What Is Grilling?

Are barbecued and grilled foods the same thing? Just what is grilling, anyway? Grilling, also known as direct grilling, is cooking with direct heat at a high temperature. The heat source can be below or above the cooking food, but in your barbecue grill, the food's always on top……I hope!

Technically, indirect grilling is not actually grilling. It's high temperature roasting. And indirect grilling at a lower temperature is barbecuing. At temperatures of around 250° F, the barbecuing food tenderizes and become melt-in-your-mouth tender.

Nowadays, for most people, the words "grilling" and "barbecuing" have come to mean cooking outdoors on a gas or charcoal grill, whatever the cooking technique.

When explaining the grilling techniques used for the easy grill recipes on this website, I'll use the terms…

  • Direct Grilling
  • Indirect Grilling
  • Barbecuing

Grilling Temperatures

To further confuse things, direct grilling can be done over high, medium or low heat. But don't worry. The correct heat level and grilling method will be given for the grill recipes on this website. And there's a handy page you can visit to learn how to determine the temperature of your grill.

What is Direct Grilling?

Firing up the charcoal and cooking the food directly over it is direct grilling. Cooking directly over a gas flame or an electric element is grilling too. The intense heat sears the food, creating wonderful flavors and aromas.

With charcoal grills, the grill temperature can be adjusted by either by spreading out the coals or changing the distance between the coals and the food. With some grills, you have the ability of raising or lowering the charcoal. When using non-adjustable grills, using fewer briquettes in a single layer will accomplish the same goal.

Another method of direct grilling uses two zones of different heat levels. One zone will be a high temperature area where the meat is seared. A second area of the grill with fewer coals provides a lower temperature grilling area where the food is placed to finish.

What is Indirect Grilling?

When indirect grilling in a charcoal grill, simply divide the burning coals into two mounds on two sides of the charcoal grate. Be sure that the coals are far enough to the sides that none of the food will be directly over the heat.

When grilling large roasts needing more than an hour or so, you'll have to add more charcoal as the food cooks. By adding five to ten (depending on grill size) charcoal briquettes to each side every hour, you could cook all day if necessary. The grill remains covered during indirect grilling. The bottom vents should be 1/2 to 3/4 open, with the top vent 1/2 to fully open.

Adding Charcoal While Grilling

There are two schools of thought regarding adding charcoal briquettes to a grill while food is cooking. Because of the additives and fillers in charcoal briquettes, some feel that adding unlit charcoal to the grill adds off-flavors. They burn the charcoal until it’s entirely covered with ash before adding it to the grill. Others believe there's no problem adding cold charcoal to the grill. My take is that adding unburned charcoal is not a problem if a quality, name brand product is being used.

Lump charcoal is a different story. This product is pure wood charcoal with no additives or fillers. It can be added to the fire at any time without worrying about detracting from the flavor of grilled foods.

Charcoal Lighter Fluid

Charcoal lighter fluid? I stay away from it. I light briquettes or lump in a charcoal chimney, or with a propane torch right in the grill. If you do use lighter fluid, use as little as possible and make sure the charcoal is completely ashed over before placing the grate and cooking the food.

Adjusting Gas Grill Temperature

Adjusting the heat level when gas grilling doesn't require much explanation. Simply adjust the flame size to get the desired heat output. An important detail when gas grilling is to preheat the grill. When you add the food it will quickly sear, sealing in the flavor. When you're done grilling, turn the burners on high to burn off any remaining food deposits. Do this chore now, then next time you start up the grill, it'll be clean and ready to go.

What is grilling? One of the best ways to create great tasting foods while leaving the kitchen cool and clean. When you don't have time to smoke….Grill!

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What Is Grilling?