Grilling with the lid on or off is a question I am often asked. It can be confusing or bring doubt even into the most seasoned grill master. I will break it all down in easy terms so the next time you are ready to get something on the grill you will know exactly when to have that grill lid open or closed.
When grilling, knowing when to open or close your lid/cover, may not be easy to remember. I hope you find the information useful, including the food lists below. After reading all that I outline below, your meats should be juicy and flavorful. If you want a more in-depth look at grilling, check out my list of BEST NONFICTION FOOD BOOKS that I love, including "Meathead - The Science of Barbecue and Grilling."
Quick Reference on a Key Items Regarding = Grill Lid Open or Closed
- Preheating the grill always requires the lid to be closed.
- In some cases, you actually need to do both. Cooking with the lid open is how some items start off. Finishing them to cook through then requires that the lid be closed.
- A good rule of thumb also is it depends on the thickness of your food. If it is thicker than ¾ inch, cover the grill by closing the lid.
Why Grill with the Lid Open?
When grilling on your barbecue, having the lid open makes sure the heat is not too high so that certain foods do not cook too quickly. When grilling with the lid open, think of this as searing. The heat source is coming from the bottom only. This results in the charred or caramelized outer crust that most of us associate with grilling or barbecuing.
Why Grill with the Lid Closed?
When grilling on your barbecue, having the lid closed helps keep the temperature high and even. This helps stop flare-ups most of the time also. When the lid is closed, compare this to how your oven would work. You will have heat coming from both under and above the food.
Foods to Grill with the Lid Open and then Closed
This gives you the best of both worlds, a good char or crust on the outside and perfectly cooked in the middle. Start grilling on your barbecue with the lid open or in the up position. Then finish your cooking process by then grilling with the lid closed or in the down position.
For all of these, sear on each side over direct heat with the lid open. Finish by moving to indirect heat and closing lid. Try this cooking process for these foods:
- Steaks (thick-cut like rib-eye, NY strip)
- Tri-Tip roasts
- Pork Chops (thick-cut)
- Chicken (breasts, drumsticks, and thighs)
- Hamburgers (if over ¾" thick)
- Sausages, like bratwurst- (not precooked) grill these with the lid closed over indirect heat to cook through. Then to char, move them over direct heat at the end to caramelize the outside. If you cook over direct heat first, the fat drips and starts flare-ups that can burn sausages. The internal juices also heat too quickly and cause the sausages to burst.
Foods to Grill with the Lid Open/Up/Off
Open the lid on your grill throughout the entire cooking process for these foods:
- Steaks (thin cuts like flank steak)
- Pork chops (thin)
- Chicken (thin cutlets / tenders)
- Hamburgers (if less than ¾" thick)
- Hot Dogs
- Sausages (precooked only)
Foods to Grill with the Lid Closed/Down/On
Shut the lid on your grill throughout the entire cooking process for these foods:
- Salmon, other flake fish
- Whole chickens (beer can chicken for example)
- Whole turkeys
- Large roasts/cuts of meat like a leg of lamb, pork roast
- Pizza on a heated baking stone
- Dessert pans (crumbles, cobblers)
Grilling Recipes I love:
PIN FOR SAFEKEEPING & SHARING!
If you are in the market for a grill and are not sure if you want charcoal or a gas grill, this article is great to break down the pros and cons - GAS VS CHARCOAL GRILLS WHICH ONE IS BETTER?
Product Recommendations for this Recipe:
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