A lot of people wonder what the big deal is about cooking your foods over direct vs. indirect heat and why it makes a difference when you’re grilling. The simplest way to think about it is to remember that direct heat is similar to broiling and that indirect heat is similar to roasting. The rule of thumb is typically that direct heat should be used only on foods that take under 25 minutes to cook and indirect should be reserved for foods that require a slow roast or lower heat so that they don’t dry out. Just remember no matter the rule of thumb, it’s always recommended to use the heat source noted in a recipe for the best results.
Grilling over Direct Heat
Direct heat grilling is accomplished by placing your foods directly over the heat source, exactly as the name implies. Grilling over direct heat is best reserved for steaks, sausages, kabobs and vegetables as well as most seared meats. For even cooking, it’s best to make sure the grill cover remains closed and that you flip your meats only once at the halfway mark.
If you want to grill using direct heat with a charcoal grill, make sure you disperse your charcoal evenly across the grate. Place the cooking grate directly over the coals and cook away!
When grilling over direct heat on a gas grill, make sure ALL the burners are preheated on high. Place your meats and vegetables on the cooking grate and adjust ALL the burners to the appropriate temperature for cooking. I don’t know if you’ve caught on but ensuring that ALL of your burners are lit is the key to grilling over direct heat with a gas grill.
Grilling over Indirect Heat
When cooking over indirect heat there is no need to flip your food because grilling over indirect heat transforms your grill into an outdoor oven with the added benefit of a delicious grilled texture and taste. By grilling over indirect heat, your food will be evenly cooked because it is completely surrounded by heat coming from underneath the grill grate and the heat reflecting off the lid and inside surfaces of the grill. The outcome is a flavorful, juicy, tender piece of meat that will leave your mouth watering. This method is most popularly used with larger cuts or delicate meats like roasts, whole chickens, ribs, turkeys and fish fillets.
When cooking with indirect heat over a charcoal grill, you must first place a drip pan in the center of the grill. Then, completely surround the drip pan with your desired coals. Put the grill grate over the hot coals and place your food over the drip pan so that they are not directly above the heat source. Make sure you cover your charcoal grill with a lid and only lift it to check for doneness at the end of the estimated cooking time.
When grilling over indirect heat on a gas grill, begin by preheating your grill by turning all the burners on high. Place your food on the grill grate and adjust the burners AROUND your food to the desired temperature and make sure to TURN OFF the burner directly below your food. It is recommended to place large cuts like whole chicken and roasts in an aluminum pan and not directly on the grill to help prevent flare ups from drippings. Just like the charcoal grill, be sure to cover your gas grill with a lid and only lift to check for doneness at the end of the estimated cooking time.