Heated Debate

HOW TO: Tempering grilling temperature

Before you start a batch of coals on the grill, or crank up your gas grill’s burners, decide whether to use direct or indirect heat.

Direct heat: If you are grilling ingredients such as hamburgers, steaks, kabobs, boneless chicken breasts, fish, sausages or vegetables—all of which take about 30 minutes or less to grill—use direct heat to cook them. If you’re using a charcoal grill, the hot coals should be spread out in an even layer, and allowed to heat the cooking grate before you place ingredients on top of it. If you’re using a gas grill, preheat the grill by turning all the burners up to high. Once the cooking grate is very hot, place the ingredients on the grill, then adjust the burners’ temperature according to the recipe you are following.

Indirect heat: If you’re planning to barbecue whole chicken, thick steaks, roasts or ribs, you’ll need to use indirect heat. In a charcoal grill, you can either pile the charcoal on two sides of the grill, leaving a place in the middle for a drip pan, or you can pile the charcoal on one side of the grill and place the drip pan on the other side. The meat you are cooking should sit over a drip pan, or it can cook atop untreated wooden planks. If you’ve
piled charcoal on one side of the grill, you should plan on rotating the meat halfway through the grilling process to ensure that all sides are cooked evenly. If you’re contending with a gas grill, turn all the burners to high in order to heat the cooking grate, then turn the center burner off. It’s best to place a drip pan in the center and cook the food on a grill that sits above it. If your gas grill only has two burners, just leave one on and cook the meat over the other side.