What Temperature is Medium High Heat? A Guide to Perfect Cooking

What Temperature is Medium High Heat

Cooking is all about control. Whether you’re baking cookies or searing a steak, achieving the perfect temperature is key to getting the results you want. But what exactly is “medium-high heat”?

Medium-high heat typically ranges between 375-450°F. It’s the ideal temperature for quick cooking methods like stir-frying, pan-searing, boiling water, and direct “hot” grilling.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about medium-high heat, including:

  • What medium-high heat means on your stovetop and grill
  • Tips for recognizing when you’ve hit the medium-high zone
  • How to reach and maintain medium-high heat on gas, electric, and charcoal cooking surfaces
  • The best cooking techniques and foods for medium-high heat
  • Vital techniques and safety tips for cooking at this ideal “hot” temperature

Whether you’re cooking in your kitchen or firing up the barbecue, let’s master the art of medium-high heat!

What Defines Medium-High Heat?

Before diving into specifics, let’s level-set on what medium-high heat means.

What Defines Medium-High Heat?

Medium-high is in the upper range of cooking temperatures. It’s considered “hot” heat that’s ideal for quick cooking methods that require high temperatures.

Think stir-frying in a hot wok, searing a steak to lock in juices, boiling water for pasta or blanching vegetables, and direct “hot” grilling over a hot flame or coals.

In general, medium-high heat ranges between 375-450°F. However, the exact temperature varies slightly depending on whether you’re using a stovetop or grill.

Stovetop Medium-High Heat

For stovetop cooking in pots, pans or skillets, medium-high heat is typically between 400-450°F. The exact dial setting will vary based on your stove type:

  • Electric coil stoves: 5-8 setting
  • Electric glass/ceramic stoves: 6-8 setting
  • Gas stoves: 5-8 setting

On any stovetop, medium-high heat brings liquids to a rapid boil and makes oil shimmer within 2-3 seconds.

Grill Medium-High Heat

Outdoor grills don’t have temperature dials, so gauging heat relies on experience.

For direct “hot” grilling over a live flame, medium-high heat is 350-450°F. At this temp, you can hold your hand 5 inches over the grill grate for only 2-3 seconds.

This range allows you to successfully sear foods like steaks, chops, and burgers while avoiding charring on the outside before the inside cooks through.

Now that you know the target temperature range, let’s go over how to achieve medium-high heat.

Achieving Medium-High Heat on Stovetops

The technique for hitting medium-high heat depends on your stove type and burners. Here are some tips:

Electric Coil Stoves

  • Preheat on the 5-8 setting for 5 minutes
  • Use burners that match the pan/pot size
  • Adjust heat as needed while cooking

Coil elements heat and cool quickly. Stay nearby and watch for any scorching.

Electric Glass/Ceramic Stoves

  • Preheat on 6-8 setting for 10 minutes
  • Evenly cover element with pan/pot
  • Use heavy-bottomed cookware to prevent hot spots

Glass tops retain heat well. Reduce heat if food starts burning.

Gas Stoves

  • Preheat on 6-8 setting for 3-5 minutes
  • Use a burner grate matched to cookware size
  • Keep flames evenly distributed for even heating

Gas offers very responsive temperature control. Adjust heat frequently.

No matter your stove, preheating for a few minutes is vital. This allows time for the cooking surface to fully heat up so food cooks properly.

How to Achieve Medium-High Grill Heat

Outdoor grilling relies on experience and reading the signs when gauging temperature. Here are tips for charcoal and gas grills:

Charcoal Grills

For charcoal grills like a Weber kettle, aim for 350-450°F for medium-high direct grilling.

  • Fill a chimney starter with 60-80 briquettes
  • Ignite the coals, let burn until lightly coated in ash
  • Evenly distribute hot coals below cooking grate

You want glowing embers, not flames. Spread coals to avoid hot spots.

Gas Grills

Preheat your gas grill on high for 10-15 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-high with the lid closed.

  • Use all burners set to high to preheat
  • Leave lid closed as much as possible
  • Avoid lifting lid frequently while preheating

This allows the grill grates to fully heat up. Adjust burners as needed while cooking.

How to Gauge You’ve Reached Medium-High

Wondering if you’re truly cooking at 375-450°F? Look for these signs:

On the Stovetop

  • Oil shimmers and ripples within 2-3 seconds
  • Water boils rapidly with bubbles breaking the surface
  • Metal spatula sizzles when touched to the pan

Monitor heat closely to avoid burning. Reduce temperature if food scorches.

On the Grill

  • You can only hold your hand 5 inches over the grate for 2-3 seconds
  • Drippings vaporize on contact with the grill
  • Food sizzles immediately and vigorously when placed on the grate

If you can hold your hand over the grill longer, wait for more preheating.

Best Cooking Methods for Medium-High Heat

What cooking techniques work best in the 375-450°F range? Here are top methods to use:


The intense heat of a wok relies on medium-high to high heat. Stir-fry small batches of meat and veggies so they char rather than steam.


Get a hard sear on steaks, chops, chicken, and fish. The brown crust seals in juice without overcooking the inside.

Boiling Water

Medium-high rapidly boils water for quicker cooking of pasta, potatoes, vegetables, and more.

Direct “Hot” Grilling

Medium-high heat sears the surfaces of burgers, dogs, steaks, chops, and vegetables while cooking food quickly.

Wok Cooking

From stir-fries to smoking oil for Kung Pao, intense wok skills require medium-high heat.

Best Foods for Medium-High Heat Cooking

What foods shine when cooked at 375-450°F? Here are some top options:

  • Steaks: Get a nice sear while keeping a pink interior
  • Chops: Cook pork, lamb, and veal chops fast to ideal doneness
  • Burgers: Sear the outside without overcooking the inside
  • Chicken breasts & thighs: Crisp skin and lock in juices
  • Fish fillets: Sear skin side down to get a crust while cooking fish gently
  • Vegetables: Blanch or stir-fry for crisp-tender texture
  • Meatballs: Brown the outside to seal in flavorful juices
  • Pasta: Boil water rapidly to cook noodles al dente
  • Stir-fries: Singe veggies and meat with ultra-high heat

Delicate foods like eggs or cheese may overcook at medium-high temperatures. Adjust accordingly.

Vital Techniques for Medium-High Heat Cooking

Cooking with medium-high heat takes some finesse. Keep these techniques in mind:

  • Use oils with high smoke points like avocado, grapeseed, and light olive oil
  • Cut ingredients uniformly for even cooking
  • Avoid crowding the pan which drops the temperature
  • Dry food well before searing to prevent steaming
  • Reduce heat if food starts browning too quickly
  • Let meat rest after cooking to allow juices to redistribute

Proper prep and monitoring heat is key. Always stay nearby; food cooks very quickly at medium-high temperatures.

Safety Tips for Medium-High Heat Cooking

The intense heat of 375-450°F calls for safety measures. Follow these tips:

  • Use potholders – handles get extremely hot
  • Keep flammables away from the stove
  • Have a lid ready in case of flare-ups
  • Clean up spills to avoid burning-on and smoking
  • Ventilate your kitchen to dissipate heat
  • Keep kids and pets away from hot surfaces

Stay focused and alert when cooking at these high temperatures. Never leave food unattended!


Medium-high heat opens up quick, high-temperature cooking techniques for outstanding results. Now that you know how to achieve 375-450°F on your stovetop or grill, you can confidently sear, stir-fry, and grill like a pro.

The next time a recipe calls for medium-high heat, use these tips to hit the target temperature. Always adjust burners and monitors foods closely to prevent burning. Mastering medium-high heat elevates your cooking game and unlocks deliciously seared, charred, and caramelized flavors.

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