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Three Basic Grill set up, Barbecue set and Smoker set up techniques; 

"Direct Heat", "Indirect Heat" and "Low'n Slow Smoking"
 


Direct Heat Grilling: 

There are essentially 2 methods for "Direct Heat" grilling; High Heat over red coals and Smoldering Heat grilling (Some call this "Pit Cooking").  You will find this to more often be Grill set up.

High Direct Heat

This is exactly what it sounds like;  In this grill set up, build a fire in the center of the bottom grate of your grill using natural wood charcoal.  You can do this with a chimney starter or parafin starter or lighter fluid.  When the coals are glowing red rake them over about 2/3 of the grill leaving 1/3 with no coals so you can have a cool spot to pull food off to if you need it.  Put the top grill grate on, let the grate heat up, lubricate and you are ready to go.  If you like you can throw a handful of soaked fruitwood chips on the coals just before cooking and you will add a slight smoky essence to your meat. 

If you are using a gas grill, simply light the middle 2 or three burners on the grill and let it heat up.  Keep at least one buner on one or both of the sides unlit to use as your cool spot.  Many gas grills have a smoke box over one of the burners (usually a small drawer).  If you want some smoke add some soaked fruitwood chips to the box. 

Smoldering Direct Heat (Open-Pit Cooking) 

This barbecue set up is essentially the same as high direct heat (like grill set up) but you use a more pungent natural charcoal or hardwood like "mesquite", let it burn way down to nothing but grey ashen coals.  spread an even layer across the bottom of your firebox and replace the top grate.  You cook larger cuts of meat over a longer period of time over the smoldering smoky bed.  You DO NOT COVER the grill.

The only tricky part is that you must have a second grill in which to burn your coals down to that ashen consistency and be prepared to do it for awhile.  Notice I did not say "Difficult"  I said tricky.  This is not hard, it just takes some logistical handling.  As the embers in the second grill burn down to grey you replenish the primary grill with the coals (using a small shovel) to keep the coals under your food fresh but low and smoldering.  If you have a very large grill you can do this off to the side of the main cooking section and when they burn way down you can rake the smoldering coals onto the cooking section.  BUT you need a really big grill to do this so you don't have any carry-over heat.

Barbecue using this method takes just as long as the low and slow method and requires some liquid mopping but it renders a unique flavor that is hard to get any other way. 

Off and on I will offer a few recipes that will give you an option of doing it this way.  I recommend trying one of them sometime and see how you like it.  Most people opt for this when when you can start in the mid morning and there is a whole afternoon dedicated to outdoor hanging around with family and lots of friends.  Tending to all of the logistics becomes part of the day.   


Indirect Heat:
 

Indirect cooking is achieved in a Barbecue set up or smoker set up by using a heat source that is either completely away from the meat (sometimes called offset cookers or cookers with an offset fire box) OR when the heat source is deflected from the meat (as when using a ceramic or steal defuser).  Either way the meat you are cooking is receiving no heat directly.  This is generally used for the larger cuts of meat that you want to bake or smoke.  You will be looking to oachieve temperatures of between 250 - 375 degrees.  See the recipes for grill temperature recommendations.

Indirect Heat - Standard Grill

In this smoker set up, build a fire in the center of the firebox of your grill (Bottom grill portion) with natural hardwood charcoal or briquettes.  Use a chimney starter, parafin starter or lighter fluid to get the fire going.  When the coals are burning red, rake 1/2 the coals to one side and the other 1/2 to the other side leaving the middle empty.  Place a metal drip pan in the middle replace the top grill grate and close the lid on the grill leaving both top and bottom air-openings all the way open.  When the cooker has reached the desired temperature (hopefully your grill has a temperature guage imbedded in the top), close both the top and the bottom openings to only 1/8 - 1/4 open.  You are slowing the air usage on the grill to manage the coals and the heat.  If the heat starts to drop too much open the top and bottom a little until it climbs a bit.  Close them a bit if it's getting too hot and so forth...

Add a handfull of soaked fruitwood chips or a soaked chunk of fruitwood to the sides with the coals to produce some smoke if you wish.

Indirect Heat - Ceramic Cooker

Build a fire in the center of the firebox of your ceramic cooker (Bottom grill portion) with
natural hardwood charcoal.  DO NOT USE briquettes for Ceramic cookers.  They burn too fast.  Fill the bottom of the fire box with about a 4 inch tall layer of charcoal across the entire bottom of the firebox.  Add a chunk or two of soaked fruitwood chunks half way out from the center OR add soaked fruitwood chips in a spiral pattern starting in the center and moving in a pinwheel pattern to the outside.  That way you will have a steady stream of light smoke throughout the cooking process.  Use an electric starter, chimney starter or parafin starter and start the fire in the "middle" of the firebox.  The fire will burn outward from the center over time.  Put the defuser back in place, put the top grill grate back on, close the lid on the grill leaving both top and bottom air-openings all the way open at first.  When the cooker has reached the desired temperature (hopefully your grill has a temperature guage imbedded in the top), close both the top and the bottom openings to only 1/8 - 1/4 open.  You are slowing the air usage on the grill to manage the coals and the heat.  If the heat starts to drop too much open the top and bottom a little until it climbs a bit.  Close them a bit if it's getting too hot and so forth.  You want "Smoldering" here.

Indirect Heat - Offset Firebox

Build a fire in the center of the off-set firebox of your grill / smoker with natural hardwood charcoal.  DO NOT USE briquettes for offset firebox cookers either.  They burn too fast.  Fill the bottom of the fire box with about a 4 inch tall layer of charcoal across the entire bottom of the firebox.  Use a chimney starter or parafin starter and start the fire in the firebox. close the lid on the firebox leaving both top and bottom air-openings all the way open.  When the cooker has reached the desired temperature (hopefully your grill has a temperature guage imbedded in
 the top), close both the top and the bottom openings to only 1/8 - 1/4 open.  You are slowing
the air usage on the grill to manage the coals and the heat.  If the heat starts to drop too much
open the top and bottom a little until it climbs a bit.  Close them a bit if it's getting too hot and
so forth.  You want "Smoldering" here.

Add a chunk or two of soaked fruitwood chunks to the firebox to get the level of smokiness that you desire.  Replenish as necessary.  That way you will have a steady stream of light smoke throughout the cooking process.  You may have to add some charcoal as well from time to time as offset firebox cookers / smokers have a tendancy to eat it up quicker than ceramic.
 


Low'n Slow "Smoking": 

This a more traditional barbecue set up.  This is a method of cooking indirectly using very low heat over a long period of time to break down the collagen, connective tissue and fat in a large cut of meat making it juicy, tender and lucious and adds that deeper "smoke" flavor.

Essentially this smoker set up is low and slow and the grill set up is exactly the same as the instructions in the Indirect Heat above with a couple of slight modifications.  Follow the above "Indirect Heat" directions for either offset firebox or ceramic cookers but:

1)  Add more soaked wood chunks or chips to get heavier smoke and replenish as necessary and often.
2)  Set the cooker up to acheive and keep a steady temperature of between 250-275 degrees
 for up to 10 or more hours. 
  
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