Ash Backwards Grilling—What Is Temperature Control?
Maintaining a low, consistent temperature on your grill is pivotal to your success as a grill master. Whether you’re preparing larger, fattier cuts of meat; like ribs, brisket, or pork shoulder; to make into jerky or for smoking on the grill, you want to be able to trust your equipment will steadily do the hard work for you.
This kind of low-and-slow cooking yields delicious meals and envious neighbors, but only if done correctly. Controlling the temperature of your set-it-and-forget-it appliance leaves a lot of room for error, and many have been burned by meat that came out too dry to eat. Trying to find a workaround for broken temperature sensors and wonky control loops without reinventing the grill, I came up with a way to tackle the “what is temperature control” question that’s just a little ash backwards.
Temperature control is defined as the change to a temperature in an enclosed space. For our purposes, this is the detected temperature inside your grill or smoker. Ideally, you will be able to obtain an average internal temperature between 180 and 200 degrees, so that after about 4 hours of flavorful slow-roasting, the internal temperature of your meal has well surpassed food safety requirements, or somewhere in the area of 165 degrees.
These devices are incredibly common. Your air conditioners, space heaters, water heaters, and refrigerators all self-regulate temperatures thanks to data loggers and controller types, known as PID controllers, which are both built-in systems that help your equipment regulate their respective abilities to help control the temperature around and within them.
Approaching the Setpoint
Unfortunately, the temperature of ceramic charcoal grills can’t be controlled by a simple thermostat like appliances with an electric power supply. While you can determine, to some extent, how high or low the temperature of your grill gets to cook, there are other variables that affect the steadiness of the temperature.
The heating and cooling process depends much more on how you manually maintain the desired heat, known by engineers as a type of proportional control. The control element, or the source of the heat produced, as well as position of the coals and the height of the rack, how far away your dish is from the heat, can all be adjusted.
Why is temperature control so important?
If you understand the temperature range your slow cooker of choice needs to reach for optimal cooking, you won’t have to look up ways to fix overcooked meat or identify food poisoning later. Both scenarios lead to frustration, and can even make you reach for your phone to order take-out.
When you truly understand how to regulate your grill temperature though, the entire process will be much more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
Don’t be intimidated if you’re having trouble getting the perfect results from all your effort. Understanding a smoker or ceramic grill’s cycle time and the resulting process temperature is just one of the reasons at-home chefs scratch their heads, asking themselves, “What is temperature control?” With a little patience and experimenting, you might be able to think of grilling hacks like the one we just recently discovered, revolutionizing the way you grill!
Grilling the Ash Backwards Way
Cooking at lower temperatures is ideal in many grilling situations, but maintaining a consistent low heat for traditional grills can be difficult.
If you already use a Big Green Egg grill, then chances are you also have one of our Kick Ash Cans. While these cans were specifically designed to catch ashes and reduce that “pain in the ash” of cleanup, new research has shown that they can also be used as the ideal tool to maintain a lower temperature longer in your grills.
How to Do it
Simply rotate the Kick Ash Can 180 degrees around so that the opening in the can is facing away from the vent. Doing this keeps air from passing through the vent as quickly and allows you to maintain that lower temperature longer and more consistently.
Getting the Temperature Just Right
Before you can maintain a low temperature for cooking, you need to achieve the precise temperature, which can be a challenge in itself. Grills come with unique temperature control systems, and mastering them can be a bit tricky. If you’re having trouble adjusting the temperature with coals as your power supply, try these three tips:
- If the grill is too hot, try repositioning the briquettes. If you need to heat it back up, that’s as easy as pushing the coals together.
- Not all grills come with an adjustable rack, but if yours does, raise the rack away from the coals for cooler temperatures and less direct heat, or lower the rack closer to the coals for more heat.
- Closing the top vent a little allows less oxygen in and cools the grill down, while opening the top vents brings in more oxygen and allows the coals to burn hotter. If you need to add a lot of heat, open both the top and bottom vents.
Mastering the Art of Temperature Control
These simple hacks should help you achieve the ideal temperature for smoking and other low-temperature cooking techniques. As with all grilling skills, you will master the art of temperature control only by practicing it and implementing new ideas and grill hacks. It will also take a little trial and error to perfect these techniques, but you’ll find it’s well worth the effort.
While some products that come with time proportioned systems can be handy, the problem with those is that the temperature has a tendency to creep up rather than stay low and consistent. That’s why the simple trick of turning your Kick Ash Can around can be so useful. It will help you maintain the low, consistent heat you worked so hard to achieve with a product you already have on hand.
Creating Your Own DIY Grill Hacks
The beauty of grilling is experimentation. If you find that something isn’t working out just right, you can’t be afraid to adjust your technique, implement new tools, or repurpose old tools to help you achieve mouthwatering results.
Grilling is more than just hotdogs and steaks. The possibilities are endless when you combine some of your favorite year-round grilling recipes with modified or brand new techniques to create unique and delicious combinations.
So, what is temperature control for grill masters?
Temperature control is essential to mastering any grill recipes, especially when you need to keep your desired temperature low and consistent, and an important reminder that cooking creatively is the only way to take your grilling to the next level.