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An infrared fryer is an outdoor cooking device that uses infrared heat energy to cook food instead of direct heat. These cookers technically are not fryers, because no oil is used, although they often bear a superficial resemblance to traditional oil fryers and can achieve a similar effect. Food that has been cooked in an infrared fryer typically retains a high level of moisture, similar to items that are prepared in fryers. Either propane or electricity can be used to provide the heat for an infrared fryer, and it is contained within a double exterior wall instead of inside the main chamber of the device. Infrared heat then radiates from the walls of the chamber, and that is what cooks the food that has been been placed inside the unit.
There are many types of infrared fryers and a variety of options available, although they all work on the same general principle. Instead of cooking with direct heat like a traditional oven or barbecue, these devices use infrared energy. This typically is achieved by an electric element or propane burner ring that heats the air in the space between the outer wall of the device and the inner wall of the cooking chamber. The heat then transfers to the inner wall of the cooking chamber, where it radiates as infrared energy. When that infrared energy strikes a food item, heat is released, and the cooking process takes place.
Electric infrared fryers can operate on 100 to 220 volts, depending on the location, and propane versions can use the same canisters as traditional barbecues. For a propane infrared fryer to operate properly, it typically needs a 20-pound (9.1-kg) tank, because smaller tanks might not provide enough pressure. These units also must be turned on in the correct order so that the flow regulator on the tank does not activate, which would prevent the infrared fryer from operating properly. Accidentally activating the flow regulator by turning on the burners in the fryer before the propane tank can result in drastically increased cooking times or even prevent food items from being heated through all the way.
Infrared fryers typically are used to cook various types of meat, such as poultry, beef and even fish. They also can be used to cook vegetables and other items, sometimes with the addition of various accessories. Some of these units also can double as grills or smokers, which might require additional accessories or might be part of the original design. One of the advantages of an infrared fryer over a traditional oil fryer is that many infrared cookers include trays that can collect drippings that can be used for gravy or other purposes. These drippings are not cooked like they would be in an oven, however, so extra care must be taken to avoid salmonella poisoning and other issues.