Direct vs Indirect Heating Explained

Mixed grill on barbecue

The best two pieces of advice we have for anyone that would like to become a better cook on your barbecue is; monitor the time and learn how to control your barbecue’s temperature.

Monitoring your time is easy. How many times have we all been witness to a defenceless steak on the barbecue, burning and overcooking away because the Tong Controller is 10 minutes deep in conversation, and the steak hasn’t even been flipped yet! Easy fix for that one…use a stopwatch or timer, like the features found on the iGrill 2.

Controlling your temperature is something that takes a little longer to understand but after reading this you are well on your way to being that backyard barbecue hero who holds the two most important secrets of barbecuing.

The two types of heat used to barbecue are direct heat and indirect heat.

What is direct heat?

Direct heat is what we all know as traditional barbecuing, where the food is cooked directly above the fire or BBQ burners.

Direct heat is perfect for cuts of meat or food that are small, tender and cook quickly. Things like steaks, hamburgers, fish fillets, boneless chicken pieces, sliced vegetables, and shellfish.

The direct heat sears and caramelises the outside of the food whilst it cooks the food all the way to the centre.

As you can imagine the food cooks by intense radiant heat from the fire, which quickly cooks the food closest to it. The food will also cook by conductive heat that is absorbed by the cooking grill and conducts heat directly to the food which creates those beautiful grill marks.

Direct cooking method


What is indirect heat?

Indirect heat is where the fire or burners are to one side or either side of the food. The food sits above an unlit part of the barbecue. This can be as simple as building the fire to one side of the barbecue whilst the food sits on the opposite side, on a Weber Q using a convection tray and trivet , or on a premium gas barbecue, it’s as easy as switching off one or more burners.

This is perfect for any food that will take longer than 20 minutes to cook, for example; larger or tougher cuts of meat, like whole chickens, whole joints of meat, ribs or even baking!

The food will still cook with radiant and conductive heat however it will not be anywhere near as intense as cooking food over direct heat. As you should be cooking with the lid down on your Weber barbecue, there is another form of heat that makes indirect heat perfect for the longer cooks, convection heat. The radiant heat from the coals or burners reflects and bounces off the lid and body of the barbecue and circulates round and round the food creating convection heat, just think of it like an oven. It cooks the food more evenly and gently as it cooks all the way to the centre without burning the food.

Indirect Cooking Method

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