When Grilling, Should the Lid be On or Off?

Cookouts are known for bringing people together, but there’s one particular issue that seems to have divided the grilling community: should the lid be on or off?

Some barbecue enthusiasts swear by leaving the lid off while they grill, while others firmly believe that putting the lid down is the best way to ensure success. 

Despite strong opinions on both sides, the truth is leaving your grill lid on or off is a decision that should be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on a combination of factors. 

When Grilling Should the Lid be On or Off

Today, we’ll be weighing up the pros and cons of leaving the grill lid on or off when cooking burgers and steak before answering the ultimate question: is it better to grill with the lid open?

Do you Close the Grill when Cooking Burgers?

As one of the biggest staples of backyard cookouts, burgers are one of the most popular grilled foods. Most people can agree that burgers are a firm favorite at barbecues, but agreeing on the best way to cook them is a different matter entirely. 

Ultimately, there really is no ‘correct’ way to grill a burger - as long as it ends up properly cooked, anyway. 

If your burgers are on the thinner side, leaving the lid open may be your best bet. This is because closing the lid on the grill traps the heat inside, making it very easy to accidentally overcook your meat. 

Now, the downside to leaving the lid off when cooking burgers is that, of course, they will take longer to cook. If you have a lot of guests to serve and want to get your burgers plated up quickly, you may want to put the lid down.

As long as you have a good idea of how long your burgers take to cook and keep a close eye on the time, this isn’t a problem. 

There is, however, an additional benefit to leaving the grill open when cooking burgers, which is that you’ll get a better, darker sear on the meat.

By searing the meat on both sides, you’re essentially caramelizing the beef’s natural sugar content. This creates a delicious crust, enhancing the texture and locking in the flavor. 

If you want to sear your burgers effectively but don’t want to wait too long for them to cook through, you can compromise by searing the burgers with the lid off first and then putting the lid down to ramp up the heat. 

Do you Close the Grill when Cooking Steak?

If burgers have the power to cause discord at your family cookout, you best believe there will be some contention over the steaks. 

Hungry guests tend to be even more particular about their ideal steak than about their perfect burger, so you need to make sure you get this right. 

Although cuts of steak come in different thicknesses, the average steak takes longer to cook through than the average burger. Therefore, leaving the lid open while grilling steak is likely to drag out the cooking process significantly. 

However, like burgers, the overall flavor and texture and flavor of a steak can be greatly enhanced by searing the meat. 

So, if you want to grill your steak within a reasonable time frame while still making sure that it stays juicy and flavorsome, we’d recommend a similar process to the ideal method for burgers: sear the meat first with the lid off, and once the dark crust has formed, put the lid back on to allow the inside of the meat to cook. 

Remember to ask how everybody wants their steak done before you turn up the heat so that you can time each steak appropriately, and be sure to account for different steak thicknesses when it comes to timing. 

Is it Better to Grill with the Lid Open?

Now that we’ve discussed the protocol for lid positioning when grilling burgers and steak, it’s time to answer this question once and for all. Is it better to grill with the lid open? 

Well, as our investigations into the best way to grill burgers and steak have revealed, it can sometimes be best to grill with the lid open. 

The best time to cook burgers and steak with the lid open is right at the beginning of the cooking process. Starting your burgers or steaks with an open lid will allow for a tasty crust to form over the meat, sealing the flavorsome juices inside. 

This doesn’t just apply to red meat products, by the way! Grilled vegetables can also benefit from being seared with the lid off. Searing vegetables instead of simply cooking them with the lid down really brings out the natural sweetness. 

However, after searing, it’s generally agreed that the best course of action is to close the lid unless you’re prepared to wait longer for your food to cook. Closing the lid is especially important on windy days because gusts of wind can slow down the cooking process even further. 

If you’re a complete grilling beginner, you might be more comfortable starting your learning journey by leaving the lid off all the way through the process so that you can visually monitor the food. 

So, is it better to grill with the lid open? For searing purposes, definitely yes.

After that, it all depends on the thickness of the meat that you’re cooking, how much time you have on your hands, and your level of expertise, but closing the lid to speed up cooking times is generally recommended. 

Final Thoughts

Our research has shown that there’s a place for lid-on and lid-off grilling when cooking burgers, steaks, and even vegetables! 

For the best results, start your meat or veggies on an open grill for searing. Then, once the searing is complete, you can go ahead and close the lid to speed up the rest of the process. 

Of course, though, everyone has their own preferences, and food is a very personal thing. So, if you prefer to spend longer cooking with the lid open or go in all guns blazing on the high heat, feel free to keep doing what works for you!