How to Control Temperature on a Kamado Grill
The Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe are nothing short of amazing. They're the most versatile charcoal grills we know of because they work great as a smoker, too. But mastering any kamado grill takes some practice. One of the most challenging skills you need to learn when you start grilling or smoking on a kamado grill, like the Big Green Egg, is how to control the temperature correctly. One of the mistakes that many kamado grillers make is allowing the temperature to climb too fast, resulting in a waste of time and resources as you try to get back down to the temperature you need.
This article will give you the knowledge you need to perfect your skills. You'll learn all about the way to set the perfect temperature on a kamado grill the first time, so you don't overheat your cooking surface or turn your smoked ribs into barbecue when the temperature gets away from you. Just remember, there is no substitute for practice. Don't hesitate to fire your kamado grill up for no reason other than to practice controlling the temperature.
How do I Control the Heat on My Kamado Grill?
The most popular kamado grills use very similar components to let the cook control the temperature. The top vent and the draft door determine the temperature the grill will reach. Each of these components is individually adjustable for a wide range of possible temperatures. Understanding how each part works with the others will help you understand the best way to control the heat on your kamado grill.
- Draft Door: The draft door is in the lower portion of the kamado grill. It's the primary way you regulate the heat in your grill. Opening the draft door allows more airflow. Fire needs air, so when the door is open, the temperature will rise. When the draft door is closed, the charcoal burns cooler. This is how a kamado grill can cook from 175 degrees to over 700 degrees.
- Top Vent: The top vent on most kamado grills is for fine-tuning the temperature when you get close to your target temperature. The top vent lets out heat and smoke that accumulate in the lid. You will adjust the top vent much more than the bottom vent when cooking.
How Do you Regulate the Temperature on a Charcoal Smoker?
Depending on what you plan to cook, you will have a target temperature that you want your smoker to reach. Kamado grills are super-efficient and hold heat for a long time, which makes them perfect as a smoker. However it's also the reason you don't want to overshoot the target temp. You want to start with enough charcoal so that you won't need to add later on. This is another aspect of grilling or smoking on a kamado grill that takes practice to find the sweet spot. Your grill manufacturer will recommend the correct amount of charcoal for the size of your grill. For really long smokes, you may want to include unlit charcoal in your grill along with your coals.
Starting the Grill the Right Way
Everyone has their favorite method of starting a grill, but one thing is universal: never use lighter fluid in a kamado grill. Our favorite way is with a charcoal chimney starter and a few sheets of newspaper. Light the correct amount of charcoal in your chimney and wait about 10 to 15 minutes for it to fully ignite and look powdery-grey. You want to have the top and bottom vents fully open when you add your charcoal. Close the lid and begin monitoring the temperature. When the grill is about 15 to 20 degrees from the correct temperature, close the bottom vent to the correct amount (more on this later). There are two adjustments you make to the top vent, depending on the temperature you want to maintain.
How do I get my charcoal grill hotter?
Opening the bottom vent will increase the air flow through your charcoal grill. Make sure the top vent always has at least some airflow because it can create a back flash effect that's very dangerous. To maximize the temperature in your charcoal grill, open both top and bottom all the way. Many ceramic kamado grills will exceed 700 degrees this way.
How do you cool down a charcoal grill?
There is a safe way to cool down a kamado grill. The best method when you are still cooking is simply to open the lid for a few minutes. This will allow heat to escape. Close the draft door while the lid is open to prevent the charcoal from drawing air and getting hotter. When you are done grilling, simply close the lid, close the draft door, and leave the top vent cap off. A kamado grill can take several hours to cool, so approach with caution.
Vent Settings for Different Types of Cooking
There are several ways you can get to the right temperature for what you are cooking. Here is the way we like to do it for different temperatures of cooking.
When you use it as a smoker, you're looking for low and slow temperatures. So you'll want to close the draft door or bottom vent almost all the way. Leave somewhere between one-half inch to two inches. Place the vent cap on the chimney and close the top vents to small crescents. If the temperature begins to approach 250 degrees, close the bottom vent a little.
The best way to get your grill to the right temperature for chicken and burgers is to open the bottom vent all the way to let in the most air. Slide the top cap so that a small sliver of air is open and the vent holes are fully open. Temperature control will be made by sliding the top vent into place if temperatures rise or sliding it off to the side a little to increase the temperature.
Kamado grills are fantastic for getting to a blistering hot temp that's perfect for searing steaks. All you have to do here is open the draft door and leave the chimney cap off. Your kamado grill will burn furiously.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Controlling the temp of your kamado grill takes some practice and a little trial and error. Just remember that more air means more fire. The charcoal will pull air from the smallest hole, no matter if it's the top or bottom vent. You always want the grill pulling from the bottom. If you see smoke exiting the draft door, that's a sign the top vent needs to be open more. Whether you're using it as a smoker or a grill, it won't take you long to learn the best way to regulate the temp. Once you are comfortable with the best way to adjust the vents, you'll be able to cook any type of meat to perfection.
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