Q. What is the best way to estimate the temperature of charcoal when I'm grilling?
A. There are several ways to test the temperature of coals to see if they're at an optimal temperature for cooking. One no-frills way of testing whether your coals are ready for heating up some meat is by using the "hand" test.
Here's how it works: Hold the palm of your hand about four inches above the coals. Count the seconds you can hold your hand there before the heat forces you to pull it away. If you can hold your hand over the coals for 5 seconds, the coals are between 200°F and 300°F (medium-low heat); 4 seconds, 300°F to 350°F (medium); 3 seconds, 350°F to 375°F (medium-hot); 2 seconds, 375°F or higher (high).
Of course, this is a test that requires a good deal of common sense: don't touch the coals, don't strain to keep your hand above them for longer than you need to, and avoid burning yourself as much as possible!