Radiant Gas or Infrared? Choose The Proper Charbroiler Heat Source

Last updated on June 30th, 2022 at 09:42 am

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 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 commercial 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.