For your next BBQ, it is important to know how to deliver direct or indirect heat to cook your food by either arranging the coals of your charcoal grill in different patterns or by selectively turning on the burners of your gas grill.
Why? Because you can achieve very different things with direct or indirect heat when grilling. Scroll down to learn more!
Direct Vs. Indirect Heat
When grilling, it is a good idea to use a combination of both indirect and direct grilling for food that is seared on the exterior for extra flavor, and juicy inside.
Similar to broiling, the direct heat method is used to expose the food on the grill directly to the fire and can help you achieve perfect grill marks.
Keep these tips in mind when using the direct heat method:
- Use direct heat for food that takes less than 25 minutes to cook.
- Turn your food halfway through the cooking time to expose both sides to the heat.
- Perfect for hamburgers, vegetables, and shrimp.
Similar to roasting, indirect heat is created by reflected heat, so it only works when your grill is closed. When the heat inside your grill rises, it reflects off of the lid and the grate to slowly “roast” your food evenly on all sides. Since the heat circulates beneath the grill’s lid, the food does not need to be turned.
Here are our tips for using the indirect method:
- Avoid opening the grill to peek at your food, since every time you open the lid, heat will escape.
- Use indirect heating for food that is delicate or takes longer to cook.
- The perfect method for ribs, whole chicken, and fish.
To achieve delicious perfectly cooked food, we recommend using a combination of both direct and indirect methods. Sear the food over high heat for a few minutes to lock in the juices and get those coveted grill marks, and then finish over indirect heat. Use the combination method for grilling foods like steak and pizza.
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Setting Up Your Grill
Properly set up your grill for either direct or indirect grilling with these tips!
Gas Grill Setup
It is quite simple to use a gas grill for zone cooking. Try these configurations:
Direct Heat: It’s easy to achieve direct heat with a gas grill. Simply turn your burners on directly underneath the food that you are grilling.
Indirect Heat: You can use indirect heat in two different ways on a gas grill including:
- Two Zone: Turn on the burner that is furthest from the food that you are grilling, and leave the burner underneath your food off.
- Three Zone: Turn the side burners on, and leave the middle burner off.
Warming Rack: You can also use your gas grill’s warming rack for indirect heat. Plus, you can keep your cooked food warm, and give food extra smoky flavor.
Pro Tip: When using the indirect method, place an aluminum drip pan full of water underneath the food that you are grilling. This serves two purposes:
- The moisture from the water will keep your food moist as longer cooking times can dry out the meat. You can also experiment with cider, beer, wine, or marinades to add flavor to your meat while it cooks.
- The drip pan collects the fat and grease from the meat which not only helps you clean up faster, but it protects your grill from grease buildup.
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Charcoal Grill Setup
The secret to delivering direct or indirect heat when grilling with charcoal is to properly arrange your charcoal. Before you start grilling, prepare and light the charcoal and let it sit for 20 minutes. Once the charcoal is hot enough, you can arrange them in different ways to optimal cooking.
Consider these charcoal arrangements:
Direct Heat: Spread the coals evenly on the grate of your charcoal grill, which allows you to use the entire grilling area. This method is perfect for thin cuts of meat with a quick cook time.
Two-Zone Heat: Use charcoal to cover half of the grill, and leave the other half empty. Doing so allows you to use the direct heat method for searing, and the other side for indirect heat. Two-zone heating is great for steak, pork chops, boneless chicken, seafood, and veggies.
Three-Zone Heat: Spread the coals on either side of the grill, and leave the middle of the grill empty to use for cooking with indirect heat. This method is perfect for large roasts and thicker cuts of meat.
Ring of Fire: Create a circle around the edges of your charcoal grate with your coals to provide direct heat around the perimeter, and indirect heat in the center. This setup is usually used to smoke meat. To add delicious smoky flavor to your food, add some hardwood such as cherry or applewood with your coals.
Pro tip: Always soak wood chips for at least an hour before using them, otherwise they will burn too quickly without imparting that delicious smoky flavor.
Become a Grill Master
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