When planning a meal the first thing we think of (or should be thinking of) is the quality of ingredients. The better the ingredients, the better the final product right? Well, that is half correct, the quality ingredients are a very important part. However, so is the method you use to cook your quality ingredients. Which brings us to the question direct VS indirect cooking. Which method should we use? Furthermore, what do these methods even mean?
Basically, all cooking on charcoal or gas grills can be divided into three different methods; direct grilling, indirect grilling & direct and indirect grilling.
The difference between the three methods is fairly simple. Where the food is placed in relation to the heat source (AKA the fire).
The direct heating method uses the heat directly from the flame to do the cooking. The indirect grilling method uses reflected heat to do the cooking. The combo method uses a mixture of these two methods to cook the food.
What Is Direct grilling?
The direct method is primarily used for foods that generally take under 220 minutes to cook and that need to be seared. Such as chops, most vegetables, hamburgers, steaks & shrimp. The direct method is straightforward, it cooks direct. The food is placed directly above the heat source and must be flipped halfway through the cooking process. This exposes both sides of the food to the heat and ensures an even cook the whole way through. The direct method is a simple method and can be used on any grill, however, this method does work better on a grill with a closable lid as this will trap more heat in and ensure a juicy result. Direct grilling can cause a build up of grease and grime on your grill, so be sure to always clean your grill and minimise the chance of grill mold by making sure your grill is always dry when covering.
What Is Indirect grilling?
The indirect method is used for cooking ‘low and slow’. You want to use this method when you are cooking larger cuts of meat over a long period of time, This method is perfect for ribs, brisket, whole turkey & chicken and all types of other roast meats. The indirect heat grilling method uses reflected heat to cook the meat, just as a convection oven does.This allows for faster cooking and juicy meats without the need to turn or ‘play with’ the food as its cooking. Unfortunately, the indirect method can only be used on covered grills, as the meat is cooked from reflected heat. The lid also helps trap heat by creating a stable temperature and moist environment. Because of the nature of the indirect method you should try to stay away from opening the grill, this will ensure the meat is cooked evenly, as juicy as possible and no longer than it needs to.
The key to cooking using the indirect method is to add in briquettes every hour or so, this also helps ensure an even cooking temperature throughout the day and will cook the meat evenly and juicy.
What Is Direct & Indirect Grilling?
You can probably guess from the name of the combined direct and indirect grilling method you use a mixture of both direct and indirect heating to cook your desired cut of meat. The direct method is used to sear the meat at the start of the cooking process to lock in all the juices and the flavour of the meat. The indirect method then finishes off the cooking process low & slow to cook the meat tender and juicy.
To use the combined approach, firstly start off the cook by placing your cut of meat on top of the heat source until well seared. You want to do this on each side of the meat to ensure it is going to cook evenly. This should only take a couple of minutes on a very hot grill.
Then move the meat into the centre of the grill, ensuring the meat is evenly spaced on each side from the meat source. Close the lid and let sit to complete the cook. Try not to open the grill as this will let precious heat and moisture escape. This will cause the meat to take longer to cook and be drier and not as tender.
This method is more common in the word of barbeque because it offers the best of both worlds, A beautifully caramelized crunch on the outside with a moist and tender inside. Using this method is definitely a crowd pleaser and is going to get a good response at your next backyard cook-off.
So Direct VS Indirect: Who Wins?
There is no clear winner whether you should be using direct or indirect cooking. Both methods including a combination of the two have their own time and place. Depending on the cut, I like to use a combination of direct & indirect, this way you get a really nice sear/ char on the outside of your meat.
Now and then me and the family like to cook at home and then take our meats down to the local park to enjoy the afternoon. Instead of taking my bbq,grill or smoker down to the park I like to cook at home and take the meat down in my faux cambro this keeps everything nice and warm and saves the hassle of lugging down the set up.
I hope I was able to clear up what the three different grilling methods are for you today. When you have your next cookout and the conversation turns to direct VS. indirect you will look (and sound) like a pro!
Have you ever tried direct or indirect smoking on a pellet smoker before? Do you have any thoughts on what method you prefer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Happy smoking everyone