Barbecue being slow cooked on a grill on a rotisserie kit with text over it reading, 'A Guide to Cooking with Indirect Heat'

A Guide to Cooking with Indirect Heat

Whether you’re just getting started with grilling more or have been enjoying the benefits of outdoor cooking for years, at BBQ Outlets, we have the perfect guide for cooking with indirect heat. 

Discover how to properly grill indirectly and the benefits of indirect heat grilling. Perhaps even try your own hand with this method of outdoor cooking using some of the delicious recipes we found that are ideal for when grilling with indirect heat.

How to Grill Indirectly

As we have already mentioned in our glossary of barbecuing terms, indirect heat cooking can be best explained in the following way:

“Rather than cooking food directly over a heat source, like grilling, food is cooked with the flow of hot air instead, so that it can roast nice and slow. Many smokers use this method”

Three grilled pork chops smothered in barbeque sauce and spices and seasonings and chilis on a wooden board.

A good general rule of thumb is that if something may take 20 minutes or more to cook up on a grill and requires a temperature of more than 225 degrees Fahrenheit or even up to – or slightly more – than 300 degrees Fahrenheit, indirect heat cooking is usually the best possible option. 

If you don’t have a smoker handy and are instead trying to figure out what indirect heat grilling may look like on any other premium grill, it would require the lid to be closed for most of the duration of the cooking. To really up the ante and have your taste buds singing, try also adding in different types of wood chips to bring out various unique and savory flavors in the food you’re grilling up.

For a top-of-the-line gas grill, if you plan on giving indirect heat grilling a go, first start by turning on only half of the burners. If you have a four-burner grill, try using two of the outside burners, or if you have a three-burner grill, then try just using one of the outside burners. Allow the grill to heat up for 10-15 minutes while keeping the lid shut. Once you have adjusted the burners to the appropriate temperature for the food you are grilling up, you may begin cooking over the unlit burners.

Pile of coals covered in white ash with some slightly lit and a few flickers of flames still appearing from beneath.

As for an exceptional charcoal grill, if you are trying to figure out how exactly indirect heat grilling might even work, first begin by pushing all coals once hot – or when starting to turn white – to one side of the grill. Food will then be cooked over the side without the coals. On the other hand, if you’re cooking something over a foil drip pan, coals can be placed on either side. The meat would then be placed directly above the pan between the coals. 

The Main Benefit of Indirect Heat Grilling

While it may seem like more work than direct heat grilling, indirect heat grilling has one huge advantage over direct heat grilling. It’s a better method all around for cooking larger and tougher cuts of meat. But why is that?

Well, when using indirect heat grilling for a larger piece of meat like a whole chicken or a roast, or for a tougher piece of meat like brisket or some ribs, it lessens the chances of it being overcooked, i.e., completely dry, burnt, and inedible. It allows these foods to become tender and succulent and easily able to melt in anyone’s mouth. 

People eating outdoors a whole grilled fish covered in lemon slices and also eating other grilled vegetables like corn and potatoes with a fresh salad on the side.

Spend more time with your family and friends too or those that you’re entertaining since the meat will also not have to be turned like in other grilling and cooking methods. 

The Best Recipes for Indirect Heat Grilling

As we have already mentioned, there are certain foods – specifically meats – that are better to use with indirect heat grilling. Below are a few recipes that would be excellent for indirect heat grilling and having you continuously use this as your new primary grilling method:

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Juicy Grilled Whole Chicken, Mediterranean-Style

Smoked Baby Back Ribs

Smoked Brisket

Whole Fish

Whole Turkey


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