Direct vs. Indirect Heat

What is the difference between grilling over "direct" and "indirect" heat?

When using the direct grilling method, the food is cooked "directly" over an even heat source (gas or charcoal). This method is best for foods that take less than 25 minutes to cook, such as steaks, chops, boneless chicken breasts, burgers and hot dogs. The food must be turned halfway through the cooking time to expose both sides to the heat.

With the indirect grilling method, foods are not cooked directly over the heat. On a charcoal grill, the hot coals are moved or "banked" to opposite sides of the grill with a drip pan between the coals, then the food is placed in the center of the grill rack. On a gas grill, a side or center burner is turned off after the grill preheats, then the food is placed over the unlit burner.

Grilling over indirect heat is used for foods that need to be cooked for a longer time like roasts, whole poultry, ribs and other large cuts of meat. Because of the slower cooking, foods do not need to be turned.

Often a combination of both methods is used. For example, a 1-1/2-inch-thick steak can be seared or browned over direct heat for a short period of time and moved to the indirect heat area to continue cooking internally without excess browning.