Whether we admit it or not, charcoal grills are among the best grills to use every barbecue weekend. Want to get that perfect smoky and tender taste on your meat? Nothing can give you that but a charcoal grill.

The only downside, however, is that controlling heat can be very difficult on a charcoal grill. It’s so difficult that most people end up burning food while it’s raw inside.

So, if you’re one of those people who find controlling temperature a challenge on this grill, let us help. In this article, we’ll show you different ways to do that.

1. Use Air Vents

charcoal grill air vents
Air vents are generally available at the bottom of your charcoal grill, and they are not there for decoration. The purpose of this is to give you better control of the airflow inside your grill.

You see, charcoal grills generally have one rule: the more airflow, the hotter the grill. So, to easily control your charcoal grill’s temperature, you just need to increase or decrease the airflow by using the air vents.

This is pretty simple to do. If you want a hotter fire, open the vents to get more air in; for a cooler fire, partially close the vents. Easy, right?

2. Create Fire Zones

grilling zones
Creating fire zones means creating different heat areas or zones that serve different purposes. There are two ways you can approach this – a two-zone or a three-zone fire.

For a two-zone fire, you’ll create two separate piles of charcoals in your ash bin. Light one charcoal pile and add more coals to it. Repeat the same on the second pile but don’t add any more coals. This way, one pile is hotter than the other.

A three-zone fire is basically the same, but instead of two piles, you’ll have three. Just take note that this would most likely work if you have a wider charcoal grill.

So, the same as the two-zone, add more charcoal on your first pile, so it burns hotter. Then, add a few more charcoals on the second, and leave the third one alone. Basically, the hottest zone is what you’ll use for searing meats, the medium area for cooking, and the last for resting food.

You should take note that this zoning method is only effective when the grill is open. Once you close the grill, the zones will heat the same.

3. Shield Your Food

food wrapped in tinfoil on grill
Another way is to shield your food to keep it from burning.

All you need is an aluminum foil but make sure to choose the heavy duty one, so it doesn’t stick to the grill. Fold the foil, like you’re folding a paper, preferably three layers thick. After that, place it on top of the grill and put your food on it.

This foil serves as a barrier between the meat and the heat below. At the same time, it helps slow down the cooking process.

If you think three layers is not enough because the fire is too strong, add more layers. This is very effective if your food is already burning or if it’s cooking too fast.

4. Monitor the distance

raised plate over charcoal grill
Another thing you need to remember about charcoal grills is that the closer the food is to the fire, the hotter the heat, and the quicker it will cook. So, it’s best to monitor the distance between food and fire.

Some charcoal grills come with adjustable grates for this very purpose. But if you have fixed grates, you can use the other methods above, such as creating fire zones

5. Adjust Your Tray Height

smoked salmon on charcoal grill
Lastly, you can adjust your tray height. This is one method that most people haven’t really thought of because you can’t do it on all grills.

You need a grill that comes with two half-moon shaped grates. This way, you can raise one and lower the other, creating that distance between food and fire. On top of that, it also gives you the option to open and close the lid as you wish.

In other words, you get to do two things: creating a distance between the food and fire and adjusting airflow.

Commonly Asked Questions

Do you leave the lid open or closed when heating charcoal?

Grilling takes patience. So when heating charcoal, make sure to leave the lid closed for at least 15 minutes before you start cooking. This way, charcoal burns faster as the heat remains inside, making the grill heat faster, too.

What do I do if my charcoal grill is too hot?

If your charcoal grill’s temperature exceeds the desired temperature, you can do any of the methods above to prevent your food from burning. You can partially close the air vents to cool your grill, create a food shield, or create a better distance between your food and the fire.

How long will a charcoal grill stay hot?

Charcoal grills can usually stay hot for an hour or more. However, these are also affected by several factors such as how hot it was at the start, how frequently you’re adjusting the heat, and so on. But, since charcoal grills require charcoal as fuel, as long as you add more of it, it will continuously heat and fire up.