A longer burn process for kettles


 
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U. Jester

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I smoked my first set of ribs today and used the brick method from this thread... Didn't have to add any fuel for 5 hours and it was still holding the temp when I took the ribs off.

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m grau

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I just ordered myself some firebricks. I do have a question about the water pan though. Is the main reason for the water to reduce the heat in the Kettle? Because it takes heat to raise the temp of the water? Or is it to keep a moist smoke environment from the evaporation?

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Joerg

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Brad L

TVWBB Member
I don't think the water pan really lowers the temperature or adds humidity. It is basically a heatsink that regulates the temperature in the grill to reduce hot and cold spots. The bricks should act as a heatsink as well but I have not used them, so I cannot verify this. I have used this with a water pan and have had good results.
 

K Kruger

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Well, water reduces the potential. So do firebricks - or anything else with mass that will absorb heat. I just mini-Minion for the rare times I need the heat to be low. But firebricks work well.
 

Chris E

TVWBB Pro
I ordered a box of firebricks from Ace online for 19.99 with free shipping to my local ace store for pickup. The guys in the store had no idea what I was talking about when i asked. I think these are a must have now. Also helps to have a second charcoal grate to use on top of bricks to raise coals to sear steaks. Keeps the bricks from interfering with vents on the OTG.
 

Eric Michaud

TVWBB Super Fan
Originally posted by John Bridgman:
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 ?

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Sorry about a stupid question but I don't quite get the picture. How do you use the four lit coals in conjunction with the coals on the other side of the bricks?
 

Eric Michaud

TVWBB Super Fan
Oh my, now I really feel stupid. I swear I was not dropped on my head as a kid, maybe I should say the opposite. Thanks for your input, off to buy some fire bricks.

Thank you
 

Miguel M

TVWBB Pro
I've used fire bricks for smoking since I bought my 26.75" last summer. It has worked very well and I have the hang of controlling temps. Great way of double purposing kettles!
 

Corey Elks

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when doing a minion start 4 lit trying to keep kettle around 250 275 i see you are keeping one touch vent about 1/8th open. what about the top vent?
 

John Bridgman

TVWBB Super Fan
Originally posted by Corey Elks:
when doing a minion start 4 lit trying to keep kettle around 250 275 i see you are keeping one touch vent about 1/8th open. what about the top vent?

I have always had the top vent wide open. Not sure where I read that but it seems to work well. Adjusting the lower vent seems to be sufficient.

Eric; definitely not a stupid question. None of this was obvious to me - I would be upset if it were obvious to anyone else either
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It's worth doing some reading-up on the Minion method, since there are all kinds of nuances to making it work right. I found that including "Jim" in the search terms helped to weed out posts that just talked about using it rather than explaining it.
 

Robert Terry

TVWBB Fan
Everything I've read regarding the WSM says to always open the top vent all the way and adjust the bottom vent(s) to regulate heat. I believe the same principles apply with the kettle.

I used the firebrick/foil/minion method described in this post for the year between discovering this site and being able to purchase the WSM. Since I was subscribed to this post I picked up the recent activity and it has prompted my to do a low/slow cook in my kettle for a small batch of ribs tomorrow.
 

Corey Elks

TVWBB All-Star
let us know how they turn out robert. Ive been thinking about trying some smokeing in my kettle too and possibly getting rid of my wsm if i like it.
 

Jim Erskine

New member
Awesome Man! Tried to do a slow cook with my Son in Fall River Nova Scotia and we simply tried with a water bath and vent closure. We did Minion Method and always have lots of briquets left. Many look almost untouched. Can't wait to try this in florida with my one touch Gold.
 

Robert Terry

TVWBB Fan
Originally posted by Corey Elks:
let us know how they turn out robert. Ive been thinking about trying some smokeing in my kettle too and possibly getting rid of my wsm if i like it.

Corey,

Missed your request. I did smoke ribs that holiday weekend and they turned out great. Always do. It is harder to keep an even temp though, and the burn time is not nearly as long. I always had to add fuel smoking butts... Think long and hard about parting with the WSM unless you live in South Florida. If you do, WSM's suck and I can cart if off for 'ya...
 

Lars_E

New member
OK... Here's my first attempt at using the kettle as a quasi smoker... the verdict... IT WORKS... I just broke the 8 hour barrier I've been hoping to surpass and I did it. My setup was very similar to what other people have done except I used standard bricks.. not fire bricks

I was actually only doing stewing beef ribs (low quality cut) but this method produced stellar results considering the cut. Here's my temp readings from the lid thermometer and some pics. Thanks to everyone for helping out with all the info provided here.

15 mins 230 F
33 mins 250 F
43 mins 270 F
67 mins 278 F (1 hour)
101 mins 265 F
130 mins 278 F (2 hours)
140 mins 271 F
180 mins 260 F (3 hours)
270 mins 265 F (4 ½ hours)
300 mins 255 F (5 hours)
330 mins 255 F (5 ½ hours) lid opened, ribs sauced, about 30 % charcoal left.. at least
360 mins 300 F (6 hours)ribs off…lid closed
420 mins 310 F (7 hours) still going strong
480 mins 310 F (8 hours) temp surge... 310 F
510 mins 305 F (8.5 hours) temp still up above 300 F...

I wonder how long it would have gone if I hadn't opened the lid at 5.5 hours... next time will try pork shoulder (pulled pork) and find out..!!

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Rudy Radelic

New member
Greetings all! First post here. Not having the cash for a WSM right now, I was determined to get my 22½" one-touch kettle in use as a smoker. I found some bricks to use, dried them out completely, and used them to stack up the coals.

My first time out went OK...not great, but OK. Did a rack of baby-back ribs and a few chicken pieces. Should have taken the chicken off a half hour sooner, but the ribs came out quite good, even though I had a few hitches.

I started that cook off with quite a heat flare. I had to run to the store for 45 minutes, and the heat was way up when I got back. I lit up using the Minion method with five blow-torched Kingsford briquettes, and it was quite rip-roaring hot when I got back. To me it seemed like it took too long for the coal bed to ignite, but no need to worry--it indeed does! I was also fighting a very windy Michigan afternoon (if anyone remembers how windy it was on Easter Day). Luckily I was on the downwind side of the garage which blocked a lot of it. I finally managed to level out the temp at 275°F (at the grill surface) for the remainder of the cook.

Today I attempted a boneless pork shoulder. I lit it again with five briquettes and put the shoulder on at 6am. The temp never went above 300° (it was close), but I never could get it down to between 225-250° at the grill surface. Even with the vents almost all the way closed. I have the ash bucket marked for the lower vent, and I had the top vent only open enough to feed a thin thermometer probe wire through. I think during the last hour, I finally got it down to around 250° (give or take 10 degrees).

By about 2pm, the temp of the meat had risen to about 215 internally and, not wanting to produce a huge brick of pork jerky, decided to take it off the grill. Just about eight hours on the kettle. I tugged on a piece of the bark and off came this moist, tasty sliver of pork.

Oh my!

So, I took the shoulder in the house, let it rest for awhile, then sliced it every couple of inches...or attempted to. It was falling apart like nothing I've cooked on the grill before. (I have done a pork shoulder over indirect heat in about two hours, but it was never this tender.) Slicing made it much easier to shred, not that it took much effort. Early dinner at 3pm! A major food coma hit me around 4pm.
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Verdict on the coals? I had a good amount of fuel left. I would have had to stoke the coals in another hour or so, but I got a nice eight hour burn out of a batch of Kingsford.

I wanted to thank everyone here for the discussion--it helped me figure out how to do this.

My only concern is how hot the kettle is running (I only check the temp at the grill surface--I can peek at it through the top vent with a flashlight if I open it), and if there is anything else I could do for it. The lid seems to seal well, as does the top vent. I may mess around with the bottom one-touch vent a bit as it does not scrape the bottom of the kettle like it used to, but it is not loose at all.

Or should I even be concerned? The ribs were still good, although the initial flare-up did dry them out a bit. This shoulder, on the other hand, came out excellent, and I'd say the temp probably averaged around 275° at the grill surface throughout the cook. For a second attempt at using a kettle as a smoker, I'd say it was quite successful.
 

W Tyler

TVWBB All-Star
Rudy,

Assuming you're banking all coals to one side, the easy fix to prevent heat spikes is a water pan - same as you would do in the WSM.

Buy a small bread loaf pan, fill it with water and sit it on the grill grate above the hot coals. If You'll probably have to check on it every couple of hours, depending on the size of the pan and your vent settings, but as long as you don't let too much air in, it should hold your temps no more than 230 on the food side at any given time during your cook.

Also the deeper the pan the less often you'll have to fill. A couple of bricks sitting in the same area will help as well (probably not as good as the water). Hope this helps.
 
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