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GRILLING - CLOSED OR OPEN LID?

Silly question. When you grill do you keep the lid open or closed? I always keep it closed and no complaints about the results of my chicken, steaks or pork chops and tenderloins.

I ask because when I watch shows like Booby Flay's BBQ show, it's always an open lid. Maybe this just for TV so you can see what's cooking, but thought I would ask the thoughts of my expert fellow CH'ers

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  1. I'd say if you want to cook something quickly (e.g. steaks, hamburgers, chops, vegetables, shrimp) using radiant heat from coals or gas flame, without wanting to bake the food, then the cover is open. If you are cooking something that takes longer (e.g. whole chicken), especially if you are using indirect heat (food not directly over fire), then cover is closed -- some people call this "grill-roasting".

    1. "Lookin' ain't cookin'". Here's what the folks at Weber have to say about it.

      http://www.weber.com/weber-nation/bac...

      1 Reply
      1. re: grampart

        Ha. Glad to know I am not an amateur as that article puts it lol

      2. Depends, for steaks & chops open, chic closed, roasts closed, veggies open.

        8 Replies
          1. re: treb

            I agree. The only way I can get a burger exactly the rare that I like is to build an oak and hardwood charcoal fire, let it burn for a bit, and cook it with the lid open for three-four minutes a side. I might close the lid to finish meltin' the cheese, but otherwise, I'm just roasting the meat.

            Also, chicken satays, shrimp, scallops, swordfish, and lobster all cook better with the lid up and the right fuel.

            But, then again, I ain't cookin' on one-a them fancy Weber gas grills that the website's tryin' to sell.

            1. re: MGZ

              Then again, Weber has nothing to gain (sales-wise) from recommending a closed lid.

              1. re: grampart

                Maybe the don't want people buying a grill without a lid. Do they even make them like that? I know you see the grills without lids at parks and so on.

                1. re: grampart

                  You're right, my friend. I spose what I meant is they're tryin' to dictate how to use them spiffy things they sell best. It's just not for me.

                  I bet if I grilled that way, I'd listen to 'em.

                  1. re: MGZ

                    Oh, I think there are a lot of folks that would be dismayed and pleasantly surprised if they would actually try something on their own instead of always doing what somebody tells them to do.

                    1. re: kengk

                      My life woulda been a hellofa lot easier if I could've ever figured outta a way to simply do what people told me to do. Way less fun, too . . . .

                  2. re: grampart

                    It's only because they need to avoid law suits from the obvious grease flare ups that can ensure with an open lid.

                    Treb nailed it on the head, open lid for steak and chops. Be a man, not a puppet.

              2. If you leave the grill uncovered you can get more crust on the outside without overcooking the middle. If you want the doneness to be more uniform, put the lid on.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kengk

                  Thanks, kengk, for those distinctions; I tend to do this, but hadn't really articulated the reasons before. I read a tip once that advised open if the item is thinner than your (I think they mean a guy's) straightened hand, and closed if it's thicker. When using my gas grill, this approximate rule of thumb (pun intended) has worked for me pretty well, with some item-specific adjustments. For example, obviously, if I'm using wood chips for smoke, gotta keep it shut. For meats that I'm afraid might burn up (marinades with honey or brown sugar, very juicy burgers or fatty sausages), I am more inclined to keep it open, or at least open it more often to keep a close eye on them.

                2. I recently viewed a discussion on this very subject by a group of chefs on TV...(can't remember who?)...... The consensus was anything over an inch, close the grill. Anything under an inch...keep it open. I have yet to test this out!

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Phoebe

                    I guess that could be right, but since my steaks are always over an inch thick, I always do the lid down thing. Burgers are probably ok either way.

                    1. re: grampart

                      I think that the thickness of the steak is a huge factor. If I'm grilling supermarket slabs for a crowd, I might leave the grill open the whole time at home. If I'm "guest grillin'" somewhere and using a propane grill, I'll close the lid.

                      Now, if me and the Mrs. get ourselves a two to three inch ribeye, I actually sear one side with the lid up, then flip and move it off heat to finish "roasting". In a way, it's a lot more like the "cast iron pan" steak cooking tech that so many enjoy - only with wood smoke.

                      Truth is, though, that the fuel you're using makes a big difference. Wood and coals need air, gas doesn't. The latter are much more like an oven than a campfire. Weber doesn't make offsets. Even worse, they charge over fifty bucks for a bag of applewood chunks!

                      1. re: MGZ

                        That's what I do with steaks as well. Almost finish them with open lid and smoke them (with lid closed and the top air vent completely open) off the heat for ~10 minutes with hickory. But I have a barrel grill that really lends well for this.

                        I want applewood but can't find it yet. Mesquite is too ashy for me.

                        1. re: Crockett67

                          "But I have a barrel grill that really lends well for this."

                          Me too. That's really the point. Weber's sayin' "Use this outside oven with the lid down". I'm sayin' use the grill and fuel you prefer and master it. I'm just an "amateur", though.

                          Getting woods other than those commercially available - for an obscene premium - requires reachin' out and bein' willing to work. I have a local tree service guy who will give me big stumps of cherry, maple, and oak (even some walnut when I get lucky). Try seeing if there is any one around your area who does that. I'd bet they'll sell you wood cheap.

                          Truth is, after Sandy, I went to help neighbors with my chainsaw and collected A LOT of logs. I have to cut 'em down and split 'em, but they're free. At this point, I have about two years of wood in the yard now (as well as two weeks or so of work), as they say, "When life gives you lemons . . . ."

                          1. re: MGZ

                            Oh wow! Glad it worked out for you.

                            My little guys can't handle chunks of wood... just soaked chips tossed on the charcoal at the end.

                            Be sure to grill a steak for me on Memorial day. All wood cook is always the best. :D

                  2. Lots of variables here: fuel, size of grill, size/type of meat, amount of heat, etc. The only rule is that there are no rules. In my case, if I'm doing small, thinner cuts for Yakitori on a hibachi, no lid needed. If I'm doing bigger cuts on a Weber/Kamado, two zone fire for a sear, then move to the cool side to finish. If I'm doing low and slow BBQ (brisket, pork butt), it's 225 on the smoker for 12-18 hours over a mix of briquettes, hardwood charcoal, and soaked wood chunks. For open pit style bbq (like Baltimore pit beef or rotisserie beef) it's hardwood coals uncovered with the meat several feet above, basted until done. The latter gives it a great crust that you don't get when "baking" meat with the lid on.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      Yeah, excellent point, pit beef is definitely a thing that must be done uncovered.

                    2. Closed lid does yield better results, but the best you can get using an open lid is far from bad.

                      1. It's my understanding that America is for the most part the only country that grills/BBQ's with a lid or "closed".

                        That said. It depends on a lot of factors like charcoal/gas BTU's etc.

                        I like (usually) what America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country do on the show's. Very recipe specific.

                        1. It really is a matter of preference. As others have noted, it depends largely on what you're cooking. When I grill, I usually do a flank steak, burgers, and some kind of quick grilled vegetable like summer squash. All of these need only a short time on the grill so I get my coals blazing hot and cook everything as close to the coals as possible, leaving the lid open.

                          When I make pulled pork, grilled chicken, or thicker cuts of meat, the lid goes down to keep a more uniform heat level.

                          1. It depends on the type of grill and what you are trying to do. For my Weber propane grill, if I close the lid it get hotter. opening the lid drops the temperature. For my Weber kertle, it's just the opposite. An open grill gets hotter over the live live coals and putting the lid on helps to lower the temperature.

                            For the cooking shows, remember it's a show. They can't show you what is going on with the lid closed.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mike0989

                              I think this is one of the better answers here. I used to cook primarily on a gas grill. I found that it was hard to control flare-ups from dripping fat and the like. I'd find myself moving food to the small "warming rack". It bothered me that I was cooking on a tiny portion of an otherwise sizable grill.
                              Now I have Weber Kettles (a few more than I need, perhaps, but that's another thread). I can do almost anything on them. The lid provides heat and flame control. Want to grill a steak or something, for a short amount of time, over high heat? Leaving the lid off is just fine. In just about any other case, the lid is a help in some manner. You don't have to be "roasting", though you can certainly do a great job at that. Even if you want to load up the entire grill with 80/20 burgers, leaving no "cool zone" to which you can move things, when the drippings start to flare up, pop on the lid. Instantly the flames go out, but your heat remains. You can adjust vents to control that heat, and you can remove the lid again if you want really high heat.
                              Tonight was Souvlaki skewers - direct heat, but lid on to control the heat, so the outside didn't burn before the pork was nicely done inside. Last week, three roasting chickens, small round potatoes, and a loaf of bread, indirect, lid on the whole time. Sweet corn added at the end, direct. Lid mostly off to allow for frequent turning. The day before, steaks, lid on at first with low, indirect heat to get a little smoke in them, then high heat, lid ajar to keep up the heat, for to keep the flames down. The lid is a tool, but it is a much better tool on the Kettle than it ever was on the gasser. Oh, I still use the gasser sometimes - to burn the grease and gunk off of the racks from my smoker after a cook. High heat, lid down until the smoke stops rolling, then wire brush :-)

                            2. As all can see there are 25 responses and they amount to 25 different answers that all say the same thing in 25 ways. Thay are also all correct. Chef Flay is GRILLING, which is different from BBQ and SMOKING. Hot wood/charcoal or hot gas grill and quick cooking over direct heat as opposed to lower temps for direct or indirect heat and containment of heat and smoke. As all the posts before minr say it is different for each application. My preference is charcoal/wood and low and slow. Not a good approach to grilled veggies or bone-in rib steaks so those are hot, direct and quick. Either way is fine depending on the pieces and intended result. My advice would be to match the parts and the process together. Don't bring a knife to a gunfight.

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: TsqdSF

                                Exactly. That is the point of the dialectic - to let others find the synthesis.

                                "My advice would be to match the parts and the process together. Don't bring a knife to a gunfight."

                                Absolutely right. Though, I s'pose I would've worded it, "Don't bring propane to a barbecue."

                                1. re: MGZ

                                  "Don't bring propane to a barbecue."

                                  In this family, no propane equals no barbecue. My upright propane smoker has been turning out quality product for about 10 years now. It holds at 225 for hours on end and I don't have to do a thing but turn it on. Fussing over charcoal, lump, or whatever is way too much like work.

                                  1. re: grampart

                                    Shit, my friend, I have separated piles of cherry, apple, black walnut, oak, maple, and cedar* in my yard right now. To me that fussing isn't work, it's art. But, at the end of the day, we all gotta have something that feels right, no?

                                    *That's not for cooking, just like the smell of it in my firepit on a summer night.

                                  2. re: MGZ

                                    I have a Weber gas for the quick hot dog or run of the mill burger.

                                    For steaks, chops, shell fish, gourmet burgers & other high end products I use Lump charcoal in a Big Green Egg. BGE is a little pricey up front but extremely versatile and should last a lifetime. You can do: 1200 degree sear...... any temp oven........ 20 hour low slow smoking even in the dead of winter.

                                    I sear dome (lid) down, bottom & top vents fully open which creates a draft. Over 1000 degrees & so intense more than 1.5 minutes and your steak is black. Then all but close the vents and dwell 1.5 minutes with no flame. Then flip and repeat. Perfectly charbroiled med rare inch & a half thick steak in 6 to 7 min.

                                    1. re: Tom34

                                      Man, I have used one of those BGEs. They are a terrific advancement in the twenty thousand years or so of humans cooking meat with fire. In fact, they may be the pinnacle at this moment in time. I'd be happy to have one. I'm sure it would be a fine addition to my arsenal (and my wife would be thrilled that I had one more grill in the backyard).

                                      Nevertheless, you can call me a romantic, call me an idiot, call me a stubborn old ass, but, to me, barbecue is more about the process than the product. I like splitting logs. I like my offset. I like the fact that my house smells of woodsmoke the morning after I make a steak.* I like that every cook presents its own challenge.

                                      After all, it's better than going to your job and you get to drink beer!

                                      *The Mrs., not so much.

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        BGE.....very easy learning curve. In the dead of winter I set it for a long smoke, go to bed and the next morning its chugging along at the same temp.

                                        Is the offset you speak of one of those that has a separate smaller chamber for the fire with a large chamber for the food to be smoked & where the large chamber can also hold a fire for direct grilling?

                                        I have seen a few homemade ones from old drums of different sizes. Pretty cool.

                                    2. re: MGZ

                                      BRAVO MAN! Propane is not for BBQ, it is for GRILLING. You are right there.

                                      1. re: TsqdSF

                                        "Propane is not for BBQ, it is for GRILLING. You are right there."

                                        Actually, propane is for frying turkeys. And, . . . I'm right about everything.

                                        1. re: MGZ

                                          "Frying Turkeys" ............IMHO, highly over rated. Take a good smoked turkey any day. Lot less fuss too. After many beers, my father in law and his cronies "dropped" one by accident into the hot oil. They were being looked down upon that day as a large section of the deck was destroyed but aside from a few splatter burns the wave of hot oil missed them.

                                          1. re: Tom34

                                            As much as I love to drink, there are two outdoor cooking tasks I never engage in after I've twisted a cap - Frying turkeys and splitting logs. My family, especially Mom, loves a fried bird. It's her raison d'etre come the last Thursday in November (though she does insist on a roasted bird too for sandwiches the next day).

                                            As to the offset. Yeah, mine looks like what your thinkin' of, though I added some tiles to the cooking chamber base and moved the smokestack. As I said, it's about the process more than the product to me - more art than science.

                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              Fireplace "Fire Brick" can be used to line a fire box & also create indirect heat in home made units.They come in full size and thinner face brick, are cheap & cut like butter with an angle grinder. I use them under the rib rack in the BGE to deflect the heat. If they get to messed up I just chuck them.

                                            2. re: Tom34

                                              I converted to fried turkey for Thanksgiving years ago, and we've never had better... we don't do it on a wood deck, though, nor near anything flammable.

                                            3. re: MGZ

                                              Frying turkeys is great, depending on the preparation. I am a big fan of that. Whether you are right about everything, I will leave that to your humble self. Tell yourself whatever makes you sleep well at night... Like a great turkey dinner will.

                                          2. re: MGZ

                                            "Don't bring propane to a barbecue."

                                            Nicely done!

                                        2. It depends upon what you're cooking and how thick the food is, but I use a charcoal grill so I generally grill with the lid closed.

                                          The lid helps control flare-ups. Nothing ruins a meal more than black burnt patches and a coating of charcoal ashes.

                                          1. Brine
                                            rub
                                            wood fire
                                            push coals to one side
                                            place chicken parts cut small not over coals and cover 15 min
                                            turn another 15min
                                            finish over hot coals to carmelize skin

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: cokkinos

                                              Other than the fact that I think that both a brine and a rub is unnecessary, and opt simply for the latter . . . that is exactly what happens in my backyard.

                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                Grilling, not baking or roasting. Using my Weber charcoal, top stays open except to calm down flares, maybe for chicken or to melt cheese.

                                            2. If you want to roll the dice and eat rare beef, pork, or poltry, then by all means leave the lid open or off and you can scorch the outside in a couple of minutes and have a red, jucy, bacteria laden meal.

                                              Call me a wuss or alive, but I prefer my grilled or BBQed products to be cooked to the USDA suggested safe temperatures. And this is more easily accomplished in most cases with the lid closed, especially on a gas grill. The higher heat possible with charcoal, may make it possible to do the same with the lid open. I've seen grilling "instructions" that have the lid off for coals and closed for gas.

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: mikie

                                                I agree with the chicken, it scares the hell out of me. Pork on the other hand is one of the safest proteins out there. I think 145 degrees is the new requirement. I cook to 140 & let rest to 145. Pink on the inside but cooked.

                                                Steak on the other hand never more than M/R. Same with burgers if I grind my own or get it from a butcher friend. He eats it raw that's how confident he is in his product.

                                                1. re: mikie

                                                  Laughing at saying you're rolling the dice by cooking with the lid off. How many restaurant grills have you ever seen with lids on them? Zero.

                                                  If a gas grill, or even a charcoal grill is cooking at a lower temperature, then you cook it longer. The lid makes no difference in final done-ness.

                                                  So what does make the difference? Common sense makes the difference.

                                                  1. re: JayL

                                                    Yup. Lid v. no lid is a ridiculous question. Different techniques, times, and temps for different applications.

                                                    Know the differences and plan accordingly.

                                                    1. re: biggreenmatt

                                                      But not as ridiculous as your answer. Why bother commenting if you aren't going to contribute.

                                                      1. re: angelo04

                                                        How exactly did your comment contribute to anything?

                                                        1. re: grampart

                                                          Ahem.

                                                          The point is, quite reasonably, I think, that every tool has a purpose. A screwdriver isn't going to do the job if you need to pound something in, though excellent at putting screws in wood. A hammer is useless if you need to cut something.

                                                          Lid on or lid off- one isn't better than the other. It all depends on what you're doing. Grilling a 2" tomahawk steak at 350F on a BGE will call for something very different than grilling a kebob at 500F on a Broil King.

                                                          I think it's fair to say that "which is better" is necessarily dependent on what you're trying to do, with what, on what. Not trying to be insulting- just pointing out that the answer to the question is 100% context-dependent.

                                                          1. re: biggreenmatt

                                                            I would also add something intelligent about the differences between cooking by way of radiant heat versus convective heat, and how depending on what you want to do with your product, you'll want the lid open or shut.

                                                            Fortunately, I don't need to be intelligent, since someone else has kindly been intelligent for me! http://amazingribs.com/tips_and_techn...

                                                            1. re: biggreenmatt

                                                              You do know that I am in total agreement with everythig you said.?.

                                                  2. I -just- saw an episode of Steve Raichlin's show where he addresses this. His rule is if the food being grilled is palm-width or less, open grill to keep an eye on it, so it doesn't overcook. Thicker than the palm, close the lid. About as reasonable as any advice on the matter.

                                                    1. Mostly top down. Why waste all that fuel?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: zackly

                                                        When searing in the Big Green Egg, I keep the lid down so I can control the height of flames using the dampers. The ceramics in the dome also radiate a tremendous amount of heat down on the meat shortening the cooking time.

                                                      2. This post reminded me to buy one of these lid props for my gas grill.
                                                        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000...