Did a test. Need advice

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by iceman6409, May 7, 2016.

  1. iceman6409

    iceman6409 Fire Starter

    So I did a test tonight as I am working towards my first ever smoke..  I have a 18 inch Weber Silver Touch and I decided to test some temperature while I was grilling dinner tonight just to see what was what.  So here is exactly what I did.

    1.  Filled chimney about half way to maybe a little more than half.  Lit fire with paper underneath

    2.  Waited 20ish minutes for the coals to do their thing. 

    3.  Fire was coming out of top of chimney at 20ish minutes but top coals were very slightly ashed. 

    4.  Dumped coal on one half of grill.

    5.  Seared a steak for a total of about 4 minutes.  Left vents open for that

    6.  Moved steak to non coal side

    7. Cooked a Lemon Pepper Catfish over hot coals.

    8.  Put lid back on and closed top vent on a long probe thermometer that I use for beer making.

    9.  Waited about 5-10 minutes.  Probe was in maybe an inch or so with vent closed on it.

    10.  Temperature was about 450 or so on non coal side

    11.  I closed bottom vents to about 50%

    12.  10 minutes later temperature was about the same.

    So what did I learn?  Not quite sure which is why I am asking you folks.  Should I use half or less coals and close top vent once I put coals on one side?
  2. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Iceman. What you were doing there was really grilling and using the coals to one side to provide areas of direct and indirect heat. If you are planning on smoking - say a pork shoulder, ribs or a brisket - you will need to change the way you use the coals in order to provide much lower temperature over a longer period.

    When it comes to low and slow on the Weber Kettle you need to ignore what they tell you in the Weber manual. By using good quality briquettes in a minion or snake arrangement you can keep the cooking temperature at a steady 110-120 C (230 - 250 F) for 8 hours with minimum attention. Rather than light all of your coals before they go into the Weber you place them on the charcoal grate unlit and allow them to burn slowly whilst you control the heat by managing the air flow. The photos below will give you the idea.

    Firstly use good quality briquettes - restaurant quality if you can get them. These may seem more expensive up front but they will burn much slower than standard grilling briquettes and you will have better temperature control with them for longer.

    Arrange them at one side of the Weber and place any pellets or wood chunks that you want for flavouring on top. Light about 7 or 8 briquettes in your chimney and place them at one end of the snake. The burn from these will slowly progress through the unlit briquettes over time in a very controlled way.

    Place some foil on the cooking grate directly above the briquettes to help spread the heat more evenly in the cooking chamber.

    Once you have added the lit briquettes make sure that both the top and bottom vents are fully open and put on the lid

    Monitor the internal temperature until it is up to 2/3 of the desired temperature. At this point close the top vents by 3/4 (leave 1/4 open - see last picture) and half close the bottom vent.

    As the temperature approaches the desired smoking temperature gradually close the bottom vent further until the temperature stabilises. The bottom or top vents should never be closed completely or the burn will go out.

    Remember to raise the temperature slowly. It is easy to raise the temperature but it is much harder to lower it once it has overshot your target.

    In the 22.5" Weber (above) an initial 1.5 Kg of good quality briquettes can maintain a smoking temperature of 230-250 F for about 8 hours

     In the smaller Weber you will not get quite a long a burn before you need to add more unlit briquettes but you should get 6+ hours.

    I hope this helps
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
  3. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Sounds like Wade has you covered!

    Well written Wade!

  4. GaryHibbert

    GaryHibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Great reply Wade!!! Thank you.

  5. iceman6409

    iceman6409 Fire Starter

    So if I am understanding this correctly you are suggesting I use the snake method in one half of the kettle?  Not a full circle correct?  I am familiar with the snake method but I am trying to figure out my charcoal layout to start.  I know to put 2 coals side by side on the bottom layer.  On the next layer would I use just 1 coal across or 2 and then a third layer with one coal?
  6. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yes, just on one side. When you put the lid on the kettle ensure that the vent is on the opposite side to ensure that the heat passes over the meat and not just up the side.

    On the 22.5" I use 3 briquettes wide (stood up on their edge like dominos) with an edging row around to help contain the burn. The width is then about 3 1/2 briquettes. I then lay another layer on top (on their sides) and then my pellets or wood on top of that - see photo. You don't want the snake to take up more than 25% of the grate area.

    You will probably need less briquettes in the 18" Weber and can do what you suggest, but don't forget that as you are carefully controlling the rate of the burn, providing they are no more than 1/4 of the way across the grate, it will be fine. 
  7. iceman6409

    iceman6409 Fire Starter

    Thanks Wade.  You have been very helpful.  One last question.  Do you think it is possible in my kettle to do a 8-10lb pork butt or something similar?
  8. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    It is doable but it may be a little tight. It will certainly fit in but you will find that when the meat is still cold the side closest to the coals will be slightly hotter until the meat itself is getting up to temperature. To compensate for this you can simply turn the meat around every 2 hours or so. The larger the space around the pork for the heat/smoke to flow the more uniform the inside cooking temperature will be.  

    Make sure that none of the meat is touching the sides of the lid when it is in place.
  9. iceman6409

    iceman6409 Fire Starter

    Great.  Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with me
  10. iceman6409

    iceman6409 Fire Starter

    Since it looks like it might be tough to smoke an 8+ pounder on my 18inch grill would it be "possible" to maybe cut the butt in half and try smoking both halves on the grill at the same time?  Just a thought?
  11. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Before you decide to cut it place it on the smoker and check the clearance around it. If it looks like there is plenty of clearance under the lit and it does not extend over the coals then smoke it in one piece. If it looks as it will be a squeeze (less than say a 3" clearance all round) then I would cut it.

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