Taming The Flame: A Grilling Refresher On Controlling The Heat

Food & Drink

It’s the month of May and if you are a seasonal griller, this is the month that you take your grill out of storage, clean it off, and get grilling!

There are only a few fundamentals that you need to know to make you a great griller. The first is knowing the difference between Direct and Indirect heat and when to use it—and that is what we are reviewing in this column.  

Grilling 101 Primer:  Direct and Indirect heat on a gas and a charcoal grill

The key to great grilling is Indirect heat. I always tell people that once they understand the difference between Direct and Indirect heat and when to use it, that they will embrace Indirect heat. In fact, I use Indirect heat at least 80% of the time that I use my grill.  Below is a quick and easy definition of the two major different grilling methods*:

Direct Heat [Cooking] means that you put the food directly over the heat source—similar to broiling in your oven.

Indirect Heat [Cooking] means that the heat is on either side of the food and the burners are turned off under the food—similar to roasting and baking.

My general rule of thumb is:

— If the food takes less than 20 minutes to cook, use the DIRECT METHOD

— If the food takes more than 25 minutes to cook, use the INDIRECT METHOD

*Once you’ve mastered cooking by Direct and Indirect heat, you are ready for the COMBO method. It is exactly what it sounds like. A combo-nation of the Direct and Indirect methods. It is as simple as searing the food over Direct heat and finishing (cooking) over Indirect heat. This technique works well for everything from chops and steaks to whole tenderloins and even slices of denser vegetables such as sweet potatoes and fennel. It is a time honored and well-respected tradition and the outdoor grill version of the way restaurants chefs cook almost everything—searing on the stovetop and finishing the dish in the oven.

Now that you know what Direct and Indirect heat are and when to use them, here is a guide on how to set up your gas or charcoal grill for cooking:

Direct Cooking on a Gas Grill:

Turn all the burners on high as you normally do to pre-heat the grill. Reduce the heat by turning all the burners to medium—this should result in a temperature of about 450F. Place the food directly on clean cooking grates and grill as recipe directs—it’s that easy.

Indirect Cooking on a Gas Grill:

Setting a gas grill for Indirect cooking is as simple as turning it on. Once the grill has been preheated with all burners on high, simply turn off the burner that is directly underneath the food that is being cooked, and reduce the heat of the other burners to medium or medium-low. If your grill has 2 burners, chances are that the burners are on the perimeter of the grill and the center of the cooking grate is already set up for Indirect cooking.  A three-burner grill is the easiest to set; you turn the center burner off and reduce the heat on the other two. Since there are so many different models of gas grills, it is always best to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most new gas grills are designed to be used for both Direct and Indirect cooking. If you are in the market for a new grill, make sure it can be set for Indirect cooking.

Direct Cooking on a Charcoal Grill:

Light 50-60 charcoal briquettes in either a chimney starter or in a pyramid shape mound on the charcoal grate of your grill. Once the briquettes are covered with a white-gray ash, you are ready to set the grill for the Direct method by spreading the briquettes in a single layer across the entire charcoal grate.

Indirect Cooking on a Charcoal Grill:

Light 50-60 charcoal briquettes in either a chimney starter or in a pyramid shape mound on the charcoal grate of your grill. Once the briquettes are covered with a white-gray ash, you are ready to set the grill for the Indirect method. Pour or rake half of the briquettes to each side of the charcoal grate on the lower section of the grill and place a disposable aluminum drip pan in between the two piles of coals. The drip pan will catch fats and juices as the food cooks.  Add soaked wood chips to the gray-ashed briquettes, if desired, and replace the cooking grate. Place the food in the center of the cooking grate directly over the drip pan and proceed with recipe. 

The secret to charcoal Indirect cooking is to add briquettes to the fire as needed to maintain the cooking temperature (add about 10 briquettes per side every hour or so—or when the temperature inside the grill gets below 250F). Charcoal briquettes can be added to the fire by dropping additional un-lit briquettes through the opening by the handles on each side of the cooking grate. However, I find that it is more efficient to light briquettes in a chimney starter set in a heavy-duty disposable aluminum pan 20 minutes before you need to add them. This way, the new briquettes are already at their prime temperature and covered with a white-gray ash when you add them.

Now that you know the difference between Direct and Indirect cooking and how to use it, you can make your favorite grilled foods; a steak or beer-can chicken or great grilled veggies.

If you are new to grilling, I always recommend that you choose food that you know that you already like to eat. Using the refresher guide here and making sure that you brush the food all over with olive oil and season with kosher salt, you can grill anything you like to eat.  Remember to “oil the food, not the grates,” and the food will always be juicy, well marked and easy to flip and remove from the grill as the oil seals in the juices, promotes caramelization and helps prevent sticking.

If you have cooking questions or would like me to address other grilling and barbecue issues in a future column, email me at elizabeth@girlsatthegrill.com

Compare Pricing From Dozens Of Top Travel Sites!

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

What time to watch today’s partial solar eclipse – and how to view it safely
Visit Germany – 10 MORE SHOCKS of Visiting Germany
The woman who spent lockdown alone in the Arctic
American Airlines CEO shows up at Southwest flight attendant’s wedding a year after their viral meeting
St. Louis Drive In – Incredibly Good Plate Lunches in Honolulu!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *