KUDU cooking grill with coals ready to grilll

How to Master Open Fire Grill Heat Control

Are you often unsure of whether or not your grill is hot enough to start cooking? Mastering grill heat control is essential to having perfectly cooked meals coming off your grill. You want it cooked, yes, but there’s nothing worse than chewing on a cardboard steak! When you have control over your flames, your barbecue dishes will be nothing short of grilled perfection, every single time. As outdoor cooking enthusiasts, we have a couple of tricks up our sleeve that help us maintain and control grill heat temperature. And once you get the hang of this, you can consider yourself a true master of outdoor cooking. But be warned: you will be the designated barbecue host from now on!
Tip 1 - Bring the Heat (to Your KUDU Grill)
In order to control the heat of your KUDU Grill, it has to be consistent in the first place. So, getting your fire as hot as possible is the first thing you need to do. Take advantage of your KUDU open fire system by getting your flames extremely hot and then adjusting the height of your grill according to the temperature required to cook your food.
Tip 2 - Heat Check: Simple Hacks to Know When Your Fire is Ready for Grilling
It’s so simple, you won’t believe it’s true! All you have to do is to hold your hand over your grill and count how many seconds you can hold it there comfortably.
  • Two Seconds: High Heat (ideal for searing your steaks or other barbecue dishes)
  • Five Seconds: Medium Heat (ideal for cooking your meat through)
  • Ten Seconds: Low Heat (ideal for slower cooking such as potjies and chili)
It’s also important to know that, if you can hold your hands above your grill for longer than ten seconds, your fire isn't hot enough to cook anything. To get a better idea on how to master heat control on your KUDU Grill, watch our Heat Management video with the KUDU Grills Founder, Stebin Horne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THpd4u8SP1k
Tip 3 - Create Fire Zones
Creating fire zones is ideal for when you want to use one grill to cook several dishes that each requires different temperatures. Getting your garlic bread nice and toasty doesn’t require the same amount of heat as grilling your meat, and what if you only have one grilling tray? Creating fire zones is one of the most effective ways to achieve grill heat control from the moment you light your fire.
1. Two-Zone Fire
Two-zone fires consist of two separate piles of charcoal in the bottom of your ash bin/basin. Utilizing an ignition source, like paper or an accelerant and a match, you start a fire right in the middle of one charcoal pile, and then put more coals on top of it. On the second pile, you will do the same, except for adding the coals on top. This will be the slightly cooler side, or the lower fire zone, allowing you to quickly sear meats on the hotter side, and then move them here for thorough cooking.
2. Three-Zone Fire
Three-zone fires, yep you guessed it, consist of three separate piles of charcoal in the bottom of your ash bin/basin. If your charcoal grill is wider, this option is a great choice. On the left side, make a large pile of charcoal, then make a smaller pile in the middle and the smallest pile on the right-hand side. Light a fire in the middle of each pile. For the largest pile, you want to add more charcoal on top so it burns hotter (you can make use of accelerants). You can toss a few briquettes on top of the center pile, but do not add anything to the smallest pile. This set-up gives you a zone to sear your food, one to cook it thoroughly, and one to keep it warm while you wait for the other food to finish. Keep in mind that these methods are only effective in large open fire grills, as fire pits will mesh the charcoal together and create one collective heat source.
Tip 4 - Tame the Beast
The flames you need for hot grilling are completely different from what is required for slow cooking or smoking. You control the temperature of your fire by adjusting the amount of fuel burning at any given time
For Direct Heat, Grilling or Searing:
Use a full chimney of briquettes. Make a layer in the bottom of the grill and pour the lit briquettes on top. This will give you at least 550°F - long enough to cook a couple of thick steaks or a few orders of burgers.
For Low Heat and Slow Cooking:
Arrange your briquettes in a ‘C’ or ‘S’ shape around the grill if it’s small. Light only a few briquettes on one end, and they will slowly burn their way around to the other end. You’re essentially slowly feeding the fire instead of burning everything at once.
Grill Heat Control is the Key to Successful Outdoor Cooking
This is what grilling is all about; taming your flames and cooking up dishes that are grilled to perfection. We hope these tips will help you master your grill heat control and make your outdoor cooking experiences that much more memorable. Visit our online store right now and see what you can add to your outdoor cooking collection to make your barbecue gatherings even more convenient.