Charcoal recommendations specifically for slow n sear long smoking session?

Chris McG

New member
Hey guys, I'm brand new to this forum, and an about-to-be owner of my first 22" Weber kettle, thanks to a gift from my best man. I'm also ordering the slow n sear.

I've never done any smoking before, and I'm wondering if you guys could share your experience and wisdom as to your favorite charcoal for low-n-slow cooking in a slow n sear. I'd like to do some long cooks for pork butt and brisket. So ideally, I'd like to find something reliable, good value, that burns long and requires the least refueling, and delivers optimal flavor. And it has to work well with the slow n sear method, which means unlit coals will need to get reliably lit as the flame moves its way down the device (similar to snake method I think?). What are your recommendations, and why?

Really appreciate your advice!
 

Ryan Burke

TVWBB Member
I smoked on a Weber Kettle for a long time before I finally got a WSM. Kingsford Blue Bag always worked fine for me. For flavor you need to add a few chunks of smoke wood.
 

Griff

TVWBB Super Fan
Kingsford blue and stock up at the Memorial Day sales at Lowes and/or Home Depot.
 

Sam Bee

TVWBB All-Star
I like using Weber briquettes when smoking meats. They last long and I don't have to worry about refueling if doing a long smoke. I also use a SnS also and like it.
 

Rich Dahl

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I've had great results with KBB (Kingsford blue) in my performer, 18.5 WSM and my mini. Dependable, reasonably priced, works well in a snake and Minion. If you can find Weber briquettes at a reasonable price they're very good also.
 

Brian Thomas

TVWBB Super Fan
+1 on KBB. FYI. Royal Oak does work well for doing low & slow cooks. For high heat cooks that take longer than 15 min or so, not so much.
 

Teddy J.

TVWBB Pro
The only criteria I have is that it’s lump. When I first started cooking with live fire I was partial to Royal Oak. After burning enough bags of the stuff from all sorts of brands over the past 13+ years, I just buy what’s on sale now. Proper lighting and fire control wins every time.

Besides - if you’re cooking regularly, who can afford the bougie bags anyway. 🙂
 

Andre A

TVWBB Member
My vote would be lump charcoal. I have been grilling now for 15+ years. During that time I have used the smokenator, foil tins, stones, and all kinds of other gadgets etc. I have also purchased a WSM.

In the beginning like you I used the KBB, but I have come to love lump. For starters it burns cleaner and hotter. Cleaner in that there are no binding chemicals like what you will find in the KBB. Hence you have a cleaner smelling smoke. Take this quick test.. If you do purchase the KBB light them in a chimney starter (BTW regardless of which type of coal you buy, you absolutely must get a chimney starter) after about 5 minutes, but your body in a position where you can smell the smoke coming from the chimney. After about 2 seconds your eyes will water and pungent smell will force you to turn away. This is what you are going to be smoking on.

Now to be fair when you do use the sear and slow you will not have all those coals burning at once so the smell will not be as strong, but it will still be there. Two other points KBB will leaves a lot of ash behind lump does no. So clean up is easier with Lump And finally when you are ready to grill and not smoke lump gives you a much hotter fire, for searing.

I hope this helps.
 

Dick Buchanan

New member
I agree that lump is the best, but for a first cook I surely would recommend, like others, the KBB. It is super dependable and will give you the results you expect. When you have some cooks under your belt, try lump.
 

CaryLee

New member
KBB is always good especially around the holidays when they go on sale. But in between I usually prefer to use B&B orange bag for most of my S&S because of hotter burn and less ash.
 

Dick Buchanan

New member
Less ash is a big consideration. In the past 25 years have used B&B, Humphrey's and Wicked Good among other lumps and they all yielded far less ash than Kingsford. The Naked Whiz web site has all the information one would ever need about charcoal, burn times, ash, etc. Premium lump will be more expensive but worth it, at least for me. I buy Kingsford as it is cheap at holiday times and use it to start my lump Miniion method and almost always when I'm grilling. One thing about sauce--an old timer once warned "be careful as you may be covering up the best meat you ever had." I smoke a lot of ribs over the years and as time has gone by use less sauce and these days often none at all.
 

Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Honor Circle
I'd stick with kbb and follow their directions for lighting. They have it down to number of coals. Lump is fine but I prefer briquettes for low and slow. If you go lump get a high quality lump. I've had bags with rocks and plastic. I've had pieces way too big and small unusable pieces. You can't go wrong with KBB.
 

Jerry N.

TVWBB Emerald Member
I guess I'm a Neanderthal, but I've really never noticed any real difference in charcoal. Fire is fire. Of course, the lump has less ash and I like that. And sure, sum lump has crap in it that I'd rather not have, but overall, if it lights, I can cook with it. If I want it hotter, more air. Last longer - less air. I do agree with the others that it's hard to beat KBB for cost and consistency.

To the original post, the best way to ensure reliable burn is to make sure to pack the ring tight. Don't just pour the charcoal in there and light it. Get your hand in there and rustle it up a bit to make sure to get rid of any big gaps. This is especially true for lump. On the slow and sear, I'd make sure to keep the area under the basket clear of ash so as not to choke out the fire. I personally think this would be a good application for lump given the lack of precision in the air flow. I'd also not use water in the slow and sear and work the vents on my kettle to keep the fire in the BBQ range. That will extend the burn time.
 

Bob Swaskoski

TVWBB Fan
I used KBB for years in my kettles and WSM. Tried lump but could not get the temp consistency that I wanted for low and slow. It was fine for steaks and such on the kettle though but in the end I could not justify stocking both. Now using B&B briquettes and really liking the outcome. Lower ash than KBB and long burn. I'd like to try Weber briquettes but hard to find around here.
 

T Haas

New member
Kingsford blue and stock up at the Memorial Day sales at Lowes and/or Home Depot.
Speaking of which, am I mis-remembering that these used to be 2x20lb for $10 (some years 2x18.6lb)? Seems this year it is 2x20lb for $19.98. Was the 10 bucks a thing in my way back mind?
 

Doug Selman

TVWBB Super Fan
Speaking of which, am I mis-remembering that these used to be 2x20lb for $10 (some years 2x18.6lb)? Seems this year it is 2x20lb for $19.98. Was the 10 bucks a thing in my way back mind?
Yes, you're right! The "sale" price went up last year to $12.98 for the 2 packs. Looks like a bigger increase again this year, along with everything else. Still watching for a "sale" price for the weekend, hopefully.
 
Get yourself some weber lighter cubes and follow the lighting instructions on ABC Barbecue site to the T. Don`t light too many coals at once or your fire will get away from you. Get yourself a chef alarm from thermoworks for around 60 bucks, so you know whats going on inside your cooker. You will get a food probe with alarm. I also ordered an air probe to monitor grill temps. Stick food probe in pork butt or whatever food your cooking and place air probe in clip on grill. Just unplug one or the other to get temp of food or grill. Plenty of you tube videos. One more thing, if you can keep your kettle out of direct sunlight that will help with temps.
 
it has to work well with the slow n sear method
Meathead's review of the Slow n' Sear says use briquettes.

Don't use lump charcoal. It varies from bag to bag and you need consistent heat. There is too much dust in lump bags and dust impedes airflow in the Slow 'N Sear. Also, with briquets you can count them and this helps you control temp. I recommend Kingsford Blue Bag charcoal because it does not burn as hot as the Kingsford Competition (brown bag). Whatever you do, pick one charcoal and stick with it until you've learned your pit.
Link

The Slow n' Sear Deluxe has a grated bottom that the maker says is better for lump users. ("Ventilated bottom plate is great for lump charcoal users and makes cleaning up after the cook a breeze.") But it seems like that grate (that then sits on top of the Weber charcoal grate) might just exacerbate the "dust impedes airflow" issue that Meathead talks about.

On lighting instructions for low and slow cooks, the maker mentions both lump and briquettes. ("Add a dozen briquets or lump charcoal on top of the starter cube with the charcoal tucked tightly into the corner or the Slow ‘N Sear.") So they seem okay with lump.

I'm more of a briquette guy because they are predictable and consistent. I've had lump that raged like a firework show, spitting sparks like it had gunpowder in it. So I just go with old reliable.

But you'll be okay with either one. I learned long ago that there is no single "right way" to BBQ. Trying different approaches is part of the fun.
 

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