Should You Grill with the Lid Up or Down?

If you're new to grilling, one of the questions you may have is should you grill with the lid up or down. The answer to that it depends on a number of factors which we'll explain in this article.   

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get grilling!

What Factors Should You Take Into Account?

Type of Grill

​Grills come powered by various types of fuel; charcoal, gas and even electricity. When grilling, you generally want high temperatures. Depending on your fuel source, it may make more sense to leave the lid up or down.

Charcoal​

Charcoal grills rely on the amount of charcoal and oxygen flowing through the grill to control the temperature. In general, the more air a charcoal grill has, the higher the temperature will be. The temperature can be controlled by the adjustable vents on the top and sometimes bottom of the grill. Therefore, with the lid down, the temperature of a charcoal grill may be low or high depending on the vent settings and the amount of charcoal in the grill.

Take the time ​to experiment with the amount of charcoal you put in the grill and the vent settings in order to master temperature control. Once you have this dialed-in, you can cook with the lid down at whatever temperature you want.

A charcoal grill will reach the highest temperature it can achieve with the lid up as this gives it the maximum amount of oxygen.  Therefore, if you want the highest heat possible to sear a piece of meat, it is best to have the lid up. For larger cuts of meat that require more time to cook or for indirect cooking, the lid will need to be down.  

Want to know the best way to light your charcoal grill?  Check out our in-depth article on how to light a charcoal grill without using lighter fluid.  ​

Gas

Gas grills are generally the opposite of charcoal grills. For higher heat, you want to keep the lid down. The temperature of a gas grill is controlled by the amount of gas flowing into the burners. For more heat, you simply turn the burners up. The lid of the gas grill will retain this heat when it is down and thus the grill will achieve higher temperatures. 

Lid down is generally ideal for most cooking on a gas grill, especially when it comes to meat. However, be aware that every time you open the grill, you are letting the heat out. This will considerably slow down the cooking process. Remember the saying, "If your looking, you're not cooking."

In general, it's best to cook with the lid down on a gas grill

Electric

An electric grill's temperature is controlled by a heating element that can be adjusted by the user similar to a gas grill. Therefore, lid up or down doesn't really matter as oxygen is not used in the grilling process with an electric grill. If cooking a larger cut of meat for a longer period of time, then it is recommended to leave the lid down in order to retain heat and have it circulate throughout the grill.     

Type of Meat

Thinner Cuts

If you plan on cooking thinner cuts of meat, you may want to keep the lid of your gas grill up to avoid burning the meat. Meat such as shrimp, hamburgers, and pork chops cook in a few minutes, so you'll want to keep an eye on them so they don't burn.  ​

A charcoal grill gives you a bit more flexibility with thinner meats. With the proper vent settings, you can cook with the lid down at a lower temperature to ensure you don't burn the meat.  Alternatively, you can cook with the lid up at a higher temperature in less time, or move the meat away from the direct flame and cook it on a cooler part of the grill.  

Thicker Cuts​

​For thicker cuts of meat, you are going to want to keep your lid closed.  Thicker cuts of meat often require more than just direct heat from one side in order to ensure it is thoroughly cooked. With the lid down, the heat is reflected off the lid and sides and cooks the meat from all angles.  

Best Recommendations for Specific Food​

​Here are a few general recommendations on whether you should keep the lid open or closed based on the food you are cooking.

Lid Open

- Hot Dogs​
- Burgers​
- Kebabs
- Prawn, Shrimp and other small meats that burn quickly
- Steak

Lid Closed

- Close the Lid to Preheat the Grill
- Large cuts of meat like roast, lamb and turkey
- A Whole Chicken
- When Cooking on a Rotisserie
- Any Indirect Cooking
- Meats Requiring Low Temperatures Over a Long Period of Time
- Pizza on a Baking Stone
- When Baking on the Grill 


Conclusion

​There are a lot of factors that come in to play when deciding whether to cook with the lid open or closed on your grill.  With gas grills, it's generally best to grill with the lid down as this retains heat and achieves the higher temperatures grilling requires. Lid down is generally best for charcoal grills unless you want the very high temperatures to quickly sear meats such as steaks.  In that case, having the lid up will allow your charcoal grill to reach its maximum temperature.

Please post any questions or comments below, we're here to help! Also, check out some of our other articles such as How to Prevent and Deal with Grilling Flare-Ups and our comprehensive guide to Barbecue and Grilling Safety. ​

About the Author David Johnson

Hi there, I’m David and I’m the creator and editor of this site. I have been grilling and smoking for the past 7 years and my goal is to share my knowledge and experience with you.

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