How Far Should Charcoal Be Away From Steak? [Positioning Tips]

Using a traditional charcoal grill lets you cook some of the best-tasting steaks you could ever cook. The flame-grilled flavor is something most of us crave. However, how far should the charcoal be from your steak to cook it perfectly when using a charcoal grill? 

To cook your steak perfectly using a charcoal grill, the grill with your steak needs to be 5 inches above the charcoal, where the temperature is ideal for getting the best cook. If you want to cook your steak even better, keep your grill at 5 inches above the charcoal and use the two-zone method. 

how far should charcoal be away from steak

What is the two-zone cooking method, and how will it affect the temperature and cook of your steak? Why should you keep the grill with the steak 5 inches above the charcoal? 

Let’s find out!

How Far Should Charcoal Be From Your Steak?

Firing up the grill is one of the best pastimes, especially if it’s a new grill. One of the best meats to grill by far is a big fat steak. No meal beats a perfectly cooked steak straight from the grill, so hot that it’s still sizzling. 

Grilling steaks with charcoal makes the steaks taste incredible. 

Many new grillers want to know how far from the charcoal should be from the steak while you grill it. 

This is a great question, and it’s essential to know as it can affect the taste and cook of your steak. When grilling your steak, the grill with your steak should be about 5 inches above the charcoal. 

Five inches is the perfect height to ensure your steak is cooked wonderfully tender while still keeping most of its juices, making for an incredible tasting steak. 

Why Should Charcoal Be Kept This Distance From Your Steak?

So, keeping your grill with the steak about 5 inches from the charcoal is the ideal distance, but why is this distance important? 

This distance is crucial because it means the difference between cooking your steak perfectly or creating a charred, overdone, or even raw mess of a steak. 

The closer to the charcoal the steaks are, the quicker the outside will cook, leading to a charred mess. On the other hand, if the steaks are too far from the charcoal, the outside will look perfectly cooked, while the inside of the steak will still be raw. 

Many people think that when you use a traditional charcoal grill, you have no control over the heat your steaks are exposed to, but this is incorrect. The grill’s distance from the charcoal will determine the temperature your steaks are cooked at. 

So, moving the grill up or down will increase or decrease the cooking temperature. The best grilling temperature for a steak is 450°F, about 5 inches above the charcoal. Keeping your steak this distance away from the coals will ensure you receive the perfect steak. 

Two-Zone Cooking Method Used For Steak

When you are stacking your charcoal in your grill to grill up some steaks, you should stack your charcoal in a way that allows you to use the two-zone cooking method for your steaks. You need to use this cooking method if you want deliciously tender and juicy steaks.

The two-zone cooking method is where you have one side of your grill hot and the other side slightly cooler. This lets you regulate the temperature of your steaks even more than adjusting the distance your grill is from the charcoal. 

If you use this cooking method in conjunction with keeping your grill 5 inches above the charcoal, your steak will taste incredible. The two-zone cooking method requires a zone for direct heat and a zone for indirect heat. 

Let’s go through these two zones. 

Direct Heat Cooking Zone

When grilling your steak, you need to keep the grill 5 inches above the charcoal. Then you need to create a direct heat cooking zone. This is where the flames from the charcoal will kiss the meat. It will give your steak a lovely sear on the outside. 

The zone of your grill will have a much higher temperature than the indirect heating zone. You need this direct heating zone to be about 500°F. Using a charcoal grill will give your steaks that flame-grilled taste that you’re after.  

Indirect Heat Cooking Zone

The other zone in the two-zone cooking method is the indirect heat zone. This zone is where the charcoal is the furthest away from the grill. Therefore, the indirect heating zone is where you can cook your steak slower for longer. 

It will allow you to cook tender and juicy steaks with minimal effort. This zone will cook your steak perfectly, without the flame-grilled taste that most of us crave when using a charcoal grill. 

Using The Two Zones To Cook Steaks Perfectly

Most people think that they cannot use the two-zone cooking method to grill their steaks when using a traditional charcoal grill. However, using this method with a charcoal grill is easy and results in the best-tasting steaks.

To use this cooking method with your traditional charcoal grill, place the charcoal on one side of the grill. Measure 5 inches above the charcoal and place your grill at this level. Light the charcoal and let the grill heat up. 

Use a thermometer to check the temperature. When the temperature above the charcoal is 500°F, place your steaks on the grill to sear them. Once your steaks have a nice seer, move them to the other side of the grill, which is the indirect heat zone. 

Close the lid of your grill and leave the steaks to cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then, check your steaks to see if they are cooked to your liking. You can close the lid again if they need to be cooked more; if not, you can enjoy your perfectly cooked steak!


The distance your steak is from the charcoal in your grill is vital as it will help dictate the taste of your steak. If you want the perfect steak, keep your grill 5 inches from the charcoal and use the two-zone cooking method. 

This cooking method is easy to do. You can use the guidelines above for the two-zone cooking method to cook the perfect steak. Good luck grilling your steak!

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