Perhaps you think yourself a talented grillmaster, maybe someone who has mastered a propane, charcoal or even wood-fired BBQ. You’ll be surprised to learn that for a huge percentage of outdoor cooking, there’s an even better way to do things, based on how pro steakhouses make their customers happy, and it’s considerably accessible to home cooks. I’m talking about the Schwank Portable Infrared Grill, a gas-powered outdoor cooker that can offer up perfectly seared steaks with even, ideal internal temps in less than 10 minutes. Plus, it can join you at the tailgate.
You may have heard of infrared grills — their secret sauce is being able to heat up to around 1500 F in just a few minutes. The Schwank has its heating element located in the top of the unit, and then you raise or lower whatever you’re cooking closer or further away from it using a stainless steel grilling plate. The entire device is basically stainless steel, which makes it incredibly sturdy, and also dead simple to clean when you’re done. Its simplicity and smart engineering comes at a price, though: Schwank retails the grill for $1,250 for the propane version, and $1,350 for the one that uses natural gas.
The whole grill weighs 62 lbs, which does kind of stretch the definition of portable (especially since that doesn’t include the propane tank if you opt for that version) but it has two sturdy handles on the side that do make transporting it relatively easy. The official cover includes pass-through cutouts so you can access those handles for easily lugging it around while it’s protected.
Schwank leaves most of the assembly to the factory, so what you get is very easy to quickly put together and get started. The only parts you have to worry about are the ones that also come out easily after the fact for quick cleaning, which includes the shelf assembly, a drip tray and a liner that protects the inside surfaces.
Optional accessories include the aforementioned cover, a pizza stone and peel, a cutting board, a propane adapter for using camping cylinders and an apron. The pizza stone helps the grill do double duty easily, because the high temps are perfect for home-cooked pizza with terrific crust.
Design and build
As mentioned, there’s a lot of stainless steel involved in the construction of the Schwank grill. It’s great for an outdoor appliance, and really helps when it’s time to clean up. The tech in the Schwank grill is also tested and proven in high-volume commercial steakhouse kitchens, since that’s where the company got its start, providing grills for restaurants including Morton’s Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s and more. The company is also keen to note that its grills are entirely U.S.-made, unlike some of the competition on the market.
You can tell that the Schwank is built to last; it feels like an absolute tank. That does come with the downside of significant weight, but it’s still portable in the sense that you can easily throw it in a trunk and drive it to a park or a parking lot for a tailgate party. All the connections and the heating element itself also seem really intelligently and well-built, and the spark igniter is powered by a replaceable AAA battery, which should help for long-term survivability and resilience.
While the price tag on the grill might cause some sticker shock, it definitely feels like an outdoor appliance you can count on working for a long, long time.
The real proof of the Schwank grill’s value comes down to how good it is when it comes to actually preparing food, and luckily, it’s fantastic at that. I can safely say that regardless of your starting aptitude or level of ability, you’re going to be able to make great-tasting food using the Schwank infrared grill — particularly if that food is steak, but not exclusively.
Obviously the first thing I cooked on the Schwank was steak, and it does in literally less than 10 minutes what used to take me at least an hour with a sous-vide/cast iron combo. Using the adjustable shelf is incredibly intuitive once you watch a few videos on how long you should leave it at various levels, but basically with most steak around an inch or more thick it’s as easy as putting it up to the top for two minutes per side, then lowering it down for another couple minutes to get a perfect medium rare cook with a perfect sear.
I’ve made probably a dozen steaks on the Schwank in my time testing it, and I’ve never made a bad one — including the very first. But I quickly got interested in trying other things, too.
The Schwank has handled cod, salmon, porch chops, chicken wings, vegetables and even grocery store frozen breaded chicken fingers with aplomb. It’s a true Swiss army knife when it comes to cooking most things — with the one exception being anything that does better with a low-and-slow approach.
There are any number of outdoor cooking appliances vying for your attention, and your cash, and more proliferate all the time. But Schwank’s offering is unique among those for a few reasons, not the least because of its combination of versatility and convenience. And despite it being large for a “portable” device, it’s tiny in terms of its footprint relative to most gas or charcoal grills, so it works well even in small outdoor spaces.
If you’re a steak fan, then there’s no question — Schwank’s grill is a great value. But even if you’re not, give it a look, it just might be what you’re looking for regardless.