Heat control in a grill is important in determining the quality of the food. When grilling, you want to have control over the heat that is applied to your food such that is adequate enough to perfectly cook your food without burning or drying it. Controlling heat on a gas grill is easy and fast with just the turn of a knob. For charcoal grills, it might be a different story altogether. Here are some tips on how to effectively control heat on a charcoal grill for efficient outdoor cooking.
1. Adjust the airflow using the grill vents
Most charcoal grills come with 2 damper vents. The first one, the intake damper is responsible for providing oxygen to the fire. If you open the damper vent wide, more air will get into your grill hence you will have a hotter fire. Close the vent a little bit and less air will get into the grill thus you’ll have a lower temperature fire. Close it off completely and you will essentially prevent oxygen from getting into the fire hence your fire will get chocked out and burn out. This is even when the second damper vent is open. So temperatures in most charcoal grills can be controlled using the intake damper.
The second vent which is the exhaust damper pulls oxygen in through the intake damper and also releases the burning gases, heat, and smoke from the grill. For this reason, this vent needs to be at the very least partially opened at all times (most manufacturers recommend leaving it fully open) while you’re cooking otherwise if you close it completely your fire will be suppressed by the burning gases, heat and smoke that is supposed to be escaping.
So basically, just know that the more the air that gets into the fire, the hotter the fire. To promote good air flow throughout your charcoal grill and ensure it performs optimally, the ash catcher should always be clean and the exhaust dampers should be clogged at any time, otherwise the performance of your charcoal grill will be affected.
2. Have varying coal areas
This is done before you light the fire.You will have charcoal areas with varying thicknesses (2-3 areas) for different heat temperatures, for example, you may want the first area to be the hottest, for foods that you’re cook with high temperatures. Here the coals can be the thickest. You will place and spread 2 layers of coals.
In the middle second area you will have moderate temperatures for foods that don’t require so much heat, so here you will have a thinner layer of coals. The last part will have no coals hence no heat at all on this part. This will be where you will rest your food.
With these 3 different temperature areas you can move your food back and forth as you wish thus allowing you the flexibility of controlling the temperature on your charcoal grill that comes to contact with your food.
3. Use the grill grates
Some charcoal grills come with grates that you can use to control temperature. The closer the food is to the coals, the hotter and faster it will cook. You can therefore move the grates closer or further away from the coals depending on what you’re cooking.
4. Protecting your food from direct heat
You can use aluminum foil which will create a barrier between your food and the heat thus protecting your food from direct heat. Just ensure the aluminum foil is thick enough to effectively perform the task. For some people however, using aluminum foil makes the meat acquire a fried taste rather than a grilled taste which may not be ideal in that circumstance. Also with aluminum foil, you will not have the grill marks on the meat if you love those.
The good thing with using aluminum foil is that you will have less clean up to do once you’re done cooking.
You can use these tips together of just test and see which one(s) best allows you to control the temperature on your charcoal grill well.