The two main grilling methods utilized on a BBQ are indirect and direct, both are pretty self-explanatory however there are different times and ways of using both.
More often than not you’ll use both at the same time when approaching BBQing more seriously. The quality of the finished food will also be a lot better when following these grilling methods, as I’m sure you’ve been to those burn everything BBQs.
If you aren’t sure why this is, it’s because they have cooked everything using a direct grilling method without much care to what’s actually happening.
How to grill using indirect heat grilling method
To grill with indirect heat the charcoal will be to one side of half of the BBQ and then the food is placed on the other half. With the lid firmly closed the lit charcoal will turn your BBQ into an oven.
Depending on how position you the air control dampers and the amount of charcoal used will determine how hot the BBQ will get.
If you open both the top and bottom air dampers to their maximum the charcoal BBQ will get to the hottest it can quite quickly. By opening to the maximum, more air can get to the charcoal thus making it hotter.
When combined with correctly stacked/assorted briquettes and some choice flavored woods to compliment the meat, this is the method for smoking.
Smoking requires a little bit more control of the air dampers to keep the temperatures low enough to slowly cook food.
This is also used a lot after searing meat using the direct grilling method, then placing the food in an indirect position to properly cook it through.
If you’ve heard of reverse searing this is just the opposite way round and choice method for most good quality steaks, indirectly cooking the steak to the desired temperature first and then charring the meat over the direct heat after.
The benefits of indirect grilling method
The main benefit to the indirect grilling method is the ability to properly cook meat all the way through without just burning everything.
This grilling method will also stop the meat from drying out, by not firing as much heat as possible to the food you keep the moisture content in the food. Hence why it is used for smoking.
How to grill using the direct heat grilling method
Grilling directly is exactly the opposite to indirect, by placing food directly over lit charcoal you are cooking with direct heat from below. The lid of the BBQ will usually be open to allow as much air as possible into the BBQ. The charcoal will be at its hottest but will burn through at a quicker rate than the indirect grilling method
Using the direct grilling method is generally how you will cook food such as burgers and certain vegetables to achieve that flame-grilled food.
As the food is cooking directly above the charcoal on the grill grate this is the hottest and fastest way to cook food. Also, this is the easiest way to destroy food by burning it if you aren’t careful. Attention must be paid at all times when using the direct grilling method.
You may have heard of cowboy steaks or dirty steaks, cooked with a slight variation to this grilling method. This form of direct heat is not to be confused with placing the charcoal on the bottom charcoal grate and food on the top. Cooking a dirty steak requires you to place the steaks ‘directly’ onto the charcoal, must be Lumpwood charcoal and not briquettes just in case you are interested.
Direct Grilling benefits
There are several benefits to direct grilling but the main is this, as it is the hottest cooking method, you can achieve that char and smoky flavor to food.
Thin foods less than an inch thick will cook extremely quickly which is a benefit but can also be a drawback.
This method is used to seal in flavor to meat by applying heat to the exterior quickly, sealing in the juices ready for a following of indirect heat.