Today, the best outdoor gas grills have a cover or lid. You can leave the cover up while grilling or you can leave the cover down. When the cover is down, you turned your outdoor gas grill into an outdoor oven – you’re using indirect heat to cook your food in a 360 degree grid pattern. The only difference is that your indoor oven does a much better job of maintaining even heat than your outdoor grill. So how do you gain control over the temperature in your gas grill?
Creating delicious foods on your grill, even if it’s only hot dogs, requires precise temperature control because the compounds in the food react differently at different temperatures. “For example, meats are composed of protein, water, fat, collagen, and some sugars, and each component changes drastically at different temperatures. Fats render at one temp, water evaporates at another, collagens melt at another, sugar caramelizes at another, the Maillard reaction (a.k.a. browning of proteins) occurs at another, and carbonization (a.k.a. charring or burning) occurs at yet another temp.” ( Meathead Goldwyn)
With today’s modern gas grills with multiple burners, it is much easier to set up temperature zones for cooking your food perfectly. High end grills, such as the SUN 5 Burner Infrared Gas Grill, have gone a step further to help the grill master achieve perfect temperature control. They have incorporate Gourmet Heat Separators between the individual Flavor Zones, enabling you to shield the heat produced by one burner from the remainder of the grill. Thus, you can have the left hand side of your grill cranked up all the way, producing excellent direct (or radiant) heat while you have no burners lit on the right hand side, producing indirect (or convection) heat. (See the directions at the end of this article on setting up your grill depending on the number of burners it has.)
This set up provides an excellent way of running a sear grill on one side and a finish grill on the other. The most common mistake made in grilling food is to cook meat over direct heat until it is considered done. This produces a charred, tough piece of meat. All the juices have dried up from the direct heat. That’s what direct heat does. When using an internal grill thermometer (not the one built into your grill) the indirect heat side should produce a temperature between 200 and 225 degrees. This will slowly finish your meat without drying out the flavorful juices we all look forward to,
To avoid the catastrophe or ruined meat, sear both sides of your meat on the direct heat side of the grill and then move it to the finish side of the grill – where the indirect, convection heat will cook it to perfection, retaining those juices that run down your chin as you eat that perfect steak – one that you can now produce over and over again.
For the best chicken you ever ate, do the opposite. Cook the chicken over indirect heat until it’s almost done. Then transfer it to the direct heat and watch as the fat under the skin renders into the chicken and the skin crisps up to golden perfection. You’ll have your family begging for more!
All beef and pork roasts should be cooked over indirect heat to prevent loss of moisture and flavor. It you like the outside crisp, place the roast over direct heat for the last 10-15 minutes. You’ll have a roast that will have everyone begging for more.
And fish – fish should always be cooked only over the indirect heat since it has less fat than other meats. Cooking over indirect heat will retain its delicate taste and moisture. Just don’t forget to baste it once or twice during cooking.
The two zone method of grilling is an excellent way of grilling multiple foods at the same time. Start your steaks over the direct heat and your vegetables and fruit over the indirect heat. Most vegetables and fruit contain a high quantity of natural sugars and will burn or char when placed over direct heat. Indirect heat will grill them to perfection. Most fruits and vegetables will also benefit from a light basting or two during the grilling process.
As you get ready to move your meat to the indirect heat side, place your fruits and vegetables on the warming rack to finish cooking. And voila! When the meat is done, everything else is ready too! No more eating your barbeque meals in stages as the food is ready. You can now enjoy it all at once – just like a five star dining room.
Grill Set Ups for Direct and Indirect Heating (indirect heating on the right).
(2) Two Burner Grills: Left Grill on High; Right Grill Off
(3) Three Burner Grills: Left Grill High; Middle Grill Medium; Right Grill Off
(4) Four Burner Grills: From Left to Right – High, Medium, Off, Off
(5) Five Burner Grills: From Left to Right – High, Medium, Low, Off, Off
Practice the art of indirect heat next time you grill. It’s a technique well worth learning. Remember, practice makes perfect. Happy Grilling…