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Thread: Snake method for slow and low cook on a Weber kettle

  1. #1
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    Snake method for slow and low cook on a Weber kettle

    I did not see a post describing this method of slow and low on a basic Weber grill and thought I'd give a general description here and document a cola glazed ribs cook for the block party yesterday. The snake method is arranging a row of coals around the outside edge of the charcoal grate where it touches the kettle wall, another row arranged just inside of that, and another row on top of the other two, so you have a charcoal snake going around the outside of the grate. Light about 15 coals in an upside down chimney starter with some of your smoke wood, and put the fully lit coals at one end of the snake. With the bottom vents 100% open and the top vent set to 50-66%, I get stable temps around 250 in the center. The snake uses surprisingly little charcoal, and you can adjust the length of the snake to the length of the cook: with a snake going ~300 degrees around the kettle, I had it at 250 for 12 hours. The pros of the method are: easy, fuel efficient, and anybody with a 22.5" Weber can do it, even with a one touch which is difficult to adjust the bottom vents. The cons of the method are: it's better for smaller cuts of meat to avoid direct cooking and because of the 50-125 degree difference between directly over the coals and the far end of the kettle, and it's probably better described as direct/indirect than indirect unless you use a roasting pan, and flipping and rotating the meat is a bit tricky because the direction of your heat source changes throughout the cook. Here are two pics showing the start of one of my early tests of the snake method. I believe these two were the test which went for 12 hours.



    And the lit coals at one end of the snake:




    On to the cook. I arranged 8 hours worth of coals and wood the night before and rubbed 3 racks of ribs and soaked them in 1/2 C Mexican Coke. By morning they had absorbed almost all of the cola! Here's the lighting of the coals at 5:45 am, blurry photo captures my state of mind at that hour:



    Ribs on, 6 am:



    9 am:



    Started the cola glaze inside at 11:30 am. Started applying it at noon and put it on the grill to keep it cooking down. Should have let the glaze go for 1.5-2 hours before applying because it was still pretty liquid until that point. Here's the cook at noon with the glaze on the grill:



    And the meat just before it came off the grill at 1:45 pm:



    Meat removed so you can see the last few coals are starting to burn at 1:45 pm:




    And the finished product:


  2. #2
    TVWBB Pro glen jones's Avatar
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    Wow those are some nice looking ribs.I have heard of the snake trick for awhile and think I will try it.It will be very easy with the performer.Charcoal over the burner for 5 minutes and rake them over to the charcoal snake.Thanks
    Weber Smokey Joe gold mini WSM....2001 Weber Genesis Silver B [refurbished]......PBC

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    TVWBB Hall of Fame Dwain Pannell's Avatar
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    Interesting method and great looking glazed ribs.
    ~ May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead. ~ Big Deck BBQ and Brew

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    Good looking ribs and a great way to go indirect. The kettle sure is versatile!!! At what temp did your kettle run at?

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    TVWBB All-Star Bill Freiberger's Avatar
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    That's a great technique. I'm gonna have to try it.

    Bill

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    TVWBB Hall of Fame timothy's Avatar
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    Very nice, and great pics and a run-thru. Is that the same as the "ring of fire" which I read but have not tried?

    Tim
    Different smokes for different folks. Wish the Dollar Store sold gas!

  7. #7
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    Thanks, guys! This cook ran at around 250, my lid thermometer is on the side of the kettle's lid, so putting the thermometer over the hot coals and opposite the hot coals and averaging is how I estimated the temp in the center. The far temps were running around 225 through most of this cook, and the sugar in the glaze did not burn, so I'm guessing this was below ~275, which is where sugar starts to burn if I recall correctly.

    This may be the same as the ring of fire. I discovered it while searching for slow and low on a kettle or for a recipe, saw a reference to the snake method, and started looking around for info on it. The thing that caught my attention is other slow and low methods tend to rely on more airflow restriction. The WSM (and the kettle I cooked this one on) have 3 vents on the bottom which gives you great control over the air intake. More common modern charcoal grills like the Weber One Touch and Performer grills are not so easy to adjust in fine increments without markings for, say, 1/2 open, 1/4 open, 1/8 open. Because the snake method restricts how much charcoal can burn in addition to the airflow, it makes the slow and low easier for a grill without finer adjustment of the bottom air vents.

    Having done several cooks this way, the set-and-forget nature of it and the long duration of temps in the 250 range seem really appealing for a cook where you do not want or need to pull out the vertical smoker. The WSM is great and holds temps like a champ, but for smaller cuts of meat, I've been using the snake as an easy way to do slow and low on the kettle. For cuts over 10 lb, or for cooks over 12 hr, I plan to use the WSM because it's a great design for those cooks. For smaller and shorter cooks, the kettle is a great alternative.

  8. #8
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    I thought it was called Ring Of Fire.. For larger cuts (brisket, spares) the grill can be rotated every so often so that the meat is only over the new or spent coals.

    Another option to fine tune air flow is to install one 22 daisy wheel vent... when I use my 22 WSM, once stabilized I use one vent to control air flow.

    btw, the dark rib color probably reflects the sugary Coke marinade/mop.
    John
    Ranch Kettle, BBQ Grillware, CharGriller Akorn Kamado, 22 and 18 OTS Kettle, Smokey Joe

  9. #9
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    I think that you will find that the snake method was introduced by a member of the Aussie BBQ Forum a few years ago and has become a popular method for low and slow in a kettle or WSM by members of the Aussie BBQ forum.

    Cheers

    Phil AKA Captain Cook
    Moderator/Admin Aussie BBQ Forum
    "Captain Cook"

    Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.

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