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Grilling Tips Direct vs Indirect Heat

A backyard barbecue is a great way to spend a summer afternoon with friends and family. Not only will you be preparing a delicious meal, but cooking outdoors surrounded by loved ones is worth the energy and effort alone. There are a lot of different grill designs on the market, and they usually will come in either gas, electric, or charcoal for the heat source. Since you are reading this you have probably already chosen a grill and are familiar with it’s functions, but don’t overlook the fact that the method you choose to cook with is also important. Two of the methods worth comparing would be direct verses indirect heat and now would be a good time to take a look at these two methods in further detail.

Direct heat would be a situation to where the heat would be directly underneath the meat or vegetable that you are cooking, like the oven in your kitchen. One advantage to this method is that you can have your heat virtually any distance you choose from the food being cooked. For thinner pieces of meat, you can actually move your heat source closer for faster cooking, and it seems to seal in the juices by cooking the outside quickly. Keep in mind that this is not the way that you would want to cook a larger piece of meat because the outside would be overcooked before the inside was done. This is the most straight forward method of the two, and works great for things like steaks, pieces of chicken, sliced ham etc. For thicker cuts of meat you would want to move the heat further away from the meat being cooked so that the inside has time to get to the desired temperature before the outside becomes overcooked. Keep in mind that these are only grilling tips, and are not grilling gospel.

For a slower cooking process, indirect heat may be the way to go. Although there are variations of the design, typically there is a firebox mounted on the side of the grill that has a pass through opening hat allows heat to travel from the firebox to the cooking area. If you don’t have a dedicated firebox then you can also have your heat source on one side of the grill, and the meat that you are cooking on the other. Either of these methods will give you indirect heat that will heat the food evenly and maintain a lower delivered temperature than direct heat. This method is ideal if you are cooking large pieces of meat or whole poultry and can add a load of great smoked flavoring and aroma to your meat. This process can be very time consuming, but if done right the results are well worth the extra effort. Wood chips can be added to your firebox while cooking to give it a smokier taste, but don’t overdue it or your meat may taste like licking a chimney.

After taking all of this information into consideration you can quickly see that there is no winner between the battle of direct vs indirect heat, but that each method has it’s place in the outdoor culinary world. What you are cooking will be a deciding factor, along with the flavor you are after and the time you have available to spend grilling that day. The best way to learn which way is right for you and what you are cooking is to try both and make your own decisions through personal experience. Don’t let your education stop here, instead always be scouring for grilling tips that will help you achieve the results you are after. Outdoor grilling can be a challenge, but when your guests begin to tell you how delicious it is, you will know that it was time well spent. Be safe, and happy grilling!