Heating up your charcoal grill to high temperatures is pretty easy! But bringing down the temperatures on the same can become quite nerve-racking.
This is unlike in gas grills, where you just turn knobs to set your desired temperature.
Experienced grill enthusiasts have mastered the art of accurately controlling the charcoal grill to ensure they produce perfectly cooked food—not undercooked or overcooked—every time they use this kind of grill.
In this article, we have shared the 4 best techniques experienced barbecuers use to easily control charcoal grill temperatures.
4 Best Techniques to Cool Down Charcoal Grill During Cooking:
#1. Adjust the position of grill grates
This is one of the simplest and most effective methods of cooling down your charcoal grill if it turns out too hot and you want to cool it down quickly.
The process involves adjusting the position of grill grates. The science behind it is that the closer the food is to the coals, the higher the cooking temperatures. The further it sits from the burning coals, the lower the temperatures.
Move the grate up a few steps to cool to cook your food at a lower temperature. For high-temperature, faster cooking, move the grate closer to the coals.
Finding a sweet spot might be hard for the first few trials but it gets better with time.
Keep in mind that this trick only works for grills that come with adjustable grates. If your model lacks this feature, check out the other alternative methods we have discussed below.
#2. Use vents to control airflow
This is probably the most common way of adjusting the level of heat in your charcoal grill. Coals require oxygen to combust. The more oxygen available, the more they burn. And the hotter your grill gets.
Charcoal grills suit their units with vents to help you easily control the amount of oxygen flowing in. This is a good thing because it gives you control over how hot your grill can get.
When you want to cool the grill down, you just close the vents to block the entry of oxygen.
BUT which vents should you close?
Charcoal grills usually feature top and bottom vents:
Bottom (lower) vent
The bottom vents are known as intake dampers and are tasked with providing airflow to the coals.
If you adjust this lower vent opening, you’ll control how much oxygen enters the grill and you’ll be able to cool down your grill.
But closing this completely will completely cut off your grill oxygen supply and the fire will just burn out.
Top (upper) vent
The top vents are known as exhaust dampers and act as a chimney (i.e., they take away the smoke). In so doing, they tend to such air through your grill, and leaving them open will encourage airflow through the system.
That said, you can’t keep this vent unless you want carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide gases to build up within your grill and starve your fire off the oxygen they need to keep burning.
We suggest leaving the upper vents fully open and control the airflow using the lower vents. But you can also experiment with your grill by doing the exact opposite and see if it helps bring the heat down.
#3. Create varying heat zones
Another method used by experienced grill cooks to control heat levels is introducing fire zones in the charcoal grill.
You can accomplish this by layering your coals in such a way that they create different cooking zones for your food—like low, medium, and high heat sections.
Create zone 1 (High heat area): Put two layers of coal in this area and evenly rake them out. This is the ideal section for sealing and soaring your food. It’s where you place any foods that you want to cook at high temperatures.
Create zone 2 (Medium heat area): Make a single layer of coals in this area and layout the flat. All the recipes that ought to be cooked at a medium heat temperature should sit in this area.
Create zine 3 (Heat-free/control/safe zone): Don’t lay any single coal in this area as you want it to be completely free of heat. This section will act as the resting area for your meat before/after cooking or if the other zones get too hot and you want to re-adjust the temperature
You can also create a two-zone fie instead of three zones. In this setup, you put the coals to cover half the size of your grill and leave the other size totally coal-free. The side with coals will act as the hot side and is ideal for direct grilling.
The coal-free side will offer indirect grilling and will cook your food via convection (i.e. using warm air circulate around your food). This will ensure even cooking of your food, both inside and out.
#4. Make a grill shield
Sometimes the best way to make something work is to inject your dose of creativity into it.
In this case, you can try bringing down the cooking temperatures by creating a barrier between your food and the fire. Note that this will not completely block the heat from getting to your food but will minimize the heat flow for a slower cooking process.
To do this, simply grab an aluminum foil and fold it several times (a foil up to 3 layers thick is good enough to control heat flow to your food). Slip it under your food and that’s it!
This method will work in emergency situations when you need a quick fix to lower the heat on your charcoal grill and prevent your food from burning.
How to cool down your charcoal grill after cooking
After you’re done grilling, you’ll need to cool down your charcoal grill before storing it for the obvious reasons. This is an even easier process and you can see it in the steps outlined below.
Step 1. Take all the food off the grill. use the tongs to grab the grate out of the grill and place it in an area free from combustibles
Step 2. Using the same tongs, spread the burning coals in the firebox as much as possible to help disperse heat.
Step 3. Close all the grill vents (both top and bottom) as a way of completely blocking oxygen from entering the grill and burning the charcoal.
Step 4. After approx. 15 minutes, open the exhaust damper (i.e., lift the lid). At this point, most of the coals will be almost going off. Lightly spray the bottles with water.
Stir the coals as you spray them.
WARNING: Be careful not to apply too much water in quick action as this can result in a rapid steam release from the coals which might end up scalding you or even warping your grill.
Step 5. Continue with the spraying and stirring process until your coals cool down completely.
So, these are the 4 main techniques you can use to cool down your charcoal grill heat levels. Don’t hesitate to try out all these methods to see which one works best for you. You can choose to either use one method at a time or use all of them simultaneously. Whichever way you go, you’ll hit a similar goal, which is to lower down the temperature of your charcoal grill.