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What Is an Infrared Broiler?

Fine Cooking Issue 72
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Photo: Scott Phillips
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If you’ve been shopping for a range lately, you may have run across a type of broiler called infrared, which has been showing up on high-end ranges for the last several years. We wondered what’s so special about an infrared broiler, and how it differs from a conventional gas and electric broiler.

We found out that the term infrared is more of a marketing name than a new type of technology. An infrared broiler does employ infrared energy (and we’ll explain what that means in a second), but that isn’t really its distinguishing feature. What makes an infrared broiler different is that whether gas or electric, it’s powered by an element that radiates a continuous sheet of heat, unlike its traditional electric and gas counterparts, which are either a snaking electric rod or a perforated pipe that shoots flame. This “sheet of heat” heats up more quickly and radiates more intense, more even heat than its conventional cousins. For cooks, that means that you can brown eight ramekins of crème brûlée at once, you can melt cheese on several crocks of French onion soup, and you can broil steak, chicken, fish, or pork and actually cook the inside of the food while getting a nicely browned crust on the outside.

But if you’re still wondering what infrared energy is, here’s the supershort answer. Infrared cooking just means that a solid gets hot and then radiates heat to the food. The snaking electric element you know to be a conventional electric broiler works the same way, it’s just that the snaking element doesn’t provide such even coverage.

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