What is Medium Heat on a Grill: Cracking the Temperature Code of Your BBQ

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You have your grill cleaned up and ready to go. Your meat is ready; cleaned and cut and marinated to perfection. But here comes the dilemma: your recipe calls for medium heat on the grill.

Wait, what? What is medium heat on a grill? Grill novices aren’t always aware of how temperatures translate to heat levels and this can make recipes and grilling instructions pretty confusing.

If you’ve burnt a couple of steaks or has a chicken come out of the grill half uncooked, you need to identify what different heat levels mean. As most recipes call for medium grill temperature, knowing what it means can mean a world of difference to your food.

If you want to figure out what all these different temperatures and heat levels mean, keep reading and find out more!

Grill Temperature Cheat Sheet

what is medium heat on a grill

Before we go any further, it is important to understand the general range of temperatures for the 3 major kinds of heat we deal with when cooking or grilling. 

This cheat sheet will help you remember the temperatures more easily, and make translating more precise heat levels much simpler.

HeatTemperature/F
Low200-300
Medium300-400
High400-500

However, grilling is closer to an exact science, so we need to go a step further to determine exactly what medium heat means in terms of temperature.

Similarly, the chart doesn’t make it clear what grilling something over medium-high heat means. This takes us to the next topic of this article.

What is Medium Heat on Grills?

medium high heat temperature

When it comes to grilling, you generally need to work with exact temperatures to get the ideal results. Certain temperatures are best for slow cooking for a longer time, while higher temperatures are needed for a quick sear.

If you have an old-fashioned grill, the heat may be labeled as low, medium-low, medium, and so on. But what do these terms mean and what temperatures do they correspond to? What does a medium-high heat grill setting even mean?

Here are the temperatures that each of these terms means:

Low Heat:

Low heat on a grill means a temperature range of 225-250F. This is for really low-temperature cooking-you’re not grilling stuff at this point is more of a BBQ temperature. 

It is great for slow-cooking larger tougher cuts of meat as it transforms tough joints and tissue to melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness.

Low heat is also a good choice if you want to smoke meats and spices. Even mushrooms can be smoked on low heat, especially if you have a smoker box. 

Smoking meat is a great way to preserve it and add flavor, so make sure you have plenty of wood chips and charcoal in stock.

Medium-Low Heat:

At a temperature of 250 to 300F, this is another good setting for slow cooking food. If you are grilling with charcoal, this is a sign that it’s time to add more fuel. Your meat is unlikely to brown at such a low temperature as this is the temperature for indirect heat on gas grill recipes.

After searing something like steak or pork chops on high heat, this is a nice temperature to gently cook through the meat without burning the food. It is also the ideal option for warming cold things on the grill like heating cold tamales and reheating burritos.

Medium Heat:

Medium heat has a temperature of 325-375F, which is right in the middle of the heating range. It is hot enough to brown meat and veggies, but low enough to gently cook the insides of the food. This temperature setting is meant to grill most foods like whole chickens, geese, roasts, and even turkeys.

A Weber grill chicken indirect heat is best cooked on medium temperature levels. The middling heat cooks through most kinds of meat, charring the surface and leaving the flesh soft and tender. 

With a secure lid, a chicken will take 45 to 60 minutes to cook through completely, depending on its weight.

Medium-High Heat:

The medium-high heat temperature falls within the 375 to 450F range. A lot of high-temperature grilling is done at this temperature, especially things like cooking burgers, fish fillets, and certain joints of meat. You can even grill tougher and firmer vegetables like carrots and potatoes.

At this temperature, the food is seared quickly, browning the surface with an intensity. However, the heat is still ‘low’ enough to cook through certain foods completely. It cooks food much faster than the medium heat range, so you have a 10–15-minute window on an open grill.

High Heat:

If you want to grill ultra-thin cuts of meat or delicate fillets, this is the level of heat you are looking at. The 450F+ temperature is the hottest and this is the temperature your grill reaches right after the coals are dumped into the flames.

Although this might seem like the perfect charcoal grill temperature for getting a smoky, charred surface on BBQ chicken, it is kind of unsustainable. It is best for a very quick sear, before cooking the rest of the meat on a lower and more indirect heat.

Checking Your Grill’s Temperature

Grill’s Temperature

If you have a modern propane gas grill, you might be tempted to use the thermometer on the lid to keep track of the grill’s temperature. However, this device is nothing more than a temperature gauge that lets you know whether your grill is hot or not.

But you need something much more precise when cooking. Our suggestion? 

Using a meat probe thermometer. This will let you know exactly when your meat is cooked to perfection, no matter what kind of grill you’re working with, especially if you are using an old-timey charcoal grill.

A remote temperature monitor also works well and might be the best option if you use your grill a lot. Another good option is an IR thermometer, but these tools measure the temperature of the grill metal, and not the air in the grill.

A grill surface thermometer is also used by many and is seen as accurate and reliable. They are also pretty affordable but tend to get grimy pretty fast and need more frequent replacing as they become hard to read after a couple of months.

Adjusting the Heat of Your Grill

The range of temperatures fluctuates pretty quickly with charcoal, going from searing-high to a low and mellow heat in less than an hour. As a result, gas grills give you better control over the temperature as your meat cooks.

Charcoal needs oxygen to survive, just like any kind of fire. So if you can control the level of oxygen available to the flaming charcoal, you can control the temperature more effectively. Most good charcoal grills have at least two sets of air vents: one at the bottom half of the grill, the other at the top.

Altering these vents restricts the airflow into and out of the grill, therefore controlling the amount of heat produced. Closing the vents completely will cut off the airflow and put out the fire, which is done when you are done with your grill.

Got More Questions?

Below you’ll find answers to questions we get asked the most about medium heat on a grill.

01. What Temperature is Medium Heat on a Gas Grill?

Medium heat on a gas grill is around 325F to 375F or 162C to 190C.

02. How Many Degrees is Medium High Heat?

The temperature range of 375 to 450F or 190C to 232C is considered to be of medium-high heat.

03. How Long Should I Preheat My Grill?

A good rule of thumb for preheating the grill is to do it for 15 minutes, as this brings the grill up to your desired temperature. You may have to add more charcoal or adjust the vents later.

04. How Do I Control the Heat on a Charcoal Grill?

The heat level on a charcoal grill can be controlled by adjusting the vents on the top and bottom of the grill.

05. How Will I Know when the Charcoal Briquettes are Ready?

Once most of the charcoals have burnt though, turned white, and stopped smoking, your charcoals are hot enough to start grilling.

To Wrap Up

As you can see, the range of temperatures is quite easy to remember once you get the hang of it. After you follow a couple of different grilling recipes, you won’t have to ask what is medium heat on a grill, as you will understand the temperatures instinctively.

As always, investing in a good thermometer will make it possible to grill things to the perfect temperature every time. You will also be able to smoke things like meat, vegetables, and even cheese and spices. 

So getting to know your grill (and its temperatures) will take you one step closer to becoming a pitmaster pro!