A Guide To Grilling Time And Temperatures: BBQ To Perfection

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Nothing says that summer is here like a good summer’s day grill outside.

Whether you are cooking a thick steak, a juicy pork chop, some succulent chicken or even some steamy fish, some of the foods you throw on the grill can be expensive so knowing how long to cook each type of meat is absolutely crucial.

A Guide To Grilling Time and Temperatures

There is nothing worse than overcooking the centerpiece, so you need to make sure that whatever you have grilling away on a beautiful summer day is fully cooked before you serve them.

So whether you are using a gas or a charcoal grill make sure you know what you are doing and learn how to cook the perfect food to assure a successful outcome.

Gauging The Temperature

Luckily you do not need to go out and splash the cash on a fancy thermometer to indicate the temperature of your grill.

There is another tool that can do the job just as well and better yet it is absolutely free. The tool in question? Your hand.

Simply hover your hand a few inches above the grate and count how long it takes until you think that your skin is about to melt off and then you can determine if the fire is high, medium or low.


If you cannot manage any longer than three seconds then the temperature is high, this heat can be too hot to really cook anything.

If the food on the grill is a tuna steak or a thin pork chop that is going to be beneficial for a short and hot cook then this temperature is ideal for those on and off meats.

This temperature is best managed by not immediately throwing meat on, you should wait for the coals to heat up and then after five minutes scrub off the grill and restart to get the perfect hot grill.

Medium – High

If you are managing only five seconds with your hand over the grill then it is at a medium-high heat.

When the charcoal is lit and spread out it will begin losing heat after 10 minutes of heating. The heat should be down from a high to a medium high temperature.

This temperature is perfect for burgers, sliced vegetables and fish.

The sear is still in full effect but at a slightly lower temperature the food will have more time to cook properly and thoroughly.

The medium high range will sustain longer than at a high temperature but you are looking at 15 minutes max at full effect with the grill uncovered.


When hovering your hand over the grill if you can not go an y further than seven seconds then the grill is at a medium heat.

This middle of the road heat offers everything that it implies, a fire that burns low enough to gently cook whilst also still hot enough to brown the outsides nicely during any longer cooking times.

Medium heat is perfect for cooking, chicken, turkey and roasts. All these meats cook beautifully on a medium heat.

A well seasoned grill with the lid on can very easily remain in the medium range for 45-60 minutes, the perfect length of time for any longer cooking items of food.

A Guide To Grilling Time and Temperatures: BBQ to Perfection

Medium – Low

A medium low heat should see your hand being able to remain above the grill for 10 seconds before it becomes unbearable.

Once you do drop to around 300 fahrenheit you are then dealing with a fire that is not going to brown anything you place on it.

If you are working with direct grilling then it is time to replenish the coals and get back up to temperature.

The heat is going to fade rather quickly once reaching this temperature range, this range is only useful for keeping your food warm.

If you wish to cook further then add more coals and get the heat back up but once you are done with your cooking this temperature is perfect for keeping that spare food at eating temperature for reheating any that has gone cold.


Finally we have the low temperature. You can easily hold your hand over this grill for 15 seconds, when you reach the lower temperatures that range from 225-250 degrees fahrenheit, you are no longer grilling food but barbecuing.

At this temperature the fat and connective tissue in ribs, pork shoulder and brisket will slowly melt away and transform even the toughest meats into moist and tender pieces of food.

You can transform a kettle grill into a smoker but it will require some work and constant vigilance, requiring charcoal changes on the hour and making sure you keep a constant eye on it to maintain the temperature.

If you are going to cook in the low range frequently, then you should really be using a smoker to cook the meat more efficiently than the grill at these low temperatures.

Adjusting The Heat

The range of temperatures between all of these levels is relatively small and can go from a searingly high temperature to a whimpering low in such a short period of time.

Of course this leads to frustration and creates extra work to keep the grill at the ideal temperature.

Charcoal grills have their place but have been dwarfed with the advent of gas grills where you can regulate the temperature much more easily and efficiently.

But like any fire all it takes to successfully run a charcoal grill is oxygen.

If you can control the amount of oxygen getting to the fire then a charcoal grill works just as well as a gas one.

This can be controlled easily via the vents, one on the bottom and one on the top. Adjusting these vents will regulate the airflow in and out of the grill.

Closing all vents will cut off the airflow and extinguish the fire which is handy for once you are done and plan to finally call it a day.

Tommy Hall

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