Cookin' Outdoors with Johnny Nix                                
Y'all Eat Yet?                                                                                                 
Outdoor Grilling
  • Equipment
  • Direct and Indirect Cooking
  • Grilling Tips


There are multiple varieties of grills with most falling into one of two categories:  gas fueled and charcoal.  There is a great debate over the merits of charcoal or gas for use as the cooking method between grillers.  Electric indoor and stove-top grills have also recently become popular.

The gas grill has long been used as the ultimate convenience for grilling outdoors and with new innovative technology you can do so much more.  Charcoal grills have also been a preferred method of cooking meats for many people and can be used for cooking casseroles and cakes as well.

Gas grills are now coming equipped with many features such as side burners, infrared burners, rotisseries, warming trays and host of different cooking elements for flame free cooking.  It is possible to cook your whole meal on the grill and never heat up your house to bake bread or complete your meal with a casserole.  

Better gas grills generally have two or more separate burners, which allow greater control of heat.  The BTU rating doesn’t measure heat output.  It’s actually a rating of how much gas the grill can burn.  A well-designed grill actually conserves BTU’s.  Grills with 600 square inches of cooking space only need about 35,000 BTU’s to reach a temperature of 600 degrees.  Burners should be made of high-grade stainless steel, which will not rust and will stand up to the high heat.

Infrared burners work by igniting gas to superheat a ceramic tile, causing it to emit infrared radiation that cooks food.  The benefits are that heat is uniformly distributed across the cooking surface and that temperatures reach over 900 degrees F allowing users to sear items quickly.

Both gas and charcoal grills can be used to as direct or indirect methods of cooking although most people tend to use the grill for direct cooking. Think of it as direct heat being your stove-top and indirect heat being your oven when planning your meal.   

The direct method or cooking food directly over the heat is used for foods that take less than 25 minutes to cook, like steaks and burgers but you can also use a cast iron frying pan to cook bacon and eggs or a griddle to make some great pancakes on the grill.  

The indirect method is used for slow cooking or for foods that require more than 25 minutes or more of grilling just as if you were using your oven in your home.  Most people just think of using the indirect method on the grill for large cuts of meats such as roasts or whole chickens but you can also bake casseroles, breads and even cook cakes.  This is easily accomplished with gas grills by turning off any burners that are directly below the food so that burners on both sides of the food are adjusted to equal amounts of heat.  Indirect cooking with charcoal requires the charcoal to be placed into two equal piles one on each side of the cooking grate.  Charcoal should be added to the fire every hour to maintain an even cooking temperature.


1.  Prepare your grill and your meal according to recipe instructions for direct or indirect cooking.  Make sure your charcoal has a light gray ash coating or your gas grill has reached a temperature of 500 degrees before starting to cook.

2.  A light coating of oil to meats or vegetables will prevent foods from sticking and will ensure your foods will brown evenly.

3.  Use a food thermometer to check for doneness rather than poking your meat with a fork or mashing it with a spatula which causes the juices and flavor to escape and can cause your food to dry out.

4.  Resist the urge to open the lid to check on your food.  Every time you lift the lid the heat escapes and will prolong cooking time.  It will also reduce flare-ups particularly if you are cooking with charcoal.

5.  Remember the 25-minute rule when choosing direct or indirect heat methods and replenish charcoal every hour for slow cooking.