The Sweet Spot

40# Weight Butcher Paper

The Sweet Spot 

Every so often, there is talk about a “sweet spot” – the ultimate grid height.  The best “sweet spot” is the one that works best for you.  From our experiences, we find it’s not so much about an actual “spot” but more about having the proper set-up and basic understanding of how ceramics work.  Here are a couple concepts that work for us: 

  • To develop that perfect steak, sear close to the lump and finish to the desired doneness in the dome.  By searing close to the lump, you can get the same char results but with less intense temperatures than if searing at the fire ring.  When you move the food into the dome, you stop the searing process and basically roast the meat to the desired doneness.  This method is akin to a chef searing on a stove top and sliding the pan in the oven to finish.
  • To develop uniform temperatures on low-&-slows, try to equalize the space between the indirect piece, grid(s) and dome.  If you need to skew the set-up in one direction, go vertical into the dome. 
  • To grill, it’s easier to cook higher in the dome, with slightly hotter temps than closer to the lump with lower temps.  Higher in the dome just reduces the chances of burning something when you run for a beverage or your significant other distracts you with a quick task.  It happens!  
  • On indirect cooks, the more food you can keep over the indirect piece, the better the end product will be.  Also, match the indirect piece with the size and shape to what you're cooking.  That being said, don’t go overboard the other way either: a 16-inch pizza pan to cook one chicken wing is overkill, don’t you think. 
  • With indirect cooks, the more uniform you can make the airflow up the ceramic walls, the more consistent the inner temps will be across the grid(s).  When airflow is disrupted, temperature gradients are created.  More times than not, this effects the temperature(s) across the grid.  
  • No matter how hard you try, the cooker can develop hot spots.  Lump does not always burn in a circular pattern.  So, when prepping for a cook, have a plan to move grids or food should a hot spot develop.  Hot spots do not always develop at the back of the cooker.  The fix can be as simple as spinning the grid.

Here are a couple simple rules we've developed over the years about managing the sweet spot.

Grilling:

  • If it is a hot fast searing cook (temps above 450°F), then we want to be close to the lump.  That is where the heat is to create the sear or char marks!
  • If it is a roasting cook (temps 325°F - 425°F), then we want to be up in the dome away from the hot burning lump.  Creating distance from the 1000°F plus burning lump makes it easier to control a 375°F cooking temp.
  • When grilling, light the lump in multiple spots so the heat plume rising off the lump matches the cooking surface on the grid.  If the lump burns evenly across the firebox, then we have the best chance for even temps across the grid.
BBQing (smoking) with an indirect piece: 
    • It is best to have the indirect piece an inch or so above the fire bowl (fire ring) and the grid at or above the felt line.  This opens up the airflow out of the fire bowl (fire ring) and places the grid up in the dome for stable temperatures.  
    • Cookers with a 13" - 20" grid, we light the lump in one spot, slightly forward of center.
    • Cookers with 21" - 24" grid, we light the lump in three spots, points on a triangle about 4 inches apart and slightly forward of center.
    • Recommend collecting the drippings with a drip pan.   It makes the next cooker easier as you don't have to burn off the crud.
    • We do not recommend a water pan for ceramic grills.  One of the true benefits of ceramic grills is moisture retention.