Dual zone cooking is exactly what it sounds like: dividing your grilling surface into two distinct temperature zones, one for high heat and one for low heat. Follow these dual zone grilling tips from our friends at BBQGuys to master this effective way of grilling.
This setup gives you access to direct and indirect heat at the same time, which is essential when you’re grilling foods of various thicknesses, using your grill like a convection oven, or searing a larger cut of meat that needs to be finished with low heat.
Additionally, dual-zone grilling allows you to better manage flare-ups by simply moving food from direct heat to the indirect, lower-temperature zone until the flames die down a bit. Arranging dual zones is different on a gas and charcoal grill, but both methods are simple and give you the improved heat control and cooking flexibility that every griller deserves.
How to Set up Dual Zones on a Gas Grill
Start by preheating your grill, then set some of your burners to high heat and the rest to low. How you divide the zones depends on how many burners your grill has and what kind of food you’re trying to cook. For example, you can do burgers on a 4-burner grill that’s evenly split into a pair of 2-burner zones, or, if you have a 5-burner grill, put two burners on high and leave the rest on low when using convection heat to slow-roast a whole chicken.
How to Set up Dual Zones on a Charcoal Grill
Once your coals are lit, simply push them to one side of the grill. Though hot coals will be below only half of the cooking grate, the other side will still offer heat at lower temperatures. A half-moon heat deflector or a Weber charcoal tray can also help you achieve the same setup without having to physically bank coals to one side. You can even place a water pan on top of a heat deflector, adding moisture to your versatile dual-zone setup.
These dual zone grilling tips are the key to success for many foods such as burgers, brats, chicken, steaks, pizzas, and veggies. How about giving your grill a whirl with a cowboy ribeye or grilled beer brats!
Cowboy Ribeye with Coffee Chop Dry Rub
4 16-ounce bone-in ribeye steaks
Coffee Chop Dry Rub:
7 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 teaspoons ground coffee
4 teaspoons dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground coriander
Pinch of ground turmeric
Build a two-zone fire in a charcoal grill by situating the coals on only one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty. Preheat the grill to 500°F.
Season the steaks liberally with the rub. Put the steaks over direct heat and grill for 4½ minutes on each side for rare doneness. For medium-rare, move the beef over indirect heat, away from the coals, close the grill lid, and cook for 2 more minutes. For medium, flip the steak, close the grill lid, and cook for 2 more minutes.
Pitmaster Tip: When it comes to extra-thick steaks, oftentimes the outside of the meat gets perfectly charred while the inside remains underdone. Cooking any longer over an open flame will burn the exterior. This is why it’s important to build a two-zone fire when cooking steaks. When they are perfect on the outside, shift them away from the coals and shut the grill lid. This little maneuver will protect the exterior while allowing the inside of the meat to cook to perfection.
For the Coffee Chop Dry Rub (Makes 1/2 cup): This is simply the best coffee rub I’ve ever tasted. I call it a chop rub because it’s as good on a thick-cut pork chop as on a juicy steak. I never use a crossover seasoning blend for two different meats without tweaking the ratios, but there is no need to with this rub. If you like coffee and meat, this is a happy day! —chris lilly
Grilled Beer Bratwurst with IPA Mustard BBQ Sauce
For the sauce:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups whole grain mustard
1/2 cup IPA beer
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch of salt
For the sandwiches:
6 uncooked bratwurst links
1 12-ounce beer
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 pretzel buns, split and toasted
for the red cabbage sauerkraut
1/2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup garlic, minced
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 cup cider vinegar
For the Sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and lower the heat to medium-low. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic and cook for 20 seconds more. Stir in the mustard, beer, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and salt. Simmer for 15–20 minutes until slightly thickened. Set aside.
For the Red Cabbage Sauerkraut: In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant but not browned, about 1–2 minutes. Add the cabbage, caraway seeds, mustard seeds, and vinegar to combine. Lower the heat to low and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Transfer the sauerkraut to a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or chilled. This will keep in your refrigerator for up to three days.
For the Sandwiches: Set up your grill for 2-zone cooking. For a charcoal grill, light a charcoal chimney, and when the edges of the charcoal at the top of the chimney begin to ash over, dump the pile of hot coals onto only one side of the grill to form your hot zone (direct cooking). The other empty side forms your cool zone (indirect cooking). For a gas grill, turn on the burners on only one side to form the direct zone. The other side forms your indirect zone.
Place the bratwurst, beer, and sliced onion in a disposable aluminum half-pan. When the grill is ready, place the pan over the direct heat and bring to a boil.
Move the pan over to the indirect side of the grill and close the grill lid. Simmer for 8–10 minutes or until the sausages reach an internal temperature of 160°F. Drain and discard the beer mixture.
Grill the bratwurst directly on the grates over indirect heat with the lid closed, 6-8 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally.
Assemble by placing a brat on the toasted pretzel bun, slathering on the IPA Mustard BBQ, and topping with a helping of the Quick Red Cabbage Sauerkraut.