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How to Grill Indirectly on Charcoal Grills

How to Grill Indirectly on Charcoal Grills

  • July 20, 2018
  • / BBQ How To's
  • / By Nathan
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Most people who are new to grilling on a charcoal grill spread the coals evenly and they cook all of their food the same way. After you have a few barbecues under your belt, you can start trying more advanced types of grilling.

One method you should try is called indirect grilling. If you have a gas grill, you can select the setting for each section of the grill. You can keep the heat high at one end for searing and you can keep it low at the other end for a low and slow cook. A charcoal grill doesn't have this type of technology, therefore, you need to do if yourself with indirect grilling. It's relatively simple to do and you will notice a huge improvement in your food.


Why Use Indirect Grilling?

Many types of meat can be cooked better with indirect grilling. One type of meat that many expert grillers use the indirect method with is beef.

Have you ever cooked a steak or a burger and you just can't seem to get it right? If so, you should try indirect cooking. This method gives you two temperatures on the grill, one high and one low.

This allows you to use one side to get your meat to the desired color and to get grill marks on your meat. When you have accomplished this, you can move the meat to the cooler side so that your meat can cook well on the inside without worrying about burning your meat.

​Indirect cooking is also great for sudden flare-ups. Flare-ups can occur without warning and it can cause your meat to burn. If you use the indirect cooking method, you can move the meat to the cooler side of the grill when there is a flare-up. There are a few indirect cooking methods. The one that you choose would depend on what you are cooking and how confident you are in your grilling skills.


What You Need For Indirect Grilling

Before you start, you are going to need to gather the necessary items. The items on your list should include: 

  • ​A large bag of charcoal
  • ​A lid for your grill
  • ​A grease tray to be placed under the food

Two Zone Fire Indirect Cooking

If you are new to cooking on a charcoal grill, you should start with the two-zone method. It is the easiest method, therefore, it is good for first-timers. 

indirect grilling 2 zone
  • 1
    ​Start by putting your charcoal in the grill. Put the charcoal on just one side of the grill and put the grease tray on the other. Then light your charcoal.
  • 2
    ​When cooking your meat, sear it on the side with the charcoal. When the meat is seared, move it to the other side to allow it to cook lower and slower.
  • 3
    ​Keep the grill cover closed when the food is cooking. You should only open it if you are going to be moving the meat from one side to the other or when you are ready to remove the meat from the grill for serving.

Three Zone Indirect Cooking

This indirect cooking method allows you to create three temperature zones rather than one or two. This method creates great cooking conditions because the heat will be equalized on both sides. Also, because you have two hot sides instead of on one, you can achieve higher temperatures. 

indirect cooking 3 zone
  • 1
    ​Start by putting charcoal on the left side of the grill and the right.
  • 2
    ​Place the grease tray in the middle of the grill.
  • 3
    ​When cooking your food, use the left or right side of the grill to sear the meat. When that is done, move it to the middle to cook at a lower temperature. The grease tray will collect the grease, preventing a flare-up.
  • 4
    ​If you are cooking vegetables on the grill, cook them in the middle, over the grease tray, to keep them from cooking too much on the outside.

Snake Method Indirect Cooking

​You can use the snake method to smoke your meat. If you can master this technique, you won't need to spend hundreds of dollars on a smoker. You can also save the space in your backyard. Rather than having a grill and a smoker, you only need room for a grill. If you are going to be cooking large chunks of meat such as a roast, pork shoulder, or a whole chicken, this method is great. If you feel confident in your grilling skills, you can give this method a try. 

How to Grill Indirectly on Charcoal Grills
  • 1
    ​Start by building a wall of charcoal going around the edge of the grill. Once you have built one wall, build another wall in front of that. The longer you want your food to cook, the longer your wall should be.
  • 2
    ​When you light one end of the charcoal, it will slowly burn to the other end, similar to when you knock over a domino and the rest fall.
  • 3
    ​To light the grill, you should use a chimney starter. It is the easiest way to get the charcoals burning.
  • 4
    ​Put a grease try beside the snake and fill it ¾ of the way with water. This will create humidity inside the grill.
  • 5
    ​If you want to add a smoky flavor to your meat, you can put wood chips on the snake for short periods of time.
  • 6
    ​When putting the food on the grill, DO NOT put it over the hot coals. This will cook the outside of the food too quickly and the inside won't cook enough.
  • 7
    ​When your food is cooking, the grill cover should remain closed. This will keep the heat and the smoke inside, allowing the food to cook thoroughly and giving it a smoky flavor. If you are worried that the temperature inside is too hot or not hot enough, you can control it with the air vents.

Many seasoned grillers prefer the indirect methods when cooking. Not only does it give you control of the temperature of the grill, the food tastes much better when you use this method. All you need is a few very inexpensive accessories and you can be a master charcoal griller.

About the Author Nathan

Hi! My name is Nathan and I’m a passionate meat-lover and certified grill connoisseur. I fell in love with grilling food back when I was a little kid when my grandfather used to cook tasty burgers in our backyard every Saturdays.

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