After starting your fire, using the pyramid style of stacking the charcoal briquettes and waiting for them to ash over, there are several ways that you can control the heat of a non-gas grill.
Most charcoal grills have an adjustable cooking grid that can be raised or lowered to adjust the cooking temperature of the food. By raising it you are keeping the heat further away from the food and thereby lowering the temperature at which it will cook. Cooking with the grid close to the flame will increase the temperature.
Temperature on a charcoal grill can also be controlled by opening or closing the air intake holes on the sides of your grill. Opening them will allow for more air flow which will feed the fire and create a hotter temperature. Closing them will in turn lessen the flow of air and create a lower temperature. If your grill has a lid, with air intake holes on it as well, be careful not to close all of the holes completely, as this will extinguish the fire.
The way you arrange your charcoal inside of the grill will also play an important part in controlling the temperature at which your food will cook. The closeness of the coals to each other will determine how hot the flames will get. By piling the charcoal close together, you will create a hotter fire. To reduce the heat simply spread the charcoal out evenly across the bottom of the grill. If you want to increase the temperature of the coals while already cooking, add additional charcoal to the burning embers. Always use a pair of barbecue tongs when moving burning charcoal to prevent fires and serious burn injuries.
If your grill seems to be cooking the food too quickly and you can’t control the fire in the ways stated above, you may want to think about using an indirect heating method. To do this you place all of the charcoal to one side of the bottom of the grill and cook your food on the other side of the grill, never placing any of the food directly on top of the burning charcoal. Your food will cook much slower this way but will never burn.
Another way to create indirect heat on your grill is to place all of the burning charcoal into a circle around the bottom of your grill, leaving the center empty. Cook only on the center portion of the grill area. I’ve also seen this done in the opposite manner where all of the charcoal is left in the center of the grill and the cooking is done around the edges. You will have to determine which method is best for you depending on the size and shape of your grill and the amount of food you need to prepare.
Keep a spray bottle of fresh clean water near the grill while cooking to be used to extinguish any flare-ups that might occur from grease dripping into the flame while cooking.
Try out a few of these methods to see which one works best for you.