Here are some techniques and guidelines on
grilling methods, determining grill temperatures, and to help you determine doneness
(although nothing is as good an instant thermometer). Although this
will help you achieve great results
you'll want to refine them with experience using your particular grill in your particular
Direct grilling refers to the method whereby you cook directly
over hot coals (see section below to determine how hot, hot, really
is) usually with the cover off to maintain optimum temperature of the
coals. This is true grilling because the essence of grilling involves
the quick searing of the surface of the food. This ensures the
charring and caramelizing that defines grilled food.
Indirect grilling is not true grilling, it's
really more like oven roasting, but done outdoors in a grill. For this
method the coals are heaped on two sides of
the grill with an open space between them and often separated by a drip pan. The food is
placed in the center of the grill and cooks indirectly with the grill
covered to build up enough heat to roast the food. A general
rule-of-thumb is that anything taking a short period of time should be grilled
directly and anything taking longer should be grilled indirectly. As with all rules
there are exceptions. Take for example beef steaks. Steaks should be seared
directly over the coals and then finished indirectly, off of the coals. The charts
below suggest which method to use based on the type of meat as well as the particular cut.
Multi-Level grilling means maintaining
different levels of heat in the same grill. This is accomplished by
stacking the coals so as to produce two (or more) heat zones. This
is ideal for foods that need to be seared over very hot coals then moved
to a cooler fire to finish off the cooking.
Here is a tried and true technique for determining if your grill is
ready to cook. This terminology is widely accepted by grill chefs so now when the
recipe calls for a "hot" grill you'll know just when yours is ready.
- Very hot: You can hold your hand at grill level only 1 to 2
- Hot: You can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds.
- Medium-hot: You can hold your hand at grill level only 3 to 4
- Medium: You can hold your hand at grill level only 4 to 5
- Medium-low: You can hold your hand at grill level only 5 to 6
- Low: You can hold your hand at grill level only 6 to 7 seconds.
The temperatures in my charts are generally lower than those published by the
USDA. This is due to their natural concern about food safety. However,
most professional cooks feel the higher temperatures are unwarranted, and overly
conservative. The temperatures found here are in keeping with those used in fine
restaurants. For in-between doneness, for example medium-rare, split the difference
As mentioned earlier the cooking times are approximate due to the differences in fire
temperature from grill to grill. I advise starting to check the meat with an instant
read thermometer when you reach the low end of the cooking range.
Lastly, keep in mind that the internal temperature of meat will rise after allowing the
meat to sit for a few minutes after removing it from the grill (this is recommended).
The temperatures given here tell you when to remove it from the grill not the final
temperature before serving.