A two-zone fire is created when your lit coals are spread over one-half to two-thirds of the grilling area.
This is ideal for most types of grilling, especially those foods that need to be seared on the outside, and cooked more slowly on the inside (steaks, spatchcocked chickens, pork tenderloins, ect.)
As mentioned, one benefit of a two-zone fire, when cooking for a crowd, is that you have a “warming area” for foods that are done, or nearly done, to stay warm while another batch is cooking.
I prefer raking coals to the right and left, and leaving my “cool zone” in the middle. I think this provides more even heat, especially for larger cuts of meat like roasts and pork shoulders.
Also, if you are cooking meat inside La Caja China (pictured) at the same time, this allows a more even cooking temperature within the box.
Also, a two-zone fire is preferable over a three-zone, for the smaller surface area of La Cajita China (Box #3), or grills with smaller surface areas. For meats, fish or vegetables that tend to dry out easily, I like to put a pan of hot water, apple juice, or beer, over the cool area so the food finishes it’s cooking time over moist heat.
Your best heat control is achieved with a three zone fire, consisting of a hot zone, medium zone, and cool zone.
Similar to the pictures, on the charcoal grid, rake half the coals into a double layer over one third of the fire box, and the rest into a single layer in the center.
Leave the remaining third of the grid without coals.
Use the hot zone for searing, the medium zone for finishing, and the cool zone for keeping food warm until serving.
Spread the coals in an even layer across the charcoal grid. This is the best method to use when roasting meats inside La Caja China, as it provides an even heat to the interior of the box.
For grilling, you would use a single-zone fire for steaks, chicken breasts, or any food that requires a short, hot cooking time. Only used a single-zone fire if all of the meat will finish and be served at the same time.
Even when grilling the types of meat mentioned above, I still like to keep a small “cool zone” at one end of the grill so I can move meat away from flare-ups, melt cheese onto my burgers, etc.
By the way, the chicken you see cooking above is one of the best (and easiest) barbecue recipes you’re ever likely to find…
Oh, and you can find this, and many more, step-by-step recipes in my cookbook, La Caja China Cooking, as well.
1 “Family Pack” Chicken legs or thighs
1 bottle Yoshida’s Original flavor sauce
Combine both ingredients in a gallon-size resealable bag and allow to marinate overnight, turning several times. Start a two-zone fire with a cool area in the middle.
Grill chicken over hot-zones until browned on both sides, then move to cool area, and tent loosely with foil. Cook, turning once until done, 10-15 minutes.
Serve with sticky rice and stir-fly veggies.
(This recipe is awesome with boneless chicken thighs. When cooked, just slice and serve as a rice bowl. Boil the marinade 10-15 minutes, stirring, and top!)
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