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How to Prepare an Indirect Grill Fire

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Most grilling takes place over a direct fire, meaning that the food is cooked directly above the hot coals or gas flames. This is the method of choice for small, quick-cooking items like burgers, chops, and boneless chicken pieces. But larger items, like whole or bone-in chicken and rib racks, tend to burn over direct heat before they’re fully cooked. These foods call for indirect grilling, which means setting up the grill so there’s a hot zone, where the fire is burning, and a cool zone, where the food cooks near, but not directly over, the searing heat of the fire.

To prepare an indirect gas grill fire Heat the grill with all burners on medium, and then turn off one or more of the burners—the grate over these burners is your cool zone. Adjust the setting on the active burner or burners to achieve the required temperature. For rib recipes, use a grill or oven thermometer set over the cool zone to measure the temperature.)

To prepare an indirect charcoal grill fire Ignite the charcoal, preferably using a chimney starter. Once it’s burning well, split and bank the coals against two opposite sides of the grill. The center part of the grate not above the coals is your cool zone. Let the coals burn down to the required temperature.

While the food cooks, check on the fire every 15 minutes or so and add about 5 unlit briquettes or charcoal chunks to each side of the fire whenever the temperature drops 50°F below the target. All air vents should be open fully, but if the grill temperature rises more than 25°F above the target, close the top vent halfway until the temperature drops back.

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