The Magic of Multi-zone Grilling

The Magic of Multi-zone Grilling

June 26, 2012

Wood-fired Tomahawk Chops with Grilled Mushrooms and Garlic Scapes

When most of us conjure images of cooking on the grill, we think of grilling above a hot fire. Burgers, chicken breasts and steaks are all part of the standard repertoire. Simply light the fire, preheat the grill and throw the food on the grate. Let’s move beyond this basic concept and create some real magic with multi-zone cooking. One area of the grill grate is hot — preferably very hot — with a strong fire below it. Another area of the grate has no fire below it at all. This is the “indirect zone.”

  Multi-zone grilling is ideal for medium-to-large cuts of meat; like a steak cut 1-inch-thick or more. The idea is to sear the steak over the hottest fire for up to a minute per side (depending on the heat of your grill) and then move it to the indirect zone, close the grill hood and let the steak coast up to temperature. The time over the hot fire provides the perfect flavor and texture on the outside of the steak (the Malliard Reaction) while the time in the indirect zone lets the interior  cook slowly, resulting in a tender and juicy steak. Using a wood fire for this technique will add subtle, smoky flavors.

The basics of multi-zone grilling:

  For gas grills:

  •        Preheat the entire grill with the grill hood closed
  •        Turn off one section of the grill
  •        For charcoal grills
  •        Start a charcoal fire and pre-heat the grill grate
  •        Distribute the coals to one side of the grill


 For Hybrid Fire Grills: 

  •        Load wood and/or charcoal into a Hybrid Fire Grilling Drawer for 1/3 to 1/2 of the grill
  •        Start the fire using the burner(s) below the solid fuel and preheat the grill with the hood closed
  •        Season the meat with olive oil and salt
  •        Sear the meat on the hottest part of the grill until browned and showing grill marks
  •        Move the meat to the indirect zone, close the hood and let it coast up to the desired temperature, turning once along the way


What you’ll need:

  •        A grill that can exceed 700ºF and has a lid or hood
  •        A target hood thermometer reading of 500ºF while using the multi-zone method
  •        A nice, thick cut of meat, preferably bone-in (some people even enjoy this technique for grilling the perfect burger).


What to cook:

  •        Rib steaks or strip steaks at least 1 ½ inch thick, or filets at least 2 inches thick
  •        Pork chops at least 1 ½ inch thick, preferably bone-in
  •        Swordfish steaks at least 1 ½ inch thick

For more information on grilling techniques, visit