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2-Zone and Indirect Cooking – Tips and Guides

Indirect grilling or also known as 2-zone grilling is a cooking method in which the food is put to the side of heat instead putting it over the flames directly. This can be done by using some burners only on a gas grill or burning coals on one side of the grill. Usually, a drip pan is placed under the food to avoid being on fire.

One variation of 2-zone grilling is by putting  plank as the base where the food is to be cooked. If you have no gas grill, then you can still cook a chicken by using an oven with controlled heat around 250 degrees. To avoid too much direct heat, place a pan set on the low oven rack.

2-zone grilling became popular in the 1990s when people are using beer or any kind of beverages as flavoring. The contents of the can mix and flavorize the food with a consequent vapor. Two of the examples of this cooking technique is Orange Soda Duck and Beer Can Chicken. Half of the flavoring is used to soak wood chips that are thrown to the coals. The remaining liquid stays in the can that is stuffed inside the chicken and used as a stand.

To cook tasty food, you should learn how to control the temperature because the contents in food react with different levels of heat. For instance, meats have proteins, fat, water, collagen, and little sugar, each compound reacts drastically at different levels of heat. Water evaporates at one temperature, fats render at another, sugar caramelizes at another, collagens melt at another, and so on.

To have a full control of the temperature, you need a 2-zone setup in your grill. This gives you the control over the heat and way of applying heat. There are many ways on how to do the 2-zone setup or indirect grilling. Below is the best way on how to do it.

Indirect grilling is great for larger and tougher foods that will burn when grilled directly. Examples of these are whole chickens, pork shoulders, ribs, and briskets. These meats need gradual cooking or controlled heat. The range of temperature that you should be applying should start from 275 to 350 degrees. As mentioned above, the food should be placed near the heat source, and not directly.

Setting Up the Grill for Indirect Grilling

Charcoal Setup

Light up the charcoal in a chimney starter with lighter fluid or anything you can use. When the charcoals go red, divide it in half, and put it in both sides of the grill. There are some grills that provide exclusive side baskets for this. Put a drip pan in the middle of the grill. Put the grate on the grill, and start grilling your chicken in the middle of the grate above  the drip pan. If you want the chicken to be smoked, then toss soaked wood chips to the coals to produce smoke. Cover the grill, and adjust the top and bottom vents to maintain the temperature around 350 degrees. Put additional charcoals to the grill after one hour. Allow the grill to be uncovered for several minutes until the coals get red.

Note About Charcoal: For grilling in charcoal, it is preferable to use lump charcoal that is made from pure wood. You will know that it is lump charcoal if it has irregular shaped. Lump charcoal is a natural product, and contains no additives or fillers. Of  course, numerous Americans use the charcoals briquettes. This type of material contains numerous substances like furniture scraps, borax, coal dust, and petroleum binders. When this coal is burned, it gives off strong acrid smoke taste. You should use lump charcoal, and use it whenever you can.

Gas Grill Setup

If you have a gas grill with two burners, then light one burner on high and put the food to the other side. If you have a gas grill with three burners, then light the front and rear, and put the food in the middle. If you have a grill with four burners, then light the outside burners and put the food in the middle. Make some adjustments with the burner knobs to get the desired heat.

To smoke on a gas grill, here’s what you need to do. Smoking on a gas grill is a bit trickier, especially when the grill is an expensive one. Many advanced gas grill posses separate smoker box. This is a metal tray of box to keep the smoking chips put directly over a specific burner. If you gas grill has this one, then simply put the chips and use the smoker box burner until you see smoke, then decrease the heat temperature until you get your desired temperature.

These are the things that you should know about 2-zone or indirect grilling. Hope you find this article helpful, and use it if you aspire to become a master of grilling. Have fun!

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