Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Recipes and Food

August 29, 2012

The secret to great grilling is indirect heat

If you want to master the art of grilling, you need to accept the idea that more heat isn't necessarily better heat.

In other words, just because your grill is able to crank out 60,000 BTUs doesn't mean you should let it. That's because the key to great grilling actually isn't intense heat, but something far more nuanced called indirect heat. In fact, when I'm grilling, I use indirect heat at least 80 percent of the time.

The beauty of indirect heat is that it allows the heat to surround the food from all sides. The result is that the food almost cooks itself. As long as you keep the heat even and consistent, you won't need to rotate the food for it to cook evenly.

A common mistake when cooking with indirect heat is to turn off one side of the grill and just set the food there. But that's not ideal, as the food closest to the lit burner gets most of the heat. It's better to have the heat come from both sides, a method that involves creating a ring of heat around the food.

But to master indirect heat, you first need to understand how it differs from direct heat.

— Direct heat (also called direct grilling) involves placing food directly over the heat source. This is the same method as when you broil in the oven, except the heat source is under rather than over the food.

— Indirect heat (also called indirect grilling) means there is no heat source under the food. The burners are lit on either side of the grill and the food is placed in the center. The effect is similar to roasting or baking in the oven.

The benefit of indirect grilling is that it is a slower and more gentle method, enabling you to cook thicker cuts of meat (or those that toughen or dry out quickly) without burning the exterior. My general rule of thumb is that if the food takes less than 20 minutes to cook, use the direct method. Anything longer than that and indirect heat is your best bet.

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