meat grilling on barbecue

How to Master the Art of Cooking at Direct and Indirect Heat

For a lot, summer means grilling season. For some, this grilling is all year long!

But whether you're using your grill only during summer or all year long, you want a great experience a good results. In order to help you enjoy good grilled meats even more, we’ll teach you in this article to master the art – because it’s a real true art – of cooking at direct and indirect heat. With this new skill, you won’t have bad surprises anymore and your barbecues should be perfect. Thank us later.

Direct heat

What is direct heat? Cooking or grilling on direct heat is when you cook right over the flames. These flames will then sear the meat, grill it and caramelize it. That’s the Maillard reaction!

Learn more about Maillard reaction: Article - Who is Maillard?

In a gas barbecue, you’ll have this direct cooking if you place the food over the lit burners.

In a charcoal barbecue, you just need to place the wood charcoal down and let the flames climb high.

What meat can we cook at direct heat?

In a direct heat process, you should grill meat cuts relatively thin, or any other meats that need less than 20 minutes to cook.

Examples: skewers, steaks of one inch or less, bavette, sausages, chicken thighs, chicken wings, ground meat, etc.

Indirect heat 

What is indirect heat? Cooking or grilling at indirect heat means that you cook the food on a spot that flames don’t reach. This process is the same as the one in an oven.

In a gas barbecue, we use indirect heat when we place a meat on the grill and that we light only the burners that are apart.

In a charcoal barbecue, to use indirect heat, you’ll need to put the charcoal on the side and keep the center empty. If you have a round charcoal barbecue, you can purchase charcoal baskets, for this regard. This will allow you to place your meat on the grill center, and then, the flames won’t sear.

What meat can we cook at indirect heat?

The indirect heat cooking should serve for big thick meat cuts.

Examples: roast, whole chicken, steaks of more than an inch, etc.

Can we use both direct AND indirect heat?

Not only you can, but also you should use both direct AND indirect heat, depending on the meat cut you have to grill. 

Obviously, you can use both cooking methods only for bigger cuts. Here’s how to do it (for gas barbecue):

  1. Preheat barbecue at peak temperature.
  2. Once at maximal temperature, reduce 2 burners to medium and shut down the others.
  3. Place meat over burners that are off.
  4. Close lid and let at indirect heat for about 30 to 60 minutes, according to the cut. Turn halfway.
  5. Check temperature with a meat thermometer. Once the internal temperature is 3° to 5° less than the desired one, place meat over lit burners (direct heat) and let sear about 4 minutes on each side, at high temperature, in order to caramelize.



Maillard, online butcher shop

You should now know everything about direct and indirect heat cooking. It’s up to you to apply what you just learned.

And for all your meat needs, check out our online butcher shop, at You will find a wide variety of quality meats perfect for your barbecues.

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