- With direct heat, the fire is right below the food
- With indirect heat, the fire is off to on side of the grill, or on both sides of the grill, and the food sits over the unlit part.
- Direct heat works great for smaller, tender pieces of food that cook quickly, such as hamburgers, steaks, chops, boneless chicken pieces, fish fillets, shellfish, and sliced vegetables. It sears the surfaces of these foods, developing flavors, texture, and delicious caramelization while it also cooks the food all the way to the center.
- Indirect heat works better for larger, tougher foods that require longer cooking times, such as roasts, whole chickens, and ribs. It is also the right method for finishing thicker foods or bone-in cuts that have been seared or browned first over direct heat.
DID YOU KNOW
- A direct fire creates both radiant heat and conductive heat. Radiant heat from the coals quickly cooks the surface of the food closest to it. At the same time, the fire heats the cooking grate rods, which conducts heat directly to the surface of the food and creates those unmistakably and lovely grill marks.
- If the food is off to the side of the fire, or over indirect heat, the radiant heat and the conductive heat are still factors, but they are not as intense. However, if the lid of the grill is closed, as it should be, there is another kind of heat generated: convective heat. It radiates off the coals, bounces off the lid and goes around and around the food. Convection heat doesn't sear the surface of the food the way radiant and conductive heat do. It cooks it more gently all the way to the center, like the heat in an oven, which allows you to cook roasts, whole birds, and other large foods to the center without burning them.