What Is Medium Heat On A Grill?

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You’ve marinated your meat and cleaned the grate, all that’s left is to fire up the grill. But what if your recipe needs a medium heat setting? What is ‘medium heat’ in the first place?

If you’re not used to cooking food on a grill, it can be tricky to understand how temperature and heat levels relate to each other.

If you don’t understand what various heat levels mean, this can lead to charred steaks and underdone chicken later on.

A lot of grilling instructions and recipes need to be cooked at a medium temperature, so it’s important to know what ‘medium’ really means.

This article will help you understand exactly what medium heat is, and why it’s important for grilling.

Keep reading to find out more about the different heat levels on the grill, including different methods to measure how hot your grill is.


Main Grill Temperatures

Before we cover what medium heat is, we need to understand the temperature scope on a grill. In most cases, you can set a grill to three main temperature ranges, low, medium, and high.

Low temperatures are between 200-300°F, medium temperatures are between 300-400°F, and high temperatures are between 400-500°F.

These numbers aren’t exact, but they give us an idea of where each range falls on the spectrum.

These ranges don’t explain what medium-low or medium-high is either.

What Is Medium Heat On A Grill?

When you’re using a grill, it’s better to work with specific temperatures to obtain the best outcome. Generally speaking, lower temperatures are good for slow cooking for longer periods.

Higher heat settings are better for swift sears, as longer cooking times can make the meat burn.

To understand what medium heat is, you’ll need to know what the other heat levels mean. Older grill models may have heat settings on them such as medium-low, medium, medium-high, etc.

Here’s a breakdown of what these terms mean:

Low Heat Setting

A low heat setting on a grill usually covers temperatures between 225 and 250°F. This temperature won’t expel much heat, so you won’t be grilling anything with this setting.

Low heat settings are better for slow-cooking bigger pieces of meat. This will turn tougher pieces into softer bites, making the tissues and joints lighter and pleasant to eat.

Low heat is also better for smoking spices and meats. Even water-filled vegetables like mushrooms can be smoked with this setting, particularly if you use a smoker box.

Smoking meat can protect the meat and infuse it with smoky flavors. Lower heat means you’ll need to smoke the meat for longer, so you’ll need a lot of charcoal and wood chips to do so.

Medium-Low Heat Setting

This temperature lies between 250 and 300°F. Like a low heat setting, medium-low works well to slow cook food.

If you’re using charcoal to grill at medium-low, you’ll need more fuel. The meat won’t brown well under low temperatures, as it won’t release the direct heat needed for most grill recipes.

You should still have a little charring from the fire, but it won’t be as pronounced as when you use higher heat settings.

Medium Heat Setting

Now we come to the medium heat setting. This temperature will lie between 325 and 375°F, which is the center of the whole heating range scope.

This will be low enough to gently cook the insides of meat and vegetables without burning them.

It will also be hot enough to brown them without charring them. A medium setting works well to grill a lot of foods like roasts, chicken, and sometimes, turkey.

The only downside to using a medium heat setting is that some foods will take longer to cook.

If the lid is fastened securely, a chicken can take between 45 minutes to an hour to cook completely, though this will vary with different weights.

Medium-High Heat Setting

This temperature range lies within 375 to 450°F. Most high-temperature grilling is done in this setting, particularly foods like burgers that need to be cooked quickly.

This heat level can also grill tougher vegetables like potatoes and carrots with firmer skin.

A medium-high heat setting cooks food quickly so the surface browns up well. Despite this, the heat is low enough to cook through a few types of food well.

Medium-high temperatures cook faster than a medium setting, so most foods will be done between 10-15 minutes.

The disadvantage here is that you might burn your food. You’ll need to pay close attention to how fast the food is cooking because you don’t want it to overcook or burn before it’s ready.

High Heat Setting

When you get to the highest heat setting, the grill will be above 450°F.

This heat level is best for cooking very thin meat cuts or delicate filet strips. This temperature is very hot. Your grill will reach this level straight after you place the coals in the fire.

The highest heat setting may seem like it’s ideal for giving a chicken a smoky, browned surface, but in reality, it’s quite unsustainable.

High temperatures are better for very rapid grills. You can sear the surface of a meat cut quickly, then cook the rest of it at a lower heat setting.

How To Measure A Grill’s Temperature

Modern gas grills fueled with propane will have a thermometer on their lid that measures the grill’s temperature. However, this thermometer isn’t very reliable. It simply lets you know that the grill is hot (or not).

There are more accurate measures of checking the temperature of a grill, which include:

Meat Probe Thermometers

These won’t measure your grill’s temperature, but they check how hot the meat is. No matter what type of grill you’re using, you can simply probe your meat and check whether it’s done.

What Is Medium Heat On A Grill

Remote Temperature Monitor

These are a good option if you are a regular grill user. Along with infrared thermometers, these check how hot the grate metal is, not the air within the machine.

Grill Surface Thermometers

These are used by a lot of grill lovers as they are accurate and reliable.

These are also relatively affordable, but grease and grime can build upon them fast. They aren’t as easy to read when this happens, so you’ll need to keep replacing them a lot.


As you’ve seen, a medium heat setting on a grill is usually the perfect compromise between quickness and tenderness. It allows you to cook a range of foods without burning them.

Lower heat settings are ideal for slow cooking through foods, while higher heat settings are better for quickly browning the food’s surface.

The thermometer on a grill’s lid will tell you if it’s hot or not, but thermometers and temperature monitors are better for accurately measuring how hot the grate is.

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