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May is National BBQ Month, so what better time to take some pointers from the professionals and up your grilling game?

Like many, when I bought my first el cheapo gas grill from the hardware store, I thought hotter = better. I would turn both burners to max heat and close the lid to preheat for 10 minutes or so.

Then I would throw down my meat, and begin the dance of constantly flipping my meat over, jockeying it from hot spot to cold spot, all while it burned and stuck to the grill grate. In the end, I would usually have a mangled, burned piece of animal flesh.

Does this sound familiar?

After a few years of trial and error, I finally came across what I consider to the number one piece of advice for anyone who wants to improve their grilling skillset: learn how to use a two-zone fire when cooking.

Basics of Two Zone Cooking

Just as the name implies, you will be setting your grill up so there are two zones: a “hot” zone (aka direct heat), and a “cool” zone (aka indirect heat).

If you are using a gas grill, it will be as simple as turning on one burner while leaving the other turned off. If you are using a charcoal grill, you will bank all your charcoal to one side.

Benefits of Two Zone Cooking

A two-zone setup is ideal when cooking on your grill because it allows you to have much better control over your temperature, and you will always have a “cool” side where you are not exposing your food to direct heat and risking it burning.

Cooking on the Direct Side

Foods like hamburgers do not need a lot of time and can be cooked at high heat. You can place your meat on the direct side and cook for 5 – 10 minutes without issue. Once you are done searing the meat, you can check its internal temperature and if it is not cooked to your liking, you can always move it to the indirect side until the temperature rises.

Cooking on the Indirect Side

This is my personal favorite way to cook pretty much anything. Foods that are coated with a sugar based rub can be cooked on the indirect side without risk of burning.

Large roasts can be cooked on the indirect side and allow their internal temp to slowly rise without the outside burning.

Any meat that is skin on is allowed to slowly cook and the fat that is in the skin can render out and become crispy without the skin sticking to the grill or burning.

Play with Your Grill

Now that you understand the basics of two zone cooking, the only thing left to do is break out some meat, fire up your grill and out find what works best for you! 

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