Indirect vs Direct vs Combo - The different cooking methods

Written in 2024
by Adam

    There are a couple of secrets that you need to make sure that your barbecued food tastes delicious. A key first step is making sure that you have the perfect selection of raw foods and you should certainly make sure that you are choosing your sources carefully. However, once you have selected the raw meats and possibly some veg, it’s all about picking the right cooking method.

    There are three types to consider here. These are direct, indirect and a combo. But what do these cooking methods actually involve?

    Well, they are fairly self-explanatory. Directly, means that you are cooking your foods directly and using the power of the flame. On the other hand, if you are using the indirect method, then the cooking is using reflected heat to cook the meat. As such, it’s nowhere near as close to the source of the flame. As for the combo, well, that’s just a mixture of both. Let’s take a look at the direct method first.

    Choosing The Direct Method

    You’ll notice that each method is suitable for different types of foods. In the case of the direct method, you want to use it for cooking food that takes no more than twenty minutes until they are cooked to perfection. So, anything like steak, burgers and veg should be cooked with this method.

    You need to put the food right over the source of heat and only turn it over once through cooking. You can use this method on virtually any grill, but you should have the lid closed if you want your food to cook fast.

    With a gas barbecue, you want to make sure that all the burners are turned up high. Let the barbecue warm up for about ten minutes and then put the food over the burners.

    If you’re using a charcoal BBQ, you need to make sure that the lid and bowl vents are opened. Briquettes should be spread evenly and then put the food directly above the hot coals.

    Working With The Indirect Method

    Cooking indirectly is best for larger pieces of meat that need longer cooking times at a far lower temperature. Turkey would be the classic example here, but there are lots of others like ribs, roasts and brisket. Here, you will use the reflection of the heat for fast cooking while keeping those delicious juices. You shouldn’t place the food directly over the burners or the charcoal, and you shouldn’t lift the lid.

    This makes this method of cooking slightly more difficult because every time you lift the lid, you let heat escape. With a charcoal BBQ, you need to keep the briquettes on each side of the grate. Add a little water into a drip tray and put the food directly above that on the cooking grate.

    With a gas oven, you need to turn the burners up on full and preheat for up to ten minutes. Then, turn off the middle burner and put the food above it. Put the other burns down to medium before shutting the lid.

    For the combo method, starting cooking directly for a few minutes and then switch to indirect cooking. This is useful when you want meat like steaks and chops with a seared outer layer and a tender or juicy inside.

    Written by Adam

    Adam is the creator of the SmokeGuys website, running it since 2016. Hater of coriander, lover of all things meat... Adam currently works in marketing with a dream of being able to make food his full-time 'job' in the longer term.

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