Should You Cook with the BBQ Lid on or Off? Find out When & Why to Use the Lid

BBQ lid on or off

As the weather gets warmer and BBQs come out of hibernation, we thought we’d tackle a common dilemma in BBQ circles… Should you cook with the BBQ lid on or off? Although it may sound like semantics, having the lid on or off (depending on what you are cooking) can actually be the difference between perfectly cooked food and food that is just ‘okay’.

The information in this post is adapted from Epicurious and Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, in which Meathead Goldwyn offers up a simple rule for the BBQ lid conundrum.

Here are some tips for determining whether you should cook with the lid on or off:

Check the Thickness

This is Meathead’s simple rule: If the food you are grilling is 2 cms or less, cook with the lid off. If it is over 2 cms, cover it up!

Closed = Convection, Open = Sear

When you imagine BBQd food, you think of a crusty, slightly charred exterior with a moist, tender interior. This is true for both meat and vegetables on the barbeque. Although the end result is simple enough, the method for achieving these results differs depending on the thickness of the food.

When you close the lid of the grill, you are creating a convection. This means the hot air coming from the heat source is trapped by the lid. Unable to escape, the air moves around the chamber you have created and allows the interior of thicker items to cook thoroughly. Closed lid cooking is much like using an oven.

For thinner items, you should cook with the lid open – this allows you to achieve perfect sear without overcooking the interior.

Want to find out more about why we sear steak and other foods? Check out this blog post.

Exceptions

Sometimes, in order to get the best results possible, you will want to cook with the lid on and off to get the perfect balance of a tender centre and caramelised outside (I know, we’re getting technical). You can use this technique for foods that are close to the 2 cm mark. What is the process? First, you should sear the meat directly over the flame. Then, you should move it away from the direct heat source to the side of the BBQ with indirect heat (this is possible if you set up a two zone grill!), shut the lid and let the centre cook through. Alternatively, you can do the opposite and cook the meat with the lid down until the centre is cooked perfectly, then open the lid and move the meat over direct heat and sear it (AKA a reverse sear).

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Want some more BBQ tips? Check out:

You’ll be a BBQ expert in no time.