Unlike pellet grills and gas grills, charcoal grills don’t have buttons or electronics for adjusting the heat. That often makes charcoal grilling feel more like an art than a science. Case in point: Figuring out how to cool down your charcoal grill and keep it at a consistent low temperature.
This guide will teach you how to lower temperatures on a charcoal grill when it gets a little hot-headed. Plus, we’ll look at why kamado grills are perfect when you need smooth sailing at low temperatures.
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How Do I Know If My Charcoal Grill Is Too Hot?
The thermometer that’s built into the lid of your charcoal grill will give you a good basic idea of the temperature inside. Backyard cookout staples like burgers and chicken typically cook best on a charcoal grill from around 375º to 450º. Seared steaks need a higher heat, from 500º to 650º. At these heat levels, food takes only a few minutes to cook and you should be watching the grill like a burger-loving hawk.
For “low and slow” BBQ cooking like ribs or pork butt, 200º to 250º F is the magic number that most pitmasters use for smoking. It’s just hot enough to gelatinize connective tissue and make the meat juicy, but not hot enough to dry the meat out or scorch it. See our guide to smoking temperatures for the delicious details.
A word of advice: Charcoal grills often burn hotter than normal in the first few minutes after being lit. Wait a few minutes for the temperature to level out before you put your food on or adjust the grill’s dampers.
How to Cool Down a Charcoal Grill
The metal slider attached to the bottom of your charcoal grill is called the intake damper, and it’s your main method for controlling the grill’s heat. This damper controls how much airflow enters through the bottom of the grill. An open intake damper means more oxygen and a hotter-burning fire. Close it completely and the fire will eventually go out.
Your grill also has an exhaust damper on the top. You can use this to adjust the temperature in smaller increments, but you should never close it completely unless you want to put out the fire.
To cool down your charcoal grill or keep the temperature where it is now, try closing the intake damper halfway. This will reduce the oxygen without killing it completely. In a few minutes, your grill temperature will drop. To fine-tune the temperature, you can adjust either of the two dampers in smaller increments. (Remember, it’s an art!)
More Ways to Keep Your Cool
Even for experienced pitmasters, keeping a charcoal grill at low-and-slow temperatures can be a pain in the brisket. Even with the dampers set just right, temperatures often fluctuate inside the grill.
One answer is to use two-zone cooking to set up direct and indirect heating zones. To do this, you’ll place all of your coals in one area of the grill. Foods that need high heat, like a steak, get cooked directly over the flame. Lower heat foods can hang out in the indirect heating zone, where they’ll cook with a more gentle and manageable convection heat.
Remember, though, that these methods require preparing the grill ahead of time. If you need to cool down the grill as you’re cooking, adjusting the dampers is a better option. The easiest way of all, however, is to use a kamado grill.
Kamado Grills for Low-Heat Charcoal Cooking
Chefs in China and Japan mastered low-heat charcoal cooking long ago. The answer is kamado grills, a type of ceramic-lined charcoal grills! The ceramic lining provides amazing heat retention and helps kamado grills maintain a stable temperature in a way that’s harder on a traditional charcoal grill.
With a passion for slow-smoked BBQ already in our DNA, Grilla Grills decided that a kamado grill was the logical next step. With the Grilla Kong, we delivered on our vision of a built-to-last kamado grill that delivers unbeatable bang for the buck.
On your Kong, it’s as easy to keep a perfect 225º for a pork shoulder as it is to stoke up a lively 450º for burgers. Ceramic grills also retain moisture incredibly well, so you can bid a not-so-fond farewell to dried-out meats. (Just be sure to keep the lid closed!) See our guide to kamado grill temperature control for more tips.
We also offer a ceramic split diffuser for crazy-easy two-zone cooking on the Kong! This heavy-duty two-piece diffuser is a kamado chef’s secret weapon for setting up multiple heat zones inside a kamado grill. From one-grill meals that feed the whole gang to tasty techniques like reverse searing, a split diffuser opens the door to tons of options that will fuel your creativity.
The Best Value in Ceramic Grills — Period.
Now that you know the secrets of staying cool, check out the rest of what the Kong kamado grill can offer your patio! Or, see our guide to lump charcoal to learn about the type of charcoal that works best in kamado grills.