Direct Versus Indirect Heating

A grill master must understand and be able to set up his grill to use the different method of heating that are available to him. Direct, indirect and smoking. The diagram below shows the a typical set up for direct and indirect grilling in a Weber charcoal grill.

Types of Grilling Heat

Most of us have used the direct heating method to grill hamburgers, hotdogs or steaks. This is where you light your charcoals and spread them out evenly across the middle of your charcoal grate. Your food is cooked directly above them on the grilling grate as shown in the middle sketch above.

A better way to grill with direct heat is to divide up your grill into 3 cooking zones, one area with a double layer of hot coals for searing, a second area with a single layer of coals to use for cooking and a third area with no charcoal to use as a safety or warming zone as seen above right. You would sear the meat on right for a minute or so on each side, then continue cooking over the center section. The safety zone is used in the case of a flare up or for putting one item that might be getting done before the others.

Smoking is a form of indirect heating such as displayed on the left in our above diagram. Charcoal is placed on both side of an aluminum drip pan that is in the center of the grill. The heat surrounds the piece of meat as the smoke exhausts up and out.

Below is a typical offset smoker set up to smoke larger cuts of meat. The coals are placed in the side firebox. The temperature is controlled with the side draft damper. The cooking takes place in the master grilling chamber where the meat is placed.

indirect smoking

Check out our all about smoking page for more information on the art of cooking with smoke.