How much babysitting does a Slow 'n Sear need?


 

Tom Fisher

New member
I own a 22" Original Kettle Premium (in green!) and a Slow 'n Sear 1.0. That SnS does a lot of duty in my kettle, but I haven't tried anything low-n-slow since the Super Bowl. I made some spare ribs and trimmed off the rib tip meat, and smoked them all at once. The meat turned out great, but I spent the whole day, from church until after kickoff, outside staring at the digital thermo and fiddling with the vents. It was a cloudy, windy, and miserable time.

I'm wondering, just how "hands-off" can one get with the kettle/SnS combo? The less attention necessary the better, without sacrificing food quality.

My procedure was to light about 10 briqs of Kingsford original in my Weber chimney using a starter cube. Once they were lit, I put them to one side of the SnS, filled the rest of it up with more Kingsford, and added 1 qt of boiling water to the reservoir. Once it got to 200 degrees, I constricted the intake to the "smoke" setting and the top vent to about 1/2. Once it settled around 230 (or so, I'm going from memory here) I put my cast iron Drip 'n Griddle on the fuel grate with some beans in a pan, added the meat to the food grate, and the wood for smoke. I clamped the lid tight with three binder clips. The rest of the day was spent watching the temp on my digital thermometer and adjusting the vents - open a little, close a little, open, close . . . and so on, trying to keep it around 225.

This is supposed to be fun. Am I not approaching this right? My cooks always take too long so I might benefit from letting it settle at 250 instead, but I'd be happy if I can just walk away and trust it will stay between 225 and 275.

Thoughts?
 

Matthew Turner

TVWBB Member
If your one touch blades fit tightly against the bottom of the bowl, it can be very hands off. I don't pre-light any briquettes, I put a tumbleweed or cube in the unlit charcoal and light it up. I put the lid on once the flames are out. From that point, I usually get up to temp in about 30 min or so depending on other factors like wind and air temp. I cook ribs a bit hotter at 275° but it holds without binder clips, water in the reservoir, or much adjustment of the vents. Ribs and chicken are so easy with just a kettle, I don't use my WSM with ATC except for long cooks like pork shoulder or brisket.
 

Darryl - swazies

TVWBB Wizard
I purchased the second gen SNS with removable water tray. The water tray barely gets used so it gets me a bit more real estate. Personally the amount of babysitting is extremely low. I did a smoke on boneless beef ribs on the weekend and didn't have to adjust it once....checked it maybe hourly and it never went over or under by 10 degrees.
Things to do to achieve this include loading it with charcoal so it can achieve a constant burn, same with smoking wood if you are doing that.
The size and intensity of the fire started directly affects what kind of cook you are going to get.
I like a real hot small fire, this allows me to swing it back a few degrees or make it big and hot fast if needed.
I always leave the top vent 100% open......playing with both top and bottom just leads to more confusion and you can cook indirect at 250 if you wanted with the top vent fully open anyways. Most of my cooks are right in the 265 range except for chicken.
Cooking at 225 to me has no real benefit unless you are just trying to bbq all day and drink beer with friends or whatever.
225 also will keep you working your butt off to achieve.
The amount of time it takes for the grill to swing temps up or down 15 degrees with mild changes to the vents will drive you crazy.
You can wait 20 minutes and not see anything happen then adjust it more then it moves way more than you want it to....just make you nuts.
I have used my kettle so much and always top vent open 100% that I know where it will lock into 260 just by setting the bottom vent when it is cold. Example is when I was doing those beef ribs last weekend I had the initial fire a bit too hot and set the bottom vent to where I thought it would work.....dome temp was reading 310. I had to leave the house for around 25 minutes and I had no time to wait so I left. Came back and checked the temps right away and it was sitting at 265.....Point is that this is a kettle....not a smoker or anything else. I do run smoke in mine all the time.......but I find this 260 to 275 cooks very well on most things, and with the SNS it is super easy to do. Mine only leaves the grill for a rotisserie.
I find everyone's E6 cooks different so I would guess everyone's kettle does too. For me 260 is top vent open 100% and bottom is open about 1/4 inch.
Personally if I was you, next time I would try to set it closer to 250 to 260 and let it do its thing. Anything you know that tastes good cooked slower and lower will work well doing this method......took me a bit to get onto this method myself. I was stuck with the lower the better.
Look around the forums and for example people do the opposite......search hot and fast brisket........it will make you think.
Also make it easy to set it to 260 - 270....find an easy way to do it do you can repeat a great cook every time.
Good luck.
 

David-B

TVWBB Super Fan
I smoked on the old kettles and now the new design with the P style vents, I find the P vent adds a new level of control...I set mine up to smoke some baby backs and it held 260 +or - 5 rock solid for the entire cook ...no water pan and the outside temp was about 95 degrees in the shade
 

Randy G

TVWBB Fan
Tom. I had the same issues you had. If I want 225 , then I go with 8 briquettes. I think it generally just runs hotter with 10-12 briquettes and wood that can also burn. I’ve also come to accept 250+/- is perfectly fine. I start early and faux cambro everything.
 

Andy Kaminski

TVWBB Super Fan
My SnS doesn’t really need much baby sitting.
I’m happy with the results that 250 degrees offer.
It does 225 pretty good too but there is no real benefit that I know of, might even take more effort too.

It took a while for me to learn how to just chill and not be a nanny to it.
I‘m always running to town or doing something that takes me away for a bit and it’s does well.
Our performer can easily be seen so the wifey does watch it for safety reasons but hasn’t had to mess with it yet while I’m gone.
 

David P Harrisburg

TVWBB Member
Tom, I bought my first SnS when they first came available. Guessing 5,6 years ago? Anyhow like you, my first smoke was ribs and I sat staring at temp and fiddling with vents trying to maintain 225. Was not fun. Went and bought a WSM 18. Problem solved. I love my SnS have 2 of them along with their ss grates. They make great products. After that initial smoke with the kettle and admitting defeat trying to maintain temps I think the problem was trying to maintain 225. Now the experienced run at 250 even 275. I was fiddling at 235. Bad move on my part as I was always chasing temps. The SnS never leave the kettle. Make great direct, indirect cooking source. With that first attempt long behind me and moving on to WSM I want to repeat that cook on the kettle with the SnS It is so nice to remove lid and have access to fire and food. I don`t think I ever gave the 22 kettle with SnS a fair shot at smoking. One more thing which is probably the most important. Know your charcoal and how hot it burns. I didn`t on my first cook which didn`t help. I can fill up a chimney of Weber Charcoal little better than half full for a chicken cook dump in SnS and know I am going to maintain 350 to 370 grate temp monitored with a Chef Alarm. Weber charcoal no longer in production I went to B+B which burns much,much hotter. Again know how much and how hot your charcoal burns.
 

TonyUK

TVWBB Guru
Tom: From what I see you didn't do anything wrong except chasing temps. We've all been there. Give it an hour or so and see where it dials in. I don't bother with the mythical 225. Anywhere between 250-275 is good in my book. It means the food will be cooked a bit sooner....that's all. Top vent always 100% open here. Make small adjustments and let the cooker respond before tinkering with the vents again. This can be up to 10-15 minutes.

Don't sweat it. Have fun.
 

Tom Fisher

New member
Well folks, thanks to all your advice I smoked some ribs yesterday with confidence.

I loaded my SnS up with Kingsford, put a starter cube in one end, lit it up, and closed the lid when the flames died down. Had to finagle the charcoal a little to get good airflow, but after that it took care of itself. When the temp hit 225 I set the damper to Smoke and left the exhaust all the way open. It needed a couple slight adjustments to stay below 275, but I believe there were some contributing factors: It was hot outside and the kettle was in direct sunlight, and I had a pretty big (softball-sized) chunk of hickory burning inside. After that, though, I hardly touched it. The temp settled in around 250-265; in fact, and one point it held right at 250 for at least an hour. I spent the rest of the day playing with my kids and casually prepping the other trimmings. My ribs were actually done early for once. (I confess, though: I did add water to the SnS.)

Here's the end result, with some rib tips thrown in.


IMG_1830.jpg IMG_1828.jpg IMG_1833.jpg rib 1.jpg

Thanks for all the advice. Smoking is fun again.
 

Brian B Atlanta

TVWBB Guru
I did my second cook with the SNS/Performer for Back Ribs yesterday used those Smithfield extra meaty from Walmart on sale for $2.99 a pound those will be my go to ribs down the road they were excellent. This time I got dialed into 275 after an hour made some changes from my last cook. Started the top wide open bottom barely to half. At 180 closed the bottom to barely 1/4 and the top to a little bit more than 3/4 then did nothing to those vents again. For the first half hour it pegged itself to 266 left it alone and then it moved up in the 275 range which is where I like to be cooking ribs, it varied of course but not alot. Firm believer in the water I know others disagree but it worked for me.

1) Fire it up spray my ribs with fake butter to start, after 1 hour spray them with the fake butter again refill the water.
2) After 2:15 pull the ribs they have a nice bark to them then wrap with foil, brown sugar, blue agave, and regular honey and liquid again refill the water back on meat side down let it run for 2 1/2 hours. Opened them up flipped them over to the meat side on top brushed with some Sweet Baby Rays very little left them in the boat for 10 more minutes.

My family demands back ribs and they won't eat them if they are not fall off the bone so that is what they get although I like St Louis sometimes but can't argue with the boss meaning my wife. Nice bark on them they were fall of the bone but not mushy 3 pounds there were 3 of us all gone. I get not everyone likes them that way but you got to do what you got to do. :)

My poor UDS is only going to get used for the spatchcock turkey once a year ribs on the performer/SNS is the only way I am going to do them going forward. I was a bit depressed the first time I used the SNS chasing temps but now with the second cook really happy with it and thanks for all the input in the thread got a lot of ideas.

By the way I have used many liquids when wrapping, apple juice, orange juice, mango and the one below cause I had it laying around really never noticed a difference in the taste think it really comes down to the honey and brown sugar. I do use a dry rub to start but I do not add anymore after that.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1344.jpg
    IMG_1344.jpg
    28.9 KB · Views: 7
  • IMG_1345.jpg
    IMG_1345.jpg
    21.5 KB · Views: 7
  • IMG_1346.jpg
    IMG_1346.jpg
    31.6 KB · Views: 7

Tom Fisher

New member
I went at it again with a 7.75lb pork butt for Labor Day. Got up at 2 AM to start for a 5 PM dinner time. Lit up 10 KBB briqs in a chimney, put them all on one side, added water, charcoal, and hardwood. At 180 I put the intake at the Smoke setting and at 210 I constricted the exhaust about 1/3. I put the meat on around 3:15, and at 3:45 went back to bed with complete confidence.

Woke up 3 hours later to find it was holding steady at 232. Never made one adjustment except when I had to refuel, and it stayed between 225 and 244 the whole time. I got it nice and low but didn't chase it. The pork turned out pretty good too.

Thanks everyone.
 

 

Top