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Is Infrared Only Good for Searing or Can You Cook with Infrared Alone?

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Infrared cooking uses direct heat and high temperatures to cook food hot and fast, but is that a strength or a weakness?  Many would have you believe the infrared burner is only for finishing, it can only cook the outside, it's too hot, or whatever other nonsense just to sell you a more expensive burner that will need replacing more often and upcharge you just for the privilege of an infrared burner.  In reality, infrared grills cook faster, are easier to clean, and the food leaving the grill will be juicier and tastier.  The only downside is that infrared takes some getting used to and takes a couple of uses to figure out you temperatures and timings.  Once over that small hump, it's hard to go back to anything that isn't hot and fast.

Both the biggest advantage and the hardest thing people for people to get used to is the speed at which infrared grills can cook.  Typically people will want to put food on, put the lid down, and walk away their first time on an infrared like it's their old grill and will turn their food into a charred hard mess.  People will do this out of habit and forget that infrared does not heat the air around the food to cook, it just heats the food, so there's no need to close the lid or check a thermometer, you just need to check your food.  It shouldn't be a secret, but there's an easy method to cooking with infrared that works for most items: 1) start off on high for a short amount of time on both sides, then 2) reduce heat to a lower setting for the remainder.  It's that simple, like cooking pasta: boil and then reduce to a simmer, sear on high, then reduce to lower heat setting.  The only thing you have to do is adjust how long you do each part for depending on what you're cooking and how big or thick it is.  It usually takes about 10 minutes or less to cook most things, but is the speed worth it?

Aside from cooking fast, infrared makes food taste better because of the high heat.  Since food isn't spending as much time on the grill, it has less time for the juices to evaporate and be cooked out of the food.  Because of this, everything grilled on infrared will be juicier.  In addition to this, the high heat creates nice texture on the exterior of most foods which enhances the flavor.  Finally, because the burners are high heat, most of what does drip down onto them end up vaporized and returns back to the food above it as flavoring smoke to improve the flavor even more.  This is not the only effect of the burners vaporizing juices and debris, it also makes cleanup simpler.

Infrared burners are surprisingly self cleaning because of the high heat.  After finishing cooking on the grill, people will instinctually turn off the grill right away.  With infrared, the burners should be left on for an additional 5 minutes to burn away and debris left behind by the food.  This helps keep the burner ports clear of anything and prevents clogging.  Also this helps burn away whatever's on the grates and turns it into char which can be scraped away.  Infrared grill owners who don't do this 5 minute burnoff after cooking will have to replace their burner within months, whereas the ones who do the 5 minute burn off won't have to replace their burner for closer to a decade if ever.

Overall, the high heat of an infrared grill cooks food faster, makes it taste better, and makes cleanup easy.  Although it can take a few tries to get used to, infrared becomes the only thing you want to grill on once you figure out how to use it.  It should not be relegated to just a sear zone when it can do what most grills do, but better.

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