Lid up VS Lid Down When Grilling

Jason Webster
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What does the grill lid actually do?

Do you always need to close it?

You see it in almost every BBQ pit. The lid! It’s a constant presence while the food is on the grill.

So what do you do about it? Lid up? Down? Half up? Half down?

The lid is there for a reason. When you turn the food either with a pair of tongs or a spatula, you need to close the lid to retain heat and prevent outside air from rushing in.

On the other hand, the grill lid can trap excess heat in the grill and hence, prevent your food from getting adequately cooked. Plus, letting all that excess heat out can save on fuel costs.

Depending on the type of food you’re grilling, on a different day, you may need to have the lid closed for a greater amount of time.

Some foods are burnt more easily, such as sandwiches and steaks, hence, you need to cover it up and leave it for a greater amount of time.

This is very important because the longer you have the lid close, the more moisture gets trapped inside. When the moisture builds up, it leads to a very tough steak, and that’s no good.

Gas grills – lid up

Or lid down?

This is just one of those interior decorating dilemmas that grilling affords us.

Applying the lid is like taking a trip back in time to the days of good old lantern light (and sometimes a little bit of draft).

And people have been arguing about this topic since a long time. “Lid up or lid down?” For some, lid down is the only way to grill. For others, thinking of a grill without the lid overhead is an insult to the whole concept of grilling.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to lid usage: one thinks that grilling with the lid down lets some of the good stuff in the smoke into the food, and another states that it prevents the heat from escaping too.

The first school of thought has been more popular.

Really, smoking should be carried out in the smokehouse. Heating is carried out in the open. So, lid up is the only way to grill.

In my opinion, it is always best to grill with the lid up.

Why?

Because the food gets the natural smoke flavor from the fat and juices dripping from the food.

Gas grills – lid down

Or lid up?

The definite answer to whether the lid should be up or down when grilling is “it depends.” I look at four factors when deciding which direction to place the lid. These are: 1) wind (if any), 2) actual temperature, 3) surface temperature and 4) flare-ups.

If your grill is in a direct breeze, it can be very hard to maintain a temperature lower than 15-20 degrees from what you set with the dial. This can be especially true with gas grills that have smaller grilling areas and where you have to create a lower temperature by offsetting your burner locations in one zone.

For lower temperatures, the grill lid can be closed (starting with the valve(s) in the closed position) to retain heat. You can close the lid partially for high temperatures such as searing. However, I often prefer to leave the lid towards the open position for higher temperatures to increase the surface temperature of foods and prevent flare-ups.

In a no-wind situation, the lid’s orientation should always be left up to allow for radiant heat to grill your food, versus searing with just the hot direct heat.

Charcoal Grills – grilling with the lid up

Or down?

Contrary to popular belief, grilling with the lid up will actually result in more heat loss and slower cooking.

The exhaust fumes that roll from your grill will actually roll right back down onto your food and ruin your meal.

I hate the smell of exhaust fumes in bonfire, which is why I always grill with the lid down.

I get the sexy grill marks, tasty grilled flavors, and best of all, I avoid the smoky, beef fat coated, flavor of my own exhaust.

I guess that’s just me though, I’m trying to create positive changes in the world one barbecue at a time.

Here is an interesting fact for you, frying food under the hood of your car is not the same as grilling with the lid up.

However, grilling with the lid down is totally comparable to safely frying food under the hood of your car.

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Charcoal Grills – grilling with the lid down

Many people believe that grilling with the lid closed creates a hotter cooking area.

But the truth is, grilling with the lid down does not always create a hotter cooking surface. Taking a look at thermodynamics shows why this is, a longer explanation than I can fit into this blog, a lid is just a lid.

The temperature difference between lid up and down is because the lid down method can create a hotter cooking surface faster.

And the same amount of heat is necessary for the same amount of time regardless of which method you choose. On the other hand, when you grill with the lid closed, you have to wait for the air inside the grill to heat up before placing food in the grill, and when your air temp is high, it takes time for the surface of your grill to heat up.

This is best illustrated in the chart below. It shows measured data taken in an infrared thermometer.

Lid up vs lid down controversy

A common misconception that meat should be grilled with the lid up is widespread. However, there are some advantages to cooking barbecue in the opposite way.

If you do a quick online search, you will find that there are a variety of opinions about this topic. Some people advocate cooking with the lid down, believing it to contribute to a better barbecue experience.

However, for outdoor cooking purists, it is considered bad practice. Taking a look back at the history of cooking barbecue, it can be said that there is nothing wrong with placing your food on the grill with the lid down.

The lid has become an integral part of barbecue since the introduction of the kettle grill back in the early 1930’s. Back then, the only way to be able to cook meat over an open fire was to cover the top of the grill. This is how the lid was born.

New types of grills have made grilling a lot more convenient than before. With gas and electric grills, there is no need to be concerned about the coals running out while you grill. Since these grills are more convenient to use, people started questioning the necessity of having a lid on the grill.

Is it better to cook barbecue with the lid up or down? There is no right or wrong answer. This depends on what type of barbecue flavor you are looking for.

How to Carve a Turkey

The question that has been plaguing men since the beginning of time is what is better in terms of grilling, are you better off keeping the lid of the grill down or up when cooking?

You may have noticed that over the years, man has been using different ways of carves and slicing their turkeys before starting a barbecue. In fact, this method has changed over the years.

While it’s true that modern men do not have to worry about the most suitable way to peel a horse’s head or skin a lamb before roasting, there is no real need to do that anyway.

As with most meals, the best ways to carve a turkey is dependent on both the product and the preference. In order to give you an idea of what we are going to be talking about by the end of this article, we are going to compare the two most popular ways of carving a turkey, either with the lid up or lid down.

For starters, it’s worth noting that the temperature of the turkey and the material of the lid are important factors in determining which way is the best for you.