You may have seen some barbecues that claim to feature a new technology called infrared (IR) cooking. What is this new IR technology and why is it better? New to boating barbecues, infra-red grilling has been offered in quality backyard (land) barbecues for several years. We’ll explain this new cooking technology, and first we’ll start with the three basic ways to cook food.
Conduction: hot fast-moving molecules excite cold, slow-moving ones to cook food from the outside like an egg cooking in a frying pan. Heat is conducted directly from one object (the frying pan) to the other (the egg).
Convection: food is cooked via a medium, such as oil, water or air, to transfer heat. Hot, fast-moving molecules bump into cold, slow-moving molecules as in a conventional barbecue where heated air moves through the grill to the food using holes in the vapor plate.
Grease vaporizes on the solid parts of the vapor plate to caramelize the food, and the food is cooked using hot air. This works pretty well, is widely used, and folks have patented all kinds of vapor plates with crazy hole patterns, so the technology has been explored. These first two methods of cooking food, by frying or air-heating, are not the best way to barbecue meat or fish, which brings us to the third method.
Radiant Heat Waves: microwave or infrared. Microwaves do okay making everything the same temperature, but aren’t exactly romantic to sit around in your boat’s cockpit having drinks a few drinks and chatting with friends—while nuking a steak. Infrared technology transfers heat waves at the speed of light to the food's outside surface to allow the barbecue to sear the outside but keep the inside moist. Infrared radiation, emitted by a super-heated ceramic or stainless steel plate, heats the food directly. As the moisture inside heats up, it cooks internally using convection, but without drying, since the outside is sealed. Heat is uniformly distributed across the cooking surface and that temperatures reach over 500 °C (900 °F), allowing you to sear items quickly.
Our friends at the marina who are grilling enthusiasts tell us that food cooked on an infrared grill tastes juicier, similar to food cooked on a charcoal barbecue. This makes sense, because both charcoal and IR propane grills cook using infra-red heat, since charcoal emits IR radiation when burned. The advantage of an IR gas grill is that infrared heat does almost all of the cooking, while charcoal grills cook with only about 25 percent infrared heat, with the other 75 percent from convection (hot air). IR barbecues require less pre-heat time than conventional grills and have the advantages of instant ignition, a uniform heat source and better heat control.
IR technology was previously patented, but the patents expired in the year 2000 and more companies are offering infra-red grills at decreasing prices. Now you can have the benefits of infra-red barbecuing onboard your boat.
See our West Advisor on Selecting a Marine Barbecue.