Do you want to get into grilling to make the best burgers, steaks, and hot dogs? Well, if you do, you need to know the answer to one question: what is medium heat on a grill?
Medium heat on a grill is not a single temperature, but instead a range that spans from 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 C) to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 C). This wide range is suitable for cooking a variety of classic foods to impart flavor while lowering the risk of burning them.
Want to know more about how to get better at grilling without burning your food to a crisp? Then keep reading and find out why you need to know about medium heat and what that does for your food.
What is Medium Heat on a Grill?
Given the range that I just shared, you could theoretically just aim for 350 degrees and call it done! While that’s certainly a valid approach, grilling is part art and part science 😉
Certain methods will help to impart more flavor while also avoiding overcooking that delicious food that your hungry family is waiting on!
So, what is medium heat, and what types are there when cooking on a grill?
Grilling: Medium Temperature Settings
There are three separate settings for medium heat when you are cooking on a grill, and each one is used for different purposes and foods. So, though they are all in the medium range, knowing the difference between them can make or break your grilled food.
So, follow these medium heat guidelines that grilling masters use to create the juiciest meats, crispiest veggies, and succulent fish.
The medium-range starts with a medium-low setting. This is the lowest temperature that most classic grilled foods are cooked at, besides a few exceptions like slow-cooked or smoked foods.
This heat ranges between 300 and 325 degrees, but mainly hovers around the 325-degree mark. This is ideal for meats and foods that need to be baked or roasted, and although it might take a bit longer, it is well worth it for the amount of flavor you get.
This heat is usually used when cooking items that tend to burst with high heat, like brats, sausages, and hot dogs. Though it cooks a bit slower, that time allows for a rich and smokey-like flavor to adhere to your food so you get a very savory and juicy taste.
This heat, when used at the lower end of the range, makes for a great temperature for smoking certain meats too. Though many grillers used an even lower heat setting, you could choose to add woodchips for a slightly more smoked flavor.
The medium temperature of the medium range for grilling is about 350 degrees but can go up a little as well. This heat setting is mainly used for types of meats and other ingredients that tend to take a longer time to cook thoroughly.
Cooking at a higher temperature will allow the inside to cook faster without having to leave the item on the grill for a longer time, which could make the outside of the meat or food item hard and dry. This heat setting is used mainly for thick cuts of meats like steaks, full chickens, whole birds, and thick or tough fish.
The favorite food to cook on a grill at this temperature setting is bone-in chicken. This is because the outside of the bird will cook to nice crispiness while the inside takes on a flavorful taste and juicy texture.
When cooking whole foods, you will want to have a thermometer nearby to ensure that the heat stays at the right temperature, but also so you cook the entire chicken or turkey all the way through.
The highest setting for the medium range is the medium-high setting, which is typically between 375 to 400 degrees.
This higher heat setting is made for cooking food at a faster rate. It is also the perfect temperature for foods that are to be cooked medium-rare.
This option is ideal for cooking burgers, steaks, and skewers for larger parties and gatherings since it will allow you to cook them faster and get everyone fed at the same time.
Why Temperature is Key to Grilling
When you are first learning to grill, it can seem like there is so much to learn about the temperatures for each food type and how long to cook in each setting.
However, this will get easier with time, and with the experience of seeing when each meat type is fully cooked.
But, why is the temperature such a big factor when you are grilling?
The temperature not only needs to be high enough to properly cook the food, but it also adds flavor and textures that you don’t get when using a frying pan on the stove!
Changing the temperature on the grill will change the amount of time each side of the meat of fish needs to cook, and it changes the level of crispiness of the skin.
Items like burgers and steaks often have a more smokey and savory flavor when cooked on a grill, and getting the outside crisp while keeping the inside juicy as possible.
How to Gauge Medium Heat Without a Thermometer
Keeping your grill at a specific temperature is important, but what if the grill you’re using doesn’t come with a thermometer?
This is unlikely since many come with one, but if it is broken, unreadable, or tends to be off by a few degrees, then you will want to use another method to gauge the heat.
To do this, you will need to use your hand to gauge how long you can keep it about four or five inches away from the fire. Keep your palm flat out over the fire and see how long you can stand keeping it there.
If you feel the heat right away and cannot keep your hand over it, then this means it is definitely on high and you will need to turn the temperature down. If you can handle the heat, but only for two or three seconds, then it is still too high.
If you can keep your hand above the fire for around 5 seconds, then this is at medium-high heat. If you are cooking more sensitive foods, like poultry, you will want to turn it down a little bit more.
When the temperature is at a perfect medium, then you will be able to handle the heat for about 7 seconds. If you can hold your hand still for over that time, or around 10 seconds, then you will know the grill is at a medium-low temperature.
And, if you have a thermometer that doesn’t work that well, you can still use it to check if the temperature is anywhere near the right range. If you are way off, then you may need to check the temperature with your hand again.
What Foods Are a Good Fit for Medium Heat Cooking?
Another thing to know when grilling is which foods will be used at which cooking temperatures. You don’t want to get this part wrong and over or undercook your meats.
So, what foods are a good fit for medium heat cooking?
Well, steak is one of the best meats to cook at the medium heat level. This is because you can make it savory and juicy on the inside while crisping the outside just a bit.
Also, since steaks are delicious when medium-rare, this temperature makes it the perfect option for steaks.
2. Burgers and Hot Dogs
Two other top choices are burgers and hot dogs. A burger can have the juiciest of a steak, which means that grilling them on medium heat will bring out the flavor of the meat.
Hot dogs are another great option because they require lower heat than other meats. This is because they tend to split open when they are overcooked.
So, use a bit lower heat on the hot dogs and flip them over faster to get the perfect game day dog for your next barbeque.
3. Kebobs and Skewers
You can also grill some veggie skewers or fruit and meat kebobs on medium heat. This is ideal for these foods because they can cook fast while still allowing the juices of the fruits, veggies, and meats to flavor it.
Pineapples and bell peppers with pieces of beef or steak are favorites since it has the sweetness of the pineapple juice to balance the spiciness of the peppers and the savory meat.
Getting the perfect foods on the grill at the right temperatures will ensure that everyone who comes over for your next outdoor barbecue will be happy with their meal.
Using medium heat on a grill allows you to cook multiple items at once, which is great for large groups.
So, when you want to get started on your grilling journey, take another look at these temperature settings to remind yourself how to get the best grilled food.
Make sure to take a look at some of these other awesome resources before you go!