100 Techniques

Technique #83: Grill-Roast for Juicy Meat with a Browned Crust

For centerpiece cuts of meat like leg of lamb, whole ham or chicken, beef tenderloin, and pork loin, turn your grill into an outdoor oven.

Published Aug. 10, 2023.

This is Technique #83 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

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There’s no rule that says large, impressive cuts of meat must be roasted in the oven. In fact, we advise you to free up your oven space on hectic holidays and take your centerpiece dish out to the grill.

If you follow our tried-and-true techniques, you'll be able to turn out even more impressive main dishes that have lovely char and a smoky grilled flavor.

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Why and How to Grill-Roast

Grill-roasting involves cooking over indirect heat at a fairly constant temperature, mimicking the environment of an oven. It requires longer cooking times than regular grilling simply because the pieces of food are larger.

Because of that longer time, this technique calls for heat that is more moderate. The grill is typically set up with a half-grill fire for indirect cooking—that is, part of the grill is left free of coals, or some of the gas burners are turned off, to create two temperature zones.

As a result, large pieces of meat can be cooked through without danger of scorching the exteriors or drying out the interiors.

Two Ways to Use a Two-Temperature Technique

To avoid flare-ups when there is fat to render, as with a leg of lamb, a ham, or a skin-on chicken, you should start the meat over cooler heat to cook it through at a lower temperature and then move it to higher heat to sear it and create a flavorful browned crust—our reverse-searing technique brought to the grill.

Using this method allows the fat to gently render long before the meat sees the direct heat, minimizing flare-ups.

Occasionally, if the roast is very lean, it’s better to flip the script, starting the meat on the hotter side of the grill to sear it and then moving it to the cooler side to finish cooking it through.

A charcoal grill with hot coals mounded up one side while the other side is free of coals.
An example of a half-grill fire setup on a charcoal grill.

On a Charcoal Grill, Opt for Coals

When grill-roasting on a charcoal grill, we choose briquettes over natural hardwood charcoal. Though both hardwood charcoal and briquettes burn fast and hot for the first 30 minutes, we’ve found that hardwood then abruptly turns to ash while briquettes keep going for the longer cooking time that’s required.

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The Outdoor Cook

Whether you use a gas or charcoal grill, flat-top griddle, open-fire setup, smoker, or pizza oven, you can revel in the outdoor cooking lifestyle. By learning to harness fire and smoke the ATK way, you’ll even be able to convert many of these recipes between different cooking methods.

Step by Step: How to Grill-Roast Using a Half-Fire

With these steps, you can learn how to grill-roast any meat on any kind of grill.

Step 1: Season Meat

Rub meat with seasoning paste, dry rub, or other seasoning and let sit so meat can absorb seasoning.

Step 2: Prepare the Grill

For charcoal grill, set up half-grill fire, with hot coals on one half of grill. For gas grill, turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).

Step 3: Roast Meat

Grill-roast meat, fat side up, on cooler side of grill with lid down until it reaches desired temperature.

Step 4: Get a Nice Crust

Move meat to hotter side of grill and sear, fat side down, to create crust.

Step 5: Slice and Serve

Transfer to carving board and let rest. Carve and serve.

Watch a half-grill fire in action in our Grill-Roasted Beef Tenderloin recipe—this time starting on the hotter side.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Want to put your newfound knowledge of grill-roasting to use? Try it with these recipes.


Grilled Bone-In Leg of Lamb with Charred-Scallion Sauce

It took 112 pounds of meat, but we finally achieved a leg of lamb that tasted as impressive as it looked.
Get the Recipe

Grill-Roasted Ham

We thought we knew everything there was to know about ham-until we tried grilling one for Easter.
Get the Recipe

Grill-Roasted Beef Tenderloin

To deliver great grill flavor to beef tenderloin, we had to upend the most commonly held notion about the source of that flavor.
Get the Recipe

Easy Grill-Roasted Whole Chicken

Our dead-simple method delivers juicy, subtly smoky meat with bronzed skin.
Get the Recipe

Easy Grill-Roasted Butterflied Chicken

Grilling a whole chicken can produce uneven results. We wanted a level playing field.
Get the Recipe

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