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What Does an Infrared Burner Do on a Gas Grill - The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Infrared Burners

Welcome to the sizzling world of grilling, where the smell of BBQ wafts through the air and the sound of sizzling meat is music to our ears. But have you ever wondered what makes those perfectly grilled steaks and burgers possible? The answer, my grill-loving friends, is the infrared burner.

This little piece of equipment may not get as much attention as the main burners, but it plays a crucial role in giving your food that mouthwatering char and juicy interior.

So, put on your grilling gloves and fire up your gas grill, because we’re about to dive into the ins and outs of what an infrared burner does and how it can take your grilling game to the next level.

But what is an infrared burner, and what exactly does it do when used in tandem with a gas grill?

An infrared burner is a dedicated spot or side burner on a grill that utilizes infrared radiation to cook food hotter and faster than your grill can achieve on its own.

Infrared technology is still relatively new (at least compared to grilling over an open flame), and not as common as your typical backyard grill. But when used right, it can deliver firepower and flexibility that can take your cooking to a new level!

This guide will take you through everything you need to know about infrared burners, from how they work to the different types you may see on gas grills currently on the market. 

We’ll also dive into the benefits of infrared cooking, and a few pointers to keep in mind before trying it out for the first time.

Finally, we’ll wrap it all up with some FAQs about infrared burners, and how they’re shaking up the gas grilling game.

What Is an Infrared Burner

An infrared burner is a dedicated area on a grill that uses infrared energy to crank the cooking temperatures up higher than the grill can typically reach.

What Does an Infrared Burner Do on a Gas Grill?

On a gas grill, gas is forced through tiny holes in a ceramic, glass, or metal heat plate and ignited. The energy resulting from that ignition takes the form of short-wave infrared radiation, which in turn cooks the food sitting on the burner.

What Is Infrared?

Infrared energy is a type of radiation that’s basically a cousin to microwaves and radio waves. Infrared waves come in three wavelengths: short, medium, and long, but the ones we’re most interested in for cooking are the short waves. These waves create heat transfer by radiating heat energy, similar to how our bodies feel warm when standing in the sun.

How Does Infrared Work?

In cooking, infrared radiation directs that heat energy right into your food. This heats the meat, not the air around it, so its outer moisture barrier isn’t disturbed during the cooking process.

Long story short? Infrared helps your food cook fast and hot while retaining most of its moisture.

What’s the Difference Between Infrared Burners & Traditional Gas Burners?

Infrared burners fire up quickly and produce radiant heat that flows from a concentrated area and cooks food at extremely high temperatures.

On the other hand, traditional gas burners warm up slowly and use gas burners to radiate heat through a distribution system like ceramic rods, which then distribute heat across the entire grilling surface.

Types of Infrared Burners

Traditional Ceramic Infrared Burners | Radiant Glass Panel Infrared Burner System | Heat Emitters Infrared Burners

There are a variety of different styles of infrared burners available on the market. It’s smart to familiarize yourself with them before shopping so you know which type of burner will work best for your needs!

Traditional Ceramic Infrared Burners

Traditional ceramic infrared burners are the most common type out there. These use a stainless steel burner with a ceramic plate a few inches above it. The ceramic plate has those tiny holes we mentioned earlier, which create tons of small flames that heat the plate evenly across its entire surface.

Traditional infrared burners can reach anywhere from 600°F to 1000°F. That high heat can create flare-ups when any drippings hit the burner, but the resulting char is one of the things people love about cooking on these burners.

Radiant Glass Panel Infrared Burner System

The radiant glass panel infrared burner system pioneered by TEC Grills features a cooking grid on top of a radiant glass panel, which sits just above a stainless steel burner. This setup drastically reduces the chance of drippings flaring up and helps create even more evenly distributed heat.

With a radiant glass panel burner, you can cook at searing-hot temperatures of around 900°F or even go as low as 200°F.

Heat Emitters Infrared Burners

A heat emitter infrared burner system is comprised of a stainless-steel tube burner, a metal heat emitter panel over it, and a cooking grid on top of that to round out the setup.

These systems can help you achieve a restaurant-quality sear, they won’t deliver the temperature range of other infrared systems, only reaching between 300°F and 650°F.

How to Cook on an Infrared Burner

Preparing the Grill for Use | Tips for Cooking with an Infrared Burner | Safety Precautions

Cooking on an infrared burner is much faster than cooking on a traditional grilling surface, and is typically reserved for searing before (direct searing) or after (reverse searing) the primary cooking is done on the main grill area.

Using an infrared burner on your gas grill is easy and can open up a whole new world of grilling possibilities. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Preparing the Grill for Use

Before you begin grilling, make sure to properly preheat the grill by turning all burners to high and closing the lid for about 10-15 minutes. This will ensure that the grill is at the correct temperature for cooking.

Tips for Cooking with an Infrared Burner

Be mindful of the temperature and adjust the burners accordingly. Infrared burners can get extremely hot, so it’s important to watch your food once you put it on — because these burners get so hot so quickly, it’s easy to overcook your meat if you aren’t careful.

Read on for more useful tips for cooking with an infrared burner:

  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure that your food is cooked to the proper temperature.
  • Use a drip tray to catch any juices or fats that may fall through the grates, this helps to prevent flare-ups and keep the heat consistent.
  • Preheat the grill for at least 10-15 minutes before cooking to ensure that it reaches the desired temperature.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure that your food is cooked to the proper temperature.
  • For searing, place the food directly over the infrared burner for a few minutes on each side.
  • For indirect heating, place the food on the side of the grill away from the infrared burner and close the lid to trap the heat.
  • Keep a spray bottle of water nearby to extinguish any flare-ups.
  • Never leave the grill unattended while in use.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines for properly using and maintaining the grill.

It will likely take you a few tries before you get the hang of using your infrared burner, but once you learn the ins and outs of these powerful cooking tools you’ll be able to recreate restaurant-quality seared meats from home!

Safety Precautions

By following these safety tips, you’ll be well on your way to grilling delicious and evenly cooked food on your infrared burner.

  • Always use oven mitts or grilling gloves when handling the grill or food.
  • Keep a spray bottle of water nearby to extinguish any flare-ups.
  • Never leave the burner unattended while it is in use.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines for properly using and maintaining the grill.
  • Always use the infrared burner in a well-ventilated area to prevent the buildup of gas.
  • Keep the burner clean to avoid clogs and malfunctions.
  • Do not touch the burner or cooking surface while it is in use or immediately after it has been turned off, as it can cause severe burns.
  • Keep flammable materials, such as curtains and paper, away from the burner.
  • Use cookware that is specifically designed for use with an infrared burner.

It is always recommended to have a fire extinguisher nearby your cooking area in case of an emergency.

Infrared Side Burners Add Serious Versatility

When paired up with a traditional gas grill, an infrared side burner gives you the versatility to cook meat both evenly and thoroughly on the main surface and give it a quick and delicious sear over the infrared burner.

Are There Any Advantages to an Infrared Burner?

Infrared burners offer a few standout advantages to outdoor cooks.

First and foremost is speed. Infrared burners heat up in just a couple of minutes and cook food much faster than a gas or charcoal grill would. That means you can have your burner fired up and your steak seared in less time than it would take you to preheat your gas grill! A quick cook time also helps the meat retain its moisture.

Second, infrared burners deliver higher cooking temperatures — as high as 1200°F on some models — than standard grills can. This is key for achieving a delicious, fast sear on your meat while retaining those delicious juices.

Finally, because they take a shorter time to heat up and cook, infrared burners also use up less fuel than a gas or charcoal grill. With an infrared system, the flame isn’t exposed to air, which reduces the amount of heat loss you get over the course of cooking — and the fuel needed to create more heat to replace it.

You can learn more about the advantages of cooking with infrared burners and grills in my guide: 14 Surprising Benefits of Infrared Grills

Are There Any Disadvantages to an Infrared Burner?

There are a few disadvantages that come with infrared burners that you may want to consider before investing in one yourself.

While these burners do offer increased versatility when paired with a standard gas grill, the infrared burners themselves aren’t that versatile. They’re good at doing one thing, and doing it well: reaching super high temperatures, super quickly. You won’t be able to cook at low and slow on these burners or easily cook up delicate items like veggies or fish.

Infrared burners and grills also typically weigh more and are a bit harder to move than standard grills, thanks to having their roots in permanent restaurant kitchens.

And, of course, because they’re a newer and more novel technology, infrared burners and grills are usually more expensive than their gas or charcoal cousins.

For Steaks & Burgers

Use the searing technique by placing the food directly over the infrared burner for a few minutes on each side to create a crusty exterior. This will give you a nice sear on the outside while maintaining a juicy and tender inside.

For Seafood

Infrared burners are also great for cooking seafood. Preheat the burner to high heat and then reduce to medium-high/low heat. Cook fish, shrimp, and other seafood for a minute or two per side, or until they are cooked through. It is best finished on the indirect heat side. Avoid overcooking, as it can make the seafood dry and tough.

For Poultry

Poultry can be cooked using both direct and indirect heating methods. For crispy skin, use the direct method and place the chicken directly over the infrared burner. For a more evenly cooked bird, use the indirect method and place the chicken on the side of the grill away from the infrared burner.

For Vegetables

Infrared burners are great for cooking vegetables quickly and evenly. Preheat the burner to medium-high/low heat and then cook vegetables for a few minutes per side or until they are cooked to your liking.

For Kebabs

Kebabs can be cooked using the direct or indirect heating method. For a quick cook, use the direct method and place the skewers directly over the infrared burner turner often so as not to burn the outside.

For a more evenly cooked kebab, after a quick sear on all sides, use the indirect method and place the skewers on the side of the grill away from the infrared burner to finish off.

For Pizza

Pizza can be cooked using the direct method and placing the pizza stone or tray directly over the infrared burner, at a high temperature.

Grilled Foods

Infrared burners are perfect for grilling foods such as sandwiches, paninis, and quesadillas. Preheat the burner to medium-high heat and then cook the food for a few minutes per side or until it is heated through and golden brown.

Desserts

Infrared burners can also be used to cook desserts such as crepes, pancakes, and waffles. Preheat the burner to low heat and then cook the dessert for a few minutes per side or until they are cooked through.

Who Are Infrared Grills Best Suited For?

While infrared burners and grills can offer benefits to all types of outdoor cooks, there are a few categories of people who will likely get the most use of out them.

First up, steak enthusiasts. If you want a phenomenally cooked steak at home without having to go to a steakhouse, an infrared burner can do that.

Infrared’s fast preheating and cooking times are also great if you’re an inpatient cook who would rather get back to the party than stand over the grill.

Speaking of parties, if you cook for big groups often or you have professional cooking experience, infrared can give you the firepower you need to cook for large crowds.

Finally, because they’re a newer and more complex technology, those who like their grilling set up to feature the latest tech will most likely want to invest in an infrared burner.

Gas Grill Infrared Burner FAQs

Is an Infrared Burner on a Grill Worth It? | Can I Use an Infrared Burner for All Types of Food? | How Long to Sear Steak on Infrared Burner? | Is Cooking With Infrared Burners Healthy? | How Do I Properly Maintain My Infrared Burner?

Gas grills with infrared burners have become increasingly popular in recent years, due to their ability to quickly and evenly cook food. However, many grillers may have questions about how these burners work and how to properly use them.

Below, we will answer some frequently asked questions about gas grill infrared burners.

Is an Infrared Burner on a Grill Worth It?

An infrared burner on a grill can be worth it for certain grilling situations. Infrared burners offer several benefits such as faster and more even cooking, better heat control, and precise temperature control. They are particularly useful for cooking thinner cuts of meats such as burgers, steaks, and chicken breasts, as well as vegetables and fruits. They are also great for searing meats as they can reach high temperatures very quickly.

On the other hand, they may not be as useful for thicker cuts of meats such as roasts or brisket, as they may not cook evenly. Additionally, infrared burners can be more expensive than traditional burners and may require more maintenance to keep them in good working order.

Can I Use an Infrared Burner for All Types of Food?

Infrared burners are best suited for cooking thinner cuts of meats, such as burgers, steaks, and chicken breasts. They can also be used for vegetables and fruits. However, they are not recommended for thicker cuts of meats, such as roasts or brisket, as they may not cook evenly.

How Long to Sear Steak on Infrared Burner?

To sear a steak on an infrared burner, sear each side for about 60 seconds or until they lift up from the burner easily. If you want cross-hatch grill marks, turn the steak 45° and let it cook on that side for another 60 seconds.

It’s important to note that the temperature of the infrared burner can also affect the cooking time. A higher temperature will result in a faster cook time, while a lower temperature will take longer. It’s also recommended to preheat the grill before cooking to ensure that the grates are hot enough to sear the steak.

Is Cooking With Infrared Burners Healthy?

Yes, cooking with infrared energy is healthy and safe for human consumption, as the radiation is not strong enough to alter the molecular structure of food. Infrared burners, however, cook at high temperatures that can create cancer-causing compounds in meat.

Cooking with infrared burners can be healthy, as they have the ability to cook food quickly and evenly. This can help to preserve the natural flavors and nutrients of the food and minimize the need for added fats and oils.

How Do I Properly Maintain My Infrared Burner?

To maintain your infrared burner, it is important to keep the ceramic or metal plate clean and free of debris. Additionally, it is important to check the burner for any signs of wear or damage and to replace any parts that may be damaged. Proper maintenance of your infrared burner is important to ensure it continues to function properly.

Final Thoughts on Our What Does an Infrared Burner Do on a Gas Grill Guide

Infrared burners can be a fantastic tool when used alongside a traditional gas grill. They amp up the temperature range that gas alone can’t achieve, and help you create a delicious sear on a variety of meats (hello, steakhouse-quality steaks) with a bit of trial and error.

If you’re interested in investing in an infrared side burner or a gas grill with a built-in infrared burner, we hope this guide has helped answer your burning questions!

If you have any lingering questions about infrared burners, or have one of your own and want to sound off on how you like it, let us know in the comments below.

Cheers,

Pat G.

Next Steps:

How to BBQ Burgers on a Gas Grill – A Comprehensive Guide

How to BBQ Hamburgers on a Gas Grill

How to Cook BBQ Ribs on a Gas Grill

How to Cook BBQ Ribs on a Gas Grill

How to Smoke on a Gas Grill – Simple Setup and Technique

How to Smoke on a Gas Grill – Simple Setup & Technique

Now It’s Your Turn

I want to hear from you:

Have you used an infrared burner on a gas grill?

Do you have any tips or tricks to share for using an infrared burner?

Are you going to be purchasing a smoker in the future?  Or do you plan on looking at a pellet grill, built-in or standalone gas grill, or charcoal model?

Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.

Cheers,

Pat G.

DisclosureAt The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs.  If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission.  This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue.  Your support is truly appreciated.