I think I found this cool infographic in Bon Appetit magazine. It is kind-of interesting in that it shows a lot of the common data about starting, using and controlling a fire for barbecuing.
In my experience — and we not only sell grill parts but we cook a lot because our business followed from passion — most barbecuers have their own way of lighting charcoal, of adding wood, of soaking wood and of controlling the heat and the smoke while cooking. However, this info-graphic is interesting in that it makes the common tru-isms all located in a picture that shows a lot of basic information about the barbecue fire.
Heat control in a barbecue can often be the difference between great food and mediocrity — or worse. For low heat barbecue we want to have the heat localized away from the food on the grate above the heat because direct heat will cause the food to cook unevenly instead of allowing heat to surround the food and slowly convection cook.
I use an infrared gas grill for grilling and a small Weber Genesis of broiling (what the uninitiated call barbecue) and a ceramic kamado for smoking. In the kamado egg we’ll let the charcoal burn to grey and then add wood chunks that have soaked overnight in water. The soaking wet wood chunks will not burn but create a lot of smoke.
Above the fire I always use something to defer the direct heat coming from below the grilling grates. Usually this is a simple aluminum tray or even several layers of aluminum foil. That causes the smoke and the heat to move away from the bottom of the grid and move around to surround the food.
The hot smoke slowly cooks at approximately 225 degrees and we try to keeo the heat off the lower section of the food.
The info-graphic shows a two-part fire that keeps a lot of flame in the center of the round grate and lower heat flames around the edges. Pragmatically this is not realistic because the barbecue will send heat throughout the entire area within the closed lid. The idea of a 2-zone fire is a good one for grilling because searing requires temperatures above 800 degrees. Often people not accustomed to grilling at very high temperatures or of they own an appliance that cannot create that much heat will sear at lower heat settings but longer time. Then they’ll move the food to a lower heat area of the grid to bring up the internal temperature.
You will never see a professional chef do this not someone who has barbecues, smoked and grilled long enough to feel the heat rather than work from a book. This is counter-productive in barbecuing and smoking and totally superfluous in grilling.
But the graphic is neat and disseminates the “common sense” stuff spread about by people who do not cook.