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Direct vs. Indirect Grilling

So many folks ask for simple tricks to make better grilled foods. Our first response is always that they should try indirect grilling. It's simple to do and can be done on almost any charcoal or gas grill.

Direct Grilling is what most of us do every time we grill. We place food directly over the high-temperature heat source and flip the food every once in a while until the food is done. In reality, we overuse the technique. Most pros only direct grill thin cuts of meat and vegetables, such as steaks, burgers, fish, peppers, and corn. These types of foods cook fast, do not tend to dry out, and lend themselves to "hot and fast" grilling.

Indirect Grilling is the best way to cook larger cuts of meat, vegetables, or baked goods like cornbread. The strategy is to cook the food near the fire but not directly over it. You turn your grill into an oven of sorts while adding that classic barbecue flavor. Setting up your grill for indirect cooking is simple:

  1. If you have a gas grill, only turn on the outside burners if you have 3+ burners or ½ the burners if you 2 burners. If you have a charcoal grill, move the lit coals to the edges of the grill leaving the middle with no charcoals.
  2. If possible, place a drip tray underneath where the food will sit while cooking.
  3. Put the food on the grill over the part of the grill where there is no heat source/fire.
  4. Close the grill lid and wait until the temperature inside the grill reaches whatever temperature you would be using if you were cooking in a normal indoor oven.
  5. Cook food until it reaches desired temperature. See our Food Temperatures guide for help with temperatures.

If you want to take things to the next level and really impress your family and friends, try adding some wood chips to the fire. Using indirect cooking, you can even turn your gas grill into a smoker.