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Cooking with Two-Zone Grilling: What is it and How

how to cook with two-zone grilling

Grilling a delicious meal is an art, and mastering a few cooking techniques can elevate your culinary skills and cook better dishes. One such technique that every aspiring grill master should be familiar with is cooking with two-zone grilling. Whether you’re a seasoned griller or just starting out, understanding and utilizing the two-zone grilling method can drastically improve your cooking results.

What is Two-Zone Grilling?

Two-zone grilling involves creating two distinct heat zones on your grill – a direct heat zone and an indirect heat zone. This technique allows you to have control over different cooking methods simultaneously, giving you the flexibility to sear, grill, and indirectly cook your food, all in one go and one grill.

A great advantage of setting up a grill with two cooking zones is that is very easy to manage flare ups. Say you are searing a steak and it flares up, simply move it to the indirect heat zone and let it settle.

Cooking with two zone grilling

Cooking with two heat zones is almost like having any using different burners on your stove. You have a hot side and a colder side.

Two-zone grilling can be used for slow and low cooking where the only purpose is to cook the food at low temperatures. In this scenario, the direct heat zone is not really used, think of smoking ribs, pork shoulders, and large cuts.

Alternatively, the two-zone system can be used to build two active cooking temperature zones. Meaning both zones are used during the cook. For example, you can two-zone to reverse sear a steak. You can cook the steak slowly on the indirect zone and then transfer it to the direct heat zone for a perfect sear.

two zone grilling setup

Setting up a Two Heat Zones in a Grill

Setting up a two-zone grill is relatively simple. Follow these steps:

  1. Prepare your charcoal or gas grill: Ensure your grill is clean and in good working condition.
  2. Divide the grill into two zones: For charcoal grills, pile the hot coals on one side of the grill and leave the other side empty. For gas grills, turn on only one burner or half the burners and leave the others off.
  3. Adjust the heat: If using charcoal, control the heat by adjusting the airflow through the air vents. For gas grills, adjust the burners control knobs accordingly.
  4. Place a drip pan: Place a drip pan with water or other liquid on the indirect heat side of the grill to catch any drippings and prevent flare-ups.

Cooking Techniques with Two-Zone Grilling

With the two-zone grilling method, you can utilize the direct heat zone for searing and achieving those beautiful grill marks, while the indirect heat zone allows for gentle, slow cooking. Here are a few popular cooking techniques you can try:

1. Searing

Searing is an essential technique for achieving a flavorful crust on meats while sealing in the juices. To sear, start by placing your food directly over the hot direct heat zone. Flip the food occasionally to ensure even searing.

2. Grilling

This is where the magic happens. With the direct heat zone, you can grill foods such as vegetables and smaller cuts of meat. The direct heat zone can be used to grill small steak cuts, get them hot, and then move them to the indirect or colder zone to keep warm and serve. Keep a close eye on these items, as the direct heat can cook them quickly. Flip them as needed to achieve even cooking and those beautiful grill marks.

3. Indirect Cooking

Indirect cooking is ideal for larger cuts of meat that require longer cooking times, such as whole chickens, roasts, or ribs. Place these items on the indirect heat zone, away from the direct flames. This method allows for slower, more even cooking, resulting in tender and juicy meat.

4. Smoking

If you’re a fan of smoky flavors, two-zone grilling is perfect for smoking your favorite dishes. By adding wood chips or chunks to the hot coals or a smoker box on a gas grill, you can infuse your food with that delicious smoky taste. Place your food on the indirect heat zone, allowing it to slowly absorb the flavors.

5. Multi-zone Cooking

Another advantage of the two-zone grilling technique is the ability to create multiple heat zones. By adding an extra layer or separating the coals on a charcoal grill, or utilizing different burners on a gas grill, you can create additional temperature variations. This allows you to cook various foods at different temperatures simultaneously, giving you even more control and cooking options.

setting up two-zone grilling

Tips for Successful Two-Zone Grilling

To make the most of your two-zone grilling experience, consider these helpful tips:

  1. Preheat your grill: Always preheat your grill before cooking. This ensures that the grates are hot and ready to create those beautiful sear marks.
  2. Use the right tools: Invest in quality grilling tools such as long-handled tongs, spatulas, and grill brushes. These will make it easier to handle your food and keep your grates clean.
  3. Monitor temperatures: Use a reliable meat thermometer to gauge the internal temperature of your food. This ensures that your meat is cooked to the desired doneness.
  4. Don’t overcrowd the grill: Allow enough space between the food items to ensure proper heat circulation and even cooking.
  5. Practice patience: Two-zone grilling takes time and practice to master. Be patient, and don’t be afraid to experiment and try new recipes.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, two-zone grilling is a game-changer and can turn a simple charcoal grill into a very versatile cooking tool. The ability to simultaneously cook foods at different heat levels opens up a world of possibilities for creating delicious, perfectly cooked meals.

Whether you’re looking to sear a steak to perfection or slow-cook tender ribs, the two-zone grilling method provides the flexibility and control you need. So fire up your grill, create those hot and cool zones, and let your culinary creativity shine.

Picture of Writen By: Hector

Writen By: Hector

Hector is the CEO and Founder of Stella On Fire Co. As a self-taught chef and entrepreneur at heart, he set out to create amazing seasonings and rub flavors everyone can enjoy. Hector is also our Food Safety and Protection Manager for Stella On Fire Co.

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