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Setting Up Your Grill

Published: June 24, 2013

Grill Setup

Some foods taste better when grilled over direct heat; others benefit from hours of slow roasting—here’s a primer.

  • Direct grilling is ideal for tender, lean, thin cuts of meat or fish, such as steaks, pork chops, swordfish, and salmon fillets, or fast-cooking vegetables, such as zucchini, broccoli, and corn. The searing heat quickly causes the surface to become crispy and caramelized, producing a flavor and texture that’s impossible to duplicate in an oven.
  • Two-zone direct grilling. When you build the fire, spread one layer of coals evenly across the bottom of the grill and a second layer of coals across half the first layer. Also leave a small area coal-free; this allows you to move items from high to medium or low heat as they become done.
  • Indirect grilling (or barbecuing) is for thick, fatty, or tough pieces of meat, such as pork shoulders, legs of lamb, whole chickens, and brisket. Classic barbecue is quite slow (225°F to 275°F for 10 to 12 hours for an 18-pound brisket) and requires either a barbecue pit or a special smoker to maintain the steady low temperature. Most people don’t have either of these nor, frankly, the patience to cook all day. Fortunately, Raichlen teaches a less time-consuming method of barbecuing using a basic kettle-style charcoal grill with a good cover: First, carefully push the hot coals away from the center so they’re piled on either side of the firebox. (Add wet wood chips for added smoke.) Next, place a pan in the center to catch dripping fat. Finally, set the food on the grate and cover the grill. It will now function as a roasting oven, with all the heat and smoke swirling up and around the food. The ideal cooking temperature for this kind of barbecue is 325°F to 350°F. You’ll cook a whole brisket in 5 to 6 hours, a leg of lamb in 1 .5 to 2 hours, and a whole chicken in about 1.5 hours. You can wait that long, can’t you?
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