Preparing a Grill for Direct and Indirect Heat

Learn how to grill your favorite recipes using direct or indirect heat.

Direct Heat

Direct heat is used for foods that take about 30 minutes or less, such as steaks, hamburgers, kabobs, boneless chicken breasts, fish, hot dogs and vegetables. The food is cooked directly over an even heat source. The food is turned halfway through cooking time. Cover or uncover the grill while cooking according to recipe directions.

For a charcoal grill, spread out the preheated coals in an even layer.

For a gas grill, preheat the grill with all the burners on high. Place food on cooking grate, then adjust temperature to the one recommended in the recipe.

Indirect Heat

Indirect heat is used for foods that take longer than 30 minutes to cook, or are high in fat or are usually cooked in the oven rather than on the stovetop, such as roasts, ribs, thick steaks, whole chickens and bone-in chicken pieces.

Foods cooked with the indirect method do not need to be turned. Sometimes recipes call for first searing the meat over direct heat for a nice brown exterior before placing over indirect heat.

For a charcoal grill, bank half of the coals on one side of the grill and the other half on the other side. Place a foil drip pan in the center of the grill, replace the cooking grate and place the meat over the drip pan. Cover and grill according to recipe directions.

Note that for every 45 minutes of grilling, you should add more briquettes to the bank of coals. For a small grill (14 inches), add about four per side; for a large grill (26 inches), add about nine per side.

For a gas grill, preheat the grill with all the burners on high. Turn the center burner off and place a drip pan in the center. Place food on cooking grate over the drip pan. Adjust temperature to the one recommended in recipe, then cover and grill for the recommended time. If the gas grill has only two burners, turn one burner off and place the drip pan on that side.