What is indirect grilling? Also known as two zone grilling, indirect grilling is a way to slow down the cooking process in order break down the connective tissues of meat or add smoke flavor, or both, so that the meat doesn’t burn.
Why is indirect grilling important? That’s where steaks are finished off to bring them to the desired doneness after a hot sear without burning the meat. Or BBQ sauce is applied so it can caramelize without burning the meat. Or where meat can absorb that sultry smoke flavor before being seared, again, without burning the meat. Indirect grilling can be done on on a box style grill, kettle, Kamado and even a gas grill. Pretty much any style grill.
Let’s put it this way, I use indirect grilling (or two zone grilling) about 90% of the time when I spark up a grill. Even when I cook steaks hot and fast, I use two zone grilling to finish them off. While it’s more prevalent on a charcoal grill I also do it on a gas grill as long as it has at least two burners. It’s that important to have a hot side and a not so hot side.
I was going to say a hot and cool side, but cool is still at least 200 degrees so cool is a bit of a misnomer. And I tend to go a little hotter at 300 when I do indirect grilling. So the hot side is indeed hot, but the other side is by no means cool:
There are multiple ways to indirect grill. The typical method, as seen in the picture above, is coals on one side and nothing on the other. When it’s time to put the food on, the meat goes on the side with no heat and smoke wood goes directly onto the coals such as these grilled pork steaks which are a midwest staple:
Here’s one more picture of standard indirect grilling with a chunk of smoke wood for white sauce chicken wings:
But there is also the flank method which is technically three zone grilling with two hot sides and one cool spot in the middle:
The flank method can also be done in a kettle style grill with or without those little charcoal holders:
Now if you have a Kamado style grill, then you must use a place setter to deflect the heat:
The inherent problem with the place setter is that once it is in and the grill grate on, searing is hard to do. I’m particularly fond of the reverse sear method which entails smoking before searing. Because once a cut of meat is seared, it’s not taking on any smoke flavor. So infuse the inside of the meat with that smoke first and then sear it to caramelize the proteins on the outside which is a one way ticket to flavor town. To help get two zone grilling in a Kamado style grill, I highly recommend a half or half moon kiln shelf:
The half kiln shelf deflects the heat of half the fire and allows for searing on the other half and thus two zone grilling in a Kamado grill.
***Pro Tip ~ If you have a really small grill and have a hard time having enough coals to keep the temps up and leave enough space for meat then use a disposable aluminum pan as it will dissipate the heat well and deflect it away from the meat like Dad did here over the on a kettle grill doing the flank method above with a grilled spiral sliced ham:
Any recipe that calls for roasting can be done indirect on the grill. Any recipe that calls for baking in an oven can be grilled indirect. It’s a lot like baking except you do it outside and there’s smoke. And frankly you can do it better on the grill. The look is so much better than a standard oven. Like this grilled apple stuffed pork tenderloin:
And this grilled bone in, crusted pork loin:
You can even do this grilled bacon, cheddar, pull apart bread on the grill:
That’s what indirect grilling is. If you aren’t going indirect, you just ain’t tryin’