Direct Heat Grilling

Master this basic grilling technique.

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Direct heat grilling is cooking food directly over the heat source, usually a hot fire, throughout the entire cooking process. It's good for thin cuts (less than two inches thick) of meat, seafood or vegetables and perfect for burgers. If using a gas grill, turn on all valves to the same level. If using charcoal, spread the coals evenly throughout your cooking area.

To judge the heat level of the coals, hold your hand about five inches directly above the grill. If you can hold it there for a second, it's very hot; for two seconds, it's hot; for three to four, it's medium; for five, it's medium-low and for six, it's low.

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Lighting a Charcoal Fire for Direct Grilling

1. Set your grill on an even surface in an open area. Remove the grates, empty out any old ashes and open the vents on the lid.

2. Place the charcoal grate (the smaller grate) in the bottom of the grill.

3. Fill a large chimney starter with either charcoal briquettes or hardwood charcoal — both can be found at your local hardware store. Briquettes burn slowly with a moderately hot temperature; hardwood charcoal burns hot and fast. We like a combination of the two: Use a large chimney for the briquettes; start a smaller chimney with hardwood charcoal a few minutes later (or toss hardwood charcoal onto the hot briquettes once they're in the grill). Just don't combine the two in the same chimney — hardwood is ready sooner than briquettes.

4. Place the chimney starter(s) in a safe place, preferably right on top of the charcoal grate. Loosely stuff a sheet or two of newspaper below the chimney (or use a quick-light cube, available in hardware stores), and light with a match or lighter. You don't need any lighter fluid with this method. The coals are ready when flames are no longer visible and the coals are covered with grey ash, about 20 minutes.

5. Spread the hot coals evenly over the charcoal grate and put the grilling grate in place. Preheat the grate for about 10 minutes, scrub with the grill brush and you're ready to go.

6. When you're finished grilling, put the lid on the grill and close the vents.

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