Infrared vs. Gas Grill – What’s the Difference?
Gas grills are often what many grillers will turn to when they want to break away from the mess and tedious work that comes with the traditional charcoal grills.
However, in the last few years, there has been a new entrant into the picture which more and more grillers are opting for over the gas grills, and this is the infrared grill.
But given the many similarities between gas and infrared grills including the fuels source, many grillers tend to have some difficulties choosing between these two fantastic grill styles.
However, this piece aims to make the choice a lot easier by highlighting the key differences between the two so that you can easily tell what will work for you.
Infrared Grills Overview
While infrared heating technology is not something new, it has not always been used for grills. However, in the last couple of decades, infrared grills have been coming up as more griller look for something more efficient than the traditional gas grill.
Most infrared grills will use propane or natural gas for their fuel source just like regular gas grills. However, the difference comes in how they heat or cook the food.
Instead of heating the air around the food, these grills make use of radiation to provide a more direct heating method. And it will focus heat from the burners on ceramic tiles which are heated to produce the infrared radiation that then cooks food.
This heating methods allows for quicker heat up and also makes it possible to achieve higher temperatures than you would with regular gas grills. And the higher heat output and more direct cooking will sear the foods nicely to lock in all the juices.
However, the efficiency and better-tasting food that this grill type delivers come at a cost as they are generally more expensive than the gas grills.
Gas Grills Overview
Gas grills have always been a popular option for many grillers as they burn more cleanly and efficiently which makes them great for both indoor and outdoor use.
With gas grills, you get a convection method of cooking as the burners will heat the air around, which is what then cooks your food.
When compared to the infrared grills, gas grills will offer better temperature control for increased versatility and can also cook at a much lower temperature which makes low and slow cooking possible.
Using a traditional gas grill will require almost no skill at all as everything is just straightforward, and both propane and natural gas are reasonably cheap which makes these grills cheaper to use. Also, buying one will cost much less than what you would pay for an infrared grill.
However, the convection method of cooking can cause the food to dry out which means that it will not taste as good as what you get with an infrared or charcoal grill.
Maximum Cooking Temperature
1100 to 1400 °F
500 to 600 °F
Heat Up Time
2 to 5 minutes
15 to 20 minutes
Not very even
Cleanup and Maintenance
A little hectic
Food dries out often
Not very safe
Infrared vs. Gas Grills
The fact that both infrared and gas grills are widely available means that each has something special to offer and will hence be ideal for different kinds of grillers. And to make sure you pick what works best for you, here are some of their key differences that you should know.
1. Cooking Method
The biggest difference between the infrared and gas grill is how they cook food. While the infrared grills will cook using radiation, the regular gas grills make use of a convection heating method.
With the infrared grills, the burners which can either be powered by propane or natural gas (but nowadays there are also electric ones) will not heat the food directly. Instead, the burners will heat a ceramic tile placed above them which then produces the radiation used to cook food.
Also, the burners in an infrared will heat the surrounding air to some extent which means that there is also some convection cooking involved.
For the gas grills, all the cooking is done using the convection method whereby the air inside the grill will be heated and then cook the food as it circulates.
2. Maximum Cooking Temperature
If you want a grill that will give you a higher cooking temperature than almost any other type, the infrared grill is a perfect choice. These grills are more famous for their high cooking temperatures than anything else.
A typical gas grill can easily attain temperatures of up to 1400 degrees Fahrenheit which will be perfect for searing and grilling. But, this depends on the type and model you are using as some will hardly go beyond the 1100 degrees Fahrenheit mark.
With gas grills, on the other hand, the best you can expect is between 500 and 600 degrees Fahrenheit as you will hardly get a model that can cook at higher temperatures than this.
3. Heat Up Time
When it comes to the heat up time, the infrared grill will outperform the gas grills and most other types out there including many electric types.
These grills will only require 2 to 5 minutes to get to the ideal cooking temperature and they can be at the maximum temperature in under 10 minutes which means you will not have to waste a lot of time waiting for the grill to heat up.
This heat-up time is a small fraction of what you get with a typical gas grill as most will take anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes to heat up with some models taking even up to 30 minutes which causes unnecessary delays.
4. Heat Distribution
Heat distribution is an essential factor you can never overlook as it determines how evenly and fast your food will cook.
Given the heating method that the infrared grills will use, you can almost be certain of always getting excellent heat distribution for fast and efficient cooking. The ceramic tiles will radiate evenly and ensure the temperature is uniform across their surface.
For the gas grills, you should be able to get even enough heat distribution, but with convection heating, you can easily end up with hot and cold spots.
5. Cleanup and Maintenance
Cleanup and maintenance is one part of owning a grill that many users hate a lot but you cannot skip them if you want to keep using the grill. The best you can do is to go for a type that is easy and quick to clean after use.
Here, the infrared grill also seems to have an edge over the gas grills and also many other grill types out there as they will give users a super easy time. And this is because you can easily burn off all the food particles in the grates given the higher cooking temperature.
But, note that while infrared grills are easy to clean, they will require more thorough cleaning and some extra maintenance is also required as you need to check for the damaged heating elements and wear and tear often.
Gas grills, on the other hand, will be relatively high maintenance and will need to be cleaned more often than the infrared types.
6. Food Taste
No matter how good a grill might be, it will only work well for you if it delivers some tasty foods. Hence, as you pick between the gas and infrared grills, you need to consider the quality of food that each makes.
With infrared grills, you will get a grill that can achieve high cooking temperatures with ease that will allow it to sear the food and lock in the nice juices which means you will end up with juicier food with more natural flavors.
Gas grills might not deliver very flavorful foods as they have a tendency of drying out food given the convection grilling method. And because they are also prone to flare-ups, they can burn the food and further giving it a bad taste.
Safety is another crucial element that you cannot afford to overlook when choosing a grill as you will not want to endanger yourself and those around you.
Both infrared and gas grills will often use propane tanks or your home's natural gas connection which exposes you to significant risk.
However, infrared grills are generally safer than the traditional grills despite the higher cooking temperatures, and this is because the heat they produce is under more control and is more evenly distributed than when using the gas grills.
With gas grills, the flames will not be contained behind anything which increases the likelihood of flare-ups which besides burning food can also result in fire accidents.
8. Average Prices
The efficiency, faster cooking and higher temperatures that you get with the infrared grills come at a cost as they will often cost much more than what you would pay to get a traditional gas grill.
And while the prices will depend on various factors such as the features and where you are buying from, you can expect to spend at least $500 on a small and basic infrared grill while the larger and more feature-rich models will cost at least $1,000.
Gas grills, on the other hand, will also not come cheap but when compared to the infrared grills, they are more affordable. You can get a small and simple gas grill for around $100 or slightly less but the larger models can be way more expensive than this.
You cannot go wrong with either infrared or gas grills if you are looking for a more efficient and cleaner method of grilling food. But, the trouble comes in when you have to pick between the two given their many obvious similarities.
However, with this piece to guide you, picking between them should now be an easier task as we highlight the key things that set them apart.
And from our comparison above, infrared grills are your best bet if you are looking for a grill that cooks more evenly at higher temperatures, is safer to use and also makes great tasting foods.
Traditional gas grills, on the other hand, are a good pick for grillers looking for something more affordable that does not take a lot of effort to use.