A longer burn process for kettles


 
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Rudy Radelic

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Originally posted by W Tyler:
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.

I wasn't sure what to do, as I'd read both (use a water pan, or don't use a water pan) earlier in this thread.

My coals are along one side, using bricks to hold them in place, so the bricks are acting as a heat sink as well. The only thing I can think of is that the bricks could be another half inch higher to almost rest against the bottom of the grill, blocking off slightly more heat from the meat.

Once I got things going, I didn't really have heat spikes (it would drift up and down, but not jump by large numbers), but the overall temperature was higher than I would have liked. I can try the water pan next time out, as I used to use one for indirect roasting in the kettle.

I also wonder if I cut back slightly on the amount of coals if that would help. I would have to refuel at some point, but I may have had too many going. I had about the same area for coals each time (maybe a bit more for the pork shoulder).

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Although if the food came out OK, maybe I should leave well enough alone?
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Thanks!
 

Hank B

TVWBB Pro
Hi Rudy,
Welcome to TVWBB.

Originally posted by Rudy Radelic:

I wasn't sure what to do, as I'd read both (use a water pan, or don't use a water pan) earlier in this thread.
<span class="ev_code_BLUE"> - That tends to be a personal choice amongst those who own WSMs. Both work though I think the water pan is a bit more forgiving. </span>

...

I also wonder if I cut back slightly on the amount of coals if that would help. I would have to refuel at some point, but I may have had too many going. I had about the same area for coals each time (maybe a bit more for the pork shoulder).
<span class="ev_code_BLUE"> - I think the temperature with charcoal is controlled more by the amount of air rather than the quantity of charcoal. In fact the WSM has a large charcoal capacity relative to the grills and is designed to operate at a lower temperature. One technique used in the WSM is called the Minion method. It might be worth a try.</span>

Although if the food came out OK, maybe I should leave well enough alone?
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<span class="ev_code_BLUE">- Proof is in the pudding! Why mess with success? (Of course I'm always changing things up a bit to see where I can improve results.
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)</span>


Thanks!
 

Rudy Radelic

New member
<span class="ev_code_BLUE"> - I think the temperature with charcoal is controlled more by the amount of air rather than the quantity of charcoal. In fact the WSM has a large charcoal capacity relative to the grills and is designed to operate at a lower temperature. One technique used in the WSM is called the Minion method. It might be worth a try.</span>

I actually did use the Minion method--I hit five coals with the torch and got them going, then laid them separately on the stack of coal. I don't know if cutting back to four would make much difference, since the coals all end up igniting anyway after a few hours.

I still like Kingsford, but I can't believe how small and light their coals have become. I really noticed this two years ago, when I unearthed my Smokey Joe and found some unburned briquettes in it from a decade ago. The Kingsford coals back then were a lot more dense, fatter, and had smooth surfaces on both sides. I realize the ridges help the coals ignite sooner, but they feel like they are half air now...

Like you say though, maybe I should leave well enough alone. I'm already getting requests to make another pork shoulder. Although if I had a spare $200, someone locally (a wholesaler) is selling the 18" WSM...a bit large for just two of us, but it is very tempting...

Thanks!
 

Rudy Radelic

New member
I may have the high temp licked: I have one of those Weber tool holders on the kettle, which hangs over the lip. I removed it this morning when I started a large pork shoulder, and it actually was running too cool, as the coals were barely taking off after about 45 minutes. (I started with four coals this time using the Minion method, vs. five.) I gave it a shot of oxygen by opening the vents for about 10-15 minutes, and they finally caught. The roast has been on since about 10am, and still has a ways to go. I have been able to open the vents slightly more this time, so it seems like I really have better control over the heat now. The inside temp of the roast has been climbing steadily all afternoon, so I know it's cooking. It probably will need a few more hours before I pull it off, but from the smell of it, it will have been worth it. There is still some fuel left also, and I'm almost at the eight hour mark (although the first hour really didn't start burning well). I'm going to look at the coals shortly to see how many I have left.

I sort of thought that the tool holder may have prevented the lid from making a good seal, and it seems I was right. With the holder on, the lid was too leaky.
 

EricDevlin

TVWBB Member
Rudy,

How much unlit charcoal do you start with behind the firebricks?

I'm going to have to use this method at a competition, as the organizers are providing all the meat and equipment (two 22" kettles). I'll be cooking a brisket and longbone short ribs.

I'll be using kingsford blue mixed w/ some wood chunks.

Thanks!

Eric
 

Rudy Radelic

New member
To be honest, I don't have an idea of how many coals I used, although I would guess I used maybe up to 2/3 of a 13.9 lb. bag of standard Kingsford to fill the area behind the bricks in the initial load, and only threw maybe a handful or two onto the pile later in the process. (I think it was a bit larger area behind the coals this time.)

I did get a much longer burn time, but my temps were (in hindsight) more up and down. The good thing is, I found that I could adjust the vents to get the temperature down below 250 and hold it there. I think my lid was too leaky (with the tool holder hanging off the lip) to get it cooler than 275 previously.

Wish I could help more. It's not quite scientific yet...but I'm getting a better handle on how to do it. In other words, I'm still in a learning phase myself.

Overall though, I never have used more than a full 13.9 LB bag of the Kingsford in a single smoking session on one 22½" kettle. (These bags were a special deal through Home Depot, hence the odd weight.) I used no wood chips either.
 

EricDevlin

TVWBB Member
That's great info. Thanks.

So, would I be right in assessing that you used about 9 pounds of unlit kingsford, piled into about 1/3 of the charcoal grate space, separated by firebricks, piled on 5 lit coals on one side to mimic the Minion Method and got a 8 hour cook?

How much monitoring was involved?

Thanks!

Eric
 

Mark Schnell

TVWBB Member
Just tried this method in my Performer for a pork butt (fire brick, foiled bottom grate, wood mixed in, 6 lit charcoal on top of the unlit pile). I used the "Renowned Mr. Brown" recipe from this site. It turned out great and it was my first try for pulled pork low and slow. I had no problems keeping my temps down in the 275 range. I was enjoying myself so much I forgot to take pics of the meat or the smoking process. I only have this photo of the ash that was left over at the end. I also didn't record any numbers to share.

I had one issue. I put the meat on at 8:00am. Then I took a big risk by leaving it unattended while I went to church. This was was my first attempt at low and slow and I was using a kettle, probably should have stayed close. I got back home and the kettle thermometer was down to 150. The ash had clogged things up and dropped the temp. I shook the ash down and the temp came right back up in the 275-300 just fine and stayed there till I was finished. Potential disaster averted!

I used Royal Oak Ridge briquettes. The photo is of the ash pan after everything was cooled and all the ash was brushed down into the pan. I started with an empty pan too. Is this a normal amount of ash?

I have been lamenting the fact that Kingsford isn't as easy to find in Toronto as it is in the States. But now I've discovered that Maple Leaf briquettes and lump, which is as easy to find here as Kingsford is in the States, is great stuff. I'm going to go with that from now on.
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Rudy Radelic

New member
Originally posted by EricDevlin:
That's great info. Thanks.

So, would I be right in assessing that you used about 9 pounds of unlit kingsford, piled into about 1/3 of the charcoal grate space, separated by firebricks, piled on 5 lit coals on one side to mimic the Minion Method and got a 8 hour cook?

How much monitoring was involved?

Thanks!

Eric

That is about right--probably around 9-10 pounds of coal. This past time I used four lit coals and it took awhile to start, but I also did not have the vents open at first like I did in my previous two attempts.

I tried to look at it every hour or so. I can't measure the internal temperature of the grill itself, but I use a grill surface thermometer and was able to open the top vent to peek at it without taking the lid off. I also use an electronic thermometer probe in the meat and can watch the temperature externally.

I'm hardly the expert though...it was only my third attempt and I still had temps all over the place for awhile. But I do have a better handle on controlling the temps with the tool holder removed (cures a leaky lid).
 

EricDevlin

TVWBB Member
Does anyone have a suggestion on the length of firebricks I should shoot for?

The Home Depot near me sells them and I'm hoping that they can cut them down with the tools they use for cutting tile.

From the pictures it's a bit difficult to tell what is being used. Is that 2 full length and another about 1/2 length?

Eric
 

guy

TVWBB Fan
Originally posted by EricDevlin:
Does anyone have a suggestion on the length of firebricks I should shoot for?

From the pictures it's a bit difficult to tell what is being used. Is that 2 full length and another about 1/2 length?

Eric
I just use two full length bricks for a small charcoal area or add third full length (overlapping) if I want a larger charcoal burn area. This way you can vary your burning area depending upon the size of your cook.
guy
 
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