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Backyard Chefs Fired Up Over Infrared Grills 229

Vicissidude writes "With the expiration of a key patent, major gas-grill manufacturers have scrambled to bring infrared cooking to the masses. The grills are still powered by propane and have traditional gas burners that heat mostly by convection — or hot air. But they also can cook foods with radiant heat generated by one or more infrared burners. Char-Broil says its advanced burners operate at 450 to 900 degrees, hotter than the 450 to 750 degrees of standard gas burners. And unlike charcoal, which can require 20 to 30 minutes to reach its 700-degree cooking temperature, heat from the infrared burners can be adjusted quickly. Bill Best, founder of Thermal Electric of Columbia, S.C., developed the technology in the 1960s, primarily to give automakers a faster way to dry the paint on cars."
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Backyard Chefs Fired Up Over Infrared Grills

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  • Ahhh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CaffeineAddict2001 ( 518485 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @11:57PM (#19288621)
    Is there anything propane CAN'T do?
  • Where's the flavor? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ninety-9 SE-L ( 1052214 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @12:13AM (#19288761)
    I've been using propane grills for a number of years, now. Although simple to use and quicker at reaching their desired heat, I find they're quite a pain to clean and maintain. Yearly, I have to replace the burners, lava rocks, and scrape all the crud off the sides. I think the glass plate may or may not help in this department, however, it all depends on if you let the grease sit on it for too long. I recently switched back to charcoal for the time being and I have to mention, the taste you get from charcoal is unbeatable by any propane grill. With that in mind, what kind of taste are you going to get from a virtually flame-less grill? To me, it's no different than sticking a steak in the oven (assuming an oven could reach 700-900*).
  • by Whuffo ( 1043790 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @01:26AM (#19289185) Homepage Journal
    Good idea - ask Alton why you'd want to cook meat at higher temperatures than found in the home kitchen. The holy grail of steaks: nicely browned and grill marked on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside - can only be found through the application of very high temperatures.

    Many steak house kitchens use a cooking device called a "salamander" to cook steaks. It's essentially two of these infrared elements; one above, one below and just enough room to slide the steak inbetween. Those reach temperatures of 1500 degrees or more - and the people who eat the steaks rave about how well they're cooked.

    Being a proper sort of geek, I converted my new grill from propane to natural gas before lighting it the first time. A quick change of inlet hose and a little numbered drill action on the orifices and I never have to worry about running out of propane. While I was at it, I uprated the main burners just a touch so that I can get it up to some even higher temperatures for cooking meats.

    Cooking at these higher temperatures isn't like cooking on charcoal or a regular propane grill. Things cook faster and flare-ups don't happen; drips vaporize (poof) and only provide added flavor.

    If I feel like I'm missing the good old campfire flavor, I can throw some wood chips in the smoker box. Hickory is nice, sometimes cherry is better. I think I've got a bag of mesquite chips around here somewhere...

    For those who wonder why anyone wouldn't use charcoal - turn knob, push button - 15 minutes later the temperature is passing 700 and it's time to toss the meat on. Yum yum - and after cooking, turn the main burners all the way up, close the lid, and check back in 30 minutes. All the mess is now ash; brush it away and it's clean again.

    Why not broil in the oven? Not the same thing at all! Your household cooking appliances are designed so the average knuckle-dragger won't burn the house down. Those gray steaks that only have a thin pink stripe in the middle are a poor shadow of what a well grilled steak is like. And by having the cooking fire outdoors, the house stays cooler in the summer.

    Gas grills are a very good thing when well designed and well handled - capable of better and more dependable results than a charcoal fired grill. Does that ceramic infrared burner add anything to the equation? I'm not convinced; it's more of a spec sheet checkoff for the marketing department.

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @01:43AM (#19289307)
    Actually they are quite easy to clean. I just light it and run it at maximum for 15 minutes. Whatever is left after that doesn't matter...

    BTW, this is best done after you finished cooking your steak, since it takes a long time to cool down to a usable temperature. Don't let the barby stand dirty.
  • Re:YRO? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nacturation ( 646836 ) <> on Sunday May 27, 2007 @02:09AM (#19289441) Journal

    The article is worded badly. The original patent was created in the 1960s and expired in 2000. Then after it expired they started trying to figure out how to use it in a grill and it still took them 7 years to make it cheap enough for home owners.
    Correction: the patent expired in 2000 and it took them 7 years to hire a PR company who was clever enough to make this a patent-related business news story instead of a much more boring new product announcement. And it's got all the right makings... this is the technology used by high-end chefs (social proof), used to cost $5K but now yours for under $1K (value), be one of the first on your block (exclusivity), etc.
  • Re:unlike charcoal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ScottBob ( 244972 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @03:03AM (#19289731)
    But I LIKE the taste that petroleum coke, lignite coal, wooden pallets, limestone, starch, and triple distilled jet fuel gives to food! MMMMmmmm... Brisket... droooooool...

    What I don't like is whenever people try to cook TOO MANY burgers at once on the coals, for instance, at a company picnic. All the grease dripping from the burgers leads to a raging grease fire, which lends a sooty taste reminiscent of burnt plastic to the burgers. Attempts at putting out the grease fire with a squirt bottle usually causes it to rage even more and kicks up ash which further gives a bad taste to the burgers.

    My favorite way to grill burgers and steaks over charcoal is on a hibachi. Do they even make those anymore?
  • Re:YRO? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @07:02AM (#19290811)
    They slow down technological progress.

    Pretty much everybody seems to agree that the current situation with patents has gotten out of hand. But if patents are always such a hindrance to technological development, why did the United States produce so much new technology throughout the 20th century? The light bulb, the telephone, the phonograph, the AC motor, the transistor, helicopter, the PC, new drugs to combat AIDS, DNA amplication by PCR, just to name a few... arguably this is one of the most impressive runs of innovation in human history, and it happened with robust patent law in place.

    I'd argue that here the system, while imperfect, was doing more or less what it was supposed to. Inventors knew they could make a buck because their rights would be respected. Venture capitalists were willing to fund inventors because of the same thing. And people like Alexander Graham Bell, Igor Sikorsky, and Nikolai Tesla chose to be inventors here, rather than in their respective home countries, despite our system of patents, and probably in part because of it. There must be any number of countries that don't respect patent law, but I can't think of any that have become centers of technological development and innovation, where inventors flock to them. Maybe the system is broken now, but the answer is to fix it, not to throw it out.

  • by Roblimo ( 357 ) Works for SourceForge on Sunday May 27, 2007 @09:18AM (#19291467) Homepage Journal
    I, too, vote for mesquite (or other high-quality "real wood") charcoal and no-fluid, chimney charcoal lighting.

    I have an easy-to-clean Son of Hibachi [] for everyday grilling and a big, oval Patio Classic [] BBQ with adjustable airflow for slow cooking -- that also functions as a party-scale grill when we host cookouts for large groups.

    Some people seem to think lighting charcoal is a big deal. Not so. Crumple 3 sheets of newspaper, put them in the chimney (the Son of Hibachi functions as a chimney in its "closed" position), pour the desired amount of charcoal (15 briquets or so for our small grill, full to the brim for the big one) into the chimney on top of the paper, light paper through the air holes at the bottom of the chimney, then do something else for 15 minutes.

    Now pour the charcoal into your grill or BBQ and.... cook. Or, in the case of my Son of Hibachi, open it out flat, spread the briquets, and... cook.

    For slow-cooked BBQ (super-tasty ribs and briskets), be prepared to add more charcoal after two - three hours. Lift the grill, pour in about as many unlit briquets as lit ones already cooking, and use your charcoal tool (in my case a giant cast iron spoon) to make sure the unlit briquets are nestled well among the lit ones, put the grill and food back, and close the lid. Come back in a couple of hours and... eat.

    Both of these units are super-easy to clean. I have BBQ heretic (propane-using) friends who are amazed when they see that cleaning my charcoal cookers is *easier* than cleaning their flavor-destroying, gaseous monstrosities.

    Infrared heat is great for drying paint on cars and metal surfaces in general. But for cooking? (shudder) Not on *my* Florida patio. When it comes to BBQ, we like the real thing around here.

    - Robin

  • Re:Apocalypse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Sunday May 27, 2007 @11:48AM (#19292331) Homepage
    Tell me about it. I used to have a circa 1980 Soviet industrial paint drier operating on this principle (they did not give a flying f*** about American patents at the time). IR gas burner. No visible flame, no open flame in fact. The entire burner was neatly enclosed behind the IR radiating body. With this contraption it took 10-20 minutes to completely dry half a wall painted with emulsion or with fresh wallpaper in 3-5C temperatures (compared to 3-4 hours). The only problem was that it ate most of the oxygen in the room in no time at all so you could not use it to warm the room itself and you had to have all windows opened while using it. Quite a strange experience. The room was freezing cold and the humidity was at solid 100%, but the paint was drying in no time none the less. Me and my dad decorated most of our apartment that way at the time (1984).

    I have not tried cooking sausages on it at the time (in a hindsight - I should have).

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