Do I need to close my bottom vent most of the way and only leave the vent on top open? Will my coals go out?
Any help would be great. I do have a wireless thermometer I use in my meats. I like to cook anything really.
Here are a few tricks I have learned to use my kettle.
First I use the minion method. I make two rows of coals two coals deep. Smoking wood on top.
I put about 10 hot coals at one end and away I go.
In this photo you can see that I have added a water pan but I have also covered most of the area under the water pan with heavy foil.
This set up has allowed me to do smokes up to 8 hours running at about 250 deg.
As you can see here it has been smoking for about 3 hours. I have even when I wanted to cook at a lower temp
only used the bottom two rows and been able to keep the temp in the 225 to 230 range.
I use my Weber Kettle as a smoker at least once or twice a month. I have a Smokenator in my 22.5" Kettle but you can do the same thing with a couple of fire bricks, building your charcoal and wood chunk fire behind the bricks over to one side and using indirect heat to smoke your meats. I never soak my wood but understand it works if you do. I load my Kettle with cold briquettes, burying 3 or 4 wood chunks in the charcoal. If I'm doing a low n slow 225F smoke I dump about 15 hot coals from a chimney on top of the cold briquettes and wood. I use 25-30 hot briquettes if doing a hot and fast smoke, like chicken. Yes, I count them when I load my chimney.
You will need a thermometer to monitor your grate level temperature just below your top vent. Amazon sells the Maverick 732 for about $50, the 733 for around $60. Wal-mart has an inexpensive therm you can buy for $15 or so but I can't vouch for the quality.
There can be as much as a 100 degree temperature difference between the top of the dome and the grate at higher temperature smokes so you need to know what is going on at the grate level where the food is located. For lower temp smokes like 225F the difference between the dome and the grate is usually only 30F or so.
If you have a One Touch leave the bottom vent full open and control the internal temperature with the top vent placed on the opposite side of your fire so you get nice circulation. If you have one of the older style Kettles with three vents on the bottom close the bottom vent opposite your fire and leave the bottom two closest to your fire fully open.
The trick is knowing when to start choking your initial fire with that top vent to stabilize your chamber temp. I typically leave the top vent fully open until the temperature is within 25 degrees of my desired chamber temp, then I close the top vent down to about 1/4 open. You might overshoot initially, but close it down about half more and the temp will start coming down. I use the time the white smoke is burning off to get my chamber stabilized. When I see the first hints of blue smoke, and I am at my desired chamber temp, I load the meat. With a few smokes you get the hang of it and it is amazing how well you can control your temps with just little 1/16" changes to that top vent. Heck, I even notice when the sun hits my Kettle. The chamber temp immediately climbs 10F.
Once you get your chamber stabilized and need to remove the lid to add food or spritz meat, replace that lid as quickly as possible. If you don't that fire will take off like crazy due to the influx of air to the fire when the lid is off.
The Kettle is a great smoker. You can easily get 6 hours of smoking out if it, even more if you keep adding charcoal and wood. Choke it completely after you remove the food and reuse any charcoal from the previous smoke. The Kettle is what I used to learn to smoke meat, control temps, and develop my favorite flavor profiles. It is EXTREMELY efficient too compared to my 22.5" WSM, using 1/4 as much charcoal or less, which is why it still gets used quite often.