There are two ways to grill food, direct (over the heat source) and indirect (away from the heat source). Here’s how to set your grill up for either one and why you should choose one over the other.
Recommended for foods that require long cooking times at lower temperatures and for large cuts of meat like beef brisket, whole turkey and pork butt for pulled pork.
Charcoal grill: Prepare the coals. Once coals are light gray, use long-handled tongs to carefully push them, in equal piles, to the sides of the grill or all to one side. Then place a drip pan in the center. Add about 1 inch of water to the pan if you like. You can also add fruit juice or beer.
Place meat on rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and don’t peek. Each time you lift the cover, heat escapes and can increase cooking time. The idea is to keep the temperature at constant low-medium indirect heat.
Gas grill: Preheat the grill with all burners on high. Then turn off the burner or burners directly below the food. The burners on both sides of the food should be adjusted to equal amounts of heat (medium or low) as indicated in the recipe. The heat circulates inside the grill, so turning the food is not necessary.
This method is recommended for foods that take less than 25 minutes to cook, such as hamburgers, chicken breast and steaks. The food is cooked directly above the heat source and should be turned once during the cooking time to expose both sides to the heat.
Charcoal grill: Spread one layer of charcoal across the bottom grate or use a charcoal chimney starter. Light. When coals are covered with a gray ash, replace the rack. Place the food on the rack, cover and grill according to the recipe.
Gas grill: Turn all burners to high. After preheating, place food on rack and adjust temperature according to the recipe. Close lid. This allows the food to sear and helps guard against charring or burning.
Bill Gillespie, author of “The Secrets to Great Charcoal Grilling on the Weber” (Page Street Publishing, $21.99), has this example for setting up for two-zone cooking for indirect and direct grilling.
“Two-zone cooking uses a combination of direct and indirect cooking methods. … With your grill configured this way, you can easily sear meats using direct heat from the hot zone, then move the items to the cool zone, where they finish cooking from indirect heat.”
Gillespie advises that these foods are best for two-zone cooking:
* Chicken thighs and drumsticks
* Pork tenderloin
With gas grills, it’s best to check your owners manual for suggestion on setting up the grill for indirect vs. direct heat.