AmazingRibs.com is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

When To Put A Lid On It

Most grills come with lids. And a good thing, too. A lid is essential for most outdoor cooking. You can cook on a lidless grill, but you will be severely handicapped. It would be like doing all your cooking on a stovetop.

With a lid, most of the heat comes from below, but much of it goes right past the food and is reflected from above so your grill becomes an oven and you can cook foods with heat from all sides. This significantly reduces the risk of burning dinner.

A lid also traps smoke, moisture, and flavor molecules. In short, it gives you much more versatility. And let’s not forget, it keeps flies off the food.

As a rule of thumb, if the food is 3/4″ or less, no lid. Leave the lid off when you are cooking thin foods like or skirt steak. Without a lid, all the heat comes only from underneath. One side cooks, the other does not. For something like skirt steak we want a dark exterior loaded with the compounds formed when proteins, amino acids, and sugars undergo the Maillard reaction (read my article on why brown is beautiful). But you don’t want the interior overcooked. If you close the lid, heat attacks from above and below, and the bottom gets nut brown, but the top just gets to tan, and the center overcooks. So, for thin foods, crank up the heat, leave the lid off and flip the meat every minute or so to prevent heat buildup on either side. This way you’ll be able to develop the dark exteriors without overcooking the interior. For an extreme example, see my article on extreme steak and check out the “afterburner method”.

There are other times when you want to cook without a lid, usually when you are cooking foods like shrimp where the color is your guide to doneness, or sweet foods like pineapple where the surface can burn quickly.

But if the food is 1″ or thicker, put a lid on it. If you leave the lid off, there’s a chance you’ll have an undercooked interior. Of course all this depends on your grill and how much heat you are generating. Yet another reason to have a high quality digital thermometer.

There is a middle ground. Sometimes you might want to wedge the lid open an inch or two to allow hot air escape if you are having trouble getting the heat down to a target such as 225°F.

Unless otherwise noted, almost all the recipes on this website require you to cook with the lid down.

Related articles

Published On: 3/13/2013 Last Modified: 4/24/2021

  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and much more!

Millions come to AmazingRibs.com every month for quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 4,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner like TV network or a magazine publisher to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club, but please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get 21 great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial membership, and help keep this site alive.


Post comments and questions below

grouchy?

1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

Moderators

  Max

Click for comments...

Spotlight

These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys: https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs


Finally, A Great Portable Pellet Smoker


Green Mountain’s portable Davy Crockett Pellet Smoker is one mean tailgating and picnic machine. But it’s also gaining popularity with people who want to add a small, set it and forget it pellet smoker to their backyard arsenal. And with their WiFi capabilities you can control and monitor Davy Crocket from your smart phone or laptop.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order


Fireboard: The Ultimate Top Of The Line BBQ Thermometer

Fireboard Labs Product Photo Shoot. Kansas City Commercial Portrait and Wedding Photographers ©Kevin Ashley Photography

With the ability to monitor up to six temperatures simultaneously with either Bluetooth or Wifi on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer, Fireboard is the best digital thermometer we’ve tested.
Click here to read our detailed review


The Cool Kettle With The Hinged Hood We Always Wanted


Napoleon’s 22″ Pro Cart Charcoal Kettle Grill puts a few spins on the familiar kettle design. In fact, the hinged lid with a handle on the front, spins in a rotary motion 180 degrees. It’s hard to beat a Weber kettle, but Napoleon holds its own and adds some unique features to make the 22″ Pro Cart a viable alternative.

Click here for more about what makes this grill special


The Pit Barrel Cooker May Be Too Easy


The PBC has a rabid cult following for good reason. It is absolutely positively without a doubt the best bargain on a smoker in the world. Period. This baby will cook circles around the cheap offset sideways barrel smokers because temperature control is so much easier.

Click here to read our detailed review and the raves from people who own them


The Efficiency Of A Kamado Plus The Flexibility Of The Slow ‘N Sear Insert

kamado grill
Built around SnS Grill’s patented Slow ‘N Sear charcoal kettle accessory, this 22-inch kamado is a premium ceramic grill that brings true 2-zone cooking to a kamado.

Click here for our article on this exciting cooker


Blackstone Rangetop Combo: Griddle And Deep Fryer In One


The flat top does the burgers and the fryer does the fries. Use the griddle for bacon, eggs, grilled cheese, and so much more. And why deep fry indoors when you can avoid the smell and mess by doing it outside!

Click here to read our detailed review and to order


The Undisputed Champion!

Thermapen One Instant Read Thermometer

ThermoWorks’ Thermapen ONE provides an accurate reading in one second or less. The ONE also includes features that are common on high-end instruments: automatic backlight, rotating display, and water resistant seals. Don’t accept cheap substitutes.
Click here to read our comprehensive Platinum Medal review