Another grill season is upon us so let's discuss and learn about grill temperatures on a gas grill. What are the most basic measurements to help you master your grill?
Judging from comments, it seems to be a significant problem for many readers. I will call this a beginners guide, and I'm aiming for gas grills, but many tips will apply to charcoal grills.
If you are an experienced, accomplished griller, you may want just to move on now. You figured a lot of this out, but you may pick some valuable tips.
Many people have a propane grill from the big box store and are trying to learn to grill more than hot dogs. They want to cook a burger or chicken until done safely without making hockey pucks.
Unfortunately, the manuals are not very helpful for this. They are made for grill operation and safety. You should read and understand it but grilling a meal correctly is not their purpose.
Here I'm just going to discuss what to measure and how. Let's get to it.
🌡️Hood Thermometers are Evil
First and most important is that great looking thermometer in your grill hood is useless other than in a binary way of "is the grill hot, yes or no?" The numbers are meaningless.
That thermometer is a cheap thermometer that has a tube probe. It will give an average reading along that probe. But it can't even measure that accurately.
So the hood thermometer measures (inaccurately) the air temperature near the top of the hood (remember heat rises). Not where the food is cooking. Never rely on it.
You need to know the temperature at the grill surface where the food is cooking, not 12-inches away. And you need to know it reasonably accurately.
Some grill experts say you can tell the temperature by putting your hand 3 inches over the grill and counting until you have to remove your hand. High is 1-2 seconds 450°-600°, medium-high is 2-3 seconds 400°-450°. Blah, blah, blah—not accurate enough for me. If you want more information, Google it since I consider it not accurate enough to recommend.
Grills vary greatly, so the dial setting doesn't work well, either. A grill surface thermometer is required. You can get one for about $10 from Amazon, Home Depot, Lowes, or most hardware stores (link at the end of the post).
They will get grimy, and after 2-3 months of use, they usually need to be replaced so you can read them. I have gone through about 20 of these, and only one didn't work well.
I now use a Thermoworks ThermoQ (link at the end of the post), which is a remote monitor of both the surface and meat temperatures—very slick.
IR thermometers are fine, but you will get the grill metal temp, not the air temperature; you need to hit the metal with the beam, and you may need to leave the hood up longer. I have one, but I gave up using it.
🔥What Temperature To Use?
I give a range in most grill recipes, and many other sites will also. But this is not a kitchen oven, so you can't be exact. Just open the top of a grill releases lots of heat. All this means is it is a little more an art than a science.
I like to think of three levels of heat I usually use. These are my arbitrary divisions, and I'm sure others may disagree.
And there are many times you should deviate from this, admittedly. An example would be my Grilled Whole Chicken, where I used indirect heat in the 350° range.
Or if I'm grilling a 1 ½ inch thick steak, I won't be using high. I might use reverse searing or sear on high and then move to a lower indirect heat to finish.
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO NEVER COOK (OR GRILL) BY TIME ALONE. FOR MOST GRILLING, BOTH AN INSTANT-READ AND A SURFACE THERMOMETER ARE ALMOST REQUIRED TO GET IT RIGHT.
This is as hot as it goes. I can get to 700° plus, and lesser grills may only get 550°, but this is where I cook things like burgers and most steaks. It will make chicken a hockey puck.
Here are a couple of examples:
How to Grill a Strip Steak on a Gas Grill
How to Grill a Hamburger – A Beginner Tutorial
This is 450°-500° to me and where I usually cook chicken, most pork, and veggies.
Here are a few examples:
How to Grill Chicken Breasts on a Gas Grill
Grilled Chicken Drumsticks — Quick and Easy
How to Grill a Pork Tenderloin on a Gas Grill
How to Grill Pork Chops on a Gas Grill
225° up to 300° this is the low and slow cooking for ribs, pulled pork, brisket, etc. It is usually done by indirect cooking.
Here are a couple of examples:
How to Cook a Brisket on a Gas Grill
Pulled Pork on a Gas Grill – Not That Hard
Do you Want to Do Low and Slow Smoking?
How To Set Up Your Gas Grill for Smoking and Low and Slow Cooking
Grill Hood - Open or Closed?
It is usually closed unless stated otherwise. Things less than ½ inch thick can usually be grilled open. Between ½ to 1 inch thick, open is possible but harder to control. Over 1 inch, definitely closed. Low and slow, always closed.
So those generic grills you see in the parks can cook hot dogs, burgers, and, if you are careful, a skinless chicken breast. But not thick stuff.
This is a beginning guide. It is not comprehensive or even close. But I want to get you away from thinking that a hood thermometer is helpful and start looking at what is essential for your final results.
It takes some practice to improve your grilling skills, but it requires knowledge of the surface temperature and an instant-read meat thermometer. Those two things will improve your grilling skills 1000% instantly.
Otherwise, it is like driving a car with your eyes closed and hoping to get where you want to go. Let's open our eyes.
Stuff I Recommend
Note: All links below are affiliate links meaning I do make a small profit from your purchases. Your price is not affected by this commission. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
These are examples of what I use or have used. There are many other great options.
Thermapen One from Thermoworks
Gates BBQ Sauce
Smoking Wood Chips
Cast Iron Smoker Box
ThermaQ Blue Kit
CDN Instant Read Thermometer
CDN Grill Surface Thermometer
Thermopop by Thermoworks
Editor's Note: This is a republishing of a handy and timely post originally published on August 21, 2017. Update with expanded details and a table of contents for easier navigation.
Are the temperatures in Celsius or Fahrenheit?
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog. All temperatures are Fahrenheit. I have a chart for cooking temps on the FAQ page https://www.101cookingfortwo.com/abbreviations-salts-and-oven-temperature/#ovens-and-oven-temperatures.
If you are into math, Celsius temp = ((Fahrenheit temp-32)÷9)X5
THANK YOU for this article! I had been relying on the hood temperature and now I understand why my gas grilling has resulted in overcooked food no wonder what I did. I have ordered the surface temp thermometer and look forward to more successful grilling! Cheers!
Hi Dr Dan,
I have been using your sight for years, love recipes & doggie pics. I am interested in buying the Thermoworks Blue Q dual grill thermometer kit from your shop. Directions on how to use thermometer not very clear on their web sight, also some customer reviews complain of pen probe melting. Because it’s expensive would like your input- Is it easy to use if you have 0 tech skills & does it melt easily?
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
I have never had a problem with it or the probes. It is well built and the company is good. I have had it for 3 years (maybe 2???). The utility is great if you are doing bigger grilling—brisket, pork butt, whole chicken. Things that need to be monitored and if you keep opening the grill, it will just prolong things greatly.
For smaller grilling (Burgers, streaks, chicken parts, pork tenderloin, etc) that require flipping and moving things, you would need to keep moving the meat probe. It becomes a pain.
I have used it just to watch surface temperature alone and to check other thermometers. It is great there also but just tossing a $10 surface thermometer is easier then playing with the wires, probes and phone. And I rarely do l large chunks of meat anymore so 75% of the time I use just the surface thermometer and an instant read thermometer.
So on the the tech. I set it up without reading the instructions and then read them to double check. It is easy to use. I have had cheaper remote thermometers and they all died in 2 months except the iGrill that was reasonable (and is a lot cheaper).
So my question to you is what do you see yourself using it for? If you do lots pork butt and briskets, it is so worth it. If not, it may be an expensive toy. Get the $10 surface thermometer and a very good instant read like a thermopen that you will love in the kitchen.
Hope that helps.
Hi, I'm a life long charcoal griller and smoker (Aren't Weber's friggin' AWESOME!!) but someone gave me a gas grill, so I figured what the heck, it's super convenient, fast and unfussy for nights when I'm just not up for the ritual of charcoal grilling... and I found your blog and articles really helpful at getting me up to speed in record time!! First time out I used brined boneless / skinless chicken breasts (which I pretty much only use for soup, I'm a thigh gal myself) marinated in a mojo criollo, and they came out moist and delish!! Thanks so much for the no nonsense advice!!
Omg Thanks for a great article I am determined to learn to grill and you gave us some great advice Thank you for all your info
Will a standard oven thermometer work on a gas grill for grill temperature reading?
Thanks for the time and effort you place into your great website. I've learned so much!
Dan Mikesell AKA DrDan
Welcome to the blog.
Yep, an oven thermometer is fine but doesn't last as long. They are not made for the frequent use and not as thick walled. They will cost about the same.
Michel joseph Cardin
I would like to say that one could install an oven thermometer with a stem that when the lid is closed; the stem touches the grill of the BBQ.
This was the most comprehensive article on grilling I have ever read. I feel about 5 times as knowledgeable on the subject than I did before I read this! I look forward to implementing a good bit of this knowledge and get better at the “art” of grilling (because, indeed, to do it well is a cultivated craft).
Just a suggestion for the grill surface thermometers. When they become grimy you can take a razor blade, (the kind you use in a utility knife), and in a circular motion run the blade around the glass surface and the grime will come off. I used a couple of those from amazon until I switched to a maverick thermometer that has food and surface probes.
Hey Dr. Dan great chicken drummies recipe. On to the Thermometer from Therma Q , at $269 this is not a toy but a very expensive piece of equipment. Also, did you know that this is made in the UK and there are better models at a fraction of the price. I know no one wants to support China , but many can't afford to support England either. Thank-you for your great site and love those dogs. DK
I did include the el-cheapo hockey puck surface thermometer. But as for "better/cheaper", I have had a number of those but they never made it through a season. I would see wonderful reviews and spend my hundred dollars plus. Before the season was over, they were not connecting wirelessly, the probes would not work. Plus warranty were a joke. Somehow it was always me damaging their product. No real support.
The Thermoworks product do work well and are well made. I have used it for over one year and no issues of any type. Always accurate and connects. But it is a "toy" because you really don't need it. With a ten dollar surface thermometer and a ten dollar el-cheapo instant read thermometer, you are good to go.
Hi Dr. Dan,
Thanks for posting this. My question is about your grill picture where you seem to have a metal/aluminum tray under the grill itself. I wondered what was going on with that?
Julie from Ottawa, Ontario
That is to catch fat from low and slow cooking of the ribs. I have another guide to Smoking and Low and Slow cooking that covers it in detail. I probably should republish that also.
Thanks for the note and let me know if you have other questions.
I have made your Memphis BBQ Sauce (my favorite, because it's not too sweet) twice.
I like it and it is very fresh tasting. It is granular
I think because of the garlic powder and the garlic
powder. Is that what we are to expect ? If so, ok
just want your take on this. With a 1/4 cup of ACV
it is definitely tart. Day or two in the frig calms it
down a little. Have you had any other feedback on
this sauce ?
No, it should be smooth. I find that if my celery salt is older or I use older granular garlic powder, it can get a little of it. My garlic powder I go through quickly but the celery salt, not so much and if it is older, I skip it sometimes. The ACV is a major part of this but as I get older, I'm more vinegar sensitive. I find that a lot with Chinese food now and only a few restaurants are to my liking any more. I have been known to cut it back a bit.
Thank you! Thank you! I have learned so much from you and my family, even my husband, Mr. Picky, love your recipes! I've been wanting a grill thermometer and didn't know what to get. Just ordered one. You made my day!
Thanks for the note. It somewhat made my day. I was answering comments and seem to see the same basic issue over and over the last few days. I started typing and ended up at 700 words before I knew it. So I decided to post it... and add some dog pictures of course.
The cheap hockey puck thermometers from CDN never failed me. The one that didn't work well cost twice as much.