When it comes to grilling, each person has a personal preference, and not everyone may agree that one way is better than others. As such, many may question which is better: direct or indirect heat. No matter if you use a charcoal or gas grill, you can use either method. The only differences between the two kinds of grills are how you control the heat and where the heat is coming from. However, we can all celebrate the fact that no matter how you choose to grill something, the result will always be something delicious. Keeping that in mind, let’s try to answer the question on everyone’s mind—is direct heat or indirect heat better when grilling?
Direct heat is exactly what you might imagine it is. Once the heat source (charcoal or a gas burner) is up to temperature, it’s time to place the meat on. In this instance, the cook is placing the food directly on the grill over the heat source. This method falls under the “high heat” category—the kind of grilling that might require silicone grilling gloves, so you don’t burn your hands. Direct heat is best used for hamburgers, bratwurst, steaks, chicken, or anything you want to cook somewhat fast. The heat also creates a nice sear and some crispy bits, adding great flavor. We can also refer to this as “classic grilling” because it is something every beginning chef learns to do.
You’ll want to use indirect heat for cooking things slowly. When you have time on your hands and are in no hurry, indirect heat is perfect. To perform this technique, light the coals and place them on one side of the grill or only turn on one-half of the burners on a gas grill. If you are using a rotisserie, divide the charcoal in half and place it on either side of the grill. The idea is to keep the meat away from the coals, so there is no direct heat on it—the grill will act more like an oven. You can also use indirect heat to thaw frozen meat. Just place it as far away from the heat source as possible and let it sit for 20 minutes. Thawing meat on the grill will also partially smoke it and give it an amazing flavor.
At the end of the day, no method is better than the other. It’s a matter of what you are cooking and how much time you have. Both methods are equally effective, and the result will be delicious food on the table.