Char Broil’s ‘Urban’ infrared grills have been nothing short of a revelation and have enjoyed a great deal of popularity, especially among younger owners. After years of dominance by Weber, Char Broil has finally hit a home run and is gunning for top spot in the small grill market with the ‘Urban’ grill.
Char Broil Urban Gas Grill – Infrared, Meet Flame
Infrared grills are the standard bearers in the BBQ world. With temperatures in excess of 1600 degrees, your standard charcoal or gas grill is like a candle to an infrared grill’s blowtorch. Infrared grills are used mostly in restaurants because the high temperature allows chefs to grill meats to perfection within minutes. Besides, infrared grills can be wildly expensive, often costing 2-3 more than a gas or charcoal grill.
Char Broil’s Urban grill is billed as ‘infrared’ gas grills. What’s happening here? How can an infrared grill be billed as a gas grill, and vice versa? Is this some marketing gimmick, meant purely to lull gullible buyers with the ‘infrared’ tag?
Yes and No.
There is no way Char Broil could actually incorporate true infrared technology in a grill that starts off at $300. Thus, Char Broil developed a unique technology that combines infrared radiation along with traditional open flame heat. Hence the combination of ‘infrared’ and ‘gas’ in its moniker.
To accomplish this, the Urban grills utilize a thin sheet of perforated steel. Heat – both through infrared radiation, as well as traditional open flame – passes through the perforations, cooking the food. Technically, it is infrared. In actuality, it is not.
Not True Infrared
Before I can give you an answer to the above question, you must first understand how infrared (IR) grills actually work. ‘Infra-Red’ literally means ‘below-red’. Infrared is the electromagnetic radiation that sits just below the spectrum for red light (hence, ‘below-red’). It has a longer wavelength than visible light and thus, cannot be seen by the naked eye. Infrared radiation is a normal part of the spectrum of light and is largely responsible for its heat capacity. Almost 49% of the sun’s heat is carried forth in the infrared range of visible light.
If that scientific mumbo-jumbo left your head spinning, all you need to know is that infrared radiation can get incredibly hot incredibly quickly. A true infrared grill can reach temperatures above 1200 degrees within seconds.
This grill, however, uses a weaker variant of infrared radiation called ‘mid-wave’ infrared. This is much weaker in intensity that true IR. In fact, in Char Broil’s Urban gas grills, most of the cooking is done by the open (convectional) flame itself. The infrared merely functions as an after-thought, meant to make the grill more appealing to the layman buyer.
So yes, the Char Broil Urban gas grills use infrared as a marketing gimmick. It is not true infrared, and as such, does not add anything particular to the grill’s performance. In fact, the design can actually deteriorate performance over time as food debris clogs up the perforations in the steel sheet.
Solid Performer, Nonetheless
Despite its above mentioned flaws, the Char Broil Urban grills are still solid performers delivering a decent amount of heat with ample cooking space (320 square inches along with 125 sq. inches of additional cooking area ) in a compact design. I’ve recommended this grill in the past, and I will stick my neck out and recommend it again. Yes, it does use IR as a marketing ploy, but BBQ manufacturers have been guilty of much worse. In the end, the Char Broil Urban gas grill is a well-rounded, compact grill that is just perfect for younger buyers. Seasoned experts, though, would want to look elsewhere.
Cooking area: 445 sq. inches (320 + 125)
Heat Output: 20,000 BTUs/hr.