How Does Infrared Grilling Work?

Barbecues are amazing tools to use for delicious meals. They create comforting dishes that incorporate the delightful smell of smoke with your favorite flavors. In recent years, barbecue technology has advanced greatly. This includes better heat distribution, materials, fuel management, and most importantly the inclusion of infrared technology. But how does infrared grilling work? Let’s explore what infrared is, how it works, and the best techniques to use while barbecuing with infrared.


What is Infrared?

Infrared is a type of radiation the runs on a wavelength similar to microwaves and radio waves. Infrared waves come in three wavelengths, long, medium, and short. The ones that are used in cooking are the shortwave kind. These waves can be sensed by our temperature-sensitive nerve endings and produce heat transfer through the radiation of heat energy. Think of it like this. You can detect the warmth of the sun on your skin or the heat when you stand beside your Napoleon Fireplace. It is the same type of heat energy. Only, when cooking with infrared, the infrared radiation is stronger and more concentrated, becoming heat energy when it hits your food (or the sensitive nerve endings that can detect it).


How Does Infrared Work?

Infrared on the barbecue is great for getting you those coveted sear marks, that delicious crust, and producing the perfect Maillard reaction. This can be achieved in a few ways. Charcoal is the OG way to get yourself some amazing infrared action, however, you can also use gas barbecues to achieve these results through specific types of burners. While generally invisible to the naked eye, this intense form of light is emitted by flames for a soft orange glow.



Cooking at the Speed of Light

Infrared cooking uses direct energy to cook food. The closer to the energy source, the more energy the food will receive. Aside from using charcoal, Napoleon has harnessed the incredible power of infrared in their Infrared SIZZLE ZONE™ Side and Bottom Burners. Gas is forced through tiny ports in a ceramic brick and ignited. That ignited fuel burns hot and fast while consuming minimal fuel. The resulting energy is short wave infrared radiation which is converted to something that we can both see and feel.


How Does Grilling with Infrared Work?

The heat, when an infrared burner is lit, is intense. There are fewer hot spots and cold places when it comes to heat from one of these burners. This is because there is a larger surface area providing the heat. The heat from an infrared burner is very concentrated like the spray of a power washer in comparison to the spray from a garden hose. This means that the energy is directed, with great intensity, directly onto the item or object directly in front of it for faster preheat times, taking three to five minutes for optimal temperature for searing. This also means that food will cook much faster on the outside, where the heat is hitting it.

Grilling with infrared can be beneficial. Besides fast preheat times getting you cooking quickly, the high temperature is ideal for searing. Infrared, when inside of a barbecue as a bottom burner, also works to lessen the amount of convection inside the barbecue. The moisture barrier of meat will stay intact longer, drying the food out less when the direct sear technique is used. Caution should be exercised when using an infrared side or bottom burner, however. Because the burners can reach temperatures quite a bit higher than that of a conventional gas burner, food can burn much more quickly than expected.

Not Just for Steak

The Infrared SIZZLE ZONE™ side burner is not just for steak. You can use it for searing other meats, vegetables, seafood, and even whole roasts. But did you know that it can be used as a range side burner as well? Frying pans, pots, woks, and more can be used on a side burner fitted with infrared.



How to Cook Over Infrared

Cooking over infrared takes less time and fuel. However, it does require a little finesse. But once you have the basics, it will be easy. Whether you choose to do a direct sear or use the reverse sear technique to cook your meal, using an infrared burner will ensure delicious results. Like most other forms of cooking, you want to preheat your infrared burner. You will either use it first, as done in the direct sear technique, to sear the meat, then move it to a lower temperature area to finish. Or, when using the reverse sear, you use the main area of the barbecue to gently and slowly cook your meal at a lower temperature until nearly done, then use the infrared burner to sear and finish your meal perfectly. Either way, one does not generally use the SIZZLE ZONE™ to completely cook a meal. Exceptions can be made in cases when a steak or pork chop is thinner and cooks faster, in this case, resting will bring it up to the final desired temperature. Using a meat thermometer to monitor your cook is ideal in any of these cases. Remember that thicker cuts will take longer to cook and you will want to finish those off the direct heat of the infrared burner with very low direct heat or preferably, indirect heat.



Try these direct-seared steaks for a fast and easy meal


Use the reverse sear technique for large, thick cuts


Are you an infrared expert or SIZZLE ZONE™ beginner? Either way, using the incredible power of infrared to help cook tasty, barbecued treats is definitely the way to go. What is your favorite thing to cook over your infrared burner? Share your stories, recipes, photos, and more on our social pages like Facebook and Instagram using the hashtags #NapoleonGrill and #InfraredSIZZLEZONE.

Happy Grilling!