Kettle Q: Issues with temp control using lump in SnS

KevinInStL

TVWBB Member
So I'm an lump-only guy. I prefer to bathe my meat in the cleanest and most natural smoke possible. My wife and I both have very sensitive digestive systems, and we find that meat cooked with even high quality briquettes like B&B gives us an upset stomach. So lump it is.

I also like to BBQ on the hot & fast side, somewhere in the neighborhood of 300-350. However, I've been having issues with my temperatures going too high when using lump in the Slow n Sear. I always see people say lump is inconsistent in heat output. I wouldn't say that it's inconsistent, but my problem is that the whole slow n sear catches fire before the first section has burned out, and so I always get bell-shaped curves in my temps, and often find it hard to stay under 350 (then later, above 300) without a ton of babysitting the vents. Part of this is due to the shape of the SnS with the middle being much wider than the ends. I put a firebrick in the middle of my slow n sear to try to even out the cross section, but it didn't help much. I don't mind a little fire management, but I'm not a fan of having to fuss with it constantly.

I got a Slow n Sear because I was under the impression that it'd make long BBQ cooks on the kettle easier. But now I'm wondering if it's making it more difficult. Is there a better way to BBQ with lump in a kettle? Is the snake method even possible with lump? Or should I just save up for a WSM in addition to the kettle?
 
I don`t think the slow n sear was intended to use lump. Lump burns much hotter. I like to use lump in my slow n sear when doing chicken wings. Nice and crispy. Easy to get over 400. Maybe look at a Akorn.
 

KevinInStL

TVWBB Member
Yeah the high temps are great when I'm cooking chicken, but too high for almost anything else.

Really, I'm trying to figure out how to make lump work with my kettle without buying a new cooker.
 

John K BBQ

TVWBB Member
I have had similar issues with lump when using slow and sear. I have not proven this yet, but I think the reason for inconsistent temp control on slower cooks could be the inconsistent size of the lump pieces. I have tried several brands, including Rockwood, BGE, and Royal Oak lump. Regardless of brand, the size of the pieces range from golf ball to the size of my forearm! I think that once the big pieces catch, then they ignite whatever they are in contact with, spreading the fire and upping the heat more rapidly than desired. You could test this by sorting out the big pieces and break them up before filling up the SNS. I have started this lump-size-sorting method when using lump in my WSM and have noticed the difference in temperature control. Normally I just break it up using my bare hands, and try to keep the larger pieces < 5 or 6" long, but for SNS you may want to go smaller, and maybe use some sort of tool to make it smaller? (hammer & chisel?)

Regarding the B&B, it is a really popular brand of briquettes, but I have reservations. When I used it I noted that it was very low ash, but during clean up I noticed the left over coals had a strange orange color to them. If you would consider trying briquettes again, I think the Weber brand is very good, and would also recommend Kingsford competition, Humphrey's brand briquettes are also really good, but I've only bought Humphrey's in Afton at the St. Louis BBQ Store. These briquettes all smell and look great when lighting them in the chimney without any black smoke. I think all of these are made in the USA and believe they use cornstarch binders.
 

KevinInStL

TVWBB Member
I have had similar issues with lump when using slow and sear. I have not proven this yet, but I think the reason for inconsistent temp control on slower cooks could be the inconsistent size of the lump pieces. I have tried several brands, including Rockwood, BGE, and Royal Oak lump. Regardless of brand, the size of the pieces range from golf ball to the size of my forearm! I think that once the big pieces catch, then they ignite whatever they are in contact with, spreading the fire and upping the heat more rapidly than desired. You could test this by sorting out the big pieces and break them up before filling up the SNS. I have started this lump-size-sorting method when using lump in my WSM and have noticed the difference in temperature control. Normally I just break it up using my bare hands, and try to keep the larger pieces < 5 or 6" long, but for SNS you may want to go smaller, and maybe use some sort of tool to make it smaller? (hammer & chisel?)
Hmm yeah that may be a good idea. I do have a small hatchet that I already use for breaking up the huge pieces of lump, so maybe I'll try taking it a little farther as you describe.
Regarding the B&B, it is a really popular brand of briquettes, but I have reservations. When I used it I noted that it was very low ash, but during clean up I noticed the left over coals had a strange orange color to them. If you would consider trying briquettes again, I think the Weber brand is very good, and would also recommend Kingsford competition, Humphrey's brand briquettes are also really good, but I've only bought Humphrey's in Afton at the St. Louis BBQ Store. These briquettes all smell and look great when lighting them in the chimney without any black smoke. I think all of these are made in the USA and believe they use cornstarch binders.
Yeah I have noticed the orange tint to the ashes from the B&B briqs, and I too found it pretty odd. Probably not a good sign if you're looking for "purity". I haven't tried Weber or Humphrey's briqs yet, but I have considered both. My reservation is that they're both very pricey bags of charcoal if they turn out not to work. But I guess there's only one way to find out.
 

Bob Swaskoski

TVWBB Fan
Does your SnS have the water insert and if so are you using it with hit water? I don't use lump often but I find it much easier to control a consistent temp with the water insert.
 

KevinInStL

TVWBB Member
Does your SnS have the water insert and if so are you using it with hit water? I don't use lump often but I find it much easier to control a consistent temp with the water insert.
Hmmm yes it does have the water insert but I usually don’t use it as i see so many people saying they don’t bother with it, and I find i use way more charcoal with it. I do start with boiling water.
But I think maybe I will start using the water regularly.
 

John K BBQ

TVWBB Member
Try using a garden style watering can, one with a funnel-like narrow spout helps hit that narrow little trench. Obviously one with a sprinkler end on the spout won't work. I think that little trench holds around 64 oz. Unlike a water pan in a Smokey Mountain, I think it's best to start w/cold water.
 

Timothy F. Lewis

TVWBB Hall of Fame
I disagree JohnK ,
I would absolutely start with hot tap water, (no reason to use boiling water) save yourself some time on the front end of the cook, getting a half gallon of cold water hot is going to tax your fuel when it is trying to get the kettle up to temperature, why make it work that hard. It’s not like you won’t be adding more.
Maybe I am mistaken but, that’s how the heat sink is supposed to work, by mediating temperature not having as many spikes.
Kevin, have you tried any of the other charcoal styles? “ Pok Pok Than”, Thai style rambutan charcoal? Some of the “cube style” charcoal? The Thai stuff is supposed to be really long burning though a bit challenging to start. I have a box that I have still not opened! I thought it might be perfect for the “Go Anyhwere” but, I can’t get to that in the back of the garage, too many kettles in the way!
 

John K BBQ

TVWBB Member
I disagree JohnK ,
I would absolutely start with hot tap water, (no reason to use boiling water) save yourself some time on the front end of the cook, getting a half gallon of cold water hot is going to tax your fuel when it is trying to get the kettle up to temperature, why make it work that hard. It’s not like you won’t be adding more.
Tim - disagreement is healthy. Give me a re-do? For me, starting w/hot or cold water depends somewhat on the weather, fuel, and what temperature you want to run. I've used hot water in cold weather to help get the kettle up to 225 or 250. I've also filled with cold water during hot weather when overshooting temperature seemed more likely. In this case, Kevin reports that he's using lump and fighting temperature spikes, which is why I recommended cold water. As said before in this string, type of charcoal is important, and how you light the fire is pretty important too. Not trying to start or win an argument, just sharing my experiences..
 

John K BBQ

TVWBB Member
Hmmm yes it does have the water insert but I usually don’t use it as i see so many people saying they don’t bother with it, and I find i use way more charcoal with it. I do start with boiling water.
But I think maybe I will start using the water regularly.
Kevin - SNS's lighting instructions are to start with a handfull of lit coals in the corner of the SNS, and then fill the rest of the SNS with unlit. Is that the method you're using, or are you doing it differently? https://snsgrills.com/pages/slow-n-sear-lighting-instructions SNS says to put boiling water in the reservoir, and not to use cold. When I put cold water in, I do it from the start so the water can heat slowly. Putting cold water in after the unit is hot could crack the welds, so not recommended.
 

Timothy F. Lewis

TVWBB Hall of Fame
Tim - disagreement is healthy. Give me a re-do? For me, starting w/hot or cold water depends somewhat on the weather, fuel, and what temperature you want to run. I've used hot water in cold weather to help get the kettle up to 225 or 250. I've also filled with cold water during hot weather when overshooting temperature seemed more likely. In this case, Kevin reports that he's using lump and fighting temperature spikes, which is why I recommended cold water. As said before in this string, type of charcoal is important, and how you light the fire is pretty important too. Not trying to start or win an argument, just sharing my experiences..
Fair enough John,
I get your reasoning regarding ambient temp but, given the sporadic spikes of the aforementioned lump, maybe the water temperature is the least of the worries.
 

Top