For successful grilling, two techniques are essential: direct grilling and indirect grilling.
With direct grilling, food is grilled right over hot coals where the heat is most intense. It's ideal for foods such as whole fish, shellfish, thin steaks, burgers, kebabs, and other dishes that can cook quickly at a high temperature.
Indirect grilling makes use of the ambient heat a short distance away from the coals and is great for foods such as bone-in chicken and thick-cut steaks that take longer to cook all the way through; placing these foods to one side of the coals exposes them to a gentler heat, where they cook slowly over time, without burning their exterior.
Since most of us tend to grill different kinds of meats and vegetables all at once, it's best to organize your grill so that it has both direct and indirect grilling zones. Such a setup lets you move foods back and forth between zones, alternating between high-heat direct grilling and lower-heat indirect grilling. Creating dual zones for a gas grill is easy. Here's how to do it for a charcoal version:
- Remove top grill grate; set a chimney starter over bottom grate. Place crumpled newspaper under chimney starter.
- Fill starter to the top with charcoal and light newspaper with a match. Let coals burn until white-hot and covered with gray ash.
- Using a heatproof glove or mitt, pour coals from chimney starter onto bottom grill grate. Replace top grate and cover grill.
- Allow grill to heat 30 minutes before starting to cook. To tell if the temperature is high enough for cooking, hold your hand about 3″ over the grill grate. If you have to pull away after 4 seconds, it's time to start grilling.
- Using a heatproof glove or mitt, remove top grill grate and, using tongs or a shovel, push all the coals to one side of the grill. Replace top grate.
- Use the hottest area on the grill—directly over the coals—for your direct grilling zone. The area without coals will become gradually cooler; use this part of the grill for indirect grilling.