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Using a Weber grill as a smoker

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Having the wife's relatives over for dinner today. Since it is nice and sunny in Fl, I'm using my grills. (Eat your heart out Yanks! :D) I'm marinating a flank steak in a bottle of Tecate, with brown sugar, teriyaki sauce and bit of grated ginger. They will go on the gas grill later. On the charcoal Weber I'm cooking some baby back ribs. Spice rubbed them last night, and they are cooking under indirect heat. About once an hour they get a bit of a mop to try and stay moist in addition to having the drip pan underneath with water in it.

Now, besides rubbing in the weather differences, I have a question. It is a real bear to keep the grill temp down in the 240 - 275 range that I want. I've got both the upper and lower vents dang near closed. Does anyone have any hard won experience that they wish to share? Are there tricks I'm missing?

Rich
post #2 of 18
Sounds like you've got too many coals going at once.

Off-set connotes two things: first, of course, that the food is not directly over the coals. But second is that you're not producing all that much heat to begin with. And that means keeping your coals down to a minimum.

Don't know how many you're using, but try removing, say, a third of them and see what happens.
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 #3 of 18
I think it's just a Southern thing to have your temperature RUNNING higher. :peace::D You need a BGE Johnny reb. They light up just as quick as a Canon in the winter and smoke low and slooooooow.
There is some sort of set up I have seen that allows that unit to burn slower and steady but it wasn't cheap.
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
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post #4 of 18
While not normally applied to a kettle grill, the minion method is usually worth experimenting with in any charcoal fired appliance.

Firing Up Your Weber Bullet - The Virtual Weber Bullet

You need to use a charcoal that won't add off flavors during ignition like the match light junk.

Probably won't help you much this time, but do play with it. There are other variations depending on the fuel holder and your ability to add air (and drop ash) from below. Some include laying out S shapes or lines of unlit charcoal.
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
KYheirloomer,

I think you have the right of it. I'm constantly opening and closing vents. I started out with about 2-3 coal layer on one side. Next time I'll reduce that and simply add briquets from time to time. I was trying to avoid that since I'd read that adding non-burning coals could influence the flavor.

As to the briquets, I'm using the "all natural" Stubb brand. I also use their "all natural" charcoal but that burns too hot and fast for this application. NEVER will I use the quick light stuff. I go through enough hoops to get the food ready to have it turn into something that tastes and smells like its been napalmed.

I currently have the Weber Genesis Silver C gas grill and the Weber "Performer" charcoal grill. I'm trying to explain to the missus that I NEED a dedicated smoker. :bounce: Well we'll see.

Thanks to all for your response, I'll need to look into them a bit.

Rich
post #6 of 18
Rich, I don't care which brand you're using, if it's a briquet there is some kind of binder. And that could produce an off-flavor. You might try keeping a separate fire going. Start the briquets there. Once they're coated with ash they can get added to the existing fire.

I'm guessing that this might be awkward with a kettle type grill. I don't have one of those, so ain't familiar with the mechanics. Mine is a rectangular grill, with a separate, off-set cooker.

In theory, at least, when smoking I never have to open the door on the main grill.

Hopefully, Mary will chime in with some of her expertise.
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 #7 of 18
Once you determine the timing needed to add coals start them15 minutes ahead of time in a charcoal chimney. No matter what you do slow smoking on a weber kettle is a pain with constant fire tending.
post #8 of 18
I have done a lot of smoking in my weber kettle, pork butt/shoulder, ribs, brisket, etc. I use one digital remote probe, and my gas weber's dial thermometer. I use a cork plug with hole drilled and insert the plug in one of the top vent holes to hold the probe or the dial. The probe can at first be used at grate level then later in the meat.

I have played with several methods of charcoal, from starting with a heap in the starter can then adding unlit charcoal, or adding pre-lit briquettes. As you can see below, all the briquettes are stuff in the side thru the hinge grate. I usually start with about 3/4 starter can, and then add briquettes during the cook.

Smoking with a weber kettle requires a lot of tending. It's hard getting the temps right. I pre-heat to about 300 before adding meat, when meat is added temp drops. Then I start closing the bottom vents until achieve the desired temp range 225-250. The bottom vents on my model each close individually. I always keep the vent close to the charcoal closed and adjust the other two. One way to prevent losing all the heat when adding wood or charcoal, instead of pulling the lid completely off, slide the lid and rest on tray, and quickly add wood or charcoal. I have the hinge open always to do this quickly when opening lid.

Don't forget to either use drip pans or line the inside with alum. foil.

I now happily own a MES and no longer worry about temp control, and get sleep now when cooking in the wee hours.

Hope the below construction helps...




I fashioned my own smokenator out of a heavy duty baking tray. Note, this was done one night in the wee hours in haste, I have been using it for a couple of years, always intending to improve it, but never did.



*You must have the newer top grate that has the flip up sides so you can easily add charcoal and wood.

Step One: Use a tape measure and measure the length necessary to push through both grills and and still clear once the lid is on the kettle. My length is 13"

Step Two: Cut a 3/8" about 7.5" or 8" up the center, (my cut was too wide). This is so you can insert through top grill. Then widen the cut at the bottom so the tray can be inserted through the charcoal grate whichs has two supporting cross members instead of one like the top grate.
My cutting error was a result of too much beer.

*I insert my tray at an angle 1 row behind the top grate hinge, and angle down toward the charcoal grate two rows in toward the center. If you insert tray straight the width of tray is two wide. I insert the tray as close to hinge as possible on the top grate, this gives me maximum cooking space.

Step Three: Measure the bottom grate opening. The bottom charcoal grate on my kettle has two center cross supports about 1.5" apart. If I was going to do it again, I would cut a piece of cardboard and lay it on the bottom grate, center with the edge where I want the tray to go thru the charcoal grate, then draw my marks on the cardboard template, then us the template to make my cuts.

Due to my cuts being so bad, I lift the top grate insert the tray and then wrap the tray with a few wraps of alum foil to cover that 2" opening. Then carefully insert into bottom grate. With the hinge open I then loosely stuff some alum foil at the side openings to block those as well.








MES MASTERBUILT ELECTRIC SMOKEHOUSE
I now smoke with a real smoker, and don't have to fight temps.... A lot less work...





post #9 of 18
I use a Minion method variant I've worked out. Make a ring of briquets around the edge of the charcoal grate, then another ring inside that one, then a third ring on top of the bottom two so you have a roughly 3-4 thick briquet ring of the desired length (2/3 the way around will give you at least 6 hours [this is in a 22" Weber kettle]). Put your hardwood chunks on top of the ring. Put 8-10 lit briquets at one end of the ring & put a chunk of hardwood on top of that, & you're off. My vents are usually, roughly, 2/3 closed on the bottom, half closed on top. Your mileage may vary.



When I started doing this, I hovered & fussed quit a bit, but eventually it sank in that it does actually work & will hum along at ~250 very nicely. Now when I 'cue I take a look at it every hour or so, but even that's not really necessary.

One of the trickiest bits is lighting so few coals in a chimney starter. Cut a cardboard (obviously) egg carton into thirds, put a briquet in each dimple, stack them up in the chimney & light. Arrange the coals into a pile in the chimney after the cardboard has burned away. Works much better than newspaper.

I use Kingsford briquets, & I've never noticed any "off flavors" in my barbecue, nor has anyone ever mentioned such to me.

Until you manage to negotiate the real smoker, give this a try. It should work well enough for you to hold out for a really good one.
The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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post #10 of 18
FWIW, that's not a Minion method fire, that's a "snake." Minion method is hot coals on top of unlit briquettes.

BDL
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post #11 of 18
Here's a few links to some of the computer controlled fan systems I was referring to up-thread. What they do is control the temperature so your not fiddlin around constantly with the controls.
The down side is they are costly and since the OP is in FL if you did decide to drop that much another option might be to step up to a ceramic cooker like the Grill Dome. They should be well with in driving distance and a good bit more cost effective than BGE.




Rock's Barbque Home

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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks to all of you,

The quality and quantity of expertise on this board is awesome. Anyway, for the last couple of hours the temp stabilized at 250 and the ribs turned out quite good. Everyone enjoyed them.

Once again thank you,

Rich
post #13 of 18
Variation on a theme, innit? I didn't know it had a name.

I call it fuse. Better than rim job, which I also considered... but when one is discussing smoking butt in a kettle, things can & sometimes do get out of hand.

I got orange wood yesterday.

parse that. :bounce:
The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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post #14 of 18
While I wish I had a "smoker" I don't but that doesn't stop me from using my Weber kettle grill to "smoke" and barbecue. Sure it takes considerable tending compared to a smoker, but it can be done. I also often use lump charcoal, but it can sometimes be hard to find in my area, especially in winter when places aren't stocked up for grilling (I try to buy enough to last through the winter but I don't always succeed). I have smoked using briquettes quite often, and it can be done without contributing off flavors, but you need to burn them down before adding them to the grill. That's why I own a couple of chimney starters. If you don't own a hinged grate for you Weber, buy one. It makes life much easier when adding new fuel and you can do it in much less time, which prevents too much cool down. I find that 15-20 briquettes keeps my grill at the right temperature, in winter, a few less in summertime. Hope this helps.
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http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 
I've been doing a bit of web surfing on the subject of smokers. Unfortunately, the good ones are pretty durnd expensive. Since I have a Weber Genesis Silver gas grill and the Weber Performer charcoal grill, buying a $400 plus smoker would not sit well with the missus. Besides which I have to consider where to put it. :confused:

While surfing I came across this interesting gizmo called the smokenator. It is very reminiscent of the setup that deltadude posted above and specifically designed for a Weber kettle grill. I'm going to sleep on it but I may very well get one.

So ladies and gents, for your amusement and edification I give you.....the smokenator!! :peace:

About.com: http://www.smokenator.com/

Rich
post #16 of 18
Variation on a couple of different themes, probably. But not on the Minion method. There are a lot of variations, like putting the hot coals in the center, or underneath, but you're really stretching the definition of Jim Minion's contribution.

He was by no means the first person to run a smoker in such a way that fresh charcoal briquettes would continually ignite rather than have all the charcoal burning at once -- in order to make the burn last longer or help keep the temp steady.

He seems to have been the first person who filled the pan of a WSM with briquettes and poured a lit chimnehy on top of that in competition. And, to give it some context, at the time the conventional wisdom was that the taste produced by a mature fire was superior to that made by a briquettes just igniting.

But whether he was even the first or among the first to settle on the method outside of comp... who knows? Jim isn't shy. If you ask him, he invented fire.

As to the rest of us... We give him "Minion Method" in offset fireboxes and charcoal baskets -- but not hot on one end, and a trail of fuel on the other. That's "snake," as I said. And it's been around a lot longer than Jim Minion.

It's not really very important, other than being a bit of a burr under the saddle. It's something like confusing a "Dob" with a "Newtonian" telescope. Dobson did not invent the Newtonian (I'll bet you can guess who did, though), he just popularized the combination of a largish Newt in a particular sort of mount.

This seems to be a case of "independent discovery," as opposed to original invention. It's impressive, that you figured it out on your own, but you're not the first.

To whom?

OIC.

Nice.

Done and done,
BDL
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post #17 of 18
There are many good smokers, you don't have to spend $400. In fact the best deal on a smoker right now is the Char Broil Double Chef, $70 (reg price $180). A WSM knockoff, that really is a super deal for a unit that is built very solid and cooks great. On the smoking forum I frequent guys who wanted a WSM but don't want to pay $280-$300 for the 18" dia. are jumping all over this. **** I might even buy one, or two and save one in a box for a nice gift.

post #18 of 18
FWIW, I posted a picture tutorial of my Weber kettle smoking tek on the Smoke Ring forum.

I initially tried to post this here, but apparently my pictures were too big.  Or I was doing it wrong.  Or something.  Anyway, there it is.  Hope it is of use to the smokerless among us.
Edited by Grumio - 2/25/10 at 5:36pm
The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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