Lump charcoal/minion method question


 

Andrew-C

New member
Hello all!

I'm Andrew from Washington, DC, and I recently picked up a used WSM 18 after owning a 22-in kettle for a little over a year. I have modded my kettle and smoked on it in the past, with decent if finicky results. I cooked on the WSM for the first time yesterday (chicken) and had decent results, but definitely had an uneven burn on the fire using B&B oak lump that I simply poured into the fire-bowl over apple chunks (a la Harry Soo) and started with the minion method. My question is for those who use lump charcoal: do you find you have to manually build your fires or do you just pour your charcoal and hope for the best? If you hand-build, what are some tips and tricks you've picked up over time? Thanks!

Edit: additionally, the fire in my above example had burned more completely on the door-side, so I'm curious whether you veterans out there have a particular way you like to align the door compared to the bottom vents, i.e. over a vent, or away from a vent etc.
 

EricV.

TVWBB Pro
I really don't recommend lump for WSM cooking, perhaps for fowl. I think you can get it to work but I haven't had much luck with it. Lump works better in drums or kamados. Anyway good luck with the trial & error.
 

timothy

TVWBB Olympian
Welcome Andrew.
Using lump takes some practice but defiantly doable.
First thing I did was buy a second grate, turn it @ a 90 and wire it to the ring.
When you load your lump you do it in stages, shaking as you add to compact it.
I never bother with door position compared to vents, just rotate so it's front and center. Only keep the top vent downwind and if not using a wind block close lower vents up wind.
 

Brett-EDH

TVWBB Guru
i used to only use briq in my WSM as they are very reliable and consistent. here's a link to using WSM as a stick burner if you're seeking a more "natural" smoking session:


briqs when laid out correctly (snake or Minion) have a very consistent burn with even heat temps throughout the cook.

 

Andrew-C

New member
Welcome Andrew.
Using lump takes some practice but defiantly doable.
First thing I did was buy a second grate, turn it @ a 90 and wire it to the ring.
When you load your lump you do it in stages, shaking as you add to compact it.
I never bother with door position compared to vents, just rotate so it's front and center. Only keep the top vent downwind and if not using a wind block close lower vents up wind.
Thanks for the help, to everyone! So, I did already get the second grate, and used it for this cook. Your suggestion is a good one, I’ll definitely give it a try. It would seem to be like shaking a cake to get the air bubbles out…so am I correct in believing that a more compact pile is better? I imagine there’s a sweet spot but I’m still curious.
 

timothy

TVWBB Olympian
so am I correct in believing that a more compact pile is better?
Yes it is, especially on long or overnight smokes.
As far as where to add wood chunks I scatter them over the unlit, then dump my lit over the top.
I also split my chunks in halves or quarters... Just a tip I learned from here many years ago and it works for me.:wsm:
 

John K BBQ

TVWBB All-Star
Hey Andrew - these are all good tips. I find that the pieces in a bag of lump charcoal can vary quite a bit in size. I think the longer peices (say, 8" or longer) can cause your minion method to ignite and spread unevenly. Breaking up those longer pieces seems to help. Normally I can break them up with my hands, but once in a while a hatchet or hammer comes in handy.
 

D. Dix

TVWBB Member
Hey Andrew, a big West Sacramento welcome to you!! I have used a lot of both, and I love the B&B Oak lump. I agree with a previous suggestion, breaking up the bigger pieces to be more uniform helps a lot. I also replaced my basket with a vortex plate/basket (better airflow, overall). I often have windy conditions and find it can fluctuate temps a bit as well. If I am going to use briqs, I have found the Royal Oak Chef's Choice Professional works really well. Not a fan of Kingsford (Sac-relig, I know) the RO is a great replacement for the Weber briqs, that I absolutely loved, but can't get anymore. Overall, on the 18" WSM, briqs are probably the way to go. the 22" unit can handle bigger pieces which is why the lump works well with a some trial & error. Lastly, using a WIFI blower/controller like a thermoworks or Flame boss. Keep tryin' testing out new recipes and don't give up. The 18" WSM is an awesome cooker and you will do well. Blessings!
 
This is a one-time experience on a new to me 14.5 WSM (like new) and Royal Oak lump. -- not sure how it applies to the bigger WSMs, but don't remember it working on the 18. Forgetting that I had given my chimney away with the 18" I sold, I found myself trying to light with nothing but the fire ring (haven't even received the second charcoal grate for criss-crossing yet). With bacon grease impregnated paper towel (2 half sheets) from nuking bacon, and a pile of lump rising up out of the ring, I found there was enough draft, even with a breeze, to light the charcoal basically the same way the Weber chimney did for me.

After spreading the lumps, the burn went well and kept going strong through my short 1 1/2 hour cook time. After finish, more than half of my coal remains for next use. I would agree that breaking up big lump chunks would probably help, but I never really noticed a problem with uneven burning. Possibly because I tend to put bigger lumps around the edge of the ring before lighting.
 

 

Top