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Get Into The Zone When Grilling

Get Into The Zone When Grilling

No, I’m not talking about your level of focus when grilling, although, it’s still a good idea to pay attention to this article! Zone Grilling can be done in a gas or charcoal grill or even a smoker. Zone grilling may sound intimidating at first, but you’re probably already practicing it. There are two different types of Zone Grilling; Direct and Indirect. In this article we will be talking exclusively about Indirect Grilling.

What is Indirect Grilling?

Indirect Grilling is simply that. This form of grilling stresses the importance of temperature control on a grill or smoker; if you want perfectly juicy, tender and succulent proteins, you’re going to need to control that heat through different channels, and even out the time it takes to achieve perfection.

How do you Do it?

Indirect Grilling can be done in two ways:

  1. Indirect/ 2-Zone:heat from a gas or charcoal grill is placed on one side of your grill or smoker. This provides indirect heat for the other side of the grill, which is where you will be placing the food. This is perfect for low and slow cooking and smoking, in low to medium temperatures. Roasts such as pork and beef will burn before they are cooked through if placed over direct heat. This functions like your oven, allowing you to bake delicate things including desserts like cheesecake and cookies. (hyperlink)

    2-Zone cooking is great when you have different foods that need to be cooked at once. It is great way to get a high level of flavor; for example: you can cook seafood gently on the indirect side, and put veggies on the direct zone to sear and cook quickly. The Indirect zone is helpful for preventing the burning of meat, sauces and rubs. Fruit such as pineapple or peaches are awesome grilled, but burn quickly over direct heat in a charcoal or gas grill. For best results, start them in the indirect zone, and move them over for a minute or two to brown in the high heat.

  2. 3-Zone:Direct heat from gas or charcoal, on both sides of the grill, with a channel in between is the hallmark of 3-Zone Grilling. For big roasts and cuts of meat, a three zone fire is the best way to cook. Placing meat in the center of the grill will provide a constant and even heat just like your oven. This will make sure you don’t end up with a hockey puck instead of an expensive cut of meat. 3-Zone cooking is a bit faster, adding more heat in the range of 300 to 400°F.

Is Zone Cooking strictly charcoal use?

The answer is no. You can cook indirect on a gas grill, a charcoal grill or smoker.

How to:

On a gas grill, with two to three burners, turn on the two outside burners on the far left and far right (3-Zone) or just the far left burner (basic Indirect). This will heat the entire cooking grid, providing a different heat on both sides of the grill. For best results, keep the temperature at a low (225°F) range; you can always raise the temperature slowly if you need.

With charcoal, the preparation takes a bit longer. Prepare and light your charcoal in a chimney starter and wait about 20 minutes. To learn how to use and light a starter, click here. Once the charcoal is ready, empty it onto one side for a 2-Zone or carefully pile on both sides, or around the outer edge of the grill or smoker’s charcoal bed, leaving an open space in the middle for 3-Zone. You can use charcoal baskets to keep the coals neatly placed, or buy a charcoal tray to convert your gas grill if you do not own a charcoal grill or smoker, and create your zone heat using the tray instead of the burners.


To enhance the flavor of your food while zone cooking, you can also try these awesome tricks at home!

  1. Using an aluminum pan, fill about an inch of cool water. Place this on the indirect side of your grill; the steam and moisture will help the meat breathe and become even more juicy and tender.

  2. Again with an aluminum pan, you can make infused oils or aromatics with different ingredients. This can be a combination of anything including olive oil, garlic, tomato, rosemary, thyme, chili...the list goes on. Add an inch of oil (you can use olive, canola or a fancy store bought oil) combine spices, veggies, herbs; you name it. Make sure everything is nestled evenly in the pan, and again place on the indirect side. This will add awesome flavor to any meat, poultry or fish.

  3. Use soaked wood chips! Using your favorite wood chips or chunks, soak them in room temperature water for about a half hour to an hour. These come in flavors such as hickory, apple, maple, cherry, mesquite and so much more. Place these on top of your charcoal for that awesome smoky flavor! Depending on how long you’re cooking, make sure you have more wood to replenish with.

Zone Grilling is an easy way to add interest to your grilled meals and take the mastery of your grill to the next level. Keep watching the Napoleon Grill Blog for more articles about Zone Grilling, and check out the Recipe Blog for inspiration on how to use these techniques to their fullest.

Did you discover you’re already a pretty savvy griller after reading this article? What is your favorite recipe to grill using Indirect Grilling? Leave a comment below and let us know.