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Lesson 4: The Two-Zone Fire

Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.
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Lesson 4: The Two-Zone Fire

Whether you’re already an accomplished griller or just a novice, grilling cookbook author Fred Thompson will turn you into a grill master in ten short episodes.
Novice grillers tend to blast everything they cook with a uniform blast of heat. This works well for burgers and steaks, but when you want to go beyond that, it’s time to learn how to make a two-zone fire that lets you use two methods of grilling: direct and indirect.

Every grill has hot and cool spots, and this is actually a good thing-it helps you control the cooking of your food better. In fact, it lets you create two zones on your grill: one for direct cooking, and one for indirect cooking.

Direct-Heat Recipes
Grilled Ginger-Sesame Pork Chops Grilled Chicken and Potatoes Ancho-Marinated Pork  
Grilled Ginger-Sesame Pork Chops with Pineapple & Scallions   Grilled Chicken and Potatoes with Tomato and Cucumber Salad   Apple-Bacon Barbecued Ribs (Gas Grill Version)    

The Direct Method
Direct cooking is what most of us refer to as grilling: you put the meat right over the gas burner or the hot coals. It’s best for foods like steaks, hamburgers, boneless chicken breasts, and fish fillets-anything that’s thin and quick-cooking.

  • To direct cook on a charcoal grill, keep the coals in the center of the grill and place the food directly over them.
  • To direct cook on a gas grill, simply place the food directly over the burners that are turned on.
Indirect-Heat Recipes
Grill-Roasted Honey Barbecued Chicken Pepper-Crusted Grill-Roasted Beef Brined Pork Chops  
Grill-Roasted Honey Barbecued Chicken   Pepper-Crusted Grill-Roasted Beef with Rosemary Chimichurri   Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops    

The Indirect Method
If you tried to cook larger cuts, like roasts, ribs, and whole chickens and turkeys this way, they would burn the outside before the center is done, so that’s where indirect cooking comes in.

  • To do indirect cooking on a charcoal grill, bank your coals on one side of the grill, and put your food on the other side, away from the coals. Depending on what you’re cooking, you may also want to put a disposable foil tray. Keep the lid closed, and the heat that builds up inside the grill is what does the cooking-you’re turning your grill into an oven.
  • To do indirect cooking on a gas grill, you basically mimic the same setup, but how you do it depends on how many burners your grill has. For a three-burner grill with burners running side to side, turn on the front burner, and place the food towards the back.

Many recipes that use indirect heat also get a blast of direct heat at some point. This is sometimes referred to as combination cooking. Fred’s Buttermilk-Brined Chicken Breasts, for instance, start out over direct heat to give the chicken a nice sear, then move to indirect heat until they’re cooked all the way through. Fred’s Baby Back Ribs, on the other hand, get hours of low, slow cooking over indirect heat, with a final turn over direct heat to get some char on the meat and caramelize the sauce.

More Direct-Heat Recipes
Grilled Lamb Kebab Salad
Grilled Scallops with Remoulade Sauce

More Indirect- and Combination-Heat Recipes
Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Jalapeno Lime Salsa
Herbed Grill-Roasted Lamb

Related Articles
Grilling Big: How to Grill-Roast Large Cuts of Meat
A New Way To Grill: Barbecue Braising
Smoky, Tender Barbecued Pork
The Juiciest Grilled Pork Chops

Other lessons in this series
Classic Ultimate Burgers New York Strip Steaks with Blue Cheese Butter How to Start a Charcoal Fire
Lesson 1: The Perfect Burger
  Lesson 2: Great Steaks on the Grill   Lesson 3: How to Start a Charcoal Fire
The Two-Zone Fire Buttermilk Brined Chicken Breasts How to Add Smoke to a Gas Grill
Lesson 4: The Two-Zone Fire   Lesson 5: How to Grill Bone-In Chicken Parts   Lesson 6: How to Add Smoke to a Gas Grill
Grilled Fish Tacos Lump vs. Briquette Charcoal Fred's Ultimate Smoked Pork Shoulder
Lesson 7: How to Grill Fish   Lesson 8: Lump vs. Briquette Charcoal   Lesson 9: Slow-Smoked Pork Shoulder
Fred's Finest Baby Back Ribs    
Lesson 10: Real Barbecued Ribs        


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