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Indirect vs. Direct Grilling Guide

Want to know the difference between good and great grilled food? You won’t become a true pitmaster until you’ve mastered when to use direct and indirect grilling.

While these two terms sound similar and are used with open-fire grilling, they produce very different results. Knowing when to use each one will give you amazing results whether you’re tossing some steak and vegetables on the grill or making a mouth-watering barbeque sandwich.

What Is Direct Grilling and When Is It Used?

Direct grilling is exactly what it sounds like — it’s when you cook your food directly over an open flame. You know those grill marks you see on hamburgers and well-done steaks? They come from direct grilling.

When you use this method, you sear the meat and crisp up the skin. If you like a slightly charred taste in your barbeque, direct grilling will offer the best results. Bold flavors call for intense heat. You can also use the direct method for cooking:

  • Vegetables, such as medallions of zucchini and other squash
  • Hot dogs
  • Seafood, sometimes cooking on a cedar plank to protect the fish from the harsher direct flames
direct vs indirect cooking

If you want grilled food that looks like it just came out of a steakhouse TV commercial, direct grilling is the best choice.

What Is Indirect Grilling and When Is It Used?

Indirect grilling, on the other hand, refers to cooking your food without direct contact with the flame. You still use the grill, but you don’t position the food right on top of the fire. Instead, you put it adjacent to the heat source.

This method works best for foods that are either too delicate to withstand direct exposure to flame or need to cook for a long time and would get burnt or unevenly cooked by direct grilling. The best example is a baked potato wrapped in foil. It will take time to roast the entire vegetable evenly. By positioning it off to the side, you can ensure that the wrapped potato receives indirect heat exposure and can stay on the grill for a while.

What else can you use indirect grilling for? A few of our favorites include:

low smoked barbeque indirect grilling

Desserts you finish on the grill, such as s’mores and banana boats, also work best with indirect heat.

Combo Cooking: Using Both Direct and Indirect Grilling

Occasionally, certain food calls for using both. Usually, you’ll want to use combo cooking when grilling a dense cut of meat, fruit, or veggie. You’ll sear first to bring out the flavor, then put over indirect heat to finish cooking. Many people use a combination with chicken, giving the poultry a crispy outside while also hitting the internal temperature they need for the bird.

Grilla Grills’ pellet grills provide the perfect opportunity for you to create tasty, unforgettable food using direct or indirect grilling. You may even do both on the same day. Contact us to discuss our many grill options.

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Holland, Michigan 49423