You control the temperature by adjusting either the charcoal or the oxygen, or both.
A charcoal grill is a very flexible appliance to use, you can pretty much do any recipe with it. The secret lies in being able to control the temperature of your grill. Once you have some basic knowledge of how temperature control works, you can master any cooking method.
The ability to get and maintain the correct cooking temperature of your grill is a crucial skill to avoid any overcooked or undercooked meats. Unlike gas grills, charcoal grills require some skill to control temperature, however, by learning the right techniques and with a little bit of practice, you can become an expert in the art of temperature control in no time.
A charcoal grill has two fuels, the charcoal and oxygen. You control the temperature by adjusting one or the other, or both. The best way to control the temperature of the grill is by mastering the use of the air vents, which control the supply of oxygen to the lump. Most grills have 2 vents, one at the bottom (called intake dampers) which helps bring oxygen to the fire and one at the top (called exhaust dampers) which is used to exhaust combustion gases and help pull air in through the intake dampers.
Temperatures and vent settings
Different grills will need different vent settings, the best way to learn is to practice. When starting out, it is best to keep one vent completely open and try to control temperature with the other one.
Weber recommends having the intake vent completely opened and controlling temperature by adjusting the exhaust vent. Their recommendation is shown in the image below:
For ceramic grills, it is a little different, as it is better to use both vents for controlling temperature. In our experience, we have been more successful by using the intake vent to determine the temperature range and the exhaust vent to set it to a specific temperature. Therefore, this method requires a bit more practice to master, but once you get the hang of it, you can easily set the desired temperature in no time. A quick guide on the intake vent settings is as follow:
Temperature control is a tricky, but a necessary skill to master. If you practice enough, you will be controlling your grill in no time. One last thing, when making changes to your vents, give your grill time to adjust and set to the new temperature, the worst thing to do is get trigger happy with the vents.