Unlike traditional grills, which hold meat over a flame and transfer the flame's heat to the food indirectly, an infrared grill directs heat particles at the meat being cooked. This means time is not wasted in heating up the air around the food or transferring heat from one burning source to another. This process, called radiant heating, also ensures more heat energy makes it to the food and is not lost in the air, which gives infrared grills the ability cook foods at much hotter temperatures than conventional flame and even convection cooking. In fact, infrared grills use a combination of convection and radiant heating to heat food both directly and indirectly.
The heating element of an infrared grill is a curved pad made from ceramic or porcelain. This pad works with the grill's power source to create a combination of convection and radiant heating. Through this combination, heat is directly applied to the food while also flooding the chamber in which the food is cooking. This makes it possible for the grill grates to heat up, giving the food a flame-broiled appearance and taste without the slowness of the actual flame. The convection heating also facilitates easy transmission of directed heat particles from the ceramic or porcelain heating element to the food.
The grates of an infrared grill are made of stainless steel or, in some cases, cast iron. The material is selected not only because of its easiness to clean but also because of its ability to conduct and retain heat. During the initial convection heat process, an infrared grill heats the grilling chamber and superheats the grates that hold the food. Retained heat within the grates raises the temperature and creates the familiar burn patterns on the food.
Although an infrared grill does not use direct flame in the grill chamber, it does operate on gas. Either natural gas or propane is used to operate infrared grills and when it is ignited, it is converted to electromagnetic radiation through the heating element. This radiation falls within the infrared range and gives the grill its ability to cook at extremely hot temperatures.