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Grilling: Direct vs. Indirect Heat + Meat Temperature Chart

Direct vs. Indirect Heat

The key to grilling is maintaining control by cooking either with direct heat or indirect heat. How you apply these techniques will dictate whether your next grilling experience is a victory or a flame-broiled failure.

So when is one technique more appropriate than the other? The answer to "direct vs. indirect" mostly depends on what you're cooking.

Direct Heat Grilling over direct heat cooks foods right over the flame or coals so that the foods receive intense heat. Thin or quick-cooking foods, like burgers or boneless chicken breasts, are most appropriate for this method. These foods can be seared on the outside and cooked through without scorching, or they can be transferred to indirect heat to finish cooking to the desired degree of doneness.

Indirect Heat Grilling over indirect heat slowly cooks foods on the grill but not right over the flame or coals. Indirect grilling is best used for larger pieces of meat that need to cook for a long time, like ribs or a whole chicken. If cooked over direct heat, these larger foods would burn on the outside before the inside could reach the proper degree of doneness.

Use the following chart as an at-a-glance source for grilling temps and times.

DIRECT HEAT

Beef Burger (4 oz. patty) = medium-high heat; 4 minutes per side; cook to 165 degrees

Chicken Breast (boneless, 4–5 oz.) = medium-high heat; 4–5 minutes per side; cook to 160 degrees

N.Y. Strip Steak (1-inch thick, 12 oz.) = medium-high heat; 5–6 minutes per side; cook to 130 degrees for medium-rare doneness, 140 degrees for medium doneness

Salmon Fillet (6–7 oz.) = medium heat; 4 minutes per side; cook to 140 degrees for medium doneness

Jumbo Shrimp (11–15 per lb.) = medium heat; 3–4 minutes per side; cook until fully pink

INDIRECT HEAT

Whole Chicken (4–5 lb.) = medium-high heat; 1 1/2 hours; cook to 165 degrees

Whole Turkey (12–15 lb.) = medium heat; 3–4 hours; cook to 170 degrees in breast

Pork Shoulder (7–8 lb.) = medium-low heat; 4–5 hours; cook to 180 degrees

Baby Back Ribs (2 1/2 lb.) = medium-low heat; 3–4 hours; cook to 180 degrees

Beef Brisket (2 lb.) = medium heat; 1 1/2–2 hours; cook to 190 degrees

Tags: Equipment, Meat