First – always keep in mind that it is always possible to add additional charcoal or turn up the gas when the fire is not hot enough – also, on charcoal grills, there is normally an adjustable cooking grid that can be lowered closer to the heat.
Secondly, if things are too hot, raise the meat higher above the charcoal. You can also close the air intake holes and slow down the rate of burn (intensity) of the fire (but, don’t close the holes closest to the top, unless you want to put out the fire altogether). On gas grills, first turn down the amount of gas being applied to the fire. If this doesn’t bring down the heat fast enough, then you can always open the door about an inch or so, by placing a piece of metal there to hold it open. You can also adjust the opening size accordingly, based on how much heat you want to allow to escape. Once you have adjusted the overall level of heat, how hot should it be at the cooking surface?
The answer is actually quite simple – VERY carefully place your hand close to the cooking surface. You can use the following guidelines for determining the approximate temperature of the heat:
The amount of time one can keep an open hand in place over the grill will determine the approximate temperature of the surface of the grill:
One Second (or less) = Very Hot Fire – 600° F or higher Two Seconds = Hot Fire – 500 to 650° F Three Seconds = Medium Hot Fire – 450 to 550° F Four Seconds = Medium Fire – 400 to 500° F Five Seconds = Low Medium Fire – 300 to 400° F Six Seconds (or more) = Very Low Fire – 300° F or less
*NOTE: These are rough estimates that may vary, depending upon where on the surface of the grill the hand is placed (i.e., one area of the grill may generate more heat than another).
Careful attention needs to be paid to the meat when grilling, as opposed to “barbecuing.” Grilling requires much higher cooking temperatures, because this method cooks the meat quicker to prevent it from drying out. Because the meat is located directly over the heat source, it means the food is directly exposed to large amounts of hot, dry, heat – meaning, the possibility of burning the meat is much greater than with normal “barbecuing”.