Whilst you are cooking directly over the hot coals, it is still possible to achieve different temperature levels. This is particularly useful for cooking different types of meat. If you are aiming to achieve a nice sear on a steak, you want a high direct heat however cooking something like chicken over the same high heat will burn the outside before the centre is cooked.
The same can also be said for things like sausages. A high direct heat will burst the casings causing the fat to render out of them and they will become dry.
The easiest way to control your temperature is by adding different amounts of charcoal. The more lit charcoal you add, the higher your temperature will be. Hot and fast isn’t always the best way when it comes to grilling. Sometimes dialling the temperature back a little will allow you to control your cooking and stop things getting too frantic if you have a full cooking grate of food to deal with.
Creating different heat zones
Experiment with setting up different heat zones when you are cooking directly over the coals. In the last tip we discussed having a safe zone to one side of your cooking grate but you can also make some adjustments to the area of direct heat.
If your safe zone takes up ⅓ of your charcoal grate, the remaining ⅔ can be set up to give you an area of high heat and medium heat. By banking the majority of your coals to the outside edge of the charcoal grate and spreading the coals a little thinner in the middle third, you will have an area of high heat, and an area of medium heat and then your safe zone.
This is a great setup to learn about different heat zones and how food cooks over different levels of heat. You can start food off on the high heat area to give them a nice sear, then move them to the medium direct heat to finish off cooking with the safe zone there for anything that gets out of hand.
Grilling hot and fast can sometimes get a little stressful if you are cooking lots of food but by staying in control of your heat zones and understanding which foods cook better at different temperatures, it will make it easier to cook all your food at the same rate and allow you to stay relaxed at all times.