “micro burner.”
Because it’s essentially turning the ceramic plate into a new source of flame, you can still get flare-ups with this infrared grill. It’s also a very high heat system, typically around 600-1000 degrees F, so you’ll find it has less versatility.
3. TEC System
This refers to the system this company (TEC) pioneered as the first infrared cooking system.
Both systems are about the same, with a stainless steel burner and a glass panel.
The earlier design was an IR burner with a glass panel and can cover a temperature range from about 350-850 degrees F with even heating.
The improved version has a conversion burner with a glass panel but covers a slightly improved temperature range, from about 200-900 degrees F.
Exactly as it sounds, this type of infrared grill is a hybrid between infrared technology and a more traditional grill.
They may have a:
- Fixed burner, where there is a permanent infrared burner in the grill.
- Interchangeable burner, which can be removed or reinstalled as needed.
- Side sear burner, which puts an infrared plate outside the main grill, similar to a searing burner on a high-end gas grill.
7 Best Infrared Grills For 2022
While this is one of the more “entry-level” infrared grill options, it still offers a tremendous grilling experience as one of the best infrared grills for the money.
Char-Broil makes some of the best grills on the market, and they definitely deliver.
You’ll enjoy 450 sq in of primary cooking space, 24,000 BTUs across the three burners, and even a 10,000 BTU side burner to cook up your side dishes all in one eye-catching package!
The cart-style design with two large wheels makes it easy to move around the yard or to storage. The stainless finish provides a sharp look!
The cooking grates are porcelain-coated for durability and easier cleaning, plus they’ll be rust-resistant.
This grill includes the common bonus features expected on a higher-end grill of a built-in temperature gauge, push-to-start electronic ignition, and a warming rack. While it may not quite be the best Char-Broil infrared grill made, it certainly is full-featured for a much more affordable price.
If you’re wondering who makes the best infrared grill, this sucker might be your answer. Just bear in mind that the best grills usually come with the highest price tags, and this is no exception to that rule.
But when you consider what this powerhouse packs into it, it makes sense.
You’ll love a whopping 900 sq inches of total cooking space over with an impressive 80,000 BTUs. There is a side burner for your side dishes, a sear burner that can reach an unreal 1,800 degrees F, and a read infrared rotisserie burner.
High-end features that this grill boasts include a built-in temperature gauge, a completely enclosed storage cabinet, a built-in interior light, and LED night light knobs that can be customized colors. The knobs can even glow red as a safety feature to indicate the gas is left on!
Talk about a seriously professional-level cooking experience!
Don’t let the portable design make you overlook this grill as a great option for the best infrared grill under $500.
It’s a small package and weighs just 15 pounds, but it can fit up to 6 burgers on 140 sq inches of cooking space, which is respectable!
The unique V-shaped grates help reduce if not eliminate flare-ups, from the infrared ceramic and stainless steel burner.
It even includes well-thought premium features such as electronic push-button ignition, adjustable feet to level the grill on nearly any surface, lid latches to hold the hood down during transport, and side handles to make it easier to carry.
It’s ready to use with 1-lb propane bottles, but you can purchase an adapter hose to use this with larger propane tanks if you prefer. We think this is the best portable infrared grill, without question!
This makes a great but more affordable alternative to the Napoleon grill earlier on our list since it offers a comparably impressive cooking area and a similar BTU level.
If you’re going to spend that much on a grill, you may as well get the best infrared grill for the money, and this grill may be just that.
You’ll cook for a crowd easily with 700 sq inches of primary cooking space plus a 260 sq in warming rack.
Between 6 burners, a rear infrared burner, and a separate side burner, you’ll have an impressive 96,000 BTU output!
What makes this grill unique is the burner split and two separate lids mean you can have the experience of versatile cooking WITH an infrared burner in the mix!
You’ll notice in the pros and cons list in our buying guide that infrared grills tend to put out very high heat but struggle to be the right choice for low-heat needs, such as fish and veggies. This grill, however, will let you sear on one side and warm on the other, with two separate fireboxes and lids.
Premium features include two separate built-in temperature gauges, side shelf with tool hooks, and a completely enclosed storage cabinet with multiple bays. There is also a grill cover already included in this particular package!
Are you the type to enjoy good smoked meat now and then? But hate the idea of multiple appliances taking up precious backyard oasis space? This grill might just be your dream come true.
This grill is definitely a breed apart from the rest on our list since it is the only one that offers a smoker grill combo configuration!
The disadvantage of a smoker grill combo is the cooking space, and this one is definitely smaller with just 180 sq in of cooking area. But when it comes to roasting/smoking, you’ll be able to hold up to 25 lbs!
Since this includes TRU-infrared technology, you’ll enjoy no flare-ups when grilling. That plus the price range makes this one of the best budget infrared grills.
The versatility of this grill, versus most infrared grills, is obviously pretty impressive because it’s not even very easy to smoke meat with a traditional grill. To be able to smoke meat at low and slow temperatures as well as offer infrared (ie high heat) cooking, you’ll be able to get a lot of recipes cooked to your ideal perfection!
Hard winters where you live? Don’t worry, you’ll never have to settle for a stovetop or baked steak again. This may be the best infrared grill under $1000.
This grill reaches an impressive 1,500 degrees F, and can be used indoors as well as out! This definitely packs enough power to be considered the best small infrared grill, on our list!
Now keep in mind, however, that as an infrared grill you won’t find the same sort of versatility with this grill due to the higher heat range. The design of this grill does have different levels for the cooking racks, so you can use this for more delicate cooking such as veggies and fish, by keeping them in a lower heat zone.
Built of durable and attractive stainless steel, this will fit into any home or backyard well, and last for a while. The fact that it’s up to temp in just about 3-4 minutes means you’ll not only have a great grilling experience for the finished product but a fast one too!
The company also makes many accessories to allow for even more cooking versatility, such as pizza, roasts, and more!
Not keen on an indoor grill that runs on propane? Makes sense. You’re looking for the best electric infrared grill.
Here’s an option that’s entirely electric-powered, smokeless, and perfectly safe for indoor infrared grilling! It’s also a great way to get the hang of infrared cooking with one of the best infrared grills under $100!
The heat in this grill is directed at the grilling surface only for an even cooking experience. The interior configuration of the drip pans helps cool the drippings before they have a chance to become smoke.
We love how easy it is to get up and running with this, with few parts to assemble and just as few to clean. The simplicity and efficiency make this the best infrared grill indoor.
While you’re not going to reach impressive temperatures like the 1,500-degree grill with this little guy, you’ll still reach a respectable 445+ degrees F within just a few minutes. Considering there is no lid during cooking, this is nothing to laugh at and will still give you a nicely grilled steak from the cozy comfort of your kitchen (instead of timing your winter grilling around a blizzard or an open window)!
We really love that since it’s electric and used indoors, they added a safety shutoff feature, which trips if the internal temperature gets too high. We like the dishwasher safe clean-up and a two-year warranty for peace of mind as well!
Best Infrared Grills Buying Guide
Pros & Cons of Infrared Cooking
Compared to the average gas grill, there are some unique pros and cons to choosing an infrared grill for your backyard. Let’s take a look at what they are.
- Easier to clean than standard gas grills.
- Faster preheat time (usually about 5 minutes or less).
- Can provide a higher cooking temperature than standard gas grills, which means faster cooking time.
- More efficient energy use means you’ll use less propane (less need to monitor your propane tank levels)!
- No hot spots or cold spots.
- Less heat loss with the lid open; radiation heat keeps the food hot, whereas typical grills rely on a hot air “bubble” to cook the food.
- If you’re used to typical gas and charcoal grills, it’ll take a bit to get the hang of it!
- Not a good choice for lower temperature cooking needs (ie fish, roasted veggies, etc).
- Not as versatile as other grill styles due to high heat but lack of range.
- High heat that’s too hot can actually cook meat wrong, and if it’s burnt it can lock in some potentially harmful by-products from the heat-induced changes to the proteins and fats. It’s quite easy to burn your meat on these extra high-heat grills, so be careful!
- Often more expensive than traditional gas grill counterparts, when comparing cooking area.
This should pretty much always be your first consideration when shopping for a new grill.
While there are plenty of excellent options for grills under $200, for example, you’ll find the pickings a little slimmer for infrared grills. The options are out there, sure, but they’ll often be smaller sized or even compact/portable instead of full size.
The real debate, more than the price tag itself, is whether the function of an infrared grill is worth it to you. If two grills cost the same but one is infrared, you might decide that the higher heat won’t serve you as well, and you’ll opt for the traditional grill instead.
After considering your price range, the size is the next most important factor in your buying decision.
You’ll want to consider the size of the grill versus where you’re going to be using it, plus the cooking area if offers (more on that in a minute).
The fact that you can get infrared grills in even portable grill sizes means you can even grab one of these for your next camping trip!
Cooking Surface Area
The size of the grill will obviously dictate the space available for cooking. You’ll likely want to make sure your grill purchase will at least cook for your immediate family in one round, rather than make some people wait!
Think about things like how often you have parties and get-togethers, and how often you travel and grill on-the-go.
If serving a large crowd is a high priority, you’ll want to buy a bigger grill, but if you’re an avid traveler, you might decide space isn’t as important as portability. Opt for a small 2-burner size grill or a truly small and portable tabletop grill.
You don’t need to worry as much about burner count on an infrared grill since the heating plate spreads the heat evenly during cooking.
That said, you’ll get the best results on the best infrared grills with at least 2-3 burners, to ensure a more even and efficient heat distribution.
You can find infrared grills powered by gas, charcoal, or even electricity. Electric infrared grills are often the cleanest option since there is no byproduct from the fuel during cooking.
Again, think about where you’re going to use your grill first. You won’t much enjoy your portable, electric infrared grill if you’re camping in tents without power!
Gas and charcoal can produce excess smoke and may alter the taste of your food while cooking (but not really any differently than cooking as normal on a gas or charcoal grill).
As with all grills, BTU is a big factor in your grilling experience. The BTU rating is roughly proportionate to your heating power.
The higher the BTU rating, the faster the grill will heat up. Aiming for at least 8,000 BTU will give you good power to sear and grill to your satisfaction.
This may be a factor for only some buyers, since not everyone camps, tailgates, or travels much.
You can find infrared grills in portable configurations depending on your needs.
You might buy a tabletop style grill to be more compact to take less space in your packing. You might prefer, however, a portable option with a folding cart style stand, or simply even a smaller “full-size” grill that’s just small enough to fit in a truck or camper for travel, but works just as well as a fixture on a back patio.
Burner/Plate Design and Cleaning
If you’ve got to disassemble half the grill in order to clean it, or if fat and grease can drip on a not-so-easy to clean infrared heating plate, then this might be a grill you’ll want to pass on if you’re a busy family.
If the best grill on the planet is a little more complex to clean but you need that high-end grill, though, then go for it!
Many infrared grills, due to the incredibly high heat during cooking, can actually be somewhat self-cleaned. The best way to clean infrared grill grates is by simply turning up the heat to high and letting it burn off the leftover food bits. A gentle scrub after that can often be all it takes to keep an infrared grill nice and clean!
Final Thoughts On Best Infrared Grills
That was definitely a lot to take in, especially if you’re just getting started with researching infrared grills.
The main thing to remember is that infrared grills deliver high heat in an extremely even way for a fuel-efficient, fast cooking experience. You’ll want to keep your eye on burner configuration (below grates versus rear burner), BTUs, and price as perhaps your biggest deciding factors.
If you’re still wondering what is the best infrared grill to buy, you won’t be disappointed by choosing the first option on our list, the Char-Broil Performance TRU-Infrared 3-Burner Cart Style Grill.
With that option, you’ll enjoy sufficient cooking space, infrared cooking power, and an affordable price to get you started!
Whatever you choose, enjoy your high-heat helpings!