Indirect and Direct Charcoal Grilling

You’ve got the right charcoal, the right Weber grill, and you’ve marinated the heck out of that chicken. Now it’s time to wow your family and friends with delectable, perfectly barbecued food. Before you dive in, take a minute to check out our short video on indirect and direct charcoal cooking to make sure you have all your drumsticks in a row.

Remember its direct cooking for steaks, burgers and hot dogs; and indirect for larger pieces of meat that need a little more time under the lid.

What are your thoughts? (15)

07.31.15

Chesty P

I tried to do a beer can chicken on a 22" weber kettle in a 12" cast iron skillet with one chimney starter ring of coals around it. hood temp only got to 350 and after 1/2 hour I gave up and moved it to the gas grill. Should I have started using 2 chimney starters worth of coals or positioned them differently?

07.31.15

Kevin Kolman

Chesty,
If you are attempting the ring of fire I would suggest using 3/4 of a chimney starter worth of charcoal. Second, the cooking temp should be 325-350 degrees. Third, the chicken should take 11-13 minutes per pound. It sounds like you were on the right track and I would have stayed with the kettle. 2 chimneys worth of coals is way way way too much fuel. Stick to 3/4 of a chimney if using the ring of fire or 50-60 if you use the indirect cooking method. Hope this helps and if you need any more grilling advice you can find me here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin Kolman’s Backyard and always Happy Grilling!!

06.23.15

Isaac N

HI, I just got a Master-Touch charcoal grill for Fathers' Day. I've only owned gas grills before, so I'm learning how to use charcoal. What I would like to know is how to arrange the coals for direct medium heat. I've got some chicken I'd like to use but I don't want to burn it.

06.22.15

Kevin Kolman

Isaac,
Happy Father’s day and congrats on the new Weber!!! I know you are going to have years and years and years of fun with it. The best way to set the grill up for direct medium is to start 50 coals. I would them spread them out over 3/4 of the the charcoal grate. Preheat for 10 minutes are you will be good to go. Also use a little olive oil on the chicken before you grill it. This will help with caramelization and keep the chicken from sticking!! Hope this helps and if you have any other questions you can find me here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin’s Backyard and always Happy Grilling!!

04.18.15

Roddie T

I just bought my first Weber Grill which is Master Touch and notice baskets. Never used them until other day and seem to work great. My question is should I use one on each side which seems to work ok or both on one side which gives me more room. I always had to move meat on other grill by cooking indirect and lost most of grill since it was rectangle. I bought this with understanding it was smaller than last grill (427 sq in ) but looked bigger and reputation states will last longer. With baskets on each side I still have more room than last one which I don't understand. With baskets on each side the meat seems to cook more evenly than off to one side and I seen several other ways to do it but seems to take up more room. Also I have a smoke box for wood I will try (had for gas grill) so I don't have flare up from wood. Can I use wood pieces such as chunks instead of chips? Hopefully last longer than 2 years like all the others since I cook almost daily on grill.

04.18.15

Kevin Kolman

Roddie,
It really depends on what you are cooking and when and how to use the baskets. I would recommend for anything less that 20 minutes to use the directly method and keep the baskets together. This will give you a hot zone and a cool or indirect zone. Now if you are looking for temps around 425-450 and doing a lot of food then use a chimney starter and place a nice even layer of charcoal down instead of using the baskets. This will give you more room and also help cook your food faster. Your question about chips or chunks, on the charcoal grill I would recommend chunks for longer cooks. Although you can use either one, keep in mind the best time to add them is during the preheating process. Keep me posted on if you have any other questions, you can find us here or on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin’s Backyard. And always Happy Grilling!!

04.17.15

Nick M

Kevin,

I want to slow cook a brisket on my weber kettle grill. Can you please tell me the best way to maintain the 225-250 tempreature.

How many briquettes to start with and how many to add approx. how often?

Thank you

04.17.15

Kevin Kolman

Nick, I would recommend using the snake method for low and slow on a kettle. You will stack two to three briquettes high and wide on the charcoal grate. Wrap it around a large drip pan which is placed in the center of the charcoal grate. Your food will be directly above the large drip pan. The shape should look similar to a horseshoe. Light about 10 briquettes and then place those on one end of the unlit charcoal. Adjust your dampers and away you go. You should be able to hold low and slow temps for 8 hours or more. The charcoal will slowly burn around the inside of the kettle and all you should have to do is sit back, monitor and enjoy!! Keep me posted and if you need any grilling day info find me on Facebook and Twitter at Kevin’s Backyard and always Happy Grilling!!

04.09.13

Andrew H

Hi Kevin,


Thanks a lot for the reply. I sure am enjoying the Performer! Just bought it over the weekend.


I have another general question. When cooking burgers, it says to fill up the chimney to the rim which is the equivalent of 80 -100 charcoal briquettes and should be sufficient to spread out and cover the bottom of the grill with hot glowing coals. I tried this out and found that: 1) it didn't cover fully the bottom grate, therefore leaving a few gaps, and 2) I lost a lot of heat fast and had uneven cooking (the middle was hotter than the outside even though the briquettes were spread evenly). I was careful to keep the lid closed at all times but still found it difficult to keep the heat and maintain even cooking on the grill with the recommended amount of coals. What would you suggest here? I thought about trying the baskets together, but then realized I wouldn't have a very big area to cook on. I really want to make full use of my 22.5" grilling grate.

04.08.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi Andrew,


I am glad to hear that you are enjoying the Performer. Now, let's talk through this together. I would never recommend using 80-100 briquettes for anything inside the kettle. The maximum I ever put is 50-60. It is extremely difficult to control temperatures with that many lit briquettes. If you want to utilize the whole grate for burgers and maintain the 425-450 degrees Fahrenheit temperature, make sure you fill the chimney a little more than half way full. Once the briquettes are lit, spread them evenly across the charcoal grate. Just be sure you leave yourself a safe zone in the front of the kettle. Preheat your kettle for 10-15 minutes, and you should be good for 1-2 batches of burgers depending on the outside climate. Please let me know if you have any more questions.


Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

04.08.13

Andrew H

Hi Kevin,


I have seen a lot of different ways to lay the charcoal (direct/indirect) but was wondering what your thoughts were on the snake method for low and slow cooking. I have the performer and wanted to experiment with some ribs. I just am not sure which method i should to use to prevent me from adding charcoal ever hour. I heard the snake is as better way to go? Thanks, Andrew

04.08.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi Andrew,
Although I like the snake method, it does not leave you with much room for your food. It takes up a lot of cooking space, so I prefer the adding method. For consistency purposes and a constant burn, you are better off using the traditional add methodology. Enjoy that Performer and let me know how the ribs turn out. I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.
Happy Grilling!
-Kevin

03.02.13

Bilgi K

Hi Kevin,


I upgraded to a Performer after using a One-Touch 18.5'' charcoal grill for years. The reason was that I was having difficulty providing adequate food for my guests when the crowd was more than 4 people since the grilling area is small. They finish their meat and wait before I can supply them with a new round. So I bought a 22.5'' Performer with the Touch-N-Go gas ignition system. The grill comes with two charcoal baskets and I use them with the ignition system as stated. However, the charcoal baskets area is even smaller than my 18.5'' old grill. I am only using a small part of the grill for direct cooking and my cooking volume is still low. I can use a chimney starter just like the old days to provide more charcoal and get rid of the charcoal baskets, but by this time the ignition system will be redundant and the baskets provide long burning time. What is the solution? By the way, the maximum heat I hit is around 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit with briquettes. With turkey, I start up at 300 degrees Fahrenheit usually while cooking. Is that too low? I usually observe no effect when use indirect heating.

03.01.13

Kevin Kolman

Hi BKUFLU,

First, congratulations on getting a Weber Performer. It is one of my favorite grills! Now I can appreciate having a large cooking area, especially for entertaining. If you are trying to increase capacity, please start with the baskets. Once the coals having ashed over, you have two options. One: place the baskets on one side of the kettle and spread them apart about 3-4 inches. Because they are close together, there will not be a big difference in temperatures between the two baskets. Keep in mind you should always have a safe indirect zone when grilling with charcoal. Two: dump the coals out and spread them over three quarters of the charcoal grate. This will give you a medium to high heat of 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit. This should be perfect for grilling almost anything using the direct method. Hopefully this helps. Let me know how things are working out.

Happy Grilling!!
- Kevin

06.07.12

Dawn B

I am new to the Weber Performer and charcoal grilling. How do I direct grill some steaks? The grill came with charcoal baskets. is it better to keep charcoal in the baskets in the center of the grill, or not to use baskets and spread them all around grill after they are ignited? If I am grilling a few steaks, I want them to all cook evenly. Help!!!

06.07.12

Kevin Kolman

Hi Brooks548:
Wow great choice in the Performer!!! I have one and love the fact I can grill with charcoal in less than 15 minutes. I would use 50 briquettes (25 in each basket) and move the baskets to one side of the grill. Just make sure you preheat the grill for 10 minutes to get the grate nice and hot. You should be able to grill 4-5 steaks over the baskets with no problem. You want a medium to high heat with steaks, so a hot high zone is important. If you want the steaks to grill evenly keep them over the heat with the lid closed. Follow the grilling guide that came with the grill and your life will be easy. Covered cooking is the key!! Hope this helps and always Happy Grilling!!-Kevin

03.04.12

Brandon K

Kevin,

I had a great time at the Weber Academy (Home Depot) last week and enjoyed the overall presentation and training.

I am an avid griller and smoker and I am looking to venture in cold smoking cheese this spring. I am an owner of a smoky mountain smoker 18.5" and looking for some advice on how to do this process.

Thanks,
Brandon

03.04.12

Kevin Kolman

Hi Brandon, I appreciate the great feedback. We had a lot of fun at the training and hopefully you picked up some new grilling skills. As of now there is no way to cold smoke in a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker smoker. Fortunately we are restricted to pork shoulder, brisket, ribs, chicken, turkey and anything else that you enjoy. Hope this helps and Happy Grilling!! Additionally here’s a wonderful cheese recipe that you may enjoy: http://www.weber.com/recipes/starters/grape-leaf-wrapped-brie-with-grape-salsa

-Kevin

09.28.11

Chris L

Hi Kevin,

It would be very useful to know what the recommended grate-level temperatures should be for indirect high/medium/low cooking. I say this because the hood thermometer isn't accurate when you have one side of the grill on and the other off. I know ideally on a gasser the indirect section would be in the center with left and right burners on, but when the food takes up a lot of room and you need both burners off then the grate temperature is greatly affected by the 2nd one being off. Having recommended temperatures would help me adjust the left burner accordingly. Thanks!

09.28.11

Kevin Kolman

Hi StoopidMonkey81:
This is an interesting question. The ideal air temperature of your grill really depends on how you set the grill up. The temperature range for indirect or direct high is around 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the medium setting is 350 degrees and the low setting is 300 degrees. All Weber grills feature infinity control valves which gives the user complete heat control.

Always remember that the lid thermometer gives us an indication of what the air temperature is in our grills. When grilling indirectly the grill is using a convection heat to cook your food very similar to an oven temperature. The grill also uses conductive heat from the grate to help grill your food. Therefore a grate temperature would really only help if your food was being cooked with conductive heat.

My suggestion is to use all the tools at your disposal to insure you are grilling the best meal. Use the thermometer is an indicator, follow the grilling guide, and use a timer and meat thermometer to make sure you are grilling your foods to perfection. Also please remember to pre-heat your BBQ grill. This will help to make sure you are grilling at the desired temperature. It also helps in caramelizing the food you grill and helps create those great grill marks.

Honestly, I think it would be very difficult to get grate temperature readings because there can be so many variables that can affect the readings--how much food is on the grill, how cold is it outside, how long did you pre-heat the grill, and what kind of grates do you have to name a few. For Weber, the thermometer in the lid is the best way for us to measure heat and provide the best possible grilling experience for all of our consumers. Hopefully this helps. Happy Grilling!! -Kevin