Don't underestimate the versatility of your outdoor grill.

June 14, 2018
It can do much more than churn out burgers. To cook an entire meal—say, steak, vegetables, and bread—all at the same time, divide the grill into three zones: a direct, high-heat area for searing and fast grilling; an indirect, medium-heat area for big pieces and long-cooking items; and a low-heat safe zone, where you can toast bread and move food to if there’s a flare-up. It’s simple enough with a gas grill’s nuanced settings, but it’s just as easy with a charcoal one. Follow these five steps. Step 1: Light the coals and let them burn for at least 10 minutes. They’re ready when glowing and covered with light gray ash. Step 2: Spread two-thirds of the lit coals in a double layer over a third of the bottom grill grate. This is your hot zone, for direct-heat grilling. Step 3: Spread the remaining coals in a single layer over the center third of the grill grate. This is your medium-heat zone, for indirect grilling. Step 4: Leave a third of the grill grate coal-free. This is the safe zone, where you can move juicy burgers and skin-on chicken pieces that are flaring or foods that need to be kept warm. Step 5: Attach the top grate and get grilling.
Melinda Josie

Have you ever set out to grill a multi-part meal and found yourself sweating over the hot grates all evening, only to walk away smelling like you’ve been toasted yourself? Setting up a three-zone fire allows you to churn out more than just burgers and dogs so you can kick back and enjoy an ice-cold lemonade or beer.

To cook an entire meal—say, steak, vegetables, and bread—all at the same time, divide the grill into three zones: a direct, high-heat area for searing and fast grilling; an indirect, medium-heat area for big pieces and long-cooking items; and a low-heat safe zone, where you can toast bread and move food to if there’s a flare-up. It’s simple enough with a gas grill’s nuanced settings, but it’s just as easy with a charcoal one. To get it right, follow these five steps:

Step 1: Light the coals and let them burn for at least 10 minutes. They’re ready when glowing and covered with light gray ash.

Step 2: Spread two-thirds of the lit coals in a double layer over a third of the bottom grill grate. This is your hot zone, for direct-heat grilling.

Step 3: Spread the remaining coals in a single layer over the center third of the grill grate. This is your medium-heat zone, for indirect grilling.

Step 4: Leave a third of the grill grate coal-free. This is the safe zone, where you can move juicy burgers and skin-on chicken pieces that are flaring or foods that need to be kept warm.

Step 5: Attach the top grate and get grilling.