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I use a snake method on my Weber to maintain the heat at 200 degrees. Plus I soak my chips prior to cooking. A rack of ribs will take 5-6 hours and are absolutely perfect. Questioning 90 min to cook ribs?
Hi, Edge! In step 7 we provide a time range 90 min- 2 hours and 15 minutes, with a recommendation to finish in the oven if the ribs still aren’t cooked to your liking. It all depends on the rack size. The post wasn’t intended to provide a recipe for cooking but rather tips on how to use your grill as a smoker.
How is this different from bbqing directly over coals as far as flavor?
Hi Sandy, when you grill over coals you are getting just a little bit of flavor from the smoke itself, much of that comes from smoke generated from dripping fat hitting the charcoal. If you really want the flavor of smoke, you need to use wood, and you need to set up the grill in a way so that your meat is not directly over the source of heat, but to the side, so it cooks more slowly and so that it has time to absorb those wonderful wood smoke flavors. There are many different kinds of wood that are popular to use for BBQ. Hickory, applewood, mesquite, cherry, oak, alder each give a unique smoky flavor to grilled or barbecued foods.
Soaked wood definitely lowers the temp inside the grill. I’ve had good success soaking hickory chunks or pieces only 15-20 minutes. Wood does soak up some water. Here in the Ozarks the old timers used to build Jon boats out of wood planks. They’d put the boats in the water, the wood would swell and the boat didn’t leak.
Thanks for all the useful tips. But I must say as with other well meaning posts I’ve seen. I take exception to the idea of soaking the wood chip in water before using them. It really makes no difference whether you soak wood chips or not. The only thing wet wood chips do is temporarily cool the coals via the surface water they carry. Wood does not absorb water. That why they build boats out of it. You can better control the rate of burn by adjusting the heat of the coals with the air vents of the grill.
Hi All. Thanks for the original article and follow up tips and hints. I did my first smoke on the weekend and it wasn’t bad! Can’t wait to try again.
A quick Q. My Weber doesn’t have a temperature gauge so I’ve bought one to put in the lid. Any recommendations where I should put it? Similar to the photo in the article?
Also I used hickory, and found that it just burnt in 20mins. Presuming I hadn’t soaked for long enough (30mins) and had the coals too high?
Hi Graeme, that’s my grill pictured and I was the one who drilled the hole in it so I could insert a thermometer. I think the placement pictured works pretty well. It’s not at the very top, but it’s high enough so that it will give a good reading of what the temperature in the grill is. As for using hickory chips, both not soaking long enough, and having the coals too high may have contributed to them burning out quickly. That said, you will need to refresh the grill with soaked wood chips during the smoking process.
Thanks Elise! Perfect response. I bought a gauge and will put it I in this weekend. With this I’m sure I’ll get the temp right so not to burn the chips.
Thanks for taking the time to respond.
I would suggest just one improvement on keeping the temperature steady. If you have a Weber like I use close the bottom vents to the width of a pencil. Set up your coals, pans and meat. Then when you put on the top only leave the top vents open by about an eighth of an inch and seal the top cover to the bottom of the grill by placing four medium bulldog clips (that you can easily steal from the office) clipping the top to the bottom. It really helps steady the amount of air and thus the temperature inside is much more stable. Also this hack looks very impressive and everyone asks about it so you will sound like you’re a step above your neighbor or crazy retired uncle.
i’ll add a couple of things …first, you can keep the top vent open all the time, and just regulate the temperature with the bottom vent. I put a large aluminum pan, half full of water, below the meat and two smaller aluminum loaf pans, each 3/4ths full above the fire. I use hardwood lump charcoal. You definitely do want that grate that folds open for adding more lit coals. I start out with a can of unlit charcoal, with a few wood chunks, and add a smaller amount of lit charcoal on top and let it burn. Without all 3 pans and water, my Weber kettle runs too hot …with the pans that i suggest, I can easily regulate the bottom vent to get 225-250 F. Note: spare ribs take a little longer …like closer to 4-1/2 to 5 hours. I run baby backs 3-1/2 hours, sometimes 4 hours. To check doneness, just try to pull 2 bones apart – if it’s done, the meat will easily split because it’s so tender.
Oh yeah …You can use a remote thermometer on the grate, or just drill a hole through the side of the lid just above the rim and insert a standard BBQ type thermometer there …I’ve got one permanently mounted in the lid of my kettle.
Hi Brian, I did the same thing to my kettle grill, drilled a hole into the lid and mounted a permanent thermometer. It was a little tricky to drill the hole as I recall, needed a strong bit to get through the metal.
Most any steel drill bit works. For metal, I use a center punch (or even a strong nail) and a light hammer to make a pointed dent in the metal, then use modest pressure on the drill while drilling and let the drill bit work at it’s own speed (not too fast). Kettles are made from mild steel, not too difficult to drill …just a little technique involved, but anyone can do it.
Hmm, rather than stick the thermometer through the vent, I would pull out my cordless drill and drill a 3/16″ to 1/4″ hole in the lid. During grilling, it would release minimal smoke/heat, but would give me full control of the vent while grilling or barbecuing when using a meat thermometer.
I’m a little unclear on what to do with the vents.
The instructions say to “Cover the grill, positioning the vent on the cover directly over the meat. This helps direct the smoke over the meat. Close all vents (bottom one, too!)”,
I can see how positioning an open vent over the meat would direct the smoke over the meat (chimney effect). But if the cover vent is closed, how does it direct smoke over the meat? Surely if the vent is closed, it doesn’t matter where you place it. No?
Later it says “put a meat thermometer into the cover vent and check it from time to time”.
Are you supposed to close the vent completely, and then place a thermometer over it? How does it gauge the heat? Leakage from the vent?
Step 5 says “Keep one eye on the grill to make sure you see some smoke coming out of it.” Does this mean smoke should be leaking from the two halves of the grill, or is this smoke from an open (slightly) vent?
No kettle grill is airtight, so yes, you will see smoke coming out of the two halves and from the closed vent. And you are correct, when the vent is closed it does not matter where the vent is. But, when you put the thermometer into the vent — yes, you need to open it then — you want the thermometer as close to the ribs as possible; that’s why you position the vent over the meat. ~Hank
The bottom vents should be open a pencil width. Seal the top of the kettle to the bottom by clipping the two together with four medium bulldog clips that you stole from the office. Then open the top vent about an eighth of an inch. Then the temp should stabilize at about 250 degrees in the upper dome which is good. SLIGHTLY adjust the upper vent to dial the temp in the desired 250 degrees. Keeping the temp steady is very very important. Also put a small pan of water over the coals to keep the inside moist. Refill the pan as needed. I usually do this with ribs for 2-3 hours, then wrap the ribs in foil for 1- 1 1/2 hours to make the cologne break down. About a half hour for the mopping. You’ll be Q’ing like a pro.
Hot-smoked some salmon in my £17 kettle barbecue today, great results despite my having to use chunks of wood rather than chips. So much cheaper than buying hot-smoked salmon – here in the UK it’s so expensive!
Thanks for the guide! :D
Hank’s techniques work perfectly well on the 18.5″ Weber kettle. I have barbecued many a Boston butt on the small Weber using soaked hickory for smoke.
I have also had good luck on my Weber Genesis gas grill by removing the grate on one side and placing my soaked hickory (in steel containers available at a grill store) over the smoke covers which shield the burners. Center the roast on the remaining grate, and do not use the center burner at all. Put the roast in a small boat made of heavy foil. Baste with eastern N. C. BBQ sauce (the only sauce that should be allowed near pork, no sugar, no molasses), and baste with sauce and drippings from the foil boat as well. This helps keep it moist.
The eastern N. C. sauce is very much like Hank’s, except for the absence of sweeteners. If BBQing beef or chicken, I add the brown sugar and molasses.
The kettle setup I use is similar to what is shown in the following URL. I cut the second firebrick to make an even divider. Mixing wood chunks in the charcoal allows for a continuous smoke through the process. I also add a pan of water to help even the temperature.
Hi! Your article actually prompted me to go out and buy a kettle BBQ! I have been dreaming about smoking my own stuff for a long time and this finally gave me a way to do it. I have just this evening tried it out for the first time with some plum wood – and I have to say, it was a profound moment! The results were absolutely amazing. fresh meat hot off the smoker is one of the greatest treats i have ever known! In my case I found it best to leave the vents open just a tiny crack – maybe the seal was too good on my BBQ lid. For my first run I tried largely unflavored meat so I could really taste what the smoker was doing. I cant wait to explore this further. But anyway, I cannot thank you enough for providing the info!
Thanks for the info…. first time slow and low smoker yesterday for father’s day – did 10 racks of ribs and 2 briskets on 3 weber kettles, used pear wood chunks from a tree in the orchard and kingsford briquettes, about 8 hours and several beers later – VOILA! I’m an expert now and everyone expects me to do it this way all the time now! I also learned why the men are so big in texas!
When I first started smoking I used a weber kettle, and I loved the results and did pretty much exactly what you describe. Then I got an offset smoker and still have it. It is big though and requires a ton of fuel to keep going. So, I reverted back to my kettle. When I smoke on the kettle I will place four bricks off to one side and stack them two high and they fit perfectly under the grate and to the side. It serves three functions. Keeps the charcoal off to the side really well, heats up and helps maintain even temp and once heated it will maintain heat longer, thus using less fuel, and thirdly it makes it so the smoke has to rise up and over the bricks. I also foil wrap the portion of the charcoal grate that is on the meat side of the bricks. This makes it so all the oxygen sucking up from the bottom vent goes into the wood/fuel side and then I make sure the top vent is over the meat. I can smoke for 4 hours with about only 1 (large) chimneys worth of charcoal. Charcoal ain’t cheap, neither is smoking wood. I use my chop saw to dice up about 1/4 inch discs from apple wood logs.
you use just red bricks like you build a wall with?
Which size Weber kettle would you recommend: 18.5 or 22.5″? I don’t have a huge outdoor space so I’m leaning toward buying the 18.5. I would use it to grill mostly, typically for smaller gatherings of 4-6. But I don’t want to go too small if it would preclude me from trying the smoking technique described in your fantastic post!
I think it would be a lot harder to do this smoking technique in a small Weber. ~Elise
I bbq on my 22 1/2″ Weber Kettle, and I swear by a product called the smokenator (smokenator.com). They don’t do much advertising, but you will hear of them in barbecuing cirles. You will enjoy the results of this useful product.
Also. I have bought many grilling cookbooks. The best, by far, is The Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue. They use modifications of the smoker and oven that will significantly cut down your cooking times.
Can this technique be adapted for a gas grill?
This is a great technique. I would add that for not all that much money you can buy a charcoal-based water smoker. These are essentially the pro version of the technique described above. They look like a tall narrow charcoal grill and essentially have charcoal at the bottom, a water pan above that and a grill layer above that. The advantage is that they are more controllable. I often light one with a full load fo coals at about 10PM, put a chicken on at 11PM (whole chicken prepped just like for roasting) and reload the coals as high as I can go at midnight (turn chicken at that time) and then come out at 7AM to a still hot but just dying fire and a fantastic whole smoked chicken.
It does take a couple of tries to get the timing and fuel load right for a particular smoker but it ends up being almost no work for a great result.
And you can throw on a few other cuts like tri-tip or brisket if you have room.
WAY to go! Now EVERYONE knows the secret!! I have been smoking with a Weber for about 3 years. I just moved up to a side smoker with room to do a lot of food! Last weekend I did 14 pounds of ribs and two 6 pound butts. I had to feed the army of folks moving me out of my house!
You can use chips, chunks, or sticks whatever works for you! Be careful with hickory, you can really smoke a bitter flavor into the meat if you use too much. I personally like fruitwoods like apple or cherry. I find that the flavor is great, and there is less risk of getting a bitter over smoked flavor.