The most popular gas, charcoal, and electric grills come with hoods. Determining when should you leave your grill lid open and when should you close it is something that first-time grillers can struggle with.
Putting the hood down can increase the heat, but a lot of this heat will be radiant, and might not be ideal for the ingredients.If your grill hood has become a point of uncertainty for you, this guide will help to clear things up.
Cooking With the Lid Up – Campfire Style
When you grill with the lid up, you’ll get similar results to what you would over an open campfire or a small hibachi grill. It’s an effective way to cook if you want direct heat and don’t mind flipping your ingredients often to prevent burning.
Ingredients that you want to be crisp and seared can be cooked with the lid up. Think steaks up to a quarter-inch thick, sausages, hot dogs, smaller chicken pieces, and fresh fish. Your grill will get unlimited access to oxygen when the lid is up, so the fire will be more intense.
The problem starts when you’re grilling larger ingredients. Direct heat takes longer to penetrate the interior of your food. If you are cooking thick steaks, pork, whole poultry, or large barbecue cuts, cooking with the lid up will be inefficient.
Closing the lid introduces radiant heat to ensure that food is cooked thoroughly. You can still sear food with the lid down, although it might take a little longer to get the perfect crust.
Closing the Lid on Your Grill for Radiant Heat and Flavor
There are a few things that happen when you close the lid on your grill. Heat management is a part of the process, but there’s more going on.
Closing the lid on your grill will ensure that:
- The grill starts to build up radiant heat that moves around the firebox. This constant movement of heated air will work much like the oven in your kitchen. In addition to the direct heat on the grilling surface, food will be thoroughly cooked from all around.
- More flavor will be added. When drippings vaporize on charcoal, gas heat spreaders, or electric elements, they rise and reincorporate with food. They are part of the flavorful crust that is formed. Cooking with the lid down will allow more of these vaporized juices to reach the surface of your food. If you want the classic smoky flavor that grilling enthusiasts love, top-down cooking is the way to get it.
- You can create different temperature zones. On a multi-burner grill or a charcoal grill with the coals set to one side, you will have a direct cooking zone and an indirect zone. The indirect zone only gets radiant heat. If you want to slow cook barbecue cuts or avoid burning your food with excessive searing, you can move the food over to the indirect zone to complete the process. This can only be done with the lid down.
Grill Lid Cheat Sheet – Popular Ingredients for Lid Up and Lid Down Cooking
You now understand how your grill lid works to control temperature and the type of heat that your grill produces. For an easy point of reference, take a look at our cheat sheet for lid up and lid down cooking.
Ingredients to grill with the lid up:
- Thin beef cuts like skirt steaks.
- Delicate vegetables like eggplant.
- Standard hamburger patties.
- Asparagus, mushrooms, and other fresh vegetables.
- Chicken strips and breasts.
- Seared fish like salmon and tuna.
- Pre-cooked sausages and hot dogs.
Ingredients to grill with the lid down:
- Thick beef cuts like steaks over a quarter-inch thick.
- Pot roasts, grill pizza, and bread.
- Whole chicken or large bone-in cuts.
- Whole turkey and game meat.
- Large BBQ cuts like pork belly and loin.
- Whole fish in foil.
- Corn on the cob.
You can also combine both methods, transferring food from a searing hot zone to an indirect heat zone. This can take some experimentation.
The best way to approach this with meat is to use a thermometer to check interior doneness. This affordable Amagarm temperature probe is ideal for quickly checking meat and other ingredients.
Your grill lid increases versatility and flavor. Use it the right way, and you’ll find your ingredients come out better than ever before.