There is a new “cooking system” that’s shaking up the barbecuing world and getting BBQ aficionados talking: infrared cooking. That’s right; the same type of heat that the sun generates (…and your toaster) is now cooking your steaks and snags.
Let’s step back for a second…
As you probably remember from various blog posts, cooking heat is typically generated by:
- Conduction: Direct transfer of heat from the source to your food, like with a standard BBQ grill;
- Convection: Indirect transfer of heat via the air or water around the food, as in an oven or boiling potatoes.
Infrared, or radiant heat, on the other hand, is a form of electromagnetic energy, such as that created by a microwave or heating element. When it comes to barbecues, this usually takes the form of a gas burner beneath ceramic tiles (referred to as a ceramic infrared burner or ceramic burner on BBQs) or steel plates in a set up that allows little to no airflow.
The result is a barbie that is much hotter, more persistent and heats up faster than a normal gas or charcoal BBQ.
So is infrared the future of barbecuing?
Proponents of infrared claim that the extreme temperatures of over 400°C work to sear the meat exceptionally fast and lock in their juices, thus not allowing them to dry out. Detractors, however, argue that searing does not lock in juices; it just caramelizes and browns the meat’s surface. (Personally that delicious dark brown crust is what I’m after).
The fact that no one can argue with, however, is that infrared cooks remarkably fast.
The problem is that it can be too powerful. Fish, vegetables and other foods may be unable to stand up to the extreme temperatures.
It is for this reason, and the fact that they are not cheap, that infrared barbies are specialist pieces of equipment that are unlikely to change the face of barbecuing any time soon.
However, manufacturers, such as Napoleon BBQs, are beginning to recognise their benefits and appeal to the average home BBQ chef, and have begun incorporating dedicated infrared burners into traditional BBQs. This way, you can sear your steaks using infrared and then finish them off by cooking them all the way through using conduction.
And this is where infrared is likely to change the way we cook: by using them in conjunction with traditional, lower temperature burners rather than instead of them.
See this type of BBQ in action with our range of Napoleon gas BBQs which have a combination of both traditional burners and ceramic infrared burners.
What do you think? Have you used an infrared burner? Would you consider buying a BBQ with an infrared burner? Please leave your comments below.