Direct vs Indirect Grilling

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When it comes to grilling it doesn’t take much to heat up a couple of frozen burgers and hotdogs, but when you start working with various different cuts of meat, you may need to use different cooking techniques. Today, let’s look deeper into the difference between direct and indirect grilling and which works best, based on the food you are cooking.

Direct heat grilling is what most people think of when they consider grilling. This is how grill masters achieve those perfect grill marks. Direct heat is used to sear meat and vegetables to get a golden-brown color and crisp exterior. Direct grilling is ideal for quick cooking foods such as hotdogs, hamburgers, vegetables, most seafood, kabobs, chicken strips/wings, and thinner cuts of steak and pork chops. When direct grilling, your food is placed directly over the heat source, usually cooked with the lid open at high temperatures for a short period of time. Most foods prepared over direct heat will be cooked in less than 20 minutes. To prepare your gas grill for direct grilling, turn all the burners to the highest setting and close the lid. Allow your grill to preheat for around 10-15 minutes, then adjust the temp to your desired heat level. To prepare your charcoal grill, first, light the charcoal using your preferred method. When the coals are covered in white ash, spread them out to create an even layer. Check out our preferred method to get charcoal grills started here.

Indirect heat is preferred for larger cuts of meats that will take longer than 20 minutes to cook such as, roast, ribs, pork shoulder, whole chickens or turkeys, pork tenderloins, venison, etc. The indirect heat method will create two or more heat zones inside the grill. When using indirect heat, the food is not placed directly above the heat source. It is placed adjacent to the heat, allowing it to cook slower and at lower temperatures. Unlike direct heat, you would typically close the lid of the grill to help trap the heat inside, making it more like an oven. Using this method, you can also turn any grill into a smoker by adding wood chips or chunks to help add a unique flavor to your food.  To set your gas gill up for indirect heat simply keep a couple of the burners off to keep a cooler area while one or two burners do the cooking. For a charcoal grill, set the hot coals to one side of the grill, reserving the other side for indirect heat cooking. Next, place a foil drip pan on the indirect heat side. When you’re ready to cook, place the meat directly over the drip pan.