Kettle Grilling: #1 ~ Advanced Charcoal Techniques


Home Chef Techniques for the Weber Grill: Part One

Advanced Charcoal Techniques

(Excerpt from Grilling: A Home Chef’s Guide)

I started out with a good old fashioned Weber Kettle (you’ve already read that story), the most popular charcoal grill in American since…well, ever. 😉

Sadly, these marvels of simplicity rarely get used to their full potential. Sure, you can grill up endless burgers, dogs, and brats…and they’ll be awesome, but let’s look at some advanced (dare I say Home Chef?) techniques to take this old classic to the next level!

I have used the Weber to make everything from jerky, to smoked salmon, to traditional Southern Pulled Pork, to authentic Texas-Style Briskets and Pork Bellies, and I’m going to show you how to, as well.

Over the next few posts, we’ll take a look at:

  • Advanced Charcoal Techniques
  • Using Water Pans
  • Real “Pit-Smoking” with a Weber Grill
  • Turning your Weber Grill into the Ultimate Pizza Oven
  • The Perfect Steak: Reverse Grilling
  • Amazing Mods YOU can make to your Weber Grill

So, let’s start with:

4 Advanced Charcoal Techniques

Direct Grilling 3

Direct vs. Indirect

There are two basic styles of grilling, direct & indirect.

Direct Grilling cooks your food “directly” above the hot coals. Best for searing and charring foods that you want to grill quickly.

Of course, with this higher heat, you have to be more watchful to ensure that foods, especially those with sugary marinades or glazes,, don’t burn before they’re cooked through. A double layer, direct fire on a standard kettle-style BBQ can get as high as 500F.

Rule of thumb: Thin foods, with low sugar and water content, and that cook quickly, cook best over direct heat:

  • Steaks
  • Fruits & Veggies
  • Chicken breasts
  • Hamburgers
  • Fish fillets & shellfish
  • Pork tenderloin

Indirect Grilling uses an area of the grill that doesn’t have coals directly beneath it. By placing your food over this “cool” zone, and covering it with the lid, your kettle becomes an oven, allowing you to bake, roast, or BBQ, foods that take longer to finish, without burning the exterior. Temperatures typically run in the 225f-250F range, making this method ideal for BBQ and smoking.

Rule of thumb: Thicker and sugary foods, and tougher cuts (especially of beef) that requires longer cook times at lower temperatures:

  • Roasts
  • Ribs
  • Whole chickens
  • Large whole fish
  • Pork shoulders, and loins

Direct Grilling 3

Single Zone Grilling

Single Zone grilling is your basic, direct heat method. Coals are layered evenly across  the coal grate, the number of layers dependent on the amount of heat you need.


2 Zone Grilling

As we saw above, 2 Zone grilling is best for “low & slow” techniques.

Prepared coals are spread over one side of the coal grate, while the opposite half (or more) is left clear. This let’s you “roast” thick cuts of meat with burning, though you’ll typically need to rotate large cuts at some point, so they cook evenly on both sides.

Another common technique for 2 Zone Grilling is to caramelize (char) the exterior of the meat over direct heat (all sides), then move it to the indirect area to complete cooking.

Tri-tip roasts, steaks thicker than 2″, and bone-in chicken peices grill best by this method. Caramelization (the technical term is the “Maillard reaction*” adds tons of flavors to foods, and some believe that it can help deal in the juices of meats, to help prevent any unnecessary moisture loss. It’s a fantastic method for roasting whole (brined) chickens, as well.

You can even serve grilled “baked” potatoes that will drive your guests crazy!

*Maillard Reaction: A chemical reaction between the amino acids and the reducing sugars that gives browned and grilled food its distinctive flavor.

Giveaway Time!

91p7yLnTXJL._SL1500_TODAY…one lucky reader will win this new Digital Meat Thermometer!

Fast Instant Read
Backlit for Night Grilling
Easy Calibration
Magnetic backing

I’ll pick a random comment from today’s post, and YOUR thermometer will ship tonight!

Bonus point’s if you’ve signed up for blog notifications (see below!)

~Chef Perry


Split Fire3 Zone Split Grilling

This is the method I use most often, as it finds it provides the most consistent results (and is most forgiving of my ADHD forgetfulness!) 😉

Prepared coals are split evenly along the opposite sides of the coal grate, leaving a place (cool zone) between, large enough to move the meat to once the outsides are browned. This allows medium to thick cuts to finish cooking, while providing even heat from both sides, and save you the trouble of having to rotate the meat, halfway through cooking.

There are also times when you might prefer a three-zone “split” fire, where the coals are separated into two equal piles on opposite sides of the charcoal grate.

Split Zone Indirect Grilling
3 Zone Split Grilling








This gives you two zones for direct heat (high, medium, or low) and one zone between them for indirect heat. This also works nicely for cooking a roast over indirect heat, such as pork loin or beef tenderloin, because you have the same level of heat on either side of the roast.

You can also use this method to create “High, Medium, and Low” zones in your kettle. By stacking two (or more) levels layers of coals on one side (high), and single layer on the opposite side (medium), the middle section, with or without a water pan*, becomes the “Low” zone.

*We’ll talk more about water pans in a future post.

Weber Ribs2

Ring o’ Fire (low & slow/smoking)

Ring of Fire Smoking Method
Setting up for slow smoking

The ring of fire is…awesome! By layering your coals in a semi-circle around the outside of the coal-grate, and then lighting one end of the “ring”, you create a domino effect, as each coal lights the next, working it’s way around the ring for hours, and provided low, even heat.

To turn your Weber Kettle into the perfect smoker, just pre-soak a few chunks of your favorite hardwood, and space them evenly atop the first half to three-quarters of the ring.

Meat will only accept smoke for the first three hours or so, so there’s no point in wasting the extra wood.

Plus, over smoking can leave meat with a bitter, acrid flavor, and a nasty tar-like coating.

In our next lesson, we’ll take a look at how (and why) to use water pans and drip pans in your Weber Kettle.

Be sure to subscribe to this blog (top of right column), to make sure you’re notified when the next post in this series is live!

See you then!

~Chef Perry

Both Books
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A Funny Thing Happened at the Deli Counter this Morning…


Ahhhh…the struggles of the adventurous eater…

So, I woke up this morning jonesing for headcheese (c’mon…it’s ME…) I know, I know, it’s not everyone’s thing, but I love it. And when I need it, I NEED it!

(NOTE: The more you control your desire to express a negative opinion about one of my favorite foods, here, the less likely you are to end up deeply offended by my response…just, you know, an FYI…) 😉

So anyway, I zipped over the the grocery store where I usually buy it, and walked up to the deli counter, where I was met by some greasy pre-teen who looked like maaaaaybe some of his bingo-balls were still floating around in the tank.

(Seriously, he had a definite “I pick my nose after I put my gloves on” kinda vibe going on.)

My request for my beloved lunch-meat was met with a blank stare – and I mean blank, like you could look in this kid’s eyes and see the back of his head… – I repeated my request, still my typically cherub-like, friendly self.

“Uhhhh…I don’t think we carry that…”



I pointed out the headcheese on the second shelf, and after about 3 days of fumbling with the slicer (I offered to help!) he comes back with my tasty bundle.

“Soooo…uhh…what is this stuff?”

This, friends and neighbors, is where I should have just sucked it up and lied…but, of course, I didn’t…

I told him.

“Dude…(I swear to GOD, he called me “dude”) that’s gross, I wouldn’t eat that…”

(I think we all know what comes next…)

“Of course you wouldn’t…MELVIN, you’re too busy picking tide-pod chunks out of your teeth! How ’bout if I worry about what I’m eating, and you focus on not giving me E. coli, m’kay?”

Our relationship soured a bit after that… 😉

~Chef Perry

Both Books
Pre-Order and Save!


Pre-Order the Home Chef BBQ & Grilling Guidebooks, and save!

Both Books

Okay, it’s time to start taking your pre-orders for the upcoming Home Chef Guidebooks, “Barbeque” & “Grilling.

Get a head-start on BBQ season, and get both books, with FREE shipping (pre-orders only) for just $30!

Both books will ship together on Tuesday, April 3rd* (5 days before “GRILLING” even releases on Amazon!)

I will be handling all pre-orders PERSONALLY this time, and all pre-orders will ship on the 3rd! 😉

Order You Copies HERE!

Copy of FullSizeRenderBARBEQUE: A Home Chef’s Guide

Barbeque is not just a method of cooking food– it’s an experience. It’s a culture, a link to our past, a tribute to the resourcefulness of our forbearers, and a reminder of times both great and terrible.

It’s about the age-old mainstays of good food, good friends, and good times. It’s rugged but romantic.

It’s charcoal and chatter.

Here are my most popular dishes, tips, and techniques from nearly four-decades of cooking in, over, and with fire and smoke.

If you’re looking for great recipes and insights for taking your culinary skills to the next level, you’ve come to the right place. From bacon weaves, to melt-in-you-mouth brisket, to whole roast pigs…if you can cook it, low and slow, in sweet, sweet smoke…

I’ll show you how.

Welcome to the fire, Home Chefs!

7GRILLING: A Home Chef’s Guide

Grilling. It’s the most primitive of all the cooking methods. Picture our ancient ancestors spearing chunks of raw meat on sticks and gathering around a communal fire to cook their meal.

What would summer be without the sights, and sounds, and smells of meat searing to perfection over glowing coals? The laughter of friends and family, and the sharing of a delicious, flame-kissed meal?

“Grilling: A Home Chef’s Guide” includes dozens of Chef-tested, fully-illustrated recipes, tricks, techniques, and resources for grilling just about anything you can cook over fire!

I guarantee that you will see an instant, and significant improvement in your outdoor cooking! No more wiener flambé, carbonized chicken, or particle-board steaks.

Clear your calendar, strap on your apron, you’re about to become the grilling-god of your family!

~Chef Perry

Order You Copies HERE!

About the “Home Chef” Series

FullSizeRender - CopyThere are plenty of cookbooks out there, but a Home Chef’s Guide wants more than just the instructions on how to make single dish a single way.

It means continuing you kitchen education, learning the professional-level tips, tricks, and techniques the pro’s use to become a better cook…to understand cooking, healthy real-food cooking, it means advancing your culinary skills until recipes are no longer really necessary.

It means becoming a Home Chef.

Additional Home Chef titles are available on Amazon at:, including:

  • The Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen
  • Frugal Fine Cooking: A Home Chef’s Guide
  • BACON! A Home Chef’s Guide
See all of the Home Chef Titles on Amazon at:


Sanbeiji (Taipei 3-Cup Chicken)


Here’s one of my favorites from my upcoming book, “Grilling: A Home Chef’s Guide”.

Sanbeiji (Taipei 3-Cup Chicken)

Sanbeiji (literally “3-Cup Chicken”) derives it’s name from the 3 sauce ingredients: Soy Sauce, Sesame oil, and Sugar. Originating from the Jiangxi province of China, this is a hugely popular dish in Taiwan.

  •     1 cup Sesame oil                                      1 cup soy sauce
  •     1 cup white sugar                                    4 cloves fresh garlic
  •     8 bone-in chicken thighs                         2 inches fresh ginger

*For shorter cooking time, you can substitute boneless-skinless thighs, but only marinate fro 4 hours, max.

In a mortar and pestle (or food processor) reduce the garlic and ginger to a past.

Mix all ingredients together, adding chicken last. Marinate overnight (or at least six hours) turning one of twice. Pat dry, and brush both sides lightly with oil.

Split Zone Indirect Grilling
Split Zone Indirect Grilling

Spread prepared coals for Split Zone Indirect Grilling


Set the chicken in the cool zone, cover (or close the lid), and cook for 20-30 minutes to an internal temperature of 160F.

One the thighs are at temp,  move them to the hot zone, and grill until well marked on both sides (3-5 minutes per side.)

TaiPei Chicken Thighs

Allow to rest 10 minutes, the slice and serve with Perfect Thai Rice, and a steamed veggie!

The Home Chef
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Let me know if you would like to recieve a one-time notification, when “Grilling: A Home Chef’s Guide” is available on!

You’ve chosen the cover! (plus a recipe from the upcoming book…)


Okay, votes have been tallied!

First there were 12, then there were three, and then…after 3 rounds of tie-votes (Gahh!) we have a winner!

Now to send it to my graphic artist (she’ll make the sub-title bigger, by the way.)


Looking at about 30 days to release date!

Here’s a little preview recipe…

Carolina Gold

Carolina Gold Baby Back Ribs

Now, mustard barbecue sauces are completely different than your regular red sauces, obviously, but not just due to the mustard. They’re also much, much tangier, especially the Carolina ones, than the average joe sauces, too.

  • 1 rack baby back pork ribs, (rinse, pat dry, remove sinew from back)
  • 1/2 Cup Dry Rub
  • South Carolina Gold Sauce (see below)

Place a large sheet of foil, several inches longer than the ribs at each end, onto working surface dull side-up. Spray center with non stick spray. Place ribs, meat side-up, onto foil. Coat with a little over half of the dry rub, coating well.

Turn ribs over, making sure they are in the center, and coat bone side with rest of rub. Bring long-edged sides of foil up to meet and carefully roll down to meet the top of the ribs.

Fold ends of foil inward like an envelope and roll up. It should be a nice closed package touching the meat. Just be careful not to tear the foil. You want it sealed closed.

Place rib package onto foil-lined baking sheet folded side-up (meat side-down). Let rest and preheat smoker.

Pop into preheated 300º F smoker for 2½ hours.

Remove ribs from foil, coat well with 1/2 of the sauce. Increase smoker temp to 350º F.

When smoker reaches 350,  return the ribs, uncovered, and smoke for 5 minutes, bone up.. Flip the ribs over, and baste with rest of sauce. Smoke for 5 minutes longer.

Remove from smoker and let rest at least 10 minutes.

Slice into serving-sized pieces and serve hot with any extra sauce if desired.

South Carolina Gold Sauce

  • ½ Gal. yellow mustard ½ Gal. cider vinegar
  • 1 C light brown sugar 2 Tbsp. sea salt
  • ¼ C Worcestershire 2 Tbsp. black pepper
  • ¼ C hot sauce (to taste)

For each of these recipes, combine ingredients, heat to a low simmer, and cook 20-30 minutes, stirring often.

Chill for at least 24 hours (72 is better) before using.

The Home Chef
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Chef Perry’s 3-Meat Chili

Chef Perry's 3 Meat Chili

Okay, so…under normal circumstances, I would have soaked dry beans overnight, and roasted fresh Roma tomatoes on my grill, but this was a last minute dinner decision, and I was pressed for time.

If have have a chance, those steps would make this recipe even better!

Still, it’s pretty awesome, just like this…

Chef Perry’s 3-Meat Chili

1 lg. sweet onion, chopped
6 cloves fresh garlic, thin sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
1 can each: dark red beans, black beans, butter beans, kidney beans, rinsed
2 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, with juice
1 sm. can diced green chilies, drained
2 cups beef stock
1 Tbs. Mexican chili powder
1 Tbs. ground cumin
8 oz pulled pork bbq
1lb roasted pork shoulder, chopped
1lb ground pork, sauteed and chopped (with salt to taste)
salt & pepper, to taste

In a large pot:

Sweat onion and garlic in oil, with chili power and cumin, until onions are soft, but not browning.

Increase heat to medium and add the tomatoes and green chilies. Bring to a simmer (stirring) until reduced to a thin paste.

Stir in the rinsed beans, and add beef stock to cover by 1 inch. Reduce heat to medium low.

Cook at a low simmer 1-2 hours, or until the liquid has reduced to the height of the beans.

Chef Perry's 3 Meat Chili

Stir in the meats and black pepper, and remove from heat.

LET COOL COMPLETELY (at least 2 hours, overnight is better).

If refrigerated, allow the chili to come to room temp, then slowly reheat, from low to medium, stirring often.

Taste for salt, and adjust accordingly.

Serve with shredded extra-sharp cheddar, chopped sweet onion, and cilantro.

Home Chef Note: There’s no heat in this. If you want a little fire, saute 1/2-1 seeded & minced habanero pepper with the onion and garlic.


Beef: Leftover brisket, and ground beef.
Bird: BBQ Chicken thighs (off the bone), ground turkey
Vegetarian: Just don’t.

The Home Chef BookPart syllabus, part autobiography, part call-to-arms, The Home Chef is about the rapidly evolving landscape of cooking in America, and how to cook real food, the best food possible, in your own kitchen, and more importantly…why you should.

Filled with insider tips and tricks from the professional kitchen, hundreds of links and resources to (free) professional level education, and easy to follow instructions from a professional cooking instructor, The Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen is culinary school for the home cook.

Everything you need to take your own culinary creations to the next level, while saving time, money, and waste doing so!

Pick up your copy on today!