Grill it Right: Direct versus Indirect Heat


When it comes to grilling, you have probably made extensive use of direct heat cooking. However, there is another technique, indirect grilling, that can be used to cook many foods that you may not have even considered cooking on the grill. What is the difference between direct and indirect heat and how can you use both to smoke up some delicious eats this summer?


Direct grilling is in many ways the most basic way to cook food. You take a piece of food, you place it over fire (contained within your grill), and at some point you flip it to make sure it gets cooked on both sides. Direct heat is great for tender, thin cuts of meat like steaks, sausages, burgers, chicken breasts, and pork-chops. Direct grilling is quick and relatively easy.


Grilling with indirect heat is slightly more complicated, but is still relatively easy. Indirect grilling works great on food that needs more time. Try to think of things you might cook in the oven like a whole chicken or a roast. If you have a gas grill, turn on one burner, take what you are cooking (wrapped in foil) and place it on the side where the burner is turned off. This way, the food will cook slowly allowing meat that might be a little tougher to tenderize to cook all the way through. If you have a charcoal grill, you can create indirect heat simply by having a larger pile of coals on one side of the grill and placing your food over the side. Just as with gas, make sure to wrap your food in aluminum foil to keep the exterior from burning.


Now that you have familiarized yourself with both direct and indirect grilling, you are equipped to face whatever food challenges the summer throws at you, tongs and charcoal starter in hand.