Learning how to manage temperatures and flare-ups is the key to successfully cooking with charcoal. Once you understand how to control the heat of the live coals, charcoal grilling becomes much easier — and much more rewarding. Here are a few techniques for managing heat and flare-ups so your food cooks perfectly every time.

Oxygen: your friend and enemy

Oxygen is what makes fire possible and makes the coals burn. Abundant oxygen makes the coals burn hot and fast. Limited oxygen decreases cooking temperatures and lets the coals burn more slowly. The vents on the top and bottom of your grill let you change the flow of oxygen to increase, decrease and stabilize coal temperatures.


How to keep a charcoal grill hot


For high-heat grilling or to increase grill temperatures, open the vents wide to allow more oxygen in. This makes the coals burn hotter.


How to cool a charcoal grill down


To reduce heat, slow down the cooking process or increase your cooking time, close down the vents. Always leave the vents partially open so the fire does not completely suffocate.

How to manage grilling flare ups

Flare-ups are caused when fat renders from your food and drips onto the coals. It’s tempting to put these flare-ups out with water, but don’t do it. This will cause ash to fly up onto your food — which can ruin flavor and cause a fire hazard.

 

The best way to manage flare-ups is to create a two-zone fire. When flare-ups happen, move the food away from the flames to the side without coals. When the flames subside, move the food back to the hot side to continue cooking.

How to increase heat on a grill

Just place unlit coals on top of the bed of already lit coals. There’s no need to add lighter fluid — the lit coals will ignite the new coals. This requires you to plan ahead a bit, as the unlit coals will take 15 minutes to light fully.

 

Another strategy is to light a chimney with new coals and then pour in the hot coals when ready. Note that if using Kingsford® Match Light® Charcoal, don’t add more Match Light® charcoal once your fire has been lit because it contains a small amount of lighter fluid. Add Kingsford® Original Charcoal if extra charcoal is needed.