Oct. 27, 2011
How To Set Up A Grill Fire Properly
"Or Firebug Class 101"
By: Larry Howeth
Setting up your grill for the best results depends on two things: the type of grill you have and the kind of food
you plan to cook. We will look at the two ways to set up your grill for most cooking situations: direct and
indirect grilling. It is certainly possible to grill by just tossing the briquettes in, spraying them with lighter
fluid and lighting a match to them. However, you will have better results by setting up your grill for controlled
We will start with direct grilling. You will need enough charcoal to cover the bottom of your grill or fire grate
and enough extra to replenish the coals for extended cook times. Place the briquettes in a single layer in order to
know how many to use to start your fire. Once you have done this you will know how many to use next time you
If you plan to use lighter fluid then stack the charcoal briquettes in a pyramid shape, soak them in fluid, wait a
few minutes and light. Once ash begins to form use long handled tongs to place the briquettes in a single
I would suggest, however, that you use either a charcoal chimney starter or an electric starter. These two grill
accessories are relatively inexpensive and help in two ways. They eliminate the need to repeatedly purchase starter
fluid, and they avoid the chance that the lighter fluid odor will be passed on to your food.
This is the simple, basic one level grilling process with the food directly over the coals or burners of a gas
There are times when you might want to grill foods that have different cook times. For example, you may want to
grill steaks and vegetables at the same time, or perhaps grill several steaks that are different in thickness. In
this case you would want to set your grill up for two-level grilling.
For this set up you use a single layer of briquettes in half of your grill and stack a double or triple layer of
coals in the other half. This gives you a cooler area for veggies or thinner cuts and a hotter area for thicker
cuts of meat.
On a gas grill you do this by setting burners at different temperature levels.
The next technique is indirect grilling. There are several ways to set this up, and it is used primarily for foods
that need longer cooking times or are too delicate to safely cook over a direct fire. This method works well on
large cuts of meat such as roasts and briskets.
There are three basic ways of setting up the grill for this technique. The first is to place your coals all on one
side of the grill and leave the other half empty. The second is to place an equal amount of coals on each side of
the grill with a space in the center. Finally, you can place the briquettes around the edges of the grill with the
center area open. In all three methods you should place a drip pan containing about a half inch of water in the
empty space with the food directly above it. Try to keep the grill lid closed as much as possible.
On a gas grill with multiple burners you can indirect grill by lighting some of the burners and leaving others off.
With two burners you can light one and place the food in the area with the unlit burner. With three or more burners
simply light the outer burners and place the food in the center where there are no lit burners. A drip pan can be
used under the food just like on the charcoal grill.
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Setting up your grill fire properly will allow you to match the heat to the food being cooked and give you better