How to Control Temperature on a Charcoal Grill

Rate this post

Do you have a buddy who has a charcoal barbecue that is accumulating dust and cobwebs in the corner of their garage?

Perhaps you are the owner of a neglected grill.

While several reasons are advanced, the biggest reason individuals abandon their charcoal barbecue is an inability to manage the temperature.

The ability to attain a consistent and even temperature throughout the meal is critical for avoiding overdone, undercooked, or completely scorched grilling catastrophes.

Unlike gas grills, controlling the temperature on a charcoal barbecue requires some ability.But, with the appropriate tactics and some practice, you can master the art of temperature regulation and start stunning your friends and family with your caveman abilities.

The four ways to control heat

In reality, efficient temperature regulation involves just four approaches. Once you’ve mastered them, you’ll be well on your way to grilling perfection.

Depending on how you use your grill, you’ll probably wind up using one or two of these approaches the majority of the time. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of all options.

1) Build a Two Zone Fire

You can regulate how well cooked your meat by simply shifting it to the right side of the cooking grate by generating a hot zone for searing and a cooled zone for indirect cooking.

To build a two-zone fire:

  1. All of your coals should be on one side of the coal grate.
  2. Spread them evenly across to of the area
  3. Replace the cooking grate

The space immediately above the coals is now reserved for grilling or direct cooking, while the region distant from the embers is reserved for in-direct cooking.

Heres how it looks:

Simply shift the food to the side of the grate without coals beneath if you want to cease grilling it or cook it indirectly.

Convection, or heated air swirling around the meal, will cook food in the indirect cooking zone. This will result in even cooking of the meat from the inside out, rather than merely on the top.

If you’re wondering how much charcoal you’ll need in your hot zone, we have some suggestions in a separate article.

2) Increase or decrease airflow by adjusting your grill vents

Here is the simple rule of thumb:

More airflow equals hotter grill when cooking with charcoal.

This is in contrast to gas grilling, when lifting the top just allows heat to escape.

When starting your grill, make sure all of the vents are completely open. Plenty of oxygen is required to light the coals.

Grills feature vents on both the bottom and top. Intake dampers are the bottom vents. They provide oxygen to the coals.

Exhaust dampers are the vents at the top. Like a chimney, these vents exhaust the smoke. They draw air through the grill as they do so, thus keeping them open promotes airflow throughout the whole system.

So, do you tweak the bottom intake or top exhaust dampers?

There are two main schools of thought:

  1. Allow the exhaust damper on the lid to fully open and use the bottom intake damper to adjust airflow.
  2. As Weber suggests, do the reverse and leave the bottom damper completely open while controlling the temperature with the lid exhaust damper. suggests the first choice.

Using the Vents to Control Temperature on Charcoal and Wood Burning Grills and Smokers, Meathead Goldwyn

As you strive to master your cooker and calibrate your system, you should leave the exhaust damper completely open.

Do several dry runs without food, merely using the intake vent, and aim to attain the temperatures specified in virtually all of my recipes: 225F and 325F.

You should not experiment with the exhaust vent until you are unable to achieve such temperatures just by altering the bottom vent.

Playing with both vents at the same time is like to attempting to manage your car’s speed by simultaneously pressing the gas and brake pedals.

Both methods will work, and it is up to you to test them. We like to adjust the intake damper while leaving the exhaust damper open.

When cooking, you should not totally shut the exhaust damper (top vent) since the smoke and gases need to escape.

3) Adjust the distance between your food and the coals

The closer your meal is to the coals, the hotter it will be and the quicker it will cook. I understand this isn’t rocket science, but finding the sweet spot will need some trial and error.

Adjustable cooking grates on certain barbecues make life easier. Simply move the meal farther away if it becomes too hot, and vice versa.

If your grill lacks this useful function, there is a workaround. Create a two (or more) zone fire using the first strategy. Then, as required, transfer your meal between the hot and cold portions of the grill.

4) Use a Grill Shield

If things are cooking faster than planned and you need to act quickly, you may create a barrier of aluminum foil to prevent the heat.

  1. Simply grab some foil
  2. Fold it over two or three times
  3. Put it beneath the meal that is ready to burn.

This solution will not fully halt the cooking process, but it will slow it down by reducing the amount of radiant heat that hits your food.

Controlling temperature during ‘Low and Slow’ cooks

When grilling at high temperatures, the four ways indicated above will work well.

There are several extra techniques to know if you want to utilize your barbecue as a smoker.The setup is crucial to properly cooking low and slow on a barbecue.

How to setup your grill:

The minion technique is the most frequent way to set up a grill for smoking at low temperatures.

The minion technique entails igniting a small number of coals before adding unlit coal. The ignited embers progressively illuminate the unlit ones.

This is what it looks like:

How2BBQ™ Video#3 Charcoal setup for slow and low. Minion Method explained.

Watch this video on YouTube

The logic behind using this method is as follows:

If you put a full chimney load of lighted coals on your grill, the temperature will rise quickly and you will struggle to bring it down before you can even think about adding food.

The minion approach allows your grill to rapidly attain the ideal smoking temperature of 225-250F and then maintain it for many hours.

When employing the minion technique, you may still use a charcoal chimney to fire your coals; just flip the chimney and ignite the coals in the smaller chamber.

The Snake approach is another popular alternative, which we go over in further depth in this post.

Indirect vs Direct

On a grill, you may cook low and slow utilizing both direct and indirect cooking methods.

Whatever method you choose to cook, you must consider the following:

The heat source is lighted coals, while the fuel supply is unlit coals.

Let’s look at how to use this in the kitchen, both directly and indirectly.

Direct Cooking:

If you want to cook anything over direct fire for more than 30 minutes:

  1. Light enough coals to heat the grill to the temperature you wish. Typically, five lit coals will bring you to 225-250F.
  2. Unlit coals should be uniformly distributed on one side of the coal grate.
  3. Distribute the ignited coals evenly among the unlit coals.
  4. Place your meal on top of the coals and close the lid. Replacing the lid regulates airflow and keeps the coals from burning too hot.

By carefully distributing the coals and limiting the amount of burning coals, your meal will cook evenly and not burn, even if it is cooking for a long period.

Indirect Cooking:

You’ll want to set up for indirect cooking for most low and slow cooking.

To cook indirectly on a grill, you must still manage the number of lighted coals. Again, around five coals means your barbecue is between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the setup differs from cooking over direct heat:

  1. Make a mound of unlit coals on one side of the coal grate.
  2. Place the five light coals in the center of the pile of lit coals.
  3. Place the meal on the side of the grilling grate opposite the pile of coals.
  4. Replace the lid

Increase the number of unlit coals if you need to cook for a longer period of time. Increase the number of burning coals to cook at a greater temperature.

When cooking a thick steak, consider the reverse sear to take advantage of both indirect and direct heat. Bring the interior of the steak to temperature using indirect heat, then finish with direct heat for a lovely crisp outside.

Don’t get trigger happy adjusting your vents

You can still change the vents to manage the temperature. However, you should wait 20-30 minutes once the temperature has stabilized before tinkering with them. That way, you’ll know what temperature to start with.

Similarly, if you changed the vents, give it around 20 minutes for the temperature to adapt.

You’ll need to play around with your grill to figure out which vent settings work best for you. Setting both the top and bottom vents to half is a reasonable starting point for some home grillers.

When you’re through cooking and want to turn off your grill, just close all of the vents.

Wrapping it up

Using a charcoal barbecue does not limit you to just searing steaks and flipping burgers. There isn’t much you can’t cook on a barbecue.

The key is to be able to regulate the temperature of your grill. Once you’ve mastered certain skills and a basic understanding of how temperature control works, the sky’s the limit for what you can cook on your grill.

We hope you found this post useful and are inspired to try some of the methods on your barbecue this weekend.

Do you have any tried-and-true methods for controlling the temperature on your grill? Or are there any lingering questions you’d want answered that weren’t addressed in this post? Please let us know what you think in the comments area below. And, if you found this information beneficial, please share it! It’s worth to check How to setup a Kettle charcoal grill for smoking


How do you keep a charcoal grill at 225?

How to Maintain a 225°F Charcoal Grill
Purchase a decent temperature probe. You’ll need to keep an eye on the temperature to maintain your grill constant at 225°F.
Light a charcoal fire for fuel.
Adjust the dampers.
Make a two-zone grill.
Adjust the vent as needed.
Keep an eye on the gasoline.

Does closing the vent on a charcoal grill make it hotter?

Whatever vent you fiddle with, keep in mind that open vents indicate hotter, faster-burning charcoal. Closed vents result in less oxygen, which leads to less heat and slower-burning charcoal.

How do I keep my grill at 250?

Light enough coals to heat the grill to the temperature you wish. Typically, five lit coals will bring you to 225-250°F. Unlit coals should be uniformly distributed on one side of the coal grate. Distribute the ignited coals evenly among the unlit coals.

Does putting lid on charcoal grill make it hotter?

Remember this simple rule: If you’re cooking on a gas grill, lifting the lid will cool it down. Opening the cover of a charcoal barbecue will increase the temperature.

How do I keep my grill at constant temperature?

How do you regulate the temperature of your charcoal grill? Many people believe it is the quantity of charcoal used, however the solution is found in the air dampers. Your temperature may be increased or decreased by adjusting the air dampers. The more air that enters the grill, the hotter it will get.

How do I keep my charcoal grill low and slow?

Fill the whole charcoal bed with unlit charcoal and just a few light pieces on top. The lighted charcoal pieces on top will gradually light the ones below them and steadily burn down. This approach may be used in either a grill or a smoker.

How long do you let charcoal burn before cooking?

Depending on how much charcoal you’re lighting, let 15-20 minutes for it to thoroughly heat up before putting it into the base of your grill.

Do you leave grill open when starting charcoal?

SHOULD I OPEN OR CLOSE MY GRILL LID BEFORE I START CHARCOAL? While you arrange and ignite your charcoal, keep the lid open. Close the lid after the coals are well-lit. Most charcoal grills become hotter shortly after they’re lit.

Can I add more charcoal while cooking?

Yes, you may add extra charcoal while cooking on a charcoal grill. The simplest method to do this is to first fire your charcoal using a chimney starter. Then, transfer the necessary quantity on the grill. If this is not an option, unlit charcoal will suffice.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *