How To Get Charcoal Grill Hotter?

  • By: Brendan

I’m sure you’ve experienced this before—that mid-week rush trying to get dinner ready after a bustling 9-5 day.

So, I’ve fired up my good ol’ charcoal grill, and even though it has been a good 10 minutes, the charcoal isn’t flaming hot!

How To Get Charcoal Grill Hotter

The big question now is how to get charcoal grill hotter? The good news is there are several ways including opening the vents at the bottom and using lump charcoal instead of charcoal briquettes.

How Hot do Charcoal Grills Get?

Charcoal grills have the potential to get hotter than gas grills. They can reach temperatures of up to 700-degrees F, which is the right temperature to achieve a good sear on your meat.

How to Get Charcoal Grill Hotter?

There are several ways to get your charcoal grill to burn hotter, most notably:

Preheat your coal

Start your charcoal grill with a charcoal chimney starter instead of fluid, and let charcoal or briquettes burn until they are covered with greyish-white ashes, which should take roughly five to 10 minutes.

Open the vents

If your charcoal grill has vents at the bottom, then open them wide to let more air in for a hotter fire and hotter charcoal.

If you partially close the vents, you’ll get less air and a cooler fire. Further, make sure that the vents are open when you light the charcoal or you may have trouble starting your charcoal grill.

Is your charcoal grill clean?

If your charcoal grill is clogged with ashes from previous grilling sessions, it can impede the airflow inside the grill, thus causing the coals to burn cooler.

Ash buildup can also make it next to impossible for the coals to stay lit, and in worse cases can trap moisture, leading to corrosion. This is one of the reasons you should clean your charcoal grill after each session.

Use lump charcoal instead of charcoal briquettes

Lump charcoal burns hotter and faster than charcoal briquettes, which are best suited for longer cooks, and burn more uniformly.

Lump charcoal burns twice as hot and long as conventional charcoal and produces less ash and low smoke.

How old is the charcoal?

Charcoal typically has no expiry date itself, but there are several factors that can cause charcoal to go bad.

First is the amount of moisture the charcoal has absorbed over time, where excess moisture can lead to incomplete charcoal combustion, which can result in inconsistent burning and charcoal not getting hot.

How to Measure Temperature of a Charcoal Grill?

There are ideally two ways to measure the temperature of a charcoal grill—the hand test, and with a grill thermometer.

To perform a hand test, extend your palm over the charcoal at a safe distance.

Time palm can be held over grill Grill Heat Temperature Range
less than 1 second Very hot over 600°F
1 to 2 seconds Hot 400° to 500°F
3 to 4 seconds Medium 350° to 375°F
5 to 7 seconds Medium-low 325° to 350°F

Most of the best charcoal grills come with a lid-mounted temperature gauge, but if yours didn’t, you can buy a grill thermometer separately.

Charcoal Grill Temperature Chart

Preparation Cook Time What to Watch For Internal Temp
Burgers, well done 6-7 mins per side Browned and cooked through 160-degrees F
Chicken breast 7-8 mins per side Browned meat, breast cooked through 165-degrees F
Chicken thigh 5-6 mins per side Charred and crisp skin, meat cooked all the way through 165-degrees F
Pork chop 3-4 mins per side Browned surface, light pink center 145-degree F
Salmon fillet 8-10 minutes, skin side down Fillet will flake apart easily with a fork 145-degree F
Shrimp whole 2-3 minutes per side Orange opaque shrimp, edges beginning to curl 145-degree F
Steak, bistro, or strip 4-5 per side Visible grill on surface 145-degree F

How to Use a Grill Thermometer?

Whether you’re cooking for yourself or for a crowd, a meat thermometer can help you gauge accurate temperatures every time.

This small prong-type device can be used to measure the temperatures of meats and other proteins and can be ordered in analog and digital versions.

Before using a meat thermometer, it’s important to ensure it is in a good working order and renders an accurate reading.

You can do this by placing the meat thermometer in a container full of ice and water and waiting 20 seconds for a reading.

If the temperature displayed is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or zero degrees Celsius, your meat thermometer is calibrated and ready for use.

When measuring the temperature of your food, do not remove the food from the heat source, that is from your grill or stove because doing so can result in an inaccurate reading.

Insert the meat thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the meat, and leave it in place for roughly 10 seconds.

After determining the temperature, compare it with a USDA food chart to gauge your food’s doneness.

2 Best Meat Thermometers

When shopping for the best meat thermometer, you will be spoilt for choice, given the myriad options available.

But here are 3 meat thermometers I’ve used extensively and can depend on for accurate readings.

Meater Plus – App-Based Meat Thermometer

The Meater Plus meat thermometer offers a long 165 feet wireless range and is perhaps the first wireless meat thermometer that can be paired with an app.

It features two sensors and one probe and can measure internal meat temperatures up to 212°F.

Digital Touchscreen Food Thermometer

The 153 digital thermometer is equipped with a clear and crisp touchscreen display and LCD display. It features a stainless steel probe that’s mated with a heavy-duty cord.

Why Won’t Charcoal Grill Get Hot Enough?

There are myriad reasons why your charcoal grill won’t get hot enough, but I’ve listed the most common reasons for the issue.

Using premium quality charcoal is highly important for a good grilling experience. Low quality or cheap charcoal can have a harder time getting hot, and staying lit.

Speaking of charcoal, you should also consider the age of the charcoal, because it’s always best to use fresh charcoal.

Adding to this, if your charcoal has gotten wet it will never provide great results, so make sure you store your charcoal in a cool, dry location.

If you’re trying to use charcoal from a previous grilling session, the grill may not get hot, and the charcoal may burn out quicker than expected.

Does a Charcoal Grill Get Hot with the Lid On or Off?

A rule with charcoal grills—opening the lid will make it hotter, and closing the lid cooler. Contrarily, opening the lid of a gas grill will make it cooler, and closing it cooler.

Open vents or grill lid of a charcoal grill results in hotter and faster burning charcoal. When you open the lid or vents of your charcoal grill, oxygen enters, and causes the charcoal to burn even hotter, and on the downside also increases the potential of burning food.

Does Adding More Charcoal Make the Grill Hotter?

Adding more charcoal to already lit charcoal does indeed raise the temperature in the cookbox. But doing so also produces a lot of smoke, so you will probably have to open the vents or lid if the smoke buildup is getting out of control.

If you have charcoal that’s cooling down, you can add fresh charcoal in a chimney starter, and once it’s lit, dump it around the existing coals, spread, and mix them with the existing charcoal.

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