30 comments on “How to Control Grill Temperature

  1. I was reading your post about grilling and it is really helpful. I have a few questions though. I have a Weber 22.5″ kettle and am trying to get acquainted with it. I tried grilling tonight and I wanted the temp to get to about 350 so grill some burgers. I don’t know if I didn’t wait long enough or maybe I should try the “Minion” method; but, I could never get my temp down to that. I almost had the bottom vent completely closed and I was still hovering around 450. I am using a grate thermometer too–should I get a needle one to stick in the vent?

    Like you mentioned earlier, should I just light about 10-12 coals in the chimney starter, additional fresh coals in the grill, then place the warmed chimney coals on fresh coals? Thanks!

  2. Jeff, the problem is you were trying to get your “temp down to that”. the trick is to catch the temps on the way up, not to bring them down. It’s much easier that way and takes less time.

    Last night I did a London Broil with about 12 lit coals on top of a bed of unlit. At 300* I closed the bottom vents about 75% of the way. It held at 400* untli I was done.

    Good luck and get grilling!

  3. Ken,
    Thanks for the great information.
    I’m trying ribs on the grill for the first time tonight with my Performer and this article should help me a ton.
    Thanks again.

  4. Adam, I hope it did help. My best buddy just did a 6 hour brisket flat using this method and the meat came out great. He did have a few highs and lows, but with proper monitoring things came out great.

    Again, I hope it all worked out well.

  5. Ribs came out pretty decent for the first run. I did have a lot of trouble getting the temperature down initially; it shot way up right away before I could try and control it (any suggestions?). Once I got it down, I had no trouble maintaining the temp though.

  6. Hey Adam–I did exactly what Ken suggested and my temps worked perfectly. After I got my coals lit in my starter chimney, I put them in the grill then closed the vents about 3/4 and my temp hovered around 380-400, with minor adjustments here and there. Towards the end, I found myself opening the vents little by little so i could maintain the temp.

  7. My issue is that I wanted to hold the grill at about 250-275. The grill went up to about 400+ immediately and took me a little to get it back down and then I was able to hold it at the desired temp; I wasn’t able to hold it at 250-275 initially.

  8. Hey Adam–You may need to go directly to the source of this problem–heat. Most of the heat comes from the coals, so, if you want to lower your temps, you need to use less coals.

  9. Adam, Jeff is right. Next time use less lit coals. I typically use 10-12 lit on top of the unlit. You just need to adjust the number of lit coals you’re using.

    Also, catch the temp on the way up.

    For 250-275 I’d use about 8 coals. At 200 I’d shut things down.

    It’s much easier to keep the temps low then it is to bring them down.

    I’m glad you guys are responding here. It makes me feel good to know I can help out.

  10. Pingback: Thoughts on Grilling « Ken’s Garbage Can

  11. i dont grill out that much at all so im not good at it but im tryin to learn. im single and hardly ever have people over but i love grilling when i do. i have wondered if putting less coals on the grill than my friends was wrong but it seems they use too much and i still might be using too much…so only 8 to 12 coals? i just dump a small pile.if done with the skills you speak of how long should a 12pound bag last? thanks ken. i like what i am reading from you guys

  12. It should last quite a while. You’d be surprised. Just use enough coals to get you the temp you need, otherwise you’re just wasting your money, time and effort.

    Toward spring I’ll post more about grilling and BBQ’ing in simple terms. I hope it’ll help you out.

  13. Don’t know if this thread is still active, but I have a question, when you have your initial lit coals and then place them on the unlit coals, how many unlit coals do you use ? I have had my Weber for a while and seem to get through charcoal bricquettes like there is no tomorrow !

  14. Thanks for the question Damian. I usually start with 12-15 lit coals. It doesn’t take more than that.

  15. Hey Ken,

    I love this technique, thanks a ton. 2 weeks ago I smoked a pork butt (5lbs) for 8 hrs or so but fought the heat the entire time. I was aiming for 180-200 but never got it below 275. I made it work though, still turned out nice. Today I am smoking an11lb butt and I have the heat perfect. I controlled the heat on the way up and never had to bring it down. THANKS. What is your recommendation on smoking time for a butt this big?

    See you by the grill pit,

    Jeff R.

  16. Can you also tell me how to do direct grilling when you are in a hurry in Weber Performance grill? My chicken wings always come out burnt. The details I would like to have is, how many self lighting charcoal to use? How to use the vent in this case? Just keep the lower vent open and lid open or are there any other techniques?

  17. Thanks Jeff. I appreciate the comments.

    D, the wings are burning because you’re getting the temp too high. Shut the bottom vents sooner and nearly close them all the way. Any temp above 400* and you risk burning chicken skin. Keep it under that and cook them until they are done.

    Good luck and thanks again guys. Ken

  18. Thanks for the comments and plan on cooking that monster overnight! Have coffee handy!!!

    Let me know how it goes and I’m glad the info helped you out. Ken

  19. Hi guys

    Interesting reading. I´m from sweden and I gues that we swedes are really not so into grilling. However I love grilling and all these post were very intersting. I just bought my weber master premium “charocal” a few days ago and I´m still learning to controll this pice of mystery and enjoyment.

  20. I owned a ‘Patio Classic’ charcoal grill(egg shaped, grate was hinged in the middle for adding charcoal) for almost ten years. My wife bought me a Weber One Touch Platinum for Father’s day. I don’t recall how long it took me to get use to my old grill but this Weber is kicking my butt. I can’t hold my heat with it when cooking direct. I like a 300-325 fire. I usually let the temp spike to burn off the previous meal, adjust my vents, and with my old grill I was good for about an hour. The new one may burn for 20 min and leaves briquets intact on the grate.I have smoked chickens, a brisket, and ribs with no problems with heat. I’ve even went as far as wondering if I got some bad charcoal, but how can one mess up charoal. As the grill gets ‘broke in/seasoned’, will it hold heat longer? Or is it operator malfunction?

  21. Hi Ken,
    I havee a Weber I bought 2nd hand. it has no thermometer, which is the firt thing I will buy. I think I get your method of controlling temperature but I have a couple of questions please.
    1) The bed of unlit coals, how many are you talking about?
    2) When you say shut it down to maintain the temperature. Does that mean closing the top vent completely and leaving the bottom one at 3/4 closed?

  22. Thanks for asking Garth. The bed of unlit coals just depends on how long your cook is going to last. If you’re going for BBQ then you’ll have a large amount down, just some chicken you can use much, much less. No matter how much you use, be sure to close all the vents and you should have a lot of coals to use on your next cook.

    As for the vents I almost never close the top vent. Start by closing the botom vents and don’t be shy about doing it. Sometimes I may have it completely closed with the top vent open.

    Honestly, if you are able to keep the temp from getting out of control you’ll be so much happier with your grilling results. Experiment with it, its a great reason to grill!

    Have fun and thanks for the questions.

  23. If this thread is still active, i’ve got some questions. I’ve never tried this method of adjusting vents before catching up the wanted temp but am curious as to how much unlit charcoal to put in the grill before adding the lit charcoal? My grill size is about 14 inches. Next question is that i’ve been taught to regularly baste meat like ribs at least once every hour with a mopping sauce or something else. This helps the ribs stay flavorful and moist but requires for me to take the lid off. If i want to maintain a temp. of around 225 – 250 degrees for a few hours while having to take the lid off, how do i do this? I feel like it’s necessary to do this so the ribs don’t get dried out. I do use an aluminum water pan that i put on the grate above the lit coals and one below the grate under the ribs to maintiain moist but still temperature control comes into question. Is there anyway to maintain a constant temp while taking the lid off at least once every hour during the cooking process?

  24. Hey Sonny, thanks for checking this out.
    With a small grill like that use about 1/2 chimney starter of unlit coals. That grill will heat up very quickly so only use 8-10 lit coals on top of the unlit. Be sure to watch the temp carefully because, as you know, once the temp gets above your target its much more difficult to lower the temp.
    As for the ribs:
    I’m sure you use a nice rub so continue to do that. Stop opening the lid though! There is a method for ribs called the 3-2-1 Method. 3 hours indirect, 2 hours in foil and 1 hour back on the grill. I find this much too long for baby backs unless you want them falling off the bone and over cooked. That method is fine for Spare’s though.
    Try this for BBs: go 2 hrs indirect, 1 hour in foil with your favorite mop sauce and then back on the grill indirect. When the ribs are just about there, take off the lid and hit them with direct heat to firm them back up a bit. This only takes a couple of minutes.
    Do not sauce them over the direct flame and don’t leave them on the grill long after saucing. Most sauces have some type of sugar that will burn very quickly.
    Finally, tightly wrap the ribs in foil and set on your counter for 15-20 mins before serving.
    Please let me know how they turn out. I bet you’ll be surprised at how moist and juicy they are.

  25. This thread is a life saver. I’ve recently moved to a charcoal Weber Performer from gas and have been trying everything to wrestle the temperatures down and generally keep things under control. What you suggest makes perfect sense Ken.

    Sorry, got to go, there’s a chicken on the grill…


  26. last fall i purchased a weber copy to see if i could cook with charcole without too big of a hasstle. it was a cool day and no high temps were able to be reached. i surrounded the cooker with a big box and it helpep keep the wind out and it helped what a hassel it was to cook anything. anyone have any help for me????

  27. Hi there. I hope the thread is still active.
    I just cooked a rack of baby back ribs in my weber 22.5 and it was a complete disaster. Ribs were dry and overcooked. I guess it had to do with the temperature.
    I used a full chimeny of brickets closed bottom and top vents and I could not keep the temperature below 400.
    The ribs stayed in the grill for three hours, I used a pan with water to add moisture, nonetheless, the ribs were dry and overcooked.

    What advise can you give me for next time? How many unlit and lit brickets should I use?

  28. This thread is awesome, good to learn about the minion method. I have a 22.5″ weber one touch and have cooked spare ribs in a few different ways, low and slow, slightly hotter in foil, etc. I can’t wait to try out this new method of controlling the temps. I’ve always tried to control temp through the amount of coals, never had much knowledge of how to use the vents. For spare ribs, I am shooting for indirect grilling, 3-4 hours @ 225-250. So about a half a chimney of unlit coals, the I add 10-12 lit ones, when temp reaches 200, I start closing the bottom vent, until I hit 250. One question, will all the unlit coals be lit at this time or do they slowly catch? Will the ribs soak up the nasty smoke from the coals?

  29. Very interesting topic, thanks for posting. I’m about to purcahse a Weber Kettle and am very frustrated to notice that the more expensice kettle grill comes with a built in thermo, all the models below do not even though the lid size (22.5) is the same. C’mon, charge me an extra $20 and include the thermo. I guess I’ll do the thermo in the vent method. Also wondering if anyone has installed a lower thermo in the lid to provide grate temp.

  30. Thanks so much. I did my first ribs last night – 3.5 hours at about 225. Used the iGrill to monitor the grate temp. As expected, keeping the temp for the three and a half hours was really tough. As it climbed to 250, I’d have to tweak the vents. Then it would go too low, and I was afraid of choking it out, so I’d tweak the vents again, and it would climb too high. Ended up going in and out of the yard every 5-10 mins.

    No such thing as “set it and forget it”.

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