Grilling Tips Part 5: Direct Vs. Indirect

Direct and indirect heat are words that are used a lot in reference to grilling. But what exactly do those terms mean? Let's break it down.

Direct heat cooking is exactly what it sounds like — cooking directly over the coals or flame. Things that you should cook with direct heat include quick-cooking items like burgers, vegetables, most kinds of fish, and any cut of meat less than two inches thick, like skirt steak.

Indirect heat cooking is grilling near, but not directly on top of, the coals or flame. On a gas grill, this is accomplished by turning the middle burners off and closing the lid when cooking. On a charcoal grill, place the coals or briquettes around the edge of the bottom rack of the grill, leaving food-sized space free in the middle. This method should be used for large cuts of meat, like thick pieces of beef, whole chickens, and turkeys or pork shoulder. It's also the ideal cooking method for tougher cuts of meat that need long, slow cooking, like ribs or brisket.

Whichever method you are cooking with, you should always leave a part of the grill at medium heat or even cool to act as a safety zone. If you have a flare-up, you can move the food to the safety zone until the flames are back under control.