I should have mentioned in my last post that the "Vortex" is actually a 3rd party accessory for kettle grills, essentially a steel cone with a large opening at one end with a smaller opening at the other end to be used in different configurations. I'm trying to replicate the effect with things I already have laying around.
On Friday I snagged some split chicken breasts on a really good deal, so I decided to give them a try with the vortex inspired method I used for wings. Instead of using my small charcoal basket, I went with a 5 quart steel mixing bowl with the bottom cut out that I was using an an ash catcher mod on my Mini WSM build. It's not working out how I intended for that, so let's put it to better use:
Loading it wasn't too bad. I covered the small hole, added KBB, then covered the bottom with my Smokey Joe charcoal grate so I could flip it. The smaller hole should really be bigger, but this is a good trial and error for anyone interested in making a DIY version. The biggest challenge with the small hole is probably lighting the coals. The hole is too small to safely pour lit coals into, and it's hard to access the bottom once assembled. I opted to point my newly acquired torch into the smaller hole for a few minutes to get things going at 7:00 pm.
Coals looking good and hot at 7:17 pm. I added a chunk of hickory to the cooking grate and closed it up. Going with intake vents at 75-100% open, exhaust 100%:
Split chicken breasts with an olive oil coating, rubbed up with salt, pepper, garlic, paprika:
Chicken going on at 7:35 pm:
I rotated the kettle lid every 10 min or so but only got in 3 rotations. This appears to make a difference as the breast with the longest vent position has the darkest skin, and the one that didn't get a rotation is at a lower temp than the rest. This is about 8:30 pm:
I placed one directly over the heat to crisp the skin more, but it was too much. This was on about 2 minutes, maybe less, and blackened more than I wanted:
Instead I huddled the rest up around the edge:
That did the trick, pushing to final temps in the mid to high 160's, and crisping the skin. Chicken off the grill:
I removed the bowl and added some asparagus, but my fuel was pretty well spent:
Since the coals were weak, I thought I'd try boosting heat by putting the bowl on top of the asparagus:
No dice, so I finished in a pan. That's more like it:
Overall it turned out really well, though the skin isn't quite where I want it yet. I may have to concede that it's just not really possible to get the level of crisp I'm looking for without frying in oil, but I'll keep pushing.
One thing that's interesting to note is that if your kettle is even a little leak prone around the lid, you're really going to see it. I tried to get pics of this but it didn't really come out. This is a good thing I think, as it may give you an idea of how the heat is moving around in there; it shoots up from the bowl hole, hits the top of the lid, and spreads down around the sides giving you even high heat. While exhaust vent position did matter, that's easy enough to compensate for with even rotations.