How to Adjust the Temperature for Grilling with a Cast Iron Skillet

Using a cast iron skillet on the grill can be a game changer. It bakes, roasts, sautés, and fries, saving you from a lot of mess and hassle when dealing with soft, small, or saucy foods. Cast iron skillets also offer that unique smoky flavor that we love in grilled food. Perhaps for convenience, many default to medium or medium-high heat when using this cooking method. However, different foods need different temperatures to cook: Creamy grits, for example, require low heat, while a medium high or high heat is ideal for quickly searing your steaks. We all know that cooking at the wrong heat range not only messes with the taste and texture of your food, but under- or overcooked foods can sometimes cause serious health issues too.

So how do you adjust the temperature when cooking with a cast iron skillet on a grill? Fortunately, most modern grills come with adjustable heat settings and a built-in thermometer, which allow for heat control. You can easily dial the heat to the level required by the recipe. The common heat ranges are as follows:Low heat: 225 – 250 degrees Fahrenheit; Medium-low: 275 – 300 degrees Fahrenheit; Medium: 325 – 350 degrees Fahrenheit; Medium high: 375 – 400 degrees Fahrenheit; High heat: Above 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your grill doesn’t come with a built-in thermometer, use the point-and-shoot method with an infrared thermometer. Simply point at the skillet to take a temperature, and adjust your grill settings or grill vents accordingly.

Pro tips for grilling with a cast iron skillet

cast iron skillet on flames

Before you start cooking, don’t forget to preheat the cast iron pan to the desired temperature range. It usually takes five to 10 minutes to get to the medium high range, and less if you’re cooking at low heat. Closing the grill lid, if your grill has one, may help to slightly speed up the process. Once the pan is nicely and evenly heated, add butter or an oil with a high smoke point. After some experience, you will be able to sense when the right temperature hits based on how quickly the butter sizzles, or the oil slides across the pan.

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One of the benefits of cooking with a cast iron skillet on the grill is that you can adjust the temperature by moving your skillet. If you need high heat, keep the skillet at the center of the grill. For low temperature cooking, simply move it further away. Cast iron skillets can retain heat for a long time, so once you’re done cooking, put the lid on and keep it at a distance from the flames or coals to keep your food warm without drying it out.

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