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What are the Key Temperatures to Know before Using a Charcoal Fire Pit?

May 05, 2023 4 min read

The main problem people face when grilling is determining the right temperature. Especially if you are cooking with a charcoal fire pit, it can be a daunting task to control the heat. Using the correct cooking method and optimum temperature for the ingredients not only helps to retain moisture and flavour, but is also vital for food safety. If you're not sure whether your grill temperature is medium-high, low or medium, take control of your backyard cooking with our simple grill temperature guide.

Basic grilling temperatures:
There are six key temperatures when cooking with the portable bbq fire pit. These ranges are low heat, medium-low heat, medium-high heat, medium-high heat, high heat and incendiary. These temperatures will easily help you cook meat to perfection and create a variety of flavors in your food.

Cooking Food in a Portable Bbq Fire Pit

Low heat
You will typically pass through all of the lower ranges to get to the higher ones, and the first range that you reach is low heat. The low heat range is typically 225 to 250 degrees. Low heat is typically for smoking meats and true barbecue, favoring a long cooking process to keep as much of the meat flavor as possible. Some ideal recipes to grill at a low heat setting include pork shoulder, brisket ribs, shoulder clod, whole lamb, goat, and pigs.

Medium-low heat
Low to medium heat is the second range. Medium to low heat is usually 275 to 300 degrees. This is the best environment for authentic grilling and indirect grilling. You can get the heat by indirect grilling. This means moving the meat slightly away from the heat source. If your charcoal is only on one half of the portable outdoor fire pit, the other half will be at a lower temperature, which means that one half of your fire pit may be medium or medium-high and the other half medium-low. This temperature is also suitable for pork butts and ribs as the meat will retain more of its natural juices while still being cooked to perfection.

Medium heat
Medium heat means halfway between the low and high temperatures. This heat range starts from 325 to 350 degrees and delivers well-cooked food with a lot of flavors. The medium heat is suitable for preparing a wide range of recipes to perfection. It works well for both direct and indirect grilling. It is also ideal for smoke-roasting meats. Some of the recipes that will come out well with this temperature range include roasts, poultry, whole fish port loin, and veggies such as cabbages, cauliflower, and onions.

Medium-high heat
Medium-high heat occurs at temperatures between 375 and 450 degrees, this temperature range sits between Medium and High heat temperatures ranges. It’s perfect for various grilling styles, including indirect grilling, direct grilling, smoke-roasting plancha, and salt slab grilling. Typical foods you should grill using medium-high heat include planked fish, chicken pieces, and giant vegetables. If you’re more inclined to different grilling techniques than the type of food to grill, then medium-high heat is for you.

High heat
It’s the highest grill heat can go and sits between 450 and 600 degrees. High heat allows for rapid cooking and searing hot temperatures. You use it for direct grilling. It works well for grilling a wide range of foods that benefit from a quick and hot cook. Examples include steak, chops, fish steaks, pizza, chicken breasts, and small or high moisture vegetables or fruit. High heat has one of the wider ranges of foods that are typically cooked at this temperature, and can easily boast a plethora of flavor in each and every dish.

Incendiary heat
This one sits above High heat and starts at anything from 650+ degrees. This range is typically only used for direct grilling or infrared grilling. Incendiary is the best range for searing steaks or chops. Food cooked at this temperature can often be a little tough for some but is overall tasty.

How do you check the temperature of the fire pit?
To ensure that you are using the correct temperature setting for the food you are grilling, you need a way of measuring the temperature of the charcoal fire pit. The following are common methods of measuring the temperature of a barbecue:

The hand-test method
A common way to measure the temperature of a fire pit is to place your hand approximately three inches above the grate of a portable fire pit. The shorter the period your hand can stand the heat, the higher the temperatures. If you can hold your hand on the hot grate for 2 to 3 seconds, you have a hot fire pit at a high temperature. If you can hold it for 5 or 6 seconds, it is a medium heat. Your hands can withstand a low temperature grill for 10 to 12 seconds. However, use extreme caution with this method as you could be badly burned while trying to measure the temperature of the fire pit.

Measure the Temperature of Charcoal Fire Pit by Hand

Use a grill thermometer
Another way to check the temperature of a fire pit is to use a thermometer. Place the thermometer on the grate of the fire pit and wait for 5 minutes. This will give you a more accurate reading of the temperature inside the grill. This means that the grill thermometer is not only safer to use in the long run, but also gives a more accurate reading.

Measure the Temperature of Charcoal Fire Pit with Thermometer

Different temperatures provide different heat levels. We hope that with the help of our BBQ temperature guide, it will help you to easily understand the recipe's medium to high temperature BBQ recommendations for cooking delicious food on your backyard fire pit.

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