When it comes to grilling, it’s the technique that matters most, not the size (or price range) of the grill. Whether you’re grilling with charcoal, gas or smoker: The right grilling temperature is in any case the basic prerequisite for a perfectly cooked steak. It is not only the temperature on the grill that is decisive, but also the optimum core temperature of the meat.

How to measure the grill temperature?

Before your grilled food lands on the grate, it must be really hot. To test how hot your grill is, there are several methods: grills with lids often have a thermometer that measures the heat under the lid. Such a measuring device is also available for purchase. When handling the thermometer, it is important that the probe does not touch the grate directly. Usually a so-called spacer is included in the set. Before you use the device, it is worth a look at the instructions for use to check the maximum heat resistance (as a precaution). Otherwise this will only be a short grilling pleasure.

For those who would like to do without such a purchase, there is the “feel technique”. Because you can measure the grill temperature with your palm even without a thermometer. Of course you can’t determine the exact grill temperature with this method, but for home use it’s quite enough. However, caution is required with this method. With a distance of about 12 centimeters you position your palm above the grate. And then it’s time to count: How long can you hold your hand over the grill without your hand getting uncomfortably hot??

If you can’t stand it after just 1 to 4 seconds, the grill is really hot and has between 230 and 300 degrees. If you can hold your hand in this position for 5 to 7 seconds, the grill has reached a medium heat between 170 and 230 degrees. If you have to withdraw your hand only after 8 to 10 seconds, the grill has only 110 to 170 degrees.

When do charcoal, gas grills and smokers reach the ideal grilling temperature?

How long it takes to reach each grilling temperature depends on the type of grill you have. A grill with a lid heats up faster because the heat is kept inside by the lid. This is available both with charcoal and as a gas grill. If you decide to grill with charcoal, you need a little more patience during the heating process. Here you should only start when all the coals are glowing on the outside and there are enough embers available. With a gas grill, on the other hand, it goes faster until you can put the first steak on it. Grilling with the smoker takes the longest, because the meat is only cooked at 110 to 130 degrees. When grilling in the smoker, you should therefore follow these professional tips.

Grilling with direct or indirect heat?

How hot the grill has to be before you can put the food on it depends on what you are grilling and how you want to grill it. Because barbecue professionals distinguish between two cooking methods: Grilling with direct heat and indirect heat.

  • Direct grillingWhen grilling with direct heat, the meat is grilled directly over the embers or flame. Because only at grill temperatures between 230 and 280 degrees it comes to the so-called “Maillard reaction”. This is where the crust and the characteristic roasted aromas of grilled meat are formed. However, it must not be too hot, because from 290 degrees the grilled food begins to char and harmful compounds can develop.
  • Indirect grilling: This grilling method is best for thicker steaks or larger cuts of meat, such as a whole beef tenderloin or a whole chicken. Unlike grilling with direct heat, for this you need an area on the grill that is not heated directly from below. This is because indirect grilling is meant to cook the meat at a lower temperature. This takes more time, but the result is nicely juicy and tender. Indirect grilling is also healthier than direct grilling, as the fat does not drip into the embers.

Core temperature: How to determine the perfect cooking level

To ensure that beef, chicken on the grill, you should not only know the grill temperature on the grate, but also the optimum core temperature for the respective grilled food. This indicates how raw or cooked the meat is on the inside. Measure the whole thing with a special grill thermometer, which is inserted into the center of the meat and shows the core temperature.

The key is to determine the right core temperature so as not to miss the perfect cooking point. Beef and lamb are particularly juicy and tender when grilled medium, i.e. with a pink core. Achieving this without knowing the correct core temperature is a real challenge. Poultry such as turkey, chicken or duck, on the other hand, should always be cooked through, so that any germs are destroyed. This means that the core temperature must be significantly higher here. Fish is usually seared at high temperatures and, if it is very fresh, may still be raw on the inside.

In the following you will find all important temperatures clearly arranged in tables. The “grill temperature” always refers to the initial heat for direct grilling. For grilling with indirect heat, this temperature must be reduced. Optimally, you have two zones on your grill: one very hot for direct grilling and one that is only heated indirectly.

Temperatures for beef and lamb

Beef and lamb may have a pink core inside. But of course you decide how it tastes best to you. Initially, the meat is grilled directly at high temperatures and then re-cooked at 130 to 150 degrees.

Temperatures for poultry

You should always roast chicken, turkey and duck all the way through so that germs are destroyed. To prevent the poultry from becoming dry, first roast it over direct heat so that a nice crust is formed. Then finish cooking over indirect heat.

Temperatures for pork

Pork is a subject of controversy. If it is very fresh, it may still be slightly pink inside. Otherwise, the same applies here: It is better to roast it thoroughly.

Temperatures for sausages

Most bratwursts are made of pork meat. But there are of course also some made from poultry or lamb. The decisive factor is whether they are already pre-cooked or still raw. Then you should give them a little more time.

Temperatures for fish

Fish provides variety on the grill. Salmon or tuna may be glazed or still raw on the inside. But whole fish such as gilthead or red snapper are also ideal for grilling. As a rule of thumb, you can calculate 3 to 4 minutes per centimeter on the grill.

Conclusion: grilling to the point – with the right grill temperature

Both the temperature(s) on the grill and the core temperature in the grilled food are decisive criteria for how well your steak, fish or burger patty will turn out on the grill. And it is not difficult to determine these. With a barbecue thermometer, which you can buy in every price range, you make the whole thing even easier for yourself. Simply insert the thermometer into the meat, check the ideal cooking time and core temperature for your grilled food in our clear tables, and wait. Grilling can be so easy!

About the Author

Andrew Scott

ANDREW SCOTT, Founder Mountaineer Country Tours About me In my spare time I test toys and that's why I created this site. If you have any questions feel free to ask and I'll be happy to reply to you by email or in comments.

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