Should You Grill With the Lid up or Down?

Grilling with lid up or down

Taxi / Getty Images

When it's time to put burgers on your Webber grill, you have the choice of having the grill lid up or down. There are advantages and disadvantages of each technique, especially when grilling different types of meat and vegetables. The effects can be reversed when you use a lid on a gas grill or a charcoal grill. Learn how the lid makes a difference in how your food cooks on the grill.

Grilling With the Lid Up

Grilling with the lid up, whether on gas or charcoal, is about the same as cooking over a campfire. It is effective but doesn't provide that surrounding heat that some foods need to cook properly. You won't be able to use indirect cooking effectively. You will need to turn the items frequently so they don't get overcooked on the bottom without being cooked on the sides and top.

When you don't use the lid on a charcoal grill, the fuel has unlimited access to oxygen and will burn as hot as it can. This is the purest form of direct grilling, which means that only the side of food facing the fire will cook.

Gas Grills

With a gas grill, keeping the lid down will hold in heat, bringing up temperatures quickly. Every time you open the lid you vent all the built-up heat from the grill and slow the cooking process. It is usually best to leave the lid down as much as possible on your gas grill since grilling is best done fast and hot.

Of course, there are always exceptions. Foods that just need to be warmed or that are thin and will cook very quickly anyway can be done with the lid up. A hamburger really won't notice the difference since it is cooked by direct heat in only a few minutes. However, a large roast or a whole chicken, which take much longer to cook, will need the added heat by having the lid down.

Indirect cooking always requires the lid down. When you are grilling with the lid down, you need to keep a close eye on it. Flare-ups will happen much faster with the lid down.

Charcoal Grills

On a charcoal grill, the opposite is generally true. Putting the lid down (or on) will limit the flow of air. This is how temperature is controlled with a charcoal grill. Depending on the position of the vents, the lid down may give you a low temperature or a high temperature. You will develop your grilling skills using a charcoal grill by practicing opening and closing the vents to ensure your items cook as you intend.

If you need to roast something, the lid will need to be on to create convection heat that surrounds the food on all sides. In this way, your food will cook more evenly and you won't end up with it being charred on the bottom but uncooked on the top and sides. If you leave the lid off, you will need to turn your food to get some semblance of even cooking on all sides.