The Most Important BBQ Concept For Backyard Cooks

The single most essential concept an outdoor cook needs to understand is the importance of temperature control and how to use a 2-zone setup.

Whether you are cooking on an El Cheapo Charcoal Grill from Wally World, a Super Sabre Jet Stainless Steel Gas Grill from Williams of Napa, or a Texas Tinkermann Iron Tube Competitor mounted on a trailer, most outdoor cooking goes best if you use a 2-zone setup. Even if you are only cooking hot dogs.

To cook delicious food, you need to control your cooking temperature because the compounds in foods react differently to different levels of heat. For example, meats are composed of protein, water, fat, collagen, and some sugars, and each component changes drastically at different temperatures. Fats render at one temp, water evaporates at another, collagens melt at another, sugar caramelizes at another, the Maillard reaction (a.k.a. browning of proteins) occurs at another, and carbonization (a.k.a. charring or burning) occurs at yet another temp.

The most common mistake outdoor cooks make is using too much direct heat

To gain control of temp, a 2-zone setup is ideal because it gives you much better control over temperature and method of applying heat. In a 2-zone setup, you have one side of the grill that is hot and producing radiant direct heat, and the other side is producing no heat and food on that side cooks by indirect convection heat. We’ll call one the direct zone and the other the indirect zone.

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