When Should You Use Your Grill Lid?

There are times when to leave it open and times to close it.

When should you use the lid on your grill? It’s not an open-and-closed case. When cooking on an outdoor grill, the decision to keep the lid up or down will depend on what you’re grilling. It also will dpeend on how you're cooking it and what kind of grill you're cooking with.

 

Lid Off vs Lid On

Whether you’re using a gas or charcoal grill, you can get a crusty char on the outside of the meat without overcooking it by grilling the food uncovered. Closing your grill lid will cook your meat all the way through for a more consistent cook.

Grilling with the lid down encloses the heat and works its magic on your food. The surrounding heat helps to cook your food quicker too.

Technique: Start with the lid off, then on (The Best of Both Worlds)
Sometimes you may want to use a combination approach. Searing the outside of the meat over the source of the heat/flame with the open lid, you then move the meat away from the heat source and close the lid so the meat's interior can cook without burning. This is a similar process to searing your meat in a frying pan (acts as an open lid) and then placing the meat in the oven (similar to cooking with a closed lid).

 

When to Leave the Grill Open

If you are cooking foods such as burgers, thin steaks, shrimp, sliced veggies or chops over direct flames, leave the grill lid open. This method will help you keep the middle of the meat pink.

When you cook thicker meat, chicken with the bone and roasts, it will best to cook them with the lid down - especially if you cook with indirect heat.

  

When to Close the Grill Lid

If you are going to use wood chips (and remember to soak them in water for at least 10 mins prior to using them), you will be better off with the lid down. This will contain the smoke.

Just like cooking in the oven, opening the lid will affect the food in various ways - but this will depend on if you're using charcoal or gas as your heat source. Opening the lid on a gas grill can actually lower the heat (because it will leave the confined area) and opening the lid on a charcoal grill will potentially burn the food due to the rush of oxygen.

 

To get started, experiment with these three grilling goodies:

1. Basic Grilled Steak

When grilling a thick New York strip or a beefy rib-eye steak, you’ll want to close the grill lid to ensure it cooks thoroughly - or at least to your preference - depending on whether you like rare, medium-rare or medium. 

Grilled Steak

Ingredients:

  • 1 (1-1/4- to 1-1/2-inch-thick) New York strip or beef rib-eye steak
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Remove the steak from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  2. Heat a gas or charcoal grill to high (about 450°F to 550°F) and rub the grates with a towel dipped in vegetable oil. Meanwhile, season the steak on all sides with salt and pepper.
  3. When the grill is ready, place the steak on the grates and cover the grill. Cook, undisturbed, until grill marks appear on the bottom and the steak’s lightly charred on the edges, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip, cover the grill, and cook until the steak’s medium-rare, about 4 minutes more. To check for doneness, use your finger to press on the meat: It should be firm around the edges but still give in the center. You can also use an instant-read thermometer; it should register between 125°F and 130°F.
  4. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

2. Pineapple Glazed Shrimp Skewers

You'll want to leave the grill lid open for this sweet and savory shrimp kebab with a tropical twist. They have less meat so they will cook quickly and get a nice char as the pineapple caramelizes.

Grilled shrimp skewer

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups large-dice pineapple (from 1 large pineapple, about 5 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 36 extra-large shrimp (about 2 pounds), peeled and deveined
  • Vegetable oil
  • 12 (10-inch) metal or wooden skewers

Instructions:

  1. Combine 2 cups of the pineapple, the sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic in a blender and blend on high until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Skim off any foam and reduce heat to low. Simmer until glaze is thick and syrupy enough to coat the back of a spoon and has reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 30 minutes. Stir in cayenne and set aside to cool slightly, at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a gas or charcoal grill to high (about 400°F) or a grill pan over high heat until very hot.
  3. Skewer 1 shrimp, making sure to pass the skewer through the thick portion and the tail portion, then skewer 1 piece of the remaining pineapple. Repeat, alternating between the two and leaving no space in between until you have 3 shrimp and 2 pineapple pieces per skewer. Brush the skewers on one side with the glaze.
  4. Rub the grill with a towel dipped in vegetable oil, place the skewers on the grill glaze side down, and brush the other side of the skewers with more glaze. Continue brushing and turning every few minutes until the thick portions of the shrimp are white and firm about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the grill and serve immediately.

3. Grilled Corn with Cayenne, Lime, and Cotija

Unlike cooking most veggies, this one will turn out better with the lid down.

Essentially, the corn is being steamed due to being wrapped in husks. This is a much longer cook than normal for veggies as this one will need about 35 mins.

grilled corn with lime

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 6 ears corn, husks on
  • 1 medium lime, cut into 6 wedges

Instructions:

  1. Stir together the mayonnaise, garlic, salt, and cayenne in a small bowl until well combined. Place the cheese in a shallow dish that is at least as long as the corn.
  2. Heat the grill to medium-high (about 350°F to 450°F). Before grilling the corn, carefully peel back the husks of each ear a little more than halfway and remove as much silk as you can without pulling the husks off. Then pull the husks back up.
  3. Place the corn on the grill and close the lid. Every 10 minutes, roll the corn a quarter turn so it cooks evenly. (If your grill tends to have hot spots, move the cobs around so they grill evenly.) Cook until the husks are charred and starting to peel back from the corn, about 35 minutes total. Remove from the grill and set aside until the corn is cool enough to handle.
  4. Without detaching the husks, peel them back completely, turning them inside out so they form a handle. Brush the corn with a thin layer of the mayonnaise mixture, roll the cobs in the crumbled cheese, and serve. Pass the lime wedges on the side for squeezing over the corn.