What if I told you there's a grill that will cook foods in half the time of any other grill? A grill that can produce the kind of heat necessary to char a 1" steak on the outside but leave it rare in the middle. A grill that can reach cooking temperatures well above 700 degrees F/370 degrees C. How you ask? The Infrared Burner.
The infrared burner works by focusing the flame of a standard gas burner onto a ceramic tile that has thousands of microscopic holes in it. This converts the heat of the flame into infrared energy, the same energy you feel from the sun on a cold day. This heat is much higher and more persistent than a standard grill can produce.
Similarly, metal screens are frequently used to "convert" convection heat into infrared energy. The basic idea is that a conventional grill works by heating air that flows around food. By stopping that flow of hot air, through the use of a ceramic diffuser or metal screen, the heat that radiates through is infrared. Proponents will tell you that this reduces the drying effect of a gas grill by reducing the airflow. The metal screens don't actually convert as efficiently as other types of infrared burner technology. In fact, their best selling point is that they reduce flare-ups.
Until recently, to get this type of grill you would need to purchase a TEC. Recently, that is, because in 2000 TEC's patent on this technology ran out, and several competitors have jumped in to offer the infrared technology. As with most technology, the first competitors are on the high-cost end, but I predict that over time the availability of low priced infrared grills will grow.
If you are already a TEC owner, then it probably seems blasphemous to suggest another brand. TEC owners are fiercely loyal (a quality to consider when buying any product) and will, I'm sure, continue to swear by this brand. However, patents run out for a reason: innovation. Already on the market is a unique innovation from Altima. They are offering swappable burner units that will allow you to have a standard burner, charcoal firebox and an infrared burner functioning at the same time. Similarly, Alfresco has introduced what they call the "SearZone", an infrared burner that sits to the side of more traditional gas burners. You can use this to sear meats before moving them to the regular burners to finish cooking.
So how much is it going to run you to get a grill like this? The bottom end TECs will set you back around $1,500.00USD and $5,000.00USD on the high end. Currently, the competition also falls into this price range. To keep up to date on new products, check back with my list of Infrared Grills.