When To Put A Lid On It

"I grill, therefore I am."Alton Brown

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.

kettle grill with lid partially open

Meathead Goldwyn

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

What people say about us

"The world’s leading outdoor cooking resource." Larry Olmsted, Forbes.com

"An amazing compendium of barbecue knowledge." Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, Austin

"I was crowned World Brisket Champion at the Jack Daniels World Championships using your Big Bad Beef Rub. Your site has played a pivotal role in my development." John Lattuca, WeekendWarriorBBQ, Montreal, Canada

"This meal was as memorable as my first sex, only better." Marie Overholt, San Francisco, CA

"The BBQ community is so extremely fortunate to have someone as passionate and articulate as you." Frank Ostini, Chef Winemaker, Hitching Post II Restaurant & Winery, Buellton, CA

"I adapted your brisket rub recipe this summer and my customers love it (8,000 pounds served in 6 months)! My brisket even won 'best beef' in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair." Chef Larry Vito, BBQ Smokehouse, Sebastapol, CA

"Meathead is the best writer covering this part of the culinary world." John Markus, Producer, BBQ Pitmasters TV show

"The Rosetta Stone of BBQ." Bill Lamb

"I got laid last night because of your pastrami" Name withheld for obvious reasons

"Knowledgeable, smart, hilarious, and self-effacing." Laurel Stone

"I have worked as a professional cook in high end French restaurants for several years, so when I hit the internet looking for some BBQ info, I was really pleased to find an in depth and expansive site that had all the tips I was looking for." Aaron Ettlin, Portland, OR

"A Famous Dave's commercial came on claiming the best ribs in the world, and my honey shook his head and said, 'nope, it's right here.' Many, many thanks!" Red Taylor, San Francisco, CA

"We had a fantastic season winning two Grand Championships and five Reserve Grand Championships. I always appreciate referring to your site. Thanks." Steve, Grills Gone Wild, IA

"I have always loved cooking ribs but with our new gas grill they were never as good as charcoal. Well that all changed last night when I made the greatest ribs I have ever tasted. My wife wanted to know if I bought them somewhere and then claimed I cooked them myself." Allen Nicley, Mont Alto, PA

"The Memphis Dust and the pulled pork are excellent! I had to dang near run people out of my house!" Aswad Johnson

"I was about to buy a new smoker. After reading your article about setting up a horizontal smoker, I decided to try rehabilitating something the previous owner of my house left in the backyard. Total investment: $100. I figure I saved at least $500!" Coleman Shelton, Calvert City, KY

"Amazingribs.com is the most information packed barbecue site known to man." Pitmaster and BBQ Columnist George Hensler

"AmazingRibs.com is the world's go-to place for a barbecue treasure house of reliable information." Ardie "Remus Powers" Davis, author of numerous barbecue books

"This is my new go-to method for prime rib." Candy Weaver, President, Kansas City Barbeque Society

"We've won five Grand Championships and two Reserve Championships in the past three months. Learned much about BBQ from you and wanted to give you credit." Harry Soo, SlapYoDaddyBBQ.com

"The Alton Brown of Que." Joe Mizrahi, Smokin' Joe's, NYC

"I have always loved to travel and eat. Life became boring when I had to give up my worldly adventures. Thanks to you I now love to cook. I am now having adventures at home in my kitchen and my back yard. I am no longer bored, and my large family is grateful too. Thank you so much." Dugan Hoeflinger, Tucson, AZ

"I am in the process of opening a cafe and thought your simple sweet sour slaw is an amazing winner." James Murray, Toronto

"I had two ribs and my boyfriend ate the other 3 1/2 pounds. He couldn't stop to talk. He had to bring a box of tissues to the table because these ribs are so good they make him weep. He tells me that my ribs have deepened his love for me. Well, fine, but I know that just means he wants more ribs." Nancy J. Mostad, Minnesota


Placeholder

Related articles

Placeholder

Placeholder

Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our links and purchase from them. On Amazon it works on everything from grills to diapers, they never tell us what you bought, and it has zero impact on the price you pay, but has a major impact on our ability to improve this site! And remember, we only recommend products we love. If you like AmazingRibs.com, please save this link and use it every time you go to Amazonhttps://tinyurl.com/amazingribs

...some HTML for the first variant...

Placeholder

Placeholder

Get Smoke Signals, our free e-letter. No spam. Guaranteed

Enter your email:

If you love barbecue and grilling, get a FREE 30-day membership in our Pitmaster Club. We can up your game.

  • FREE 30 day trial membership.
  • Sneak previews of Meathead’s new book.
  • We block ads from members.
  • Real community. No politics. No flame wars.
  • Monthly newsletter.
  • Video seminars with famous pitmasters.
  • Weekly podcasts with Greg Rempe.
  • Weekly BBQ cartoons by Jerry King.
  • Comprehensive Temperature Guide Magnet ($10 retail).
  • Monthly giveaways of Gold Medal grills and smokers worth up to $2000.
  • Discounts on products we love.
  • Support for AmazingRibs.com!

Lookit what our members are cooking:


Post comments and questions below

Placeholder

1) Please try the table of contents or 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.

 

Click to ask questions and make comments