Charcoal BBQ vents open or closed?

Back when I first purchased my Charcoal BBQ I had a hard time figuring out whether the vents should be open or closed, and when is the best time for each. So I did some research.

Charcoal BBQ vents should be open when you are lighting the BBQ, then used to control the temperature of the grill throughout cooking by opening the vents to increase the temperature or closing them to decrease the temperature.

This is the basic answer you’re looking for but there are a few nuances to using the vents on a charcoal BBQ that I found out while researching this. I will explain them in this article.

Charcoal BBQ vents open or closed?

Do the top and bottom vents on a charcoal BBQ have different functions?

In a way both the top and bottom vents have the same function, they both allow airflow which in turn helps the charcoal to burn more effectively and hotter. However It is important to keep in mind that the top vent when open, will allow heat to escape. This means that any food placed directly below this vent will be subject to higher temperatures, that is why you need to be careful when opening the top vent as you can quickly burn the food below it without realising.

If you want to open the top vent and you have food below it a quick fix to this is just opening the lid and spinning the vent to the other side of the barbecue. The bottom vent when open will increase the temperature at which the charcoal burns, but won't do it in a targeted location, it's more of an overall increase in heat inside the grill. If you're someone who's just a beginner at barbecuing the main thing to remember is ‘’vents open =  hotter’’.

Do the vents have any other uses?

The bottom vent has a second function at the end of your barbecue session, it is used to safely  extinguish the charcoal. When you have finished cooking you simply close both the vents to cut the oxygen supply to the charcoal, this will quickly put out your fire, you will still need to be careful of the heat though and allow time for it to cool down.

Vents are also important throughout the cooking process to  regulate the temperature inside the barbecue. A useful trick I learnt while researching was to leave the top vent half open. This allows smoke and heat to escape but also doesn't starve the coals from oxygen. This tip helped me keep the inside of my barbecue at a high but consistent temperature throughout the cooking process. If you've never tried this, I recommend you do.

Charcoal BBQ vents open or closed?

Does the weather affect how I should use the charcoal BBQ vents?

While reading this article I'm sure you're starting to see how important the oxygen supply to the coals is, that is why the weather conditions while barbecuing are very important. In windy conditions your barbecue will inevitably be supplied with more oxygen, in turn causing flare-ups in the charcoal that can burn your food. While researching I  found the placement of your barbecue is very important, I found that placing it behind your house on a patio or any location with a windbreak is best.


I hope this article has helped you out, this is one of the most common questions people have when they first buy a charcoal barbecue and I was no different. Please check out our other articles if you want to learn more about charcoal barbecues. If you're in the market for a new barbecue feel free to check out our shop where we supply the best brands in the world. Thanks for reading!

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