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Charcoal Grill Basics

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
In attempting my very first ever barbecue ribs on a charcoal grill, I found that they were edible, but not completely tender, as they should have been. Following is what I done, and I'd appreciate any comments as to how to do it better next time.

Goal: slow cook for about 5 hrs
Equip: 18" cheapo grill, vent in lid, but NOT in bottom.

Well, let me just get to the questions, then.

With no vent hole in the bottom, I assume the airflow would be diminished, resulting in coals burning out faster (I had to add new coals after about 1-1.5 hrs.). Am I correct on this?

What is the average time I can expect the coals to stay hot with the lid on?

I put my slab on after about 10-15 minutes, I think, when the coals where white hot. I closed the lid for about 10 seconds, and opened it up again to check the coals, and sure enough, there was no longer a white hotness to them; they looked as if they were already getting cooler.

I read that the coals should be ashen, but I never read how much ashen they should be. Seems to me, the more ashen they get, the cooler they're getting?

I really just need the absolute basics for this. How long to cook the ribs, how often do I need to add coals. How to determine the temp of the coals by looking at them (without a thermometer).

Appreciate any guidance.

-hc
post #2 of 18
yes

about 40 minutes, if you have a top and bottom vent, if you don't have one, try and leave the lid cracked a bit

correct


1. till they are done. 2. when they get too low 3. easy, if you can rest your hand just above the grill for a 5 count , your good. your hand should be getting really flippin hot by the end but if it's too hot to pull that off, then its too hot. if you can keep your hand there after a five count without any discomfort its too cold


best of luck
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post #3 of 18
I would cook indirect with the coals piled on one side of the grill and the ribs on the other. At 225 degrees ribs take "about" 5 hours if cooking spares, baby backs a bit less. Add coals when the temp starts to drop(measure this at grate level with an oven thermometer), when done ribs will bend easily and the meat will be pulling back from the bone. DO NOT peek constantly, if you are looking you aren't cooking. Flip ribs over once an hour, you can mop at that point if you wish. I would be adding a vent in the bottom or look into getting a Weber kettle(check Craigslist, I have seen 22 inch Webers for $20).
post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
appreciate the help, Gunnar.

I've got another question about this. I've read that some people add a pan of water in the grill to maintain mositure. I think like somehow between the coals and the grate?

1. I'm not sure how this would physically work, and
2. Wouldn't the water cause the briquettes to burn faster?

Has anyone heard of this method, and how does it affect the burning time of the coals?
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
hi Mary, thanks; yes, I do use the indirect method. I forgot to add that part.
post #6 of 18
listen to Maryb, she has probably forgotten more about bbq then I will ever learn. she has posted in the past she splits her coals to either side of the q places her meat in the middle then soemtimes she adds a pan of water (or beer!!) using some foil to separate the coals from the pan (sometimes placed on a brick).
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post #7 of 18
I'd suggest you drill several holes in the bottom of your grill, to promote air flow. You won't be able to dampen them, so don't go overboard. Use a 1/4" bit and put maybe five holes, in a diamond pattern, in the center of the bottom bowl.

Some other tips:

1. Always remove the membrane from the ribs. This helps them cook faster, and any flavorings you use, such as rubs, will penetrate better.

2. If using sauce, save it for the last half hour. Otherwise it will caremalize too soon, forming a hard crust.

3. When the ribs are ready to come off the grill, wrap them in foil and let them rest another half hour. Pop them in a cold oven or in the microwave (or even a cooler) for that rest, so they don't cool down too quickly.

4. When adding new coals it's best to start them away from the grill. I just kick-off a new chimmneyfull about 20 minutes before I think they'll be needed. If you add fresh coals directly to the fire, heat energy will go into igniting them, and the whole shebang cools down dramatically.

5. I cook my ribs using an off-set cooker and lots of smoke. Takes about 2 1/2-3 hours at roughly 250 degrees, plus the final rest. I use a dry rub but do not mop them. Sauce goes on the last half hour of cooking.

6. Just to reiterate what others have said: No Peeking! Every time you lift the lid the temperature drops by at least 25 degrees. As Mary says, if you are constantly lifting the lid then you lookin' not cookin'.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
OK, well I appreciate all the replies.

I would like to hear from Mary how she utilizes her pan of water. REMEMBER, I've got an 18" standard round grill, though I'm probably going out to buy at least a 22".

I also have seen mention of a grate that is hinged and lifts up to add more coals. I've looked locally for these, but can't seem to find them. Any ideas?
post #9 of 18
Hobo,

For the grill grates that lift on the edges to add more coal: I found some at Home Depot for about $20. Maybe a little more or less. Oddly enough, I didn't find those grills at some of the local outdoor bbq stores. But I definitely saw them at home depot.

As for the toughness: Yes, you need holes on the bottom of the bbq to get the air flowing. But another concern would be (and maybe someone can back me on this) the size of the rack of ribs you were slow roasting vs. the placement of the charcoals. What i mean is, if your bbq is so small and/or your ribs are so large that the meaty parts are hanging right over the charcoal for the 5 hours, then you will also end up with tough ribs. I'm not saying that is what happened in your case. Rather, just be careful that your rib and charcoal placement are as good as possible for a nice indirect-cooking session. It can be easy to over-crowd your grill, or use racks of ribs that are a touch too large for your indirect-cooking set-up (i.e. your charcoal placement)...leading to inadvertent direct-cooking. I hope that makes sense.

Good luck
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Ben, yeah, the ribs I had weren't very large, probably about 9 total. But thanks for the caution.

Anyone ever heard of stacking rib slabs ontop of each other during cooking? How in the world do they get done this way? I seen this on a Youtube clip. LOL
post #11 of 18
depends on how the Q they are using works, could be a nice toasty smoky oven with plenty of heat to cook big stacks of ribs. would have to see the clip at least:D
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post #12 of 18
Stacking racks of ribs on each other when indirect cooking or smoking on a bbq does work, but can be a pain.

When I did mine, I set my bbq up for smoking hickory chips. Coals on either side of the bbq'er, with a drip pan in the middle. I added my chips and placed my seasoned ribs right in the middle over the drip pan--sauce was only added near the very end of the smoking process. I think I smoked them for about 4+ hours and changed the charcoals about every 1.5 hours or so. They were stacked somewhat offset with the meatiest portions of the spare ribs as exposed as I could get them.

Doing it this way only smokes the exposed meat...or at least only the exposed meat gained that nice pink/red smoked color on their exterior even though its internal temperature does rise/cook. So, when I would add more charcoal, I rotate/flipped/turned the ribs to get the unexposed parts exposed to the smoke. From what I understand, the positive effects of the smoking go as deep into the meat as it will ever go after about 45 minutes of smoke exposure. In other words, you are not losing out on any additional smoking flavor by covering up the portions of the ribs that are already pink/red. And since even the UNexposed/covered ribs continue to cook, you are not losing out on any valuable cooking time.

The ribs turned out great!!! The meat fell right off the bone without any of that par-cooking via boiling.

Two things that would have made the experience easier 1) having that grill that folds open at the sides to allow me easy access to add more coal and smoke chips; and 2) even though stacking worked, I know there is a rack that allows you to stand multiple racks of ribs perpendicular to the grill and smoke them all evenly without the need to flip/rotate them during the process.
post #13 of 18
I have only seen the fold open grill for the 22 inch Weber kettle. 18 inches is to small for the pan in the center but you can do it on one side. The main reason is to catch grease for easier cleanup and no fires :lol: The pan can add some moisture to the cook as it steams. The drippings can also be used to make a gravy (this works very well with turkey).
post #14 of 18
Ah! That is true....I only remember seeing the 22" Weber.
post #15 of 18
Here's a question that's been implied in this thread, but not asked directly. I don't use a Weber type grill, so have no idea what the answer is.

How do you add additional coals to that sort of rig?

If I recall when seeing them in stores, you would have to lift the entire grill (plus food). Seems to me that would be pretty awkward. And it is almost a prima facia way of cooling everything down exponentially.

I'm sure there must be a better way???
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #16 of 18
There is enough room to drop coals in the handle area as long as you put it on so the handles are over the coals. The 22 inch Weber cooking grate also has flip up sides to add coals through. That grate is only on Webers at upscale stores but it is a common replacement grate at many stores, I picked mine up at Running's Fleet Farm.
post #17 of 18
nope thats about it. i have a large roasting pan i keep next to my grill, i quickly toss everything in,lid it. remove grill with a big set of channell locks i keep nearby. add coal, scooch it around. replace grill and meat. A flipside grill would make life much easier.
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post #18 of 18
1. Go buy a Weber Kettle 22" model. It will last you 15 + years, mine is 20+ years old.
There are several Weber 22" versions and the cheapest doesn't have the grate with hinges so you can easily add briquettes, you really want that grate it makes a lot of things easier.

2. The 5 hour time for ribs is using a smoking type method to cook, temps 225-250 max.
You can grill cook ribs on low heat turning and moping and that takes a lot less time.
Usually if you grill its best to Braising the ribs for 30 minutes to an hour can help make the meat juicy and tender. But be careful, if the water gets too hot and cooks the ribs for too long, the ribs can become tough and dry and lose a lot of flavor.
* Real Q ribs are never boil/braised,

Tips:
*** Trial and Error until you get a method that produces the desired results.

• As already pointed out remove membrane.
• cover the ribs with dry rub, there are all kinds of recipes on the net.
I prefer over night, but a few hours will do.
• If you use the method to build fire on one side, line the cooking side with alum foil, since your ribs drip fat on the sides of the weber kettle. Plus put foil for the driping directly under meat.
• Fighting your cooking temp will be the biggest challenge. Start with 15 briquettes all white with ash, as already pointed out new briquettes should be started externally then added.
• Since you are using a Weber kettlle you will need to mop/spritz, you do not need a water pan.
• Buy yourself a Taylor digital remote probe thermometer, for ribs you will use it to monitor the temp in the kettel at grate level. I use a cork with a hole drilled in center to insert probe thru. Cork goes in one of the lid exhaust holes. I actually have a dial thermometer with 7" stem but also use digital.
• After 1-1.5 hours mop/spritz ribs. Simple apple juice is common, you can try other baste/mop/spritz combinations. Baste about every 45 minutes. Rem. every time you open the weber lid you lose your heat and add more cooking time. If you are good at maintaining 225-250 F then you can mob/spritz once per hour.
• When the rib meat pulls back about 1/4"-1/2" foil your ribs. When you foil give each rack a good spritz/mob and add about 1/4 cup liquid into the foil. Put back on grill, for 1-2 hours. (With the liquid in the rib packets, the meat is being steamed tender by the liquid.) I put 2 racks per alum. packet.
• After 1-2 hours check for doneness. Open one packet and pull on one of the smaller end ribs, the bone should seperate with a tug, if it just falls apart you over cooked during the foil stage.
• At this stage there are several options.
- Dry ribs, don't do much more except a good spritz and cook a litle longer,
- baste each rib rack with BBQ sauce then reseal packets and cook another 30-60 minutes.
- Finish ribs on open grill, basting with BBQ sauce.
Personally I put the ribs back in smoker for 30-60, then finish on the gas grill basting with BBQ sauce.

I used to do a lot of smoking on my Weber Kettle until I finally got a nice smoker.
Here is a easy mod to help smoke. This will restrict the briquettes to a small vertical area on one side. Using the hinged grate it is easy to had more briquettes as needed.

I used a old heavy duty baking sheet, I came up with this idea after fighting the briquettes for smoking, it was a rush job so the cuts are not pretty.
• Notice I cut the bottom off the baking sheet.
• I left enough length to project over the grate but still barely fit under the weber lid.
• The bottom is cut to insert through the briquette grate.
• You can add alum foil wings to restrict the heat from escaping around the sides.
• Rem. you will have to turn your meat as the side closest to this barrier will be hotter.









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