Managing vents and temps on your kamado grill

I'll walk through three common ranges for cooking on your grill. The biggest things to remember are:
  1. More air equals higher temps.
  2. Primarily use the top vent to make temp adjustments. I don't even touch the bottom vent for anything > 350. Basically, I only adjust the bottom vent if I need a lower temp, but I don't have any more room to reduce the top vent without it being fully closed.
  3. Outside variables such as external temp, wind, rain, reused coal, etc. all play a role. So you still may need to make small adjustments even if a certain configuration gave you the perfect temp last time.
  4. Generally, it's best to have all coals firing as soon as possible. This will remove the variables of adding new coal which allows your vent changes to be more effective and consistent. On super long cooks at low temps, it may be worth experimenting with only lighting the middle then having the flames slowly broaden to add more coals. But for the majority of cooks, I use two firestarters one on each side to quickly get the coals up to temp.

Slow and Low (225-300)

In order to keep a low temp you'll need to pay close attention during the warm up phase to make sure you don't go over your target temp by more than 50 degrees or so. Otherwise it is extremely difficult to bring it back down.
Start with both the top vent and the bottom vent fully open.
Once you get to the target temp, reduce the gap on the bottom vent to be open by only about an inch or two.
Slide the top vent over the main chimney hole and only focus on the daisy wheel holes. Generally, I keep mine with about 1/3 of the holes showing and that keeps me around 230.
All small modifications in temp should be made with the top vent. The only exception, is that you do not ever want to fully close the top vent. So if there are only slivers showing on the top vent and your temp is still too high, reduce the bottom vent by a 1/2 inch or so until things stabilize.

Medium Range (300-450)
For the following to ranges, I leave the bottom vent fully open and only mess with the top vent. This range does provide a bit more leniency when it comes to reducing temps if you happen to over shoot. In fact, I recommend you overshoot your temp by 20 degrees or so prior to making any adjustments.
I normally cook chicken in this range so here is an example of getting and maintaining a 400 degree temp.
Start with both the top and bottom vents fully open.
Once you get to about 420, leave the bottom vent open but slide the top vent over, leaving a slight crescent moon on the main chimney. The daisy holes are fully open.
Much like the slow and low temp adjustments, from here on out we will only be adjusting temp by manipulating the top daisy wheel. If your temp continues to climb slide the top vent fully over the main chimney and continue to leave the holes fully open. Slight changes at this point can impact temp by 10-15 degrees.

Searing (> 500)
For searing steaks, you will want to load up with a good amount of new coals. Reusing coals is great for the lower temps, but I've found getting the grill to these temps is much easier with at least half of the coals being new. Start with the top & bottom vent fully open. This is a time where you definitely want to overshoot your target temp then bring it back. This allows a high temp sear without having the flames get too close and over char your food.
Once you get to about 650, throw on the steaks, close the lid, leave the bottom vent fully open, and slide the top vent over to cover about half of the main chimney.
At these temps, I normally sear each side of my steak for 2 minutes. Then close down all vents and cook for another 2-5 minutes depending on thickness of the steak.


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