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Direct vs Indirect Cooking

Direct vs Indirect Cooking

Feb 18 2015

Written by: Sam the Cooking Guy

Using a grill by cooking food over top of the flames is great and we do it all the time.  But by changing the set up just a bit, the grill becomes more like an oven. 

Food cooked directly over top of the flame is called 'direct' cooking or grilling.  Food cooked beside the flame is considered 'indirect' cooking or grilling.  And here's how to do it:

steak cooking on grill

  • Your grill will likely have 2 or 3 individual burners &ndash laid out either side to side or from front to back.  If you have 2 burners, heat them all on high until ready, then turn off one side &ndash this is now the indirect side. 
  • If your grill has 3 burners, heat them all on high then turn off the middle burner &ndash this is now the indirect side. 

A thin steak will cook beautifully over direct heat.  But if it's a thick steak, I start by getting good color on both sides over direct, then moving it to the indirect side for finishing.  Because if you keep it over direct heat only, by the time the inside is done where you want it, the outside will be over done.

fish on grill


Think of this as the difference between a stove burner and the oven.  And now that you know this, you can do all kinds like you would in an oven by taking advantage of indirect heat.

  • Pizzas that would burn up too fast on direct heat are tremendous on indirect
  • Heartier veggies like peppers and thick slices of onion are great on indirect.
  • Even gentle pieces of fish will do better on the indirect side. 
  • Casseroles like enchiladas or lasagna will cook really well over indirect heat.

And apart from the obvious technical benefits of using indirect heat, you might just simply not want to heat up your kitchen with your oven &ndash and this is the answer. 

A little knowledge goes a long way, and you're now set to get out there and cook.

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