A longer burn process for kettles

Not open for further replies.
Smoked a chuck for nine hours on my kettle today. I didn't add any fuel during the cook, and when I shut it down, half the fuel that I started with was still left over. I assume that I could have continued for at least 5 more hours, if not much more.

I lined up two fire bricks about a third of the way across the charcoal grate, with the two fire bricks overlapping about an inch. Rather than use charcoal holders, I just dumped Rancher briquettes into the small side, with some wood chunks buried inside. I had an empty foil pan underneath the chuck. I Lit four rancher briquettes for a mini minion method start. The charcoal was filled about up to the cooking grill, with the hinge left open and charcoal mounding up through the hinge. I put one wood chunk up on top.

After 30 minutes I shut down the one touch vent to 1/8. My temps were 260-270 at the lid for most of the burn, although they crept a little higher after I took the lid off to foil the chuck roast. Otherwise they were steady.

I think the indirect side has enough room for a brisket, and there seems to be enough burn time to do a brisket or pork butt without adding fuel. With the wood chunks buried inside, I had very good smoke throughout the first 5-6 hours of the cook.

John Bridgman

TVWBB Super Fan
>>I lined up two fire bricks about a third of the way across the charcoal grate, with the two fire bricks overlapping about an inch.

Were the firebricks angled ? I'm just trying to visualize this... when I place the firebricks end-to-end the result is a bit longer than I would like so my "small side" isn't very small.
The firebricks were not placed end-to-end, nor were they angled. They were off-set so that the line had a jag in it.

The firebricks are relatively soft. I am going to see if I can cut an inch off of one so that I can do this end to end.

Gary Bramley


I am a fan of the firebrick. I have been playing with them for a year or so. You can get a good volume of coals in there... I have done that, but not for low & slow. I have let all the coals burn to get a very intense sear zone, and have used the bricks to provide a barrier from that intense heat for indirect cooking. I will have to give that a try.

Q'n, Golf'n & Grill'n... too many choices!

Pete K.

TVWBB Member
Thanks for the info. David. I was able to easliy knock off about an inch of a firebrick just using a hammer and chisel. It's not the cleanest cut, but it worked pretty well.

J Reyes

You can also use a masonry saw blade (a few bucks) with a hand held circular saw for a cleaner cut.

Please post a pic of the bricks in the kettle.


John Bridgman

TVWBB Super Fan
I hate to sound like your mother, but everyone remember eye protection when chipping & cutting firebricks, OK ?

I did an 8 pound butt on the Performer yesterday with this arrangement. I think having the firebricks offset (or cut) to make a smaller coal area is better than what I was doing before.

The butt went on just after midnight with ~10 lit coals and ran until about 2:00 PM when my friends had to leave so we let the butt sit for a bit then picked it apart into a few big chunks so everyone could run home and put their chunk in the oven to finish.

I added a handful of coals around 9 AM -- not because the fuel was low but just for safekeeping -- I sometimes find that ash buildup stops the last of the coals from burning and I'm just learning when and how to best stir the coals to get the ashes out without killing the fire. Putting a few unlit coals on top and letting them catch before stirring seemed to improve my odds. After stirring I pushed the coals together in the middle so they would all keep burning.

By 2PM the unburned fuel was getting pretty low and I would have had to top up again if I was going to continue the cook. That's 14 hours, which ain't bad. I was out of Kingsford so used some no-name briquettes my brother-in-law had in the back of his truck.

Sorry about the blurry pic, but here's what it looked like starting up. David, is this about the same arrangement you used ?


J Reyes

David, John you both got very long burn times without adding coals.

I did a brisket on Sat. and got 7 hours of burn time and was about ready to add some coals but it reached about 180 degrees and I had to go somewhere. I foiled it and put it in an ice chest. It was thoroughly cooked with a nice smoke ring but it was not as tender as compared to foiled briskets I have done in the past where I foiled at 160 and added liquid.

Pics including a cook log:

Did you monitor your temps?

I monitored (see pic link above) the vent, grill, and meat temps. What I have found is that the temp variances between the grill and vent is much more erratic compared to the WSM.

I've concluded that for backyard cooking, slow cooking with a kettle using one of our methods is doable, but significantly inferior to a WSM. If I didn’t want to do competitions this is an acceptable way to slow cook meats.

For competitions which are what I want to do more of, the temps should be steadier to control the timing of the finished meats. For meats that don't take as much time to cook (ribs, chicken) the timing is less of an issue.

I purchased a couple of fire bricks and will try it out that way also.


John Bridgman

TVWBB Super Fan
>>Did you monitor your temps?

The Performer has a thermometer right at the very top of the lid. That was pretty stable around 250F, maybe +/- 10 degrees most of the cook, but as the coals burned I had to keep opening the vents a bit to keep that temperature. Definitely seems like more work than a WSM -- I just thought it was pretty neat that we could even do this

>>I monitored (see pic link above) the vent, grill, and meat temps. What I have found is that the temp variances between the grill and vent is much more erratic compared to the WSM.

Agreed. I also saw a couple of recent posts which indicated that the grate temp is quite a bit lower relative to lid temp on a kettle than on a WSM, so 250 lid on a WSM is equivalent to maybe 275 or more on a kettle.

At some point I will definitely weaken and buy a WSM, but the toy budget is empty for a while ;(
I typically use the WSM for smoking larger items, but for doing something small, it seems like a waste of fuel. The kettle is so miserly on fuel that I feel I can use it to smoke just a slab of bacon or a 3 pound chuck roast. When using the kettle I do monitor the temp at the lid with a BBQ guru thermometer.

J Reyes

I tried the fire bricks with a 9 lb brisket today. What a difference... fire bricks are the ticket.

Once the kettle settled in I was able to go 6 hours without adjusting any vents. During this 6 hour time, the grate temps only varied from 222 to 245, very acceptable and equaling or approaching WSM performance.

Also unlike my experience using expanded metal last week, the temp difference between the grate and the vent only ranged from 0 to 16 degrees which is much better than I experienced last week.

No doubt the fire bricks even out the temperature of the kettle.

For all meats I can't see why the finished product cannot be as good as a WSM. I did have to add coals after 6 hours. so for longer cooks (brisket and pork butt), although doable, this method is more hassle compared to a WSM. For shorter cooks (couple of racks of ribs or chicken pieces) this works fine and is an alternative to using a WSM.

Next project will be ribs and/or chicken on the kettle.


Joe InJersey

TVWBB All-Star
My sister bought me this gadget for Christmas and it works pretty good for smoking and long burns in the kettle. I live in a garden apartment and only have space for the grill (not a designated smoker).

Rob K

TVWBB Member
I put down HD foil on the charcoal grate covering everything but where the charcoal is. That seems to help with heat control quite a bit. I've smoked ribs, butts and briskets with my homemade Smokenator and am very happy with the results. I do miss my WSM though.

George Curtis

TVWBB Olympian
as rob k mentioned, i use hd foil to make
my own version. has worked very well for me.
as another member mentioned, i'm making a more
permanent version out of sheetmetal.
i'll eventually get a wsm but see no rush yet.
Fire bricks are made to withstand high heat. I've heard that it is possible for regular bricks to explode when exposed to high heat. I have no idea if that is possible or not.

Do you have any masonry stores nearby? Check your yellow pages to see. Any masonry store should have them. Fire bricks come in two sizes, narrow and wide. I went with the narrow to give me more indirect area for cooking.
Not open for further replies.