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Ready to Be More than Just a Casual Backyard Griller

Ready to Be More than Just a Casual Backyard Griller?



Grillers and barbecuers love to throw around the terms “direct heat” and “indirect heat” to impress friends and family alike. These terms obviously have something to do with whether or not you place your food directly above your heat source or somewhere else close by, but to those trying to gain this knowledge is there a “best practices” to grilling with indirect heat? If you ask any serious grill jockey they’ll probably swear that there is a precise way to use heat that will give you perfect results, and who doesn’t want their food to taste amazing? 

When it comes to grilling, heat is the name of the game. Because grilling takes less time than traditional barbecuing and smoking, heat levels and the position of your food in relation to the heat source makes all the difference.  For this reason, knowledge of direct and indirect heat is almost as important as knowing how to light your grill or how long before grilling should you add the rub or marinate your meat.


Direct Heat
Direct heat is exactly what you think it is, when you place your food directly over your heat source. This method of grilling is pretty much the same whether you prefer using a gas or charcoal grill. Direct heat is used to cook smaller pieces of meat or vegetables at a high heat for a shorter period of time (typically under 20 minutes). Some typical foods that direct heat is used for are burgers, chicken, fish, pork chops, shrimp and vegetables. Direct heat is the method used to get a crisp outer layer with a juicy tender center (It can also be used before using indirect heat to get a crispy outside layer on a larger piece of meat such as a whole chicken).  When using direct heat try to keep the lid on your grill closed for as much time as possible. This will keep the moisture inside the grill, which prevents your food from drying out and will also help your food cook faster.


Indirect Heat
Indirect heat is a little trickier to master than direct heat, but once you have it down you’re on your way to becoming a genuine grill jockey. There are different ways to use indirect heat depending on what type of grill you are using. The basic concept here is to cook your food slowly over medium heat that is close, but not directly under the food. Some common meats that use indirect heat for cooking include whole chickens or turkeys, brisket or ribs.

 Indirect heat works very well for gas grills that have either two or three burners or sections. In the case of two burners, heat one side to medium heat and place your food on the side without direct heat. If you’ve got a grill with three burners, turn the two outside burners to medium heat and cook your food on the middle burner which does not have direct heat applied to it. As always, try to keep the lid on your grill as much as possible to keep heat from escaping.   

If you are using a charcoal grill for indirect heating the steps are just as simple. First you need to get your charcoal burning. You can either light it in a chimney starter, or if you’re out in the woods and didn’t bring one, you can place your charcoal on the outer edges of the grill and light them where they are. Some grills even have outer baskets for coals for this exact purpose. In the middle, where you will be cooking your meat (or vegetables), place aluminum foil to catch the grease droppings.  That’s about it, just put your meat on the grill, keep the lid closed, flip every once in a while and enjoy your perfectly cooked food!


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