From time to time we get asked how can some one get into smoking meat with out the price tag and hassle of a fancy smoker. Well, if you have a humble Weber kettle grill, you can do it just fine. Here’s how.
The Snake Method
Here we have our beloved 22 inch kettle grill set up with what is affectionately referred to in the BBQ circles as “The Fuse Method” or “The Snake Method“. And it really works. You old timers already know all about this, but the basics of it is this – light one end of the “snake”, and gradually the lit coals will light up the unlit coals, and work its way along, like a fuse. Very similar to the Minion Method, of which we go into great depth and detail in our write up from many years ago now, called, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion.
The Snake Method, if you’ve not tried it before, is the common sense answer to the age old question of whether you need to buy a smoker or not. Well, from one pit jockey to another, of course you should buy yourself a new toy if you can have one, that’s half the fun. But if you can’t justify the money or the space for another pit, or just don’t want to deal with it altogether, this technique will hold you over with a degree of class and poetry representative of the big named smokers, with an end game every bit as succulent. All you need is that old Weber kettle sitting out back. It’ll work with other grills too, but here’s how to do it with a 22 inch kettle.
How To Set It Up
In your charcoal chimney plop in 12 briquettes and light them up accordingly. Whilst the dirty dozen are coming of age, line yourself up a snake of unlit briquettes along the inside edge of your grill, as seen in the photo above. We made the snake 2 briquettes wide, by 2 briquettes tall. We wrapped it about half way around the grill. Once the other 12 coals are grayed over, just place them in similar fashion at one end of the snake. Lastly, place your favorite flavor of smoke wood periodically along the snake. And viola, your done! You now have a smoker.
How It Works
As the unlit coals gradually light up, so too do the old coals gradually die off. The cycle of life in your pit. The magic of the snake method resides in this balance. At any given time, you see, the number of coals lit in your grill will produce enough just heat to keep it near to 250 degrees. The perfect temperature for smoking meat. And as the fuse burns it’s course, it will also ignite the smoke wood positioned along the way, providing a nice, continuous source of care free curls. It’s just plain lovely!
Your meat bounty should obviously be placed opposite the hot coals for proper indirect cooking, but in addition to that, with this particular method, you would do well to periodically relocate your meat as well, because the business end of the fuse does indeed, move. How long does it take to burn the snake out, you ask? We find it seems to average around 5 hours for a snake going half way around a 22 inch kettle. Results have of course varied with the weather, but that seems to be the average of things. Plenty long enough for a rack of BlackBerry Baby Backs to come to edible maturity, as you can see, patron to the pit. Let’s plate these babies up!
BlackBerry Glazed Baby Backs courtesy of the snake method. It works people! Give it a try!
Tips for Snake Method Cooking
- Open top and bottom vents wide open to start with, then adjust the bottom one as necessary. The more you close a vent the less air gets in, thus the cooler the grill will run
- Use of a water pan can also help lower pit temperatures if need be, and provide a humid environment within the pit.
- Move your meat once in a while as the fuse moves to keep your spoils indirect
- Patience. It takes the kettle grill a while to get up to 250, but it will get there, and when it does, it will stay there for many hours.
- You can skip the charcoal chimney part if you want, and just light one end of the snake with a weed burner or a mapp gas torch or some other manly lighting device you come up with
- That thermometer you have on your grill lid is probably not accurate. To really monitor your temps right most pit jockeys use a portable digital thermometer doodad, like this one