The first thing to do is to season it and calibrate your grill or smoker by doing a few dry runs without food. On a new cooker, this will burn off any manufacturer’s grease, and give you a sense for how to set it up to hit the two important target temps that almost all my recipes use: 225°F and 325°F. Like a musician, you must master your instrument to make great art.
Of course, in order to do this, you absolutely positively must have a good digital oven thermometer. I don’t care how much you spent on your shiny new toy, the bi-metal dial thermometer that came with it is probably cheap and unreliable and likely to be off by as much as 50°F. Worse still, it is mounted in the dome, and the temp down on the grate where the meat sits is much different.
Controlling temp and mastering 2-zone cooking
Controlling temperature on a gas grills and smokers is simple. Turn the knobs. Well, actually, it’s not always that simple. Alas, knobs on gas grills don’t tell you the temperature, so you need to figure that out when you calibrate. Surprisingly, depending on the outside air temp, wind, and how well the hood is insulated, turning the dial might not change temp that much. On some grills, with all burners pegged, on a 70°F day, the difference between high and low might only be 50°F! From the food’s standpoint, the difference between 550 and 500°F is not huge. The temp in the middle of the main cooking grate can be a lot different than on the sides, perhaps 50°F hotter in the center than the edges.
Unlike your indoor oven, where low is around 200°F, on a gas grill, low is probably closer to 300 or 400°F!