Temperature & Power
Warranty & Support
Infrared Grills Review
What is the Best Infrared Grill?
While charcoal and gas grills are the traditional favorites, infrared grills are uniquely suited for searing meat at high heat, resulting in juicier steaks cooked more quickly, making them an essential tool in the best steakhouses. Our hands-on tests revealed the best infrared grills, including the Broilmaster R3B, our Gold Award winner. This grill has excellent heat consistency, solid construction and one of the best warranties among infrared grills.
The Silver Award winner is the TEC Cherokee, which uses a unique radiant glass panel to produce the most even heating of any grill we've tested. This infrared grill is easy to use and clean. We tested the tabletop model, but TEC Infrared makes full size infrared grills as well.
The Weber Genesis II LX, our Bronze Award winner, rounds out the top three infrared grills with the best grilling experience, a personal favorite among our testers. This grill's large cooking area and excellent warranty help make it one of the best grills, infrared or otherwise.
Infrared Grills: Pros & Cons
Infrared grills use powerful sear burners to directly heat food rather than rely on convection like gas grills, so your prime cuts of meat cook quickly and stay juicy. Infrared grills heat up faster than gas and charcoal grills – on average, an infrared grill preheats in under five minutes.
However, these pros may be negatives for some. An infrared gas grill has a learning curve because it heats food so quickly. You might burn your food the first few times you grill. For more information on how infrared grills fare against other grills, read our article on infrared versus gas and charcoal.
Infrared Grills: What We Tested, What We Found
As we set out to find the best infrared grills, we conducted a few tests to gauge grill quality. We focused less on things that change if you decide to get a different model and more on how well the grill performed certain tasks. Specifically, we looked at heat consistency, power and grilling experience.
We looked at two things to determine which grills have the best heat consistency. First, we assessed how evenly a grill distributes heat over the cooking surface by placing slices of bread on the cooking surface after preheating. We waited for the bread to burn slightly and turned it over to reveal a grill's hot and cold spots. Some grills had uniform results, while others had clear hot and cold spots.
Then, we measured how well each grill maintained stable temperatures for long-term cooking. We started the grill on low and used a laser thermometer to check the temperature every seven minutes until 21 minutes had passed. Grills that held the same temperature the entire time performed better than those that kept getting hotter.
When we tested grill power, we gauged how fast a grill preheats to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Then we compared this with the grill's Btu to see if there was a correlation between Btu and fast heating. Btu refers to British thermal units, which is a unit of heat. A grill's Btu rating is the maximum output of heat from the grill. Our tests showed no correlation between the two. This is why Btu ratings only play a minor role in our review.
While heat consistency and power demonstrate how well grills work, they don't say much about the grilling experience. To put every grill through its paces, we cooked two servings each of steak, chicken breast, salmon and hamburgers. Our tests revealed that all of the grills in our review are good for multiple types of cooking, though even the most powerful grills had trouble with thick cuts of chicken. We also considered ease of cleaning, portability and assembly time.
Our hands-on testing is designed to simulate normal, real-world experiences with infrared grills. We got some of the grills in our comparison on loan from the companies and some through retail purchase. The manufacturers have no input on our testing methodology, and we do not share our results or rankings with them prior to publication.
Infrared Grill Types: What We Learned
The infrared gas grills in our review use various grilling technology to achieve infrared cooking. Our tests helped us find the strengths and weaknesses of each method. Here's what we learned:
Ceramic Sear Burners
This is the most common infrared grilling system. Six infrared grills in our review use this method, including our top-rated grill, the Broilmaster R3B. Ceramic sear burners all have the same basic design: a porous slab of a ceramic material that transfers extreme heat to food with fewer open flames.
Ceramic burners achieve the highest temperatures in our review, making sear marks on meat, particularly steak. However, they require some skill, because they are extremely hot even on low settings. Thin cuts of chicken and fish cook well on these burners without excessive charring. The extreme heat of ceramic sear burners vaporizes meat drippings for easy cleanup.
Radiant Glass Panels
Radiant glass panels are unique to the TEC Cherokee in our review. This infrared grilling system is the most effective that we've seen. A specialized burner heats a glass panel that distributes blistering heat over the entire grilling surface with no open flame.
This evenness of heat produced solid results with every type of food we cooked. This infrared system is easy to master, but it doesn't preheat or cook as quickly as others in our review. The glass panel is easy to clean, especially compared to sear plates.
Sear plates are metal panels with many small holes built on the same heating principles of ceramic and radiant glass panel burners. This system's main advantage is a distribution of heat similar to but not as hot as ceramic burners. Sear plates have two drawbacks: they produce a lot of smoke from meat drippings and are difficult to clean. The Magma and the Char-Broil are the only sear plate grills in our review.
High Performance Burners
Traditional grills can achieve infrared cooking if there's enough heat coming from the burners. Raising the performance of normal steel tube burners is a simple way to make this possible. Only one grill in our review uses this method, the Weber Genesis II with its High+ heat setting. While this is not a true infrared cooking system, it has similar heat and searing qualities.
Infrared Grill Buying Tips
When choosing an infrared grill, consider whether it will be a permanent fixture in your backyard or a portable tabletop to take to the park or on campouts. Your budget is also important to consider, since the best infrared grills are often pricey. Less expensive units are available, but they might not give you the same results.
If a grill model in our review doesn't completely meet your needs, other infrared models within the same brand should offer similar performance in different sizes and configurations. All gas grills are for outdoor use only, so an indoor electric grill is a better choice for an apartment with no outdoor access.
Temperature & Power
When choosing your infrared barbecue grill, decide how much coverage you need. If you plan to use the grill's infrared burners often, entire grill coverage is a good choice. If you're interested in occasional infrared use, look for a normal gas grill with a sear burner as a secondary feature. While burner numbers vary by model, more burners let you use multiple cooking temperatures at a time for different foods.
All of the grills in our review can use natural gas as a fuel source. However, other grills may not be convertible between the two fuel sources. Self-cleaning grills burn off food residue to make the cooking grates and sear plates easier to clean with a wire brush. Infrared gas grills with large cooking surfaces and warming racks are great for big cookouts, while a portable infrared grill is ideal for small groups.
Many infrared gas grills have temperature gauges that help you know if the heat is too high or too low. However, a meat thermometer might also improve your infrared grilling experience by giving you more accurate food-temperature readings than you can get from the grill's temperature gauge.
For cooking grates, cast iron is the easiest to clean. Stainless steel is highly durable and works well, though it may require some elbow grease to clean. A removable drip pan simplifies the cleaning process.
The size and weight of a grill are important factors to consider for transportation and storage. If you entertain often and plan to keep your grill in the backyard, a four- or five-burner grill may be a good choice. However, if you like to travel and need to take a grill with you, small, one-burner grills, like the TEC Cherokee or Solaire Anywhere, weigh less than 30 pounds each.
Four swiveling wheels on a grill help you move it around the patio. For tabletop grills, foldaway legs save space when you're not using them. Most grills have a built-in storage cabinet. However, when you buy a custom grill head, like the Broilmaster R3B, you have to buy other parts like a stand separately.
Warranty & Support
Customer support is essential to the best infrared grills. Look for long warranties; companies usually guarantee the burners and other grill parts separately. One- and two-year warranties are standard, though some companies offer a 10-year or lifetime warranty. Phone and email support, along with FAQs and user manuals, help you get fast answers if you have problems or questions.
Recommendations Outside the Top Three Infrared Grills
Outside the top three infrared grills in our in review, the Better Homes and Gardens BH12 offers the best value with excellent performance, though it lacks the build quality of other grills in the review. We also found that the Char-Broil Commercial has sturdy construction and is more affordable than most infrared barbecue grills. The Magma Newport II is good choice you can mount on yachts and is easy to transport. The Napoleon FreeStyle is worth mentioning for its lifetime warranty that covers the cooking grate, cook box and lid.
Unless you take pride in assembling products at home, we suggest you get your grill preassembled if it's an option. No matter how good you are with a screwdriver, most of these grills are likely to take a few hours to assemble. Read the instructions carefully before starting so you don't end up assembling your grill incorrectly.
It's important to choose an infrared grill that fits your barbecue style, whether that's family meals or block parties. Shish kebabs, corn on the cob, steak and fish fillets all taste better when cooked on the grill. Infrared grills add to that experience and provide you and your guests with steakhouse-quality food.
Contributing Reviewer: John Carlsen