Weber basics: direct cooking vs indirect

Being a Weber braai master relies heavily on knowing the difference between the direct and indirect methods of cooking. Here’s what you need to know.

Unlike a traditional braai of the wood-in-the-wheelbarrow variety, your Weber gives you the choice of two cooking methods: direct and indirect.

What’s the direct cooking method?
The direct cooking method is very similar to what we traditionally think of as braaing. You will use the direct method of cooking in your Weber for any food that will take less than 25 minutes to cook such as steaks, kebabs, chops, sausage and veggies.

The direct method means that the food is cooked directly over the heat source. It will give you those impressive grill lines and allows you to sear your meat to get that delicious caremelization.
To cook using this method you will need to spread your hot coals evenly across the charcoal grid before placing the cooking grid over the coals. You can choose to use the Weber lid or not; by using the lid (with the vents open), your food will cook evenly rather than just from the hot grill. Don’t turn your food obsessively.

If you have a Weber Gas Grill, pre-heat the grill with all the burners on high. Once you’ve placed your food on the cooking grid adjust the burners to the temperature required. Close the lid and only lift it to turn your food or check whether it is ready.
What’s the indirect method?
The indirect method of cooking is very different to the direct method. The indirect method turns your Weber into a convection oven but with the added benefits of that smoky, grilled flavour and texture.

You will use this method for food that takes longer than 25 minutes to cook and for more delicate foods like fish that won’t fair well when placed over direct heat. It’s also great for foods that might burn on the outside but not cook on the inside if placed over direct heat. So consider it the perfect method to roast chickens, cook legs of lamb, fillets, and ribs.
Your hot coals need to be placed evenly on either side of the charcoal grid with a drip pan placed in the centre. Your food will be placed over the drip pan on the cooking grid. Here’s how it works: heat rises up the sides of your braai and is reflected off the lid and inside surfaces to slowly cook the food evenly on all sides. There’s no need to turn the food and you should only lift the lid (keeping the vents open) to baste or check whether your food is done.
The drip pan in the centre collects the drippings from your meat which can be delicious when used for gravies and sauces. A drip pan also helps prevent fire flare-ups when cooking fattier foods such as goose or duck. For long cooking times add water to the drip pan so that the drippings don’t burn.

If you are using a Weber Gas Grill, preheat the grill with all the burners on high. Then adjust the burners on each side of the food to the temperature noted in your recipe. Turn off the burner(s) directly below the food. For the best results place roasts, poultry, or large cuts of meat on a roasting rack set inside a disposable heavy-gauge foil pan. Again, for longer cooking times add water to the foil pan to keep drippings from burning.

So, armed with the knowledge of the difference between direct and indirect cooking, take the next step and start the fire!