Serious chefs know that a hot bed of charcoal or wood coals is the best way to grill meat. Unfortunately the 30-40 minute wait (and air pollution) for the fire to be ready are a major drawback to using a traditional fire, but most propane grills are too feeble to be a useful alternative.
Enter the ceramic infra-red burner by the Thermal Engineering Corporation (TEC) of Columbia, South Carolina. Ceramic plates perforated with thousands of burner ports heat up to 1700 degrees and throw off as much heat as any bed of coals. From a standing start, it’s ready to cook in 5 minutes, and will put a deliciously crispy seared crust on whatever you’re grilling. It’s highly fuel efficient, too, since radiant heat transfer is roughly proportional to the fourth power of the burner temperature. Don’t be fooled by the modest BTU ratings, those are a measure of the fuel input, not the heat output.
One improvement can be made: replace the factory grid (stainless steel channels) with the Char-Broil cast iron replacement grid sold at Home Depot.
Yes, these are expensive, but I have seen similar prices for grills that are really nothing special… all show and no go. TEC has a press release that says Char-Broil will be using TEC’s technology in 2007, so the entry price may come down soon.
I’ve been using the Patio II model for 5 years and am very happy with it.