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Tips for Controlling the Temperature on a Gas Grill

Why would we write an entire article about controlling a gas grill’s temperature?

Controlling the temperature of a gas grill is as easy as just adjusting the knobs, right?

Well, yes and no. 

Understanding how to precisely control the temperature across your gas grill’s cooking surface is a must-know skill to create better-cooked foods. For grilling multiple foods simultaneously, knowing how to control a gas grill’s temperature is a game changer.

But there is a little more finesse and precision involved than simply turning your grill’s knobs up to high.

We really can’t overstate how important it is to be able to accurately measure and control your grill’s temperature, especially if you’d like to try out a technique like zone grilling (which we’re huge proponents of).

That’s why we put together this guide to help show you everything you need to know about controlling the temperature on your gas grill. From measuring the temperature correctly (here’s a hint — it’s not with the thermometer built into your grill’s hood) to the temperature ranges you should aim for depending on the type of food you’re cooking.

Once you have the skills of temperature control down, your grilling possibilities will be practically endless — and always delicious!

Pork Chops on a Gas Grill

How to Control the Temperature on Your Gas Grill

Mastering the art of grilling involves more than just knowing when to flip your steaks or burgers; it also requires an understanding of how to effectively control the temperature on your gas grill.

Managing heat properly is key to achieving better-grilled food. It can be even more important when dealing with challenging outdoor conditions like wind.

In the sections to come, we are going explore the best practices for maintaining the ideal temperature on your grill. Because properly controlling a grill’s temperature is the difference between creating outstanding barbecue and food that’s either dangerously undercooked or charred to an inedible crisp.

Thankfully, this is a reasonably straightforward skill to learn once you’ve got the basics down.

You Can’t Trust Your Hood Thermometer

First things first, stop using your hood thermometer as a gauge for cooking temperature.

Many grills tout their built-in thermometer as a helpful feature, but in reality, they can be inaccurate at worst or misleading at best.

That’s because they’re not actually measuring the surface temperature but just the hot air closest to the spot they’re mounted to on the hood.

Depending on your grill size, there’s likely a significant gap between the hood and the cooking surface that can result in anywhere from a 75°F to 150°F difference between the temperature shown on the built-in thermometer and the actual temperature of the cooking surface.

So while the built-in thermometer may be showing the accurate temperature for the area around it, it’s not showing you what you actually need to know.

What you actually need to know is…

You Need to Know the Surface Temperature

Knowing your grill’s actual, accurate surface temperature is key to successfully grilling your food.

And when we say accurate, we don’t mean the old-fashioned hand test. You know the test where you hover your hand over the grates and gauge how hot they are by how long you can keep your hand there? That’s never going to give you a precise reading, and it’s dangerous to boot.

Instead, you’ll want to use a grill surface thermometer that sits at the cooking surface level or a gun-style thermometer you can aim at the grates to get a truly accurate reading.

Better yet, you could use a wireless temperature probe that monitors the temperature of your food and also the surface temperature. You could get something like this: The MeatStick 4X, or choose one from my list of favorites: The 10 Best Digital Meat Thermometers.

Proper Preheating Is a Must

A major misstep newer grillers make is failing to let their grill heat up long enough and tossing their food on because the grill is at the right temperature.

This can cause food to stick to the grates, as well as longer cooking times that can potentially leave your food dry and tough.

To preheat your grill, open the lid, turn on the gas, and light it as you usually do. Turn up all of your burners to their highest settings, then close the lid, sit back, and wait for 10 to 15 minutes. That’s all there is to it!

How to Use the Control Knob Settings for Flame Control

With a gas grill, you’ll be in total control of the temperature as long as you understand how to use the control knobs that manage the gas flow.

It may seem obvious, but fine-tuning your control knobs can help you achieve the temperatures you’re looking for and create temperature zones. We’ll touch on temperature zones more in a bit.

But it’s not as basic as cranking all of your knobs up at once — you’ll want to adjust each one independently depending on what you’re cooking and where it’s placed on the grill.

Using the control knob settings correctly on a gas grill for temperature control relies on understanding and making use of the various settings.

Before we get into control knob settings for zone grilling, here is a breakdown of the basic settings:

  • High Setting: This is typically used for preheating the grill and for searing meats. The grill is usually preheated for 10-15 minutes.
  • Medium Setting: This setting is ideal for consistent grilling and cooking larger or thicker cuts of meat thoroughly. It maintains a balance between high heat for searing and low heat for slow cooking.
  • Low Setting: This setting is used for slow cooking or for food items that need lower temperatures to cook, like fish or vegetables. It’s also useful for keeping already-cooked food warm.

You can fine-tune these settings based on your specific grilling needs. And in windy conditions, you might need to set the burner controls higher than usual to maintain your desired temperature due to heat loss caused by the wind.

Searing Meat with High Temperatures on a Gas Grill

Use the Zone Grilling Setup to Create Heat Zones, a Technique for Temperature Control

When mastering the art of grilling, the zone grilling technique is going to be your best friend.

Zone grilling is the method of creating zones within your grill that are heated to different temperatures that provide both direct and indirect heat.

The result? Cooler areas where you can cook delicate foods like vegetables and shrimp, and hotter areas for foods that need flaming hot temps, like steaks and burgers.

Depending on how many burners your grill has, you’ll get to experiment with 2- or 3-zone grilling.

For 2-zone grilling, you’ll simply light one burner and leave the other one either on very low or completely shut off.

If your grill has more than two burners, you can utilize 3-zone cooking, where you’ll turn your knobs to their desired temperature (typically one low/off, one medium, and one high).

By practicing zone grilling, you’ll have more control over your grill’s temperature and more flexibility when it comes to the foods you cook. Heat zones can also help improve your control over flare-ups since you’ll always have a cooler area to move food to if a flare-up occurs. It’s a win-win-win situation!

For a more in-depth guide on mastering the art of zone grilling, check out this article: Zone Grilling Methods for Mastering Your Grill.

Keep the Lid Closed

Another technique for controlling your gas grill’s temperature is to cook with the lid closed. After all, heat rises, and it’ll take the opportunity to rush out every time you open the lid.

Even if you have the lid open for just a few seconds, your grill’s temperature can drop severely and take a lot of time and energy to heat back up, which directly translates to more time spent finishing up your food.

Those constant temperature fluctuations are also the main reasons for uneven cooking and can lead to moisture loss in your meat.

So keep that lid closed as much as possible, and keep the heat your grill is working so hard to produce trapped inside where it belongs!

For more information on using the grill lid properly, check out this guide: Grill Lid up or Down When Grilling

The Temperature to Use Will Vary Depending on What You Are Cooking

When preheating and adjusting your grill’s temperature, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all temperature. The temperatures you use should depend on the type of food you’re cooking, as well as the quantity and size.

Items like burgers and steaks are best cooked quickly over high heat, so the outside gets great color, but the inside stays juicy and tender.

Foods like pork, chicken, and veggies tend to do better over medium heat, so they get some color but cook slower, so they don’t dry out.

Low heat is where you’ll want to cook small or delicate items like seafood and veggies or ones that are best cooked low and slow over indirect heat, like ribs and pulled pork.

This is where a second thermometer, like the probe thermometer we mentioned earlier, will come in handy. In addition to the thermometer you’re using to gauge your grill’s temperature, a final check with an instant read thermometer is always recommended.

No matter the temperature or method you use to cook your food, it’s important you also check its internal temperature before you pull it off the grill to make sure it’s safe to eat.

Cooking Pork Chops on a Gas Grill Over Medium Heat

Basic Grilling Temps on a Gas Grill

You’re probably thinking, “Great, I know what heat to cook certain foods over, but what exactly do low, medium, and high mean?”

Relax; we’ve got you covered!

Low temperatures are usually considered those between 200°F and 250°F, while medium-low will be between 250°F and 300°F.

Your medium temperatures will fall between 300°F and 375°F, and medium-high will sit between 375°F and 450°F.

Next up is high temperatures, between 450°F and 600°F. Finally, there’s incendiary, which is perfect for achieving a delicious restaurant-quality sear — that’s anywhere higher than 600°F.

Here is a Grilling Temperature Chart that may come in handy:

Grilling Temperature Chart

Low
Actual Temperature (°F)
200 to 250
Good For
Slow cooking brisket and ribs, whole pork
Medium-Low
Actual Temperature (°F)
250 to 300
Good For
Ribs and pork shoulder
Medium
Actual Temperature (°F)
300 to 375
Good For
Burgers, poultry, some vegetables, some fish
Medium-High
Actual Temperature (°F)
375 to 450
Good For
Burgers, fish steaks, thick beef cuts, some vegetables with high moisture content
High
Actual Temperature (°F)
450 to 600
Good For
Kebabs, shellfish, searing steaks, pizzas (in a pizza oven attachment)
Incendiary
Actual Temperature (°F)
600 and higher
Good For
Searing meat

Final Thoughts on Our How to Control the Temperature on a Gas Grill Guide

Controlling the temperature of your gas grill is a handy skill to master if you want to improve your grilling game and unlock more flexibility for what you can cook, and how to cook it.

With the help of an accurate temperature, mastering zone grilling, and some precision with the control knobs, temperature control is an incredibly straightforward skill any outdoor cook can learn!

Remember, accuracy is key here. Invest in a solid way to measure both the surface temperature of your grill and the internal temperature of the food, and you can’t go wrong. Unless you’re relying on your grill’s hood thermometer or the hover-hand test. In that case, you can definitely go wrong.

Depending on the size of your grill, we encourage you to give 2- and 3-zone grilling a try! It will seriously level up your grilling abilities and allow you to cook up way more food at one time than you could before.

If you have any questions about temperature control or zone grilling or any tips you’ve used that you’d like to share, let us know in the comments!

Cheers,

Pat G.

Next Steps:

Article on How Wind Affects Gas Grills

How Wind Affects Gas Grills: How To Grill When It’s Windy

How to Test Your Grill for A Gas Leak

How to Test Your Grill for a Gas Leak

The 10 Best Built-in Gas Grills

Best Built-in Gas Grills With a Buyers Guide

DisclosureAt The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs.  If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission.  This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue.  Your support is truly appreciated.

Patrick Ginise

A backyard warrior, certified carnivore, lover of good whiskey, grill master and I’m Living The Grilling Life!

I have a passion for cooking with live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I’m a real person just like you, who loves outdoor cooking and BBQ. Food, fun, and time spent with family and friends are what it’s all about! It is my mission to take my passion and knowledge for outdoor cooking and all things BBQ and share this expertise in techniques and grilling equipment with you. In other words, Living The Grilling Life!

I have personally tested over 150+ Grills and Smokers and hundreds of grilling thermometers, temperature controllers, grill brushes, grilling tools, fire starters, and other BBQ products.