How To Grill Over Direct Heat

11/02/2011 12:17 pm ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012
  • Kitchen Daily

Grilling over direct heat means, quite simply, cooking directly over the flame on the grill. Thinner cuts of meat like steaks and chops, poultry, and fish require this sort of concentrated heat. Chef David Kamen of The Culinary Institute of America demonstrates this process on a piece of steak, utilizing the 10-2-4-8 method to create perfect cross hatch marks. Identifying a specific amount of time for cooking is difficult as different grills put off different amounts of heat and various foods require different cooking times, so Kamen shows you how to tell when your meat, poultry or fish is getting close to done.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Dave Kamen from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to grill with direct heat.

Today we'll be cooking over direct heat, which means cooking our food right over the flame on the grill. Direct heat is a great method for use with thinner things like steaks, chops, chicken, or even fish - as opposed to indirect heat, which we would use for larger things, and that involves cooking things away from the actual flame on the grill.

For today we have a nice strip loin steak which we've been marinating for about an hour. We've got a pair of tongs that we'll use for the raw meat, and also a separate pair of tongs to use for the cooked meat as we're moving the meat off the grill later on. Our grill has been preheating for the last twenty or thirty minutes, so it's nice and hot, and we're ready to go ahead and grill.

We'll take our steak out of the marinade bag, and when we put our steak on the grill we'll use what's called the ten-two-four-eight method. That means we'll place our steak on the grill so it's pointing to ten o'clock. We'll let it grill a few moments until we have a nice mark on the other side, then we'll rotate it to two o'clock, which gives us a cross-hatch mark. Then we'll flip it over so it points down to four o'clock, and then again rotate it over to eight o'clock, and we'll have really nice x marks on both sides of our steak. At this point we're ready to rotate our steak around. We set it at two o'clock, which will make those x marks on the first side.

It's hard to identify an actual time for how long things take to cook, because different grills are going to put out different amounts of heat, and different meats will take different amounts of time, but typically what you can do - especially on a steak - is look on the side and see how much color changing is happening on the side of the steak. You can also start looking for little beads of moisture accumulating on the top. That indicates you're hitting about medium-rare, and you're ready go ahead and flip it over. When we flip, we'll switch to our cooked-meat tongs because now we're dealing with a cooked product. We'll flip it to the four o'clock position.

Our steak is about three quarters of the way done. We'll cook this steak today about medium-rare, which is going to be about 125 degrees internal temperature, or just a little bit firm if you're going by the touch test. The touch test is something we can use for thinner things. If you were to hold your hand kind of loose like this, and touch the base of your thumb - that's about what we'd consider rare. If you close your hand like this, that's what medium should feel like, and if you squeeze and make a good and hard fist, that's what well done should feel like. Right now we're going to go for medium-rare, so we'll just turn the steak once more to make our final cross-hatch mark, and that'll be a nice medium-rare steak.

This steak's been on the grill for about four minutes of the first side, and we're approaching about two minutes on the second side - so we're just going to pick it up one more time and rotate it around, and that's our last rotation. Our steak is just about ready to go. Four minutes on each side, and we've got some really nice marks on there. Our steak is nice and brown, nice and crispy: there's a really nice medium-rare going on inside there.

It's best to let the steak sit and rest for about five minutes before you cut into it and enjoy it, just to allow the carryover cooking to happen, and to allow the juices to redistribute inside there. Then go ahead and enjoy your steak.