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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.  


Direct Heat 

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.  


Indirect Heat  

Indirect heat, like roasting, is produced by reflected heat, thus it only functions when your grill is closed. It gradually “roasts” your food evenly on all sides as the heat within your grill rises and reflects off the lid and grate. The food does not need to be turned because the heat is evenly distributed underneath the grill’s lid.

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. 


Combination Grilling 

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: Use the entire grilling surface by distributing the coals on the grate of your charcoal barbecue evenly. Thin slices of meat with a short cook time are ideal for this technique.


Two-Zone Heat: Half of the grill should be covered with charcoal, while the other should be left bare. By doing this, you may sear food with direct heat while cooking it on the other side with indirect heat. For steak, pork chops, boneless chicken, shellfish, and vegetables, two-zone heating works great.


Three-Zone Heat: Place the coals on either side of the grill, leaving the center unfilled so that indirect heat can be used to cook food. This method is perfect for large roasts and thicker cuts of meat.  


Ring of Fire: To provide direct heat around the edges and indirect heat in the center, form a circle with your coals around the edges of your charcoal grate. Typically, meat is smoked using this setup. 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  

Make the most of grilling season this year with a custom outdoor kitchen equipped with a quality grill, smoker, kegerator, or pizza oven from Synergy Outdoor Living! Everyone deserves a beautiful outdoor living space, and our design team is ready to help you pick out the best grill and accessories for your Tampa, Orlando, or Jacksonville outdoor kitchen.  

Ready to get grilling? Call us today at 813-322-2137 or start designing a custom outdoor kitchen with our customizable packages. 


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