We did a lot of grilling while developing recipes and how-tos for Master of the Grill. And as a result, we made a lot of discoveries about the mechanics of grilling, specifically the mechanics of building the best fire for cooking (on both charcoal grills and gas grills). Two of the biggest mistakes outdoor grillers make occur before the food even hits the grill: creating too much fire, and setting up the fire incorrectly. The first problem is easy to avoid—add the amount of charcoal called for in recipes or, if cooking on a gas grill, adjust the burner temperatures as directed. The second problem is more complicated.
Depending on the food being cooked, we use one of the five grill setups outlined below. You might have to adapt these setups based on the shape, depth, and/or circumference of your grill.