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Chef's Hat: Grilling off the beat

When most people think of grilling, it’s slapping a steak or burger over a batch of hot coals. This is called the direct method of grilling and works very well. Cooking this way is similar to broiling; it cooks food hot and fast.

Unlike direct heat, the indirect method of grilling is more similar to roasting than to broiling. Charcoal is placed on each side of the food or gas burners are lit on each side of the food, but the heat is not directly underneath whatever you’re cooking.

The heat rises, reflects off the lid and inside surfaces of the grill, and slowly cooks the food from all sides. This method of grilling is recommended for cooking roasts, ribs, chicken, turkeys and larger cuts of meat.

If using an indirect method with a charcoal grill, a drip pan is often placed underneath the meat to catch the drippings. These drippings can then be used for sauces and gravies. A drip pan also helps to prevent flare-ups if you are cooking a fattier type food.

To prepare a grill for indirect cooking:

For a charcoal grill, start your charcoal with either a chimney or with lighter fluid. Once the coals are hot, bank half of the coals on one side of the grill and the other half on the other side. Place a foil drip pan in the center of the grill, replace the cooking grate and place the meat over the drip pan.

Usually after 35 to 45 minutes of grilling you will need to add more charcoal to the bank of coals so the grill stays hot.

If using a gas grill, preheat the grill with all the burners on high. Turn the center burner off and place a drip pan under the grate. Place food on cooking grate over the drip pan. If your grill has only two burners, turn one burner off and place the drip pan on that side.

It does take more time when cooking with an indirect method. So it is not likely something you would do after work on a weeknight. But on a weekend when you’re working around the yard, cooking a roast or ribs with an indirect heating method will give you a great dish. The prep work is generally minimal, and the smoky flavor imparted onto the meat makes it worth the wait.

If you’ve never tried indirect grilling, you are definitely in for a treat. Take some time this weekend and enjoy a slow-cooked meal on the grill.

Happy eating!