Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

The Long Burn:The Method of Jim Minion

It was 5:00 in the blessed morning as I stumbled out onto the patio, bag of charcoal in hand, whilst sporting my designer pajamas beneath the twinkling stars above.  I put a match to the old charcoal chimney, sending the initial rush of smoke aloft, for to honor the day and to get a batch of coals going. Obsessive compulsive, the neighbor was probably thinking, whilst gazing out the window during his early bird pee. I wouldn’t argue that I guess. But it was Boston Butt time at the pit, and as any one who smokes the big meats are well aware of, them butts take some considerable clock. So early starts like this are what you do some times. But I also had every intention of going back to bed,  to those delicious, warm, blankets from whence I came. And after the smoker was under way, I did precisely that, thanks to a fellow called Jim Minion, and the good idea he had once.

jimminionJim Minion was at a BBQ competition one day, and had his wife pick him up a WSM cooker from the store. He slapped it together on the spot, and needed to figure out a way to “light it off“, and not being one for reading instructions apparently, he just tossed a bunch of lit and unlit coals together, and called it good enough. Worked out pretty good for him too, go figure,  as he took 1st place in chicken, and 2nd place in ribs. Henceforth,  “The Method” had been discovered. And it works exceedingly well. This is no news for you old timers I know, ye keepers of the flame and brethren of the smoke, but our readers are a diverse lot, patron to all the rungs of the BBQ ladder. And like hot coals lighting other coals still new, so to should we pass the flame of knowledge, igniting others,  like the Minion Method personified.

minion methodAs you delve deeper into the BBQ arts, you will want to try this technique. It is worthy for such endeavors as brisket and pulled pork, and really anything you want a long, controlled, burn for. And it couldn’t be easier. I usually start with a doughnut of unlit coals in the fire bowl, and dump a chimney full of blazing lit ones right smack dab in the middle. What happens is the lit coals work sort of like a fuse, lighting any unlit coals that might be sitting next to it. And those coals in-turn light some other coals next to them. And so on. It’s a beautiful thing really, of which gives you the time for the all-important business of kicking up your feet in the sun, with a good narrative and lovely beverage.  If your smoker is of good quality, and you put enough coal in, I’ve heard of guys routinely getting as much as 18 hours of steady burn time, averaging around 225 degrees. Now that’s one long burn.

If you have an offset smoker, or some other cooker where this method described above doesn’t seem right, there are gadgets like this to be found. Working off the minion method principle, or more precisely, the “snake method” many a pit master has had success with these sorts of charcoal baskets too.

LavaLock Minion Method Charcoal Basket w/ 2 Maze Bars 12 x 10 x 6

Turns Your Kettle Grill into a Smoker!

Here is another alternative for you kettle owners. This thing has gotten outstanding reviews, and they say it will give you 8 hours of burn time in a single load. It also works on the minion principle, and has a nifty little vertical water pan, to help act as a heat sink.

Slow ‘N Sear Plus

The Debate

It’s not all perfect tho. Within the Minion Method there are two camps. The debate you’ll find between these two are about things called binders. Binders are the chemicals and what-not which basically hold the charcoal briquette together, and it’s these chemicals that are released when a briquette is being lit. So naturally,  there are some BBQ folk who say this is not good for you, as this stuff may leach into your food, while the rest of us sort of shrug our shoulders because we don’t really know. Luckily, if it’s something that’s going to bother you, there is a solution in products like, Stubbs All Natural Charcoal, as seen in this link, Stubb’s 9-Pound All-Natural Charcoal Briquets, or lump charcoal, such as Fogo FHWC35LB 35-Pound All Natural Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal Bag, neither of which are supposed to have binders in them. At any rate, it’s something to think about, and you’ll have to make up your own mind on that I guess. Or if you have some knowledge otherwise to enlighten us, do share, as the community of BBQ is only better for it.

Regardless, the method of Jim Minion is quite the effective strategy should you fancy the likes of a long burn with minimal maintenance. Something I can attest to is a glorious thing, should you find yourself one day, lighting up the smoker at 5:00 in the morning, groggy-faced, whilst still in your favorite pajamas.

Off-hand and by the way,  if you’ve come here to learn about the minion method, then you’re also probably thinking brisket. Good thinking! The Minion Method is made for brisket. Here is a great read concerning how to smoke the proper brisket, as told by the best in the business. Aaron Franklin makes the best brisket in the country. How do we know? Just read the reviews of his book below, you’ll see!

Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto

*People who read this article also read: How To Melt Your Maverick:Wireless BBQ Thermometer Set – Maverick ET73

**Patrons of the Pit are affiliates with Amazon for Stubbs All-Natural Charcoal, among other things. We do receive a small commission if you buy through our link. We do appreciate it!

45 responses

  1. Maybe there will be an opportunity for me to try this one day. Makes sense.

    February 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    • Works real good, and if you ever do pulled pork, it’s the way to go indeed.

      February 18, 2013 at 10:27 pm

  2. GREAT idea! I love reading your blogs… funny AND informative 🙂

    February 18, 2013 at 11:24 pm

  3. Minion method is definitely one of the easiest ways to use your WSM. I’ve had my 18.5″ WSM burn for 14+ hours at 230 degrees without refuelling. You hit the nail on the head regarding charcoal though – I use either an all natural hardwood briquette, or more often natural lump maple charcoal. I really don’t like the smell of the briquettes out of a certain “blue” bag – in our neck of the woods, they just smell like coal.

    February 19, 2013 at 3:55 am

    • 14 hours is a respectable bar you have set. Amazing. I have done about the same in my 18.5. I have a 22.5 now, and have yet to see how long that one can go. Man it can swallow allot of charcoal though.

      So does your WSM run hotter with the lump charcoal then, and not burn quite as long? I’ve seen many a chap use a mixture of briquette and lump.

      Anyways, good of you to check in with us! Take care.

      February 19, 2013 at 8:41 am

      • 14 hours is with briquettes. Haven’t had an issue with going hotter with lump, but it certainly doesn’t last quite as long. Also, when starting my Minion, I always start it with briquettes, anywhere from 6 to 14 lit, all natural hardwood briquettes.

        February 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm

  4. I’ve been successful with an old coffee can (top and bottom removed) inserted smack in the middle of unlit coals and dumped the lit ones into it. Remove the can and voila – Minion goodness. I’ve also seen guys do a fuse burn using a mod with fire brick that runs down the middle of the length of a pit that’s used like a grill, and wrap a long snake trail of briquettes around it – lighting one end. Like this:

    February 19, 2013 at 10:48 am

    • Sweet! Thanks for the added thoughts. Lots of good ideas out there. I’ve tried a version of that snake-fuse-method before too. Worked pretty good.

      February 19, 2013 at 11:41 am

  5. I am hopeless with charcoal BBQs. I remember a very long meal of poorly lit charcoal cooked food. A nightmare.

    February 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    • Aw, that’s too bad. You have our pity! It could have been any of a myriad of reasons, from poor charcoal, or wet charcoal, or not enough charcoal. Sometimes it’s even as simple as in-sufficient air flow. It could have been any one of those things. The main thing is to have fun I guess, so if you must use gas, we can try and turn our heads. But we’d rather you give charcoal grilling another chance!

      February 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm

  6. Mmmm, pork butts. We did something like this with our pig roast a year and a half ago. We slapped a makeshift pit together out of cinder block and stone pavers, metal fence stakes, and untreated chicken wire from Menards. Then after procuring and preparing our piggie, we got up early and did two or three batches in our charcoal chimney, and dumped those white-hot coals over two parallel piles of briquets running the length of the rectangular pit. It burned until well after the pig was done, i’d say 18 or more hours. Our pig was only 60 pounds, and fell apart. Luckily we sandwiched it between two lengths of chicken wire.

    February 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    • Wow, man, that sounds like it was a good time! Awesome long burn story too. Impressive. Thanks for the comment. Well done!

      February 19, 2013 at 5:23 pm

  7. Reblogged this on More is More and commented:
    Makes me antsy for the sweet sweet tastes and smells of Summer.

    February 19, 2013 at 9:16 pm

  8. mdprincing

    designer jammies, nice touch

    February 22, 2013 at 10:03 am

  9. Pingback: News from around the BBQ Blogsphere | The Arrogant Swine

  10. minion method is the best way to go about it. i use it to get my drum smoker going and it lasts for a long time.

    March 30, 2013 at 4:27 pm

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  12. This weekend in the Northwest Territories is a long one, as Friday is Aboriginal Day. So, I think I’ll try this method to make brisket. Where I used to live (in Ottawa) there was an awesome Southern BBQ place that made a terrific brisket, and I miss it.

    June 18, 2013 at 10:11 am

    • Oh yeah, with the longest days of the year upon us, I reckon the sun hardly even sets on you way up there? Excellent idea then for to smoke a brisket! Minion method is perfect for that sort of thing.

      June 18, 2013 at 10:15 am

      • The Sun will set for about 4 hours on Friday, even then it’s only like dusk; never actually getting dark. This is great for drinking beer on the balcony; not so great for getting to bed at a reasonable hour on a weekday.

        June 18, 2013 at 10:19 am

      • Wow, that’s nuts! I think I would I like it tho.

        June 18, 2013 at 10:22 am

  13. Great slow style. I’ve been reading Thompson’s Nixon articles of late so this is a welcome contrast. Very interesting too.

    August 27, 2013 at 9:55 am

    • Low and slow, there is always something to be said for it. Mostly because it works. Never read Thompson Nixon. Might have to check him out, purely out of curiosity.


      August 27, 2013 at 10:00 am

  14. Great log and, BTW, I preciate your reading mine. Shared it on FB a I know a few folks who will love this

    November 26, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    • Thank you kindly, I appreciate that. I loved what I did read of you blog over there. I too am a big fan of the long rod. Not any good at it yet, but a disciple none-the-less.We fish as much as we can, and I have noticed over the years, that the fly rods seem to go on more trips than the other stuff. They are just more fun, it seems. As I like to coin, “Poetry on a Stick!”

      Anyways, thanks for checking us out over here. Great to connect with you. I also believe you will have a new follower very soon, that being me!


      November 26, 2013 at 5:45 pm

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  16. Thank you for good detail about lump charcoal

    April 3, 2014 at 1:19 am

  17. Pingback: A Mid-Summer’s Feast: Pulled Pork and BBQ Ribs! | Patrons of the Pit

  18. Hey guys, thank you for liking “liking” my blog–would not have discovered you otherwise!

    August 7, 2014 at 9:20 am

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  21. wow you know what you are doing! You know how to eat! Im in the wrong country:)

    October 23, 2014 at 12:07 pm

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  23. I used this method again, just the other day … cheers Smokie Brutha

    October 16, 2015 at 7:46 am

    • Sweet man! Yup, it’s a good one. Nice to hear from you. What did you smoke?

      October 16, 2015 at 9:05 am

      • Some beautiful St. Louis Side ribs … oh and, I forgot to tell you … I bought a pellet smoker from the good folks at Amazing products after I read your review … I LOVE IT !!!

        October 16, 2015 at 9:10 am

      • No kidding!! Well that’s pretty cool. Them are some slick little smokers ain’t they?

        October 16, 2015 at 11:01 am

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