How to Do Two-Zone Grilling: Perfect for Steaks!

How to Do Two-Zone Grilling: Perfect for Steaks!

If you’ve been following my recipes for a while, you’ll notice that many of them use two-zone grilling. This cooking method is perfect for grilling steak, chicken, and more! When you create a two-zone fire, you amplify your level of control, even when using a charcoal grill. 

It’s a popular misconception that charcoal grills have a mind of their own. That’s not the case when you create a two-zone fire! In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to create a hot-zone and a cool-zone for creating the best food in the neighborhood. 

How to Do Two-Zone Grilling: Heath Riles BBQ

The formal term for “hot-zone” and “cool-zone” is direct and indirect heat. Chances are, you’re using both of these heat sources already, just not simultaneously. Direct heat is great for cooking hot and fast or adding a gorgeous sear to a pork chop or steak. Indirect heat gives you a low and slow taste, keeping the inside of your meat tender. 

When you get both heat sources going at the same time, true magic happens!

The Supplies

  • Charcoal Grill. One of my favorite charcoal grills is the Weber Kettle Grill.  If you’re not into fussing with technology, try this grill. Weber produces high-quality pits that last for ages. This model is easy to store, making it perfect for small spaces.
  • Another great charcoal pit is the PK 360 grill. This cast iron grill is durable and holds heat in all types of weather. It’s a favorite among those who live in extreme climates. 
  • Chimney. A chimney keeps your charcoal in one place, heating it evenly. I love my custom-made chimney from Cotton Gin Smokers. This heavy-duty option lasts years and looks incredible! Another great pick is the Vortex Chimney, a favorite among pitmasters.
  • Charcoal. My charcoal of choice is always Royal Oak Charcoal. They produce a clean product with no fillers. Their charcoal gives meat and veggies a deep, authentic flavor. Royal Oak’s authenticity is boosted even more by their reasonable pricing. You can purchase their products nearly anywhere these days! One bag lasts a long time because this charcoal burns hot and fast.
  • Tumbleweeds. If you like Royal Oak Charcoal, you’ll love these firestarters. Royal Oak created these tumbleweeds so pitmasters could have an all-natural firestarter. They contain wood and wax, nothing else! I’ve used them numerous times with success. 

How to Do Two-Zone Grilling 

You’ll find a visual demonstration of two-zone cooking in many of my videos featuring the Weber Kettle Grill. For now, here’s a quick rundown of how I get things rolling. 

  • Clean the grill. If my grill is looking extra grimy, I’ll use a grill brush to get any debris off the grates. 
  • Fill the chimney. Next, I set my chimney in the center of the grill and filled it with Royal Oak Charcoal
  • Add a fire starter.  I lit one of Royal Oak Charcoal’s Tumbleweeds near the bottom of the chimney so it could quickly ignite the charcoal. 
  • Let it sit. The charcoal needs time to heat up, so I let it sit for 15 minutes. The charcoal is ready when it develops a layer of ash and glows red. 
  • Distribute the charcoal. Once the charcoal was ready, I poured it all on one side of the Weber Kettle Grill. This creates an extremely hot-zone, a cool-zone, and a middle-of-the-road zone. The only thing left was to shut the lid and let the grates heat up! 

Why Two-Zone Grilling?

Why take the time to learn how to do two-zone grilling? The reasons are endless! Here are a few of my favorite benefits. 

  • Freedom. With two-zone grilling, you aren’t stuck cooking over direct heat. You have the freedom to slow or speed up the cooking process as you wish. 
  • Time. Sometimes, you need to finish something hot and fast. Two-zone cooking allows you to get food grilled in record time without sacrificing flavor. 
  • Taste. Many prefer food cooked over charcoal, as it has a rich, authentic flavor. Two-zone grilling allows you to add char to your wings, steaks, and burgers, amping up the taste factor.
  • Reverse-searing. If you want to dive into reverse searing, you absolutely NEED a two-zone fire. No other method will give you that perfectly finished steak or prime rib. 

My Favorite Recipes for Two-Zone Grilling

Now that you know how to do two-zone grilling, you need some recipes to practice! Here are a few of my favorite suggestions. 

  • $100 Wagyu Flank Steak Fajitas. If you’re in the mood to treat yourself, you can’t go wrong with a plate of $100 Wagyu Flank Steak Fajitas. They’re seasoned with Heath Riles BBQ Beef Rub and are the most tender Tex-Mex dish around! Add some cilantro and charred tortillas for good measure. 
  • Herb-Crusted Prime Rib. This prime rib is the perfect addition to any holiday table. It features a gorgeous, herb-infused crust and a juicy, rich inside. Bonus: You’ll have leftovers for sandwiches! 
  • Hawaiian-Style Burgers.  These delicious burgers are packed with tropical flavor! Charred pineapple, succulent beef, and a spicy mayo combine for one mind-blowing experience. This recipe is bound to be a family favorite! 

Equipment and Tools

Weber Kettle Grill, Cotton Gin Smokers, Vortex Chimney, Royal Oak Charcoal, Royal Oak Tumbleweeds.

Back to blog