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As a college student, I am working with limited cooking equipment. There are several outdoor charcoal grills however, which students sometimes have cookouts on. How hot do can these grills get? I have literally no idea how hot they get, but would like to find something in the 700 degree area.

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What are you trying to cook that you need those temperatures for? –  Jefromi Aug 5 '12 at 6:07
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Charcoal can get to 700 degrees F but in normal use you're more likely to be in the 500F range. In order to get to the higher end of charcoal's abilities there are a couple things you can do:

  1. Use natural lump charcoal, not briquettes.

  2. Lower the grill grate to within 1" of the hot coals

  3. If 1&2 don't get you enough heat, consider using the Alton Brown chimney approach (Setup starts around the 8 minute mark)

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There are several factors that determine how hot your grill will get:

  1. How much fuel you are using.
  2. How much oxygen is getting to your fuel.
  3. The proximity and position of your grill surface relative to your fuel source.

Dump a chimney full of charcoal into a Weber kettle, leave the lid off, and you will easily get temperatures of 700f or more at the grate. Put the lid on, opening the top vent all the way, and closing the bottom vents by half, and the same amount of fuel will probably give you 450-500f temps at the grate. Mound a half-chimney of coals to one side, and you can achieve 200-300f on the other side of the grill with the lid on and proper manipulation of the bottom vents.

So it's all pretty variable, but the same grill can get you to a variety of different outcomes depending on how you set it up.

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