—How do you make grilling more awesome? More fire, of course! Whether you’re kickin’ it coal-school or setting fire to a steady stream of volatile gas, it never hurts (well, sometimes it does) to pump up the volume.
WARNING! Fire is, like, dangerous! If you are accident-prone, stupid, careless, unlucky, cursed, pyromaniacal, under-age, over-age, the-right-age-but-too-pretty-to-risk-that-million-dollar-mug, standing on a mountain of match heads, grilling next to an oil well, hoarding gasoline in your swimming pool, smoking, or otherwise ill-equipped to deal with an excess amount of flame, you should probably not attempt these modifications. Everyone else: please be careful.
To overclock your classic charcoal grill, you need to turn up the heat – literally. And to do that, you first have to understand how a charcoal grill works. Luckily, it’s as simple as it sounds: Burning charcoal creates smoldering embers, which give off the heat necessary to cook. In most modern charcoal grills, you can easily control the heat level with a simple open-and-shut venting system. Got all that? Good. Now, when it comes to making your charcoal grill hotter, just remember the simple formula you first learned about fire way back when: Fire = Fuel + Air.
When it comes to fuel, most grillmasters and gourmands agree: Lump charcoal, not briquettes, is the way to go. Lump charcoal gives off a better flavor, burns hotter, and contains fewer chemicals than briquettes.
Perhaps the most important ingredient of all is oxygen. After all, the more oxygen there is to feed your flame, the more flame. First things first, open your vent all the way. If your coals are still smoldering, it’s time to bring in reinforcements. Use a hairdryer on the low setting to push air up into your grill. If that doesn’t work, raise the hair dryer’s setting. Depending on the size of your grill, that should be ample artificial respiration – but some grilling forums suggest using a leaf blower to blast your grill full of O2. Throw your steaks on, aim your blower, and stand back while your ribeye takes on a delightful sear. (And please be careful.)
Another way to make your grill hotter is to make sure it doesn’t lose heat. Before you fire it up, line the inside with a few sheets of aluminum foil—not only will it cut down on the amount of meat-charring hotness that leaks out through your store-brand grill’s pot-metal walls, but the foil reflect heat upwards, too.
Overclocking gas grills is a bit more complex; there are just more variables to deal with. Plus, there’s the added risk of working with propane gas, so, uhm, be careful.
Let’s start with two easy tips to turn up the heat, and keep your grill hot: First, look at your flame. If it’s orange and not blue, that’s a sign your grill isn’t burning hot enough in the first place. Check your venturi tubes (they connect your grill’s burner to the control valves) to make sure they’re clear of debris. Once they’re clear, loosen the venturi screw to open the shutters to allow more airflow. Do this carefully with your grill on low. Turn the shutters until the flames turn blue.
Next, if you’re worried about retaining heat over a long period of time, considering investing in a better-insulated grill lid cover like this one from Grill Kozey for better heat retention.
If you think gas flow is the problem, you might consider adjusting your grill’s regulator. The regulator is the tube that runs in between the gas tank and the grill, and is usually only adjusted by manufacturers. Before you adjust any levels, make sure your vent hole is clear (a clogged vent hole is often the culprit when it comes to gas flow irregularities). If there are no flow irregularities and no gas leaks, you can turn up the regulator by simply adjusting the knob to let more flammable goodness run free.
You can also replace your regulator with a two-stage adjustable model for a higher-pressure gas flow. Because more gas = more fire, and more fire = increased status in your clan. A powerful piece like this one from Bayou Classic will up your BTUs in no time at all.
These are just a few of the tips that we found—ones that, frankly, seemed the least likely to cause bodily harm to the people brave enough try them. But if you have any ideas, we’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Annie Hauser is New York City-based writer, and she’s on Twitter, naturally.