Radiant Gas or Infrared? Choose The Proper Charbroiler Heat Source

If you’re looking for versatility in your commercial kitchen, look no further than a traditional commercial charbroiler. Commonly used to cook a variety menu items, a charbroiler can offer foods a unique smoky flavor profile and leave behind its characteristic char-grill markings. If your kitchen produces multiple dishes calling for a grilled-style taste and look, especially steaks, burgers or grilled chicken, you may find a charbroiler to be very useful. While all charbroilers can operate at very high temperatures, one of the biggest differences among commercial charbroilers is how they heat. The most common types are radiant gas and infrared. Choosing between a radiant gas and infrared charbroiler requires an understanding of the differing technology and your kitchen’s specific menu.

Radiant versus Convective Heat

Traditional gas charbroilers cook primarily by transferring heat from the burner to the radiant and grate. High quality radiants are traditionally made of cast iron and designed to spread the heat generated by the burner and protects the burner from excess debris. That heat then radiates upwards and transfers to the cooking surface. Evenly spaced grates are placed above the combustion chamber that houses the burners, creating the cooking surface.

Infrared charbroilers, like those from Vulcan Food Equipment, cook primarily through infrared heat. The gas burner heats a solid surface—generally a ceramic burner or carbon emitter panel—which directly heats up the food on the grates, providing an evenly heated cooking surface and minimizing flare-ups. Because there is no direct flame, food cooked on an infrared charbroiler retains moisture and is less likely to dry out.

Both types of charbroilers produce both types of heat, but the dominance of one type of heating over the other has an impact on performance. Newer infrared charbroilers are more efficient than traditional models at reducing convective heat.

Pros and Cons

Although infrared charbroilers can save you
up to 50% on gas usage, it may not be what you need. Operators should review
their specific menu items when considering an infrared charbroiler to ensure
that it’s the best fit for their kitchens.

Moisture Retention:
One reason infrared charbroilers are excellent for cooking
food like thin, lean proteins and vegetables is that they allow for more
moisture retention. When radiant gas charbroilers move hot air across the
surface of the food, the air removes moisture and can dry out food that hasn’t
already been seared and sealed. In addition, infrared charbroilers are ideal for
fish because they don’t strip the moisture.

Heat Distribution: traditional charbroilers typically
have an extreme hotspot in the center and cool the further to the sides you go.
Many traditional charbroilers can have a 400-degree difference from middle to
outside.

Eliminating hot and cold spots can be challenging with
charbroilers. When heat is not evenly distributed, some portions of food cook
more quickly than others and may burn. To ensure this doesn’t happen, you may
have to limit the useable space on your cooktop. The design of infrared
charbroilers projects heat waves uniformly across the cooking surface and
reduces the potential for hot and cold spots. High performance traditional radiant gas charbroilers address this challenge be
redistributing the heat using specialized burners and super charger walls
heating more evenly than low cost charbroilers.

Energy Efficiency: With their even heating infrared charbroilers are capable of reducing cook times and can also decrease gas usage
by up to 50% over radiant gas units. You can use less energy and
increase your production rates.

Ease of Control: Infrared gas charbroilers heat even on all active
heat zones (channels). Adjusting to this pattern can take
time if your staff is accustomed to using radiant gas equipment because
traditional charbroilers burn more uneven than infrared.

Choosing the Right Charbroiler

While infrared models have many advantages, including gas
savings and ease of use, they also come with additional costs. When
selecting a charbroiler for your kitchen, it’s important to consider your menu
items and decide if the advantages outweigh these cons, or if a
traditional radiant gas charbroiler is better suited for your kitchen.

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