Indirect vs. Direct Grilling Explained

Grilling is both an art and a science. Just as there’s no one way to cook food in the kitchen, there’s no one way to cook food on a grill.

If you’re new to the world of grilling, you may have heard the terms “direct” and “indirect.” What exactly do they mean?

What’s the difference between indirect vs. direct grilling? Is there a grill that does both? Let’s take a closer look at these two grilling methods.

Part 1. What Is Indirect Grilling?

With indirect grilling, the food never comes in contact with the flame, which allows for a longer, slower cook. Indirect heat is typically used for tougher or larger foods that take longer than 20 minutes to cook. The flame sits off to the side of the food rather than directly underneath it.

The indirect grilling method is similar to baking. Heat surrounds the food and cooks it slowly, but the food never comes close to or in direct contact with the heat source.

Indirect grilling is commonly used for cooking:

  • Brisket
  • Whole chicken or turkey
  • Pork shoulder
  • Ribs

Food is cooked at a moderate temperature, and wood chips can be added to create a smokey flavor. And because the food never comes in direct contact with the source of the heat, there’s no need to turn the food halfway through.

This longer and slower cooking method helps turn tougher cuts of meat into tender, juicy bites. It takes more time and effort, but the results are worth the wait.

Part 2. What Is Direct Grilling?

When people talk about grilling, direct grilling is usually what comes to mind. Unlike indirect grilling, which keeps the food away from the heat source, direct grilling places the food right on top of it.

A typical charcoal grill is a great example. The heated coals lay at the bottom of the grill, and the food sits on top of the grates right above the coals. Because the heat source is close to the food, it cooks more quickly.

Direct grilling uses high heat, so it’s best suited for foods that are thin and cook relatively quickly, like:

  • Steak
  • Burgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Chicken breast
  • Vegetables
  • Fish
  • Pork chops

Because of the high heat of this cooking method, it’s not ideal for larger and tougher foods that may burn on the outside before being cooked on the inside.

 

Part 3. Combo Grilling

Want to bring your grilling to the next level? Combo grilling can help. When you are cooking thick meats, this form of grilling can be beneficial. Let's assume that you’re trying to cook up large sausages and want to make them look as good as they taste.

You might choose to:

  • Use direct heat to create authentic grill marks
  • Switch to indirect to finish cooking the interior of the sausage

Thicker meats require a unique cooking method to get the meat just right without burning the outside. When you use indirect heat to get the internal temperature high to fully cook the food, you’re doing so without the direct heat that can burn or char the outside of the meat.

You can even use combo grilling for thick vegetables, including cabbage.

You can caramelize the exterior of the foods while making sure that these items are thoroughly cooked. While you might not need to use indirect and direct heat for every BBQ that you have, purchasing a grill that offers both grilling methods will provide you with the versatility you need for combo grilling.

Part 4. Grills That Offer Both Grilling Methods

Our Z Grills 600 series has been designed from the ground up to offer you 8-in-1 versatility with your grilling. You can use the 600 series to smoke meat, sear, bake and roast. The wood pellet grills add a unique flavor to your meat while being cleaner than coal or other fuels when burned.

Natural, smoky flavors are provided, and the PID temperature controller allows for precision temperatures between 180°F and 450°F throughout the entire cooking process.

An innovative flame broiler design allows users to easily switch between direct and indirect grilling methods. This series features:

  • 572 square inches of grilling area (with the upper warming rack)
  • Solid steel construction
  • Porcelain grates that are easy-to-clean and non-stick
  • Bucket to catch drippings
  • One-button start-up

When you want perfect meals every time, you can’t settle for anything less than the 600 Series.

Want to learn more about our 600 series and how each of the grills in this series can help make you master the art of barbequing? Click here for more information.

Part 5. The Takeaway

Whether you’re cooking a Memphis or Texas BBQ, direct and indirect grilling is a powerful tool to cook your meats and vegetables to perfection. Direct grilling is what most people think of when they think of grilling, while indirect grilling has the flame off to the side.

If you’re cooking larger cuts of meat, combo grilling can offer the juicy, flavorful meat you love with a seared exterior that can also be caramelized.

Using both indirect and direct grilling offers an extra layer of complexity to your cooking that will allow you to master grilling thinner and thicker cuts of meat.