Lid open or closed when lighting charcoal BBQ?

While using my bbq the other day I noticed that my coals kept on going out every time I tried to get them going, it got me wondering should the lid be open or closed when lighting charcoal? So I did some research.

When lighting a charcoal BBQ the lid should be kept off, this is to allow more oxygen to reach the coals so they burn more effectively. Only when the coals are well lit and have a red glow with gray ashy exterior should you close the lid. Let’s have a deeper look into this question and see if there's any other information that could help you with your barbequing passion.

Lid open or closed when lighting charcoal BBQ?

How often should I be lifting the lid of my charcoal BBQ while cooking?

This all depends on what kind of meats you're cooking, for larger cuts of meat it is important not to open the lid very often. This is because when the lid is open the coals are fed oxygen which makes them burn at a higher temperature, this can lead to burning of the meat. Unlike traditional ovens, charcoal barbecues burn at a lower temperature with the lid closed.

As a rule of thumb try to only open the lid when you want to check on your food or the food needs flipping. Opening the lid causes a direct heating effect which may be beneficial for some kinds of food however, I will explain this in a moment. The only other reason I can think of for lifting the lid frequently is if your coals begin to go out and need an influx of oxygen to keep them going.

Which foods are cooked with the lid open?

Below is a list of  the foods that should be cooked with the lid open, as you can see it is mainly quick cooking foods that benefit from this technique. Cooking with the lid open allows you to get that crispy exterior that we all love without overcooking the interior. My favorite thing to cook  with the lid open is a thin steak, when you cut into it and you see the contrast between the crispy outside and the red inside it reminds me why I love barbecuing.
  • Burgers
  • thin steaks
  • Chops
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • sliced vegetables

Which foods are cooked with the lid closed?

Below is a list of some foods that should be cooked with the lid closed. These will be your thick stakes that need more indirect heating to cook through. With the lid closed charcoal barbecues behave more like an oven so it's perfect for food like chicken that need to be cooked through to be safe to eat.
  • BBQ chicken
  • Steak
  • Ribs

Lid open or closed when lighting charcoal BBQ?

Can I cook with the lid off and then on?

Yes you can use a combination of the lid on and lid off cooking methods. This is actually my favorite way of cooking meat. It allows you to leave the lid off to get that crispy skin, and then stick the lid on and cook through by roasting.It's a more advanced way of barbecuing that may take some practice to get the timing right, but once you master it you won't go back.


I hope my research has helped you out. When I first began using my charcoal barbecue I found it frustrating how all of the information  was scattered across the web in forums and various blogs. Here at BBQs Direct we intend to create a vast library of information so we can answer any beginner barbecue enthusiasts questions. Take a look at some of our other articles and also if you're in the market for a new barbecue feel free to browse our shop where we stock the best brands in the world. Thanks for Reading.

This is a standard cookie notice which you can easily adapt or disable as you like in the admin. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.