What is Medium Heat on a BBQ?

With barbecue season coming closer and closer every day, everyone is looking to buy a new barbecue or dusting their old grills off. And as the weather becomes nicer as it gets closer to June, people are even starting to fire up their grills for the first time this year. The food and drinks are ready and the grill is properly cleaned. But you might run into problems when the recipe you’re looking at doesn't give you specific temperatures, and you’re not exactly sure what medium heat is on a BBQ grill’s settings.


Knowing the different ranges of heat when grilling can make a big difference on the quality of the food. Too little heat and the meat closer to the bone might not be cooked through. Too much heat and the char on your burgers and hot dogs might as well just be charcoal instead. Well-grilled foods can use a range of different temperatures, and with so many recipes calling for “medium heat”, knowing the right settings can make or break a good meal.

Here are a few tips and tricks to find medium heat on your barbecue grill, regardless of the type of grill you own. 

What temperature is medium heat?

Simply put, medium heat is when the barbecue’s setting is right in the middle between high and low. But everyone knows that and you don’t need to be able to cook to be able to tell that. 

The exact temperature for what is medium heat on a BBQ can vary greatly depending on what sources you’re looking at. And, for the most part, it makes quite a bit of sense. Some sources claim that medium heat is between 325 and 350 degrees fahrenheit or 162 to 176 celsius. Other sources push the outer temperature to nearly 400 degrees or 204 celsius. Most of the time, that only means medium heat exactly and not anything higher or lower.

To provide a general benchmark to tell what medium heat is on your grill, the general temperature from an active flame should fall between 275 fahrenheit (135 celsius) and 400 fahrenheit (204 celsius). The highest temperature for medium low heat tends to be 300 fahrenheit while the lowest temperature for medium high is 375 degrees fahrenheit. Finding what temperature is medium heat on a BBQ can also be made easier with a thermometer.

How to tell what medium heat is on different grills

Depending on what fuel source or what type of grill you own, the medium heat can vary. Each type of grill can reach different maximum heat levels. While you’re more than likely not planning to grill anything at max heat levels any time soon, this often means that the range that “medium” falls under also changes. 

Propane grills can reach a maximum heat of about 600 degrees fahrenheit or 316 degrees celsius. This puts medium heat at about 350 fahrenheit or 176 celsius. This leaves enough heat for foods to cook properly inside without burning the outsides. Medium high, on the other hand, is measured to be about 375 fahrenheit (190 celsius).

Charcoal and pellet grills, on the other hand, reach much higher maximum temperatures to effectively cook foods while giving them a great taste. Charcoal grills can reach a maximum temperature of 1200 degrees fahrenheit, with some brands reaching even higher to about 2000 degrees. As a result, medium heat on most charcoal grills falls between 350 and 450 fahrenheit.

Pellet grills typically reach a maximum heat of about 900 degrees fahrenheit, if you buy the right model. This leaves the medium heat levels around 350 fahrenheit, with high being close to 450 degrees. However, to how pellet grills are made, the ideal temperature doesn’t stay at the same temperatures consistently over a longer time period.

How to tell your grill reached medium heat

There are a number of different ways to test the temperature of the grill, regardless of type. One such way is by simply holding your palm about two inches from the cooking grate while the grill’s on. The total number of seconds you can hold your hand over it can directly tell you what is medium heat on a BBQ. Ideally, if you can hold your hand over a lit grill for three to four seconds, the grill is on medium. If you need medium low, the time drops to five to seven seconds.

Another option to test the heat without accidentally burning yourself is to use a thermometer. Some brands, like the Flame Boss Wifi Thermometer comes with a grate probe that allows you to test the temperature without burning yourself or running the risk or breaking a chemical thermometer. 

What can you cook on medium heat?

Knowing the differences between what is medium high heat on a BBQ can also tell you what the best types of food you can grill at that temperature. Medium high heat settings are ideally used for when you need to cook foods properly but also quickly. The heat is perfect for burgers, large amounts of skewers, fish, steaks and even firmer vegetables like potatoes and carrots

Medium heat, on the other hand, is perfect for most foods. The heat’s high enough to gently cook foods thoroughly while still being hot enough to brown vegetables and char skins to leave them nice and crispy. You should be able to cook most foods on a medium heat, but it’s perfect for whole birds, like ducks, turkey, or chickens, and thick cut fish. Do be aware that if you plan to cook a whole chicken on your barbecue, the time needed to make sure it’s well done throughout is longer - 45 minutes to an hour depending on the weight.

Medium low heat is mostly used for indirect cooking, due to the fact that meat would take much longer to brown. This heat level, however, is great for finishing off seared foods or reheating cold foods.


If it’s been quite a while since you’ve used your barbecue or are just starting, knowing the range for medium heat can make a big impact on what you make. As most foods are cooked at medium heats, knowing where it falls on your specific grill can help you create a variety of dishes to impress everyone.