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Test the Temperature of your Grill with Just Your Hand.

How Hot is my Fire?

Testing the Temperature of your Charcoal Grill or Gas Grill is very easy when you know how.

Most grilling recipes call for cooking over high, medium or low heat. Seldom do they call for a specific temperature.

There are several reasons for this. Grilling is an inexact cooking method and the conditions can change very quickly. So it is best to simply cook over the range of heat and watch the food very closely.

But how do you know what is considered high, medium or low heat? The thermometers in the tops of most grills for testing the temperature will measure only air temperatures inside the grill when the cover is closed. This is not a true reflection of the cooking temperature down close to the fire where your food is. That is much higher. Futhermore, with most meats and fish fillets you will want to build a two zone fire and the lid thermometer is almost completely worthless if the sides of the grill are at different temperatures.

The best way to tell the temperature of your fire is to use the traditional hand test. Hold your hand about three inches above the grate and time how long you can hold it there before you are forced to pull it back:

  • 1 to 2 seconds — High Heat – This is perfect for your hot zone if you are searing a steak or grilling shrimp. Use this heat first to sear the outside and lock in the juices.
  • 2 to 3 seconds — Medium High Range – Good for most fish fillets.
  • 4 to 5 seconds — Medium Low Range – Ideal for most chicken and veggies.
  • 7 to 8 seconds — Low Heat – Perfect for you warm zone to finish steaks or chops. Also good for grilling delicate vegetables and fruit.
  • 1 minute – You forgot to light the grill! Put down the beer and go get some matches. (Just kidding)


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