How to Control Temperature in Your Kamado Grill
Temperature control is hands down the most fundamental element of grilling. No matter the type of grill, a pitmaster has to become skilled at the art of raising and lowering the heat to get the flavor and texture of their BBQ creations just right.
On a kamado grill, temperature control requires a different approach from a gas grill or a pellet grill. It requires a lot more finesse, and there is a significant learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll love the flexibility that a kamado grill gives you.
Below, we’ll show you the basics of temperature control on a kamado grill, using the Grilla Kong kamado grill as our example.
How Kamado Grill Temperature Control Works
New to kamado grills? See “What Is a Kamado Grill?” to get up to speed.
Kamado grills are a type of charcoal ceramic grill. As with most other charcoal grills, airflow is how the grill operator controls the grill’s temperature. More airflow to the charcoal in your kamado brings more oxygen to the fire, which makes it burn hotter. This in turn makes your fuel consumption increase as well.
The kamado’s built-in thermometer keeps you informed about the temperature inside the kamado. If you want to raise or lower the temperature, you’ll do it using the two main tools built into the kamado: the top and bottom vents.
The top and bottom vents both control airflow to the kamado, but they serve different purposes. Both can be adjusted individually, which means you have a lot of control over exactly how hot you want the grill to get. Next, let’s talk about how to use the different vents.
Let Us Vent for a Moment
The bottom vent is called the intake vent. It’s larger and gives the coals their main source of oxygen. Due to that, it’s going to give you more direct control over how hot the grill gets. When lighting your kamado grill, you’ll start by opening the bottom vent fully and letting the air flow freely until you build up an ember bed. This vent has the biggest effect on how hot your coals get overall.
The top vent is your exhaust vent. It gives you more precise control over the temperature. You’ll need to adjust it throughout the smoking or grilling process to get the heat just right. While your bottom vent is going to provide the biggest changes to your temperature, the top vent will allow you to make smaller adjustments. It’s also the source of those delicious smells that gets everybody’s stomachs growling. It’s important to NEVER close your top vent completely unless you’re trying to shut the grill down.
Use the Kong’s built-in temperature gauge as your guide.
Cooking at Your Ideal Temperature
These are the basic techniques for controlling temperature in your Kong kamado grill. Keep in mind, your grill should already be started with vents wide open by the time you get to this point:
- Low Temperatures/Smoking: When your grill reaches a temperature of about 190F, adjust your vents until they are only open 1/4 of the way. If your bottom vent has a damper, like the Kong, this is the perfect time to put it in use. As your grill climbs, adjust the top vent tighter if you want the temperature lower, and open it up if you’d like it slightly higher.
- Medium Temperatures: When your grill reaches a temperature of about 285F, adjust your vents until they are open 1/2 way. If your bottom vent has a damper, like the Kong, you can use it if you like, it’s not necessarily needed. As your grill climbs above 400, adjust the top vent tighter if you want the temperature lower, and open it up if you’d like it slightly higher. .
- High Temperatures: This is the easiest way to use your Kamado grill, simply let the vents stay wide open throughout your cook. If your grill begins to reach temperatures of 700F or higher, begin to close down your vents to keep your grill within a safe range..
If the temperature gets too hot while you’re preheating, close both the top and bottom vents. Leave them closed until your Kong has cooled down enough for you.t. Keep in mind, you DO NOT want to do this with food on the grill. Airflow is needed to provide the best smoke flavor possible. With no airflow, your grill will put out an unappealing white/black/grey smoke that will leave a poor taste on your tongue.
Tips and Tricks for Kamado Grill Temperature Control
These tips will help you control your Kong’s temperature more easily so you can get the most out of your kamado:
- Remember the golden rule of kamado cooking: It’s faster and easier to heat a kamado grill up than to cool it down. Start out slowly and bring the heat up gradually.
- You should only keep the Kong’s lid open when lighting the grill. Cooking with the lid open will make the temperature extremely hard to control and significantly increase your fuel consumption, so don’t do it.
- Experiment with direct and indirect heat to cook multiple dishes at once inside the Kong at different temperatures. With a split diffuser, it’s easy to cook multiple dishes at once using both direct and indirect heat.
- Burp your grill before you open it. This is where you slightly open the lid of your grill, and allow the initial burst of air to come out before you open it completely. Lifting the lid a little at a time will prevent you from burning off the hair on your arm, or worse.
- Take an afternoon, fill your grill up with charcoal, and practice dialing in your temps without putting any food on the grill. Try to get a steady temperature around 220, 350 and 650 for at least 30-60 minutes at a time. These are going to be your 3-main temperatures you’ll be using on the majority of your cooks. This will help you get a much better feel for how to treat the grill in the future. You’ll be much happier burning through a little charcoal, than ruining a meal because you made the wrong vent adjustments.
No matter what, we’re always here to help you become a certified Pitmaster PhD in the art of kamado grilling. For more tips on mastering the Kong, see our beginner’s guide to kamado grilling. Plus, be sure to see our Kong virtual toolbox that’s packed with resources for Kong owners. Finally, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you figure out all the tips and tricks we know!