It’s spring, time to get reacquainted with your grill.

Or maybe we should say grills, since these outdoor cooking devices properly boast a split personality.

One grill supplies intense, direct heat, the kind that sears food and cooks a tender 1-inch steak in under 10 minutes.

The other grill provides lower, indirect heat, the kind that can be used to finish or tenderize larger cuts of meat over the course of longer cooking.

Knowing which of your grills to use and when is the key to success. Of course, these two grills are really one and the same. You decide which to use by adjusting gas burners or the amount of charcoal briquettes you use. They can even be operated at the same time, on different parts of the grill.

Sometimes you’ll just use direct heat. Sometimes you’ll use a combination of direct and indirect heat. Less frequently, you’ll use indirect heat alone.

Keep these differences in mind as you look at grilling recipes.

HEAT WAVE

So how hot are direct and indirect heat? Most guides say direct heat is about 450 to 500 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, direct heat should be hot enough to cause you to remove your hand, when placed directly above the grill grate, almost immediately.

You can get this level of heat by turning the gas burner up all the way, or by building a charcoal fire two or three briquettes deep and closing the lid.

Indirect heat is 250 to 300 degrees. You can get this level of heat by placing food on the opposite side of the grill from where a direct heat fire is blazing.

Why is the heat level so important? Consider two cuts of beef, a 1-inch-thick KC strip steak and a 3-pound brisket.

With the steak, the object is to sear the outside, giving the surface both flavor and texture, while leaving the center slightly pink and juicy. You could cook the inside to the desired doneness over low heat, but you’d never achieve a properly seared crust.

For the brisket, a crust is still desired, but long cooking at a low temperature is required to break down the tough tendons in the meat. Start the meat over direct heat, then move it to indirect heat.

MEATY MATTERS

The kind of heat you cook over is the most important factor in grilling, but it’s by no means the only one.

Weber’s Real Grilling, a new cookbook written by Jamie Purviance in conjunction with Weber grills, makes the following good points:

· Oil helps keep food from sticking to the grill. Lightly brushing or spraying the meat will produce fewer flare-ups than oiling the grate.

· Preheat your grill. Once it’s hot, it’ll be easy to brush off leftover bits from the last time you cooked, and the grate will be ready to sear your food.

· Keep the lid closed. It speeds the cooking process, helps develop smoky flavor and prevents flare-ups that are fed by oxygen.

· Let grilled meat rest, covered with aluminum foil, for 5 to 10 minutes after grilling (or even longer for larger cuts). Juices pulled to the surface during cooking will be redistributed, making the whole thing tastier.

· When serving cuts such as skirt steaks and flank steaks that have a long grain running from end to end, slice the cooked steaks thinly against the grain.

THREE EASY ADDITIONS

Here are three quick ways to flavor steak:

1. Place 1 large clove of peeled garlic, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper together on a cutting board and chop until the mixture resembles a paste. Rub into steak and let sit for 30 minutes.

2. Pour 1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar on a plate. Dip one side of steak in balsamic vinegar, flip over and let other side sit in vinegar for 30 minutes.

3. Soften 4 tablespoons butter and combine with 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Place 1 tablespoon of mixture atop steak just after it comes off the grill.

Source: Weber’s Real Grilling by Jamie Purviance (Weber, 2005, $24.95).

© 2005, The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.