How do you cook food on a BBQ?

Weber Cooking Techniques 2

You can extend the range of food you can prepare on a barbecue way beyond grilling bangers and burgers by following our simple guide to BBQ cooking methods. Whether you want to sear a succulent sausage or perfect your pulled pork, this is a useful introduction to barbecuing techniques, which is for you if you are new to barbecuing, or also if you want up your grill game and explore what you can achieve with your barbie, whether it’s charcoal or gas fuelled.

All the techniques below are recommended to be performed with the lid on. You will find that this helps to retain precious smoke, moisture and flavour.

Direct Cooking

This is the classic barbecue technique and is what most people think of as barbecuing. Actually called grilling, it is suited to items that need less than 20 minutes on the barbecue, think succulent sausages, delicious kebabs, and bronzed burgers. This technique is equally suited to both gas and charcoal barbecues. It is achieved by cooking items on the grate directly over the glowing charcoal or lighted gas burners.

weber traveler direct burgers

Indirect Cooking

Also called barbecuing, this uses the grill like a traditional oven, generating heat in an area away from the food and circulating heat around the food to penetrate it slowly and evenly. Particularly good for cooking items that need more than 30 minutes on the grill, which would burn on the outside before they are cooked through if they were grilled. Think whole roast chicken with a crispy skin, an aromatic bread or perhaps crunchy roasted vegetables. In fact, anything which can be cooked in a traditionally oven can be cooked in this way, even sweet treats like cookies and cakes.

Weber Master-Touch indirect roast chicken

On a charcoal barbecue with the vents open, arrange glowing coals around the edge of the bowl with a disposable foil pan with about 2-3 cups of water in the centre. Pre-heat the barbecue for around 15 minutes. Then place the food to be cooked in the middle of the cooking grate, above the foil pan. If the BBQ is burning too hot, then close the vents slightly.

On a gas grill, you can switch on the burners to one side of the grill, keeping the burners switched off on the other side. Alternatively, switch off the burners in the centre of the grill and leave on the outside flames to achieve a similar effect. The barbecue will need 10-15 minutes with the lid on to come to temperature. Then place the food to be cooked on the grate above the unlit burners.

Weber Roast Chicken Over Gas

50/50 Cooking

This is a hybrid of direct and indirect cooking. Particularly good for food that first needs to be cooked through, before being finished off over the flames. This technique, sometimes called sear and slide or reverse searing is excellent for producing steaks with restaurant-standard caramelised grill lines on the outside, which are tender in the middle, or super-moist chicken breasts. To perform this, the barbecue needs to be broken down into zones. Food is usually cooked through first indirectly, and then finished off directly over the flames to add flavour and colour.

On a charcoal barbecue arrange the lit charcoal on one side of the bowl and leave the other side empty. On a gas barbecue hotter and cooler zones are achieved by switching on burners on one side and leaving them switched off on the other side.


This uses the barbecue to very slowly cook food using a low heat and the indirect cooking method. This method is known as cooking low and slow or smoking. It is particularly good for tougher cuts which need a longer, lower cook to break-down; such as mouth-wateringly tender smoky BBQ pulled pork or exquisite beef brisket. Adding soaked wood chips or wood chunks ramps up the smokiness. Soaking wood chips in water in advance helps them burn longer and at a slower pace, giving your food plenty of time to absorb the smoky flavours.

Low and slow smoking is achieved on a charcoal barbecue by arranging glowing charcoal briquettes on one side of the bowl and placing a disposable foil pan with about 2-3 cups of cold water in it on the other side. Some charcoal barbecues are supplied with inserts which can absorb heat to keep the temperature low, or to distribute smoke around the barbecue more effectively. The water is important as it keeps the cooking heat low and helps retain the food’s moisture over the prolonged cooking time. Several wood chunks or some wood chips that have been soaked in water for around 30 minutes can be added directly to the charcoal. Replace the lid and burn the barbecue for around 30 minutes to allow the coals to burn down and the water to heat up. Then add food. More charcoal will need to be added every hour or so to maintain temperature.

A similar effect can be achieved on a gas barbecue by adding water-soaked wood chips to a smoker box. Alternatively, make a smoke box out of a disposable foil pan with foil over the top and make some holes in the foil to allow the smoke to escape. Place the smokebox above one of the burners on the grate, close the lid of the barbecue and heat it up with all the burners on high. Once smoke starts to appear, adjust the burners to the required setting and add food. More soaked chips can be added to the smokebox as required.

Weber Smokebox

A dedicated smoker such as a Weber Smokey Mountain, a Weber SmokeFire or a kamado grill can be used to further explore the smoky barbecue flavours that are possible to achieve with a charcoal or wood-fuelled barbecue. These are purpose-built for smoking and are worth looking into if you intend to delve into smoking more seriously.

Whichever technique you favour, if you have any further questions or would like any more guidance, then visit the Gates Garden Centre barbecue team in-store , contact us on 01664 454309 or shop for barbecues, fuel and accessories online for home delivery.

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