Creating heat zones and heat-free zones help you avoid burning food by giving hot areas for searing and warm areas for slower more through grilling.
Photo by Ashley R. Good
When many of us first started grilling with charcoal we filled up the entire bottom of the grill and proceeded to burn most of the food. This makes the entire grill a high heat zone; most food in this situation will burn on the outside while the inside is still raw. Instead you may want to arrange the charcoal to create different heat zones to increase options.
Blogger Edel Alon has two methods: The first is to simply one side of your grill with charcoal leaving the other half empty. This warm/hot layout is useful when you want to create a quick sear on a piece of meat then move it over to slowly cook through and is useful when grilling chicken.
The second method is to have charcoal on the two sides but leave the middle third of the grill empty. This Hot/Warm/Hot layout is similar to the method above but is much hotter in the middle. It's great for making burgers or steaks.
Whatever method you decide to use, consider leaving an area of the grill unused to avoid burning meat and to give you more time to coordinate all of the grilling food.
Charcoal Grilling Layout Tips [Edel Alon]