Grill experts talk a lot about direct heat versus indirect heat. What do they mean? Direct and indirect are two different ways to cook your food— direct heat is very hot and cooks food very quickly. Whereas, grilling with indirect heat is more like cooking with oven. The type of cooking you choose has more to do with how thick the food is. The great thing is, you can set your grill up to do both. That’s ideal if you have food that cooks at different rates. So, for example, you can cook steaks with direct heat and ribs with indirect heat.
Direct Heat Grilling
Direct heat grills your food right above the heat source. You can use direct heat for searing or for foods that cook quickly. It takes less time to grill with direct heat and foods can burn quickly if you’re not careful. In fact, you’ll need to keep a watchful eye on your foods with this method. Foods cook right above the burner or fuel. Temperatures in this region can be from 500 degrees and above
Types of Food for Direct Heat
Thinner foods with less water and sugar content cook better with direct heat. For example, steaks fish, veggies and other tender foods.
Indirect Heat Grilling
Indirect heat is cooking on the cooler side of the grill. When the lid is on your grill and you place your food away from the heat source, the grill acts like an oven. It’s a great way to cook if your food has high sugar content, is thicker, or if you want to slow roast or barbecue your food. You can also start your foods in the direct zone and transfer them to indirect to finish them. Temperatures in this zone are usually around 225 degrees, so it will take longer to cook your foods, much like when you bake with an oven.
Types of Food for Indirect Heat
Cook tougher and larger foods like roasts, ribs and whole chickens with indirect heat.
How to Set Up Two Zone Cooking
For gas, you’ll just light half the burners and charcoal you push the coals to one side. Check out our article about setting up two zone cooking.
Tip: You can also use your grill’s warming rack as an indirect zone.