How Do Smokeless Grills Work?

Smoke, fire, sizzle, and that mouth-watering aroma – grilling is nothing short of a sensory spectacle. But anyone who has manned the grill knows that sometimes the smoke could rival a ’70s rock concert. Sure, there’s a certain primal appeal to it, but wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the joys of grilling minus the smoke monster?

Enter smokeless grills. These innovative machines promise the charm of grilling without leaving you smelling like you’ve walked out of a smokehouse.

In this blog post, we’re peeling back the lid on these modern grills.

If you are in a hurry, then here’s a quick answer for you:

Smokeless grills reduce the amount of smoke produced by employing electricity as their source of heat and by using clever design ideas that prevent drippings from burning. The design ideas include using a smoke extractor, drip trays, and infrared heating.

If you want to learn more about the way the grills operate, read on.

Table of Contents

What’s Producing Smoke When Grilling?

Now, picture this: you’ve got your favorite T-bone on the grill. The heat is just right, the spice blend is spot-on, and the anticipation is building up. But as the magic unfolds, plumes of smoke start to waft up. You’ve got a smoke signal situation on your hands, and not the kind you’d want.

So, what’s fanning the smoky flames here? It’s a mix of two elements: your fuel and the drippings from your juicy steak.

Fuel

Depending on what kind of grill you’re using, you might be burning charcoal, wood pellets, propane, or natural gas. Both propane and natural gas produce no smoke at all. Wood produces the most smoke. Charcoal on the other hand produces only a little smoke as long as it is quality charcoal that didn’t get wet when stored outside. The combustion process creates soot and other particulates that get carried away in the rising heat, presenting you with the smoky cloud we all know too well.

Drippings

Electric grill
Simple electric grill – notice how the grease and juices can drip directly onto the heating element

These are the juices and fats that drip down from your food onto the hot surfaces present in your grill. These may include burner tubes, flavorizer bars, heating elements in an electric grill, or hot charcoal – the fuel – itself. As soon as the grease or juice hit the red-hot parts of the grill, it will start burning which obviously results in smoke production. With clever design and grilling experience, the smoke production of traditional grills can be reduced but usually not completely eliminated. 

And that’s where smokeless grills enter the show.

The Rise in Popularity of Smokeless Grills

If you’ve been nosing around the grilling world in recent years, you’ve probably noticed a trend picking up steam (or should I say, smoke?). Yes, smokeless grills are creating quite the sizzle, and for many different reasons.

First off, they’re efficient and quick. If there was an award for zero to hot-dog-ready, these would be the undisputed winners. When equipped with infrared elements, these grills heat up rapidly, meaning you spend less time preheating and more time chowing down on your perfectly seared delights.

They are also the neat freak’s dream. With their easy-to-clean design, the aftermath of your barbecue bonanza doesn’t need to resemble a greasy crime scene. Many components can be either tossed right into your dishwasher or easily wiped down, making cleanup a breeze.

As if that wasn’t enough, these grills are also environmentally friendly. By not burning fuel, they keep those nasty carbon emissions in check. You get to enjoy your burger, guilt-free, knowing that your carbon footprint is reduced.

Power XL Smokeless Electric Indoor Grill
Indulge in outdoor BBQ flavors indoors with the spacious 13.75″ x 8″ grilling surface of the Outdoor BBQ Grilled Taste XL. Its non-stick ceramic surface requires no extra oil, while the removable grill plate ensures easy cleaning. The LED Smart Temperature Control provides precise heat adjustment up to 450°F, and the Turbo Extraction Fan minimizes smoke for enjoyable indoor grilling. Say goodbye to traditional barbecues and savor mouthwatering meals from your kitchen countertop year-round.

How Do Smokeless Grills Work?

Alright, folks, it’s time to put on our science goggles and delve into the tech that makes smokeless grills the talk of the town. You might think it involves some complex wizardry, but really, these grills have just taken a smart approach to dealing with those smoke-causing culprits we discussed earlier. They utilize one or multiple ways of preventing smoke.

Lid

Quite a few smokeless grills come with lids, usually made of tempered glass. This isn’t just to keep your grilled goodies safe from any over-enthusiastic pets. The lid also helps contain and reduce the amount of smoke that can escape into your surroundings. Thanks to being made of glass, you can always see all the action that’s happening on the grates.

Drip pans

Remember those pesky drippings that cause all the smoky drama? Smokeless grills tackle them by using drip trays. These pans catch the grease and juices, preventing them from hitting any hot surface and burning. The pans are often filled with water so that the juices are immediately cooled down.

Fan/Smoke extractor

Some models come equipped with a built-in electric fan or smoke extractor. This nifty feature pulls in the small amount of smoke that might be produced and filters it out, keeping your grilling environment clean and smoke-free. This is actually one of the most effective ways of getting rid of smoke. So if you want your grilling experience as smokeless as possible, consider picking a model with this feature. 

Infrared heating

Some smokeless grills use infrared technology. Infrared rays cook your food directly, without heating the air around it. Unlike traditional heating elements, this one doesn’t have to be located below the grill grates. This allows the drippings to drip through the grates into the drip pan without burning.

Types of Smokeless Grills

Did you know there are two different types to choose from? Let’s break them down:

Electric Smokeless Grills

These smokeless indoor grills can be either infrared or use a standard electric heating element. As mentioned, their key trick lies in their design, which ensures that the grease and juices from your food don’t burn and kick up a smoke storm.

And the cherry on top? They’re as versatile as a Swiss army knife. Whether you’re in a small apartment, facing unfavorable weather, or simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of firing up an outdoor grill, a smokeless electric grill has got you covered.

Charcoal Smokeless Grills

These are more of a niche product. If you’re a purist who swears by charcoal but could do without the smoke, this might be your match. These grills are designed to minimize smoke without completely compromising that signature charcoal taste. These grills are again fairly simple from the design point of view – they are equipped with a charcoal compartment that’s protected from the drippings and there is a fan in the bottom of the grill that blows directly into the lit charcoal essentially spreading the heat around the grilling surface.

However, a word of caution: these grills are not designed for indoor use due to carbon monoxide production. The smoke might be less, but the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is still there. So, always use them in a well-ventilated outdoor space.

Are the Grills Completely Smokeless?

Here’s the part where we dispel the myths and get real. Are these grills completely smokeless? The simple answer is nope, nada, zip. They still produce a bit of smoke. But before you throw your hands up in despair, let me reassure you.

When I say a bit of smoke, I really do mean just a bit. The amount produced should neither trip your smoke detectors nor should it make the air uncomfortable to breathe. If you’re grilling inside, your guests won’t be squinting through a smoky haze to find their burgers.

This makes them perfect for indoor use.

So while “smokeless” might be a bit of a stretch, these grills could certainly be described as “low-smoke”.

They produce far less smoke than outdoor grills, making them a great choice for indoor grilling or in places where excessive smoke could be an issue such as a covered or enclosed porch.

Are Indoor Smokeless Grills Safe?

Ah, the million-dollar question! They’re designed for indoor use, so they should be safe, right?

Well, the answer is yes, as long as you use a dash of that good old ingredient – common sense.

For instance, they do not create carbon monoxide, so there’s no risk of poisoning – a significant concern with indoor use of charcoal grills or other combustion-based cooking methods.

However, even though they are designed for indoor use, always remember that you are dealing with a cooking device that generates heat.

Ensure the grill is placed on a stable, heat-resistant surface, and away from any flammable materials. And never leave it unattended when it’s on. Also, keep a close eye on the kids and pets while you’re at it.

Are All Smokeless Grills Infrared?

You’ve probably seen it in big bold letters on some websites: “All smokeless grills are infrared!” But, let me tell you, those sites don’t know what they’re grilling about. Not all smokeless grills are using this technology. Many use simple electric heating elements.

So, why the misconception? Well, infra-red technology is quite the buzzword in the grilling world, and it indeed has some advantages. IR grills tend to reach higher temperatures and heat up faster than traditional grills, and yes, they may help reduce smoke. But, infrared is not a must-have feature for a grill to be smokeless. There are plenty of smokeless grills out there doing an excellent job without it.

In the world of indoor grills, IR is like the luxury sports car – fast, flashy, and, let’s admit it, pretty cool. But the trusty electric heating element grill? That’s your reliable family sedan – it may not turn as many heads, but it’ll get you where you need to go.

Do Smokeless Grills Have Any Cons?

Alright, so we’ve sung praises about smokeless grills, but let’s not forget that even the brightest sunshine has its shadows. There are some limitations to smokeless grills that you should be aware of:

  • Size limitations – Smokeless grills, especially indoor ones, are often smaller than their outdoor, smoke-belching counterparts. The reason is simple: indoor grills have to fit in your kitchen, and their heating is limited by the capabilities of household power lines. So, if you’re planning to grill a feast fit for a king, you might need to do it in batches.
  • No smoky charcoal flavor – Ah, the smoky, charcoal-kissed flavor that makes barbecued food so irresistible! Unfortunately, that’s one thing smokeless grills can’t deliver. They’re great for grilling, but they won’t give your food the traditional smoky taste you might be craving.
  • Not suitable for off-the-grid adventures – If you dream of grilling a fish you just caught by a remote lakeside, your smokeless grill might have to stay home. Most of them require an electrical power source to function, which can limit their use in more remote or off-grid settings.
  • Take care with utensils – Most smokeless grills have non-stick surfaces, which can be scratched or damaged by metal utensils. You’ll need to use plastic, wood, or silicone tools instead, which may take some getting used to if you’re a fan of your metal BBQ spatula.

While these limitations might seem significant, remember that every cooking device has its pros and cons. It’s about finding the right tool for your needs. And, who knows, a smokeless grill could be just what your culinary world has been waiting for!

What To Look For When Choosing a Smokeless Grill?

Selecting a smokeless grill isn’t too different from dating – you’ve got to know what you’re looking for, be aware of the red flags, and most importantly, ensure there’s good chemistry. Here’s what you should consider:

  • Technology Used – As we’ve established, smokeless grills use a variety of technologies to keep smoke to a minimum. Consider your grilling needs and choose accordingly.
  • Size -This one’s pretty straightforward – make sure the grill is big enough for your needs. Hosting a backyard BBQ party for the entire neighborhood? You’ll need a larger grill (but you won’t find an indoor grill that big anyway, lol). Cooking for one or two? A compact grill should do the trick.
  • Temperature regulation –  You want to be the master of your grill, not the other way around. Some grills come with preset temp, and manufacturers will claim it’s a good thing. Don’t fall for it – having control over your grilling temperature depending on what you’re cooking is crucial.
  • Build quality and material – A grill made of high-quality materials will not only last longer, but it will also cook more evenly and be easier to clean. So, don’t just go for the first shiny grill you see. Check what it’s made of!
  • Ease of use and cleaning – There’s no joy in grilling if you spend more time figuring out how to work the grill or cleaning it than actually cooking. Look for a user-friendly design and a grill that’s easy to clean.
  • Weight and portability -If you plan to take your grill on camping trips or picnics, consider its weight and portability. Some smokeless grills come with handy carrying cases!
  • Price, warranty, and brand reputation – Lastly, consider your budget, the warranty offered, and the reputation of the brand. Reading customer reviews can provide valuable insight into how the grill performs in the real world.

Remember, the best grill for you is one that suits your specific needs and lifestyle. So, take your time, do your research, and happy grilling!

FAQ

Are smokeless grills really smokeless?

While smokeless grills significantly reduce the amount of smoke produced, they are not 100% smokeless. You might still notice a bit of smoke, especially when cooking fatty foods, but it should not set off your smoke alarms or cause discomfort.

Can I use a smokeless grill indoors?

Absolutely! In fact, smokeless grills are designed for indoor use, making them perfect for apartments, RVs, or any situation where an outdoor grill isn’t an option. Just remember to use them in a well-ventilated area.

Is a smokeless grill worth it?

If you love grilling but live in a place where an outdoor grill isn’t feasible, or if you want to grill year-round regardless of the weather, a smokeless grill can be a great investment. They are easy to use, convenient, and produce delicious grilled food with minimal smoke and mess.

Are smokeless grills safe to use?

As with any cooking device, safety is a combination of design and use. Most smokeless grills are designed with safety features such as automatic shutoffs, cool-touch handles, and indicator lights. Still, always use common sense and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use.

Can you grill all types of food on these grills?

Yes, you can grill anything you would grill on an outdoor grill. There are no limitations. Veggies, grilled camembert, steaks, hamburgers, you name it.

Can I get the smoky flavor on a smokeless grill?

Unfortunately, smokeless grills don’t produce the traditional smoky flavor associated with charcoal grills. However, you can get creative and use smoked spices or a smoke-flavored cooking spray or sauce to mimic that smoky flavor.

Last update on 2024-01-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Photo of author

John Carder

John Carder is the founder of FreshAirChef.com. He loves to cook outdoors, especially over a campfire. John has a lovely wife and two cats who he loves dearly. In his spare time, he likes to play soccer and paint; he's not particularly good at either, but he enjoys the process nonetheless. He also has silly long hair which often gets in his way while cooking!