Your Guide for Temperature Control: 2 Zone Cooking

What is 2 Zone Cooking?

Two Zone Cooking, or Two Zone Grilling, allows you to control the temperature that is applied to food within your cooking unit. Ovens, for example, often have different temperature zones to bake multiple items at once. When grilling, creating a 2-zone cooking space is easy. You don’t even need to know everything about how to use a charcoal grill. Essentially, all you need is your BBQ kit and have one side of the grill going with direct heat and one side with indirect heat. It can be as simple as placing charcoal to one side of the BBQ pit. In the case of a gas grill, it can be as simple as having one side’s burner on while the other is off.


2 zone cooking has a bunch of benefits. You have the flexibility to cook several items at different temperatures. Like if you have a bunch of people requesting their steaks to be cooked to different temps but don’t want to hang out on the grill longer than necessary? No problem, push the steaks for the “rare” people to the cooler zone and keep that flame on the “well done” people. The beauty of using a 2-zone cooking zone is the control. “Well done” guy wanted you to get the flame higher to char his steak? Did it catch? Trying to control that flame without starting a whole bonfire at the cookout? 2 zone cooking helps because indirect heat gives you far more control that solely a direct flame can give you.


What is temperature control?

Temperature control is the process of changing the temperature in a space or of a substance. Scientifically, it is using the passage of heat energy into or out of a space or substance to achieve the desired temperature. In cooking, it is monitoring the temp of a cooking zone and changing that temperature accordingly based on what your food item needs. In addition to changing the temperature of a cooking zone, using the various temperatures to your advantage instantly turns you into a pro on the grill. Temperature control in cooking comes down to two types of heat: direct heat and indirect heat. A lot of people try to control temperature by closing lids and controlling smoke by fiddling with vents. This is something that is great for BBQing and something that you’ll still want to master for the art of barbecue. For grilling, however, you want to be able to control temperature by using the 2-zone grilling method.


Direct Heat

Direct heat is all burners (or charcoal) providing high heat or often known as flame-broiling for grillers. Direct simply means that your food is directly over the heat source and is cooked with radiant heat. There isn’t anything wrong with this form of cooking. In fact, if you’re just looking to throw a couple of steaks on, flip them halfway through cooking and call it done. This method is quick and easy for items that take less time to cook.

Using direct heat is the usual starting point for grillers. That might change after reading this piece because with control over your temperature, you get a variation of flavors along with a more tender outcome for most grilled items. With a traditional 1 zone cooking method, or only using direct heat, you run the risk of burning, overcooking, or drying out your food.


Indirect Heat

Using indirect heat is like using convection heat like a traditional oven. This is what you would want to use for larger, typically tougher, meats. Indirect heat is where your food is not directly above the flame meaning there is no direct radiant heat: it is strictly cooked by convection.

Using indirect heat, properly, will lead to wonderfully juicy flavor. If you master the using of indirect heat and temperature control in general, your barbecue game will be elevated to a whole new level. The best part of using indirect heat: you get a delectably tender outcome without the fear of burning your food before it’s had a chance to cook evening or properly throughout!

A lot of times, people try to cook chicken too fast. The problem with this, is you’re going to dry out your chicken. Because of this, you want to cook your chicken on your indirect heat zone!


Pro Tip

After you’ve mastered how to cook steak on a grill, you can move on to harder recipes. The more comfortable you get with controlling your temp zones, you can step up your grilling game and grill multiple items at once! Essentially, you’ll have one item in the hot zone and another on the “cooler” side.

A couple of items that could work together are delicious NY Strips and chicken wings. You can cook the NY Strip at a higher temperature with your chicken wings cooking with the indirect heat. After your chicken wings are is finished cooking, and your NY Strip is done cooking on the higher temperature, you can then move your perfectly cooked steak to the “cooler” zone to rest before slicing. For a pit master, the only problem you’ll have on the grill will be not having enough mouths to feed with all the deliciousness you’ll be serving up!
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