Ready to smoking meat with charcoal? The time is ticking if you haven’t gotten your desired number of licks on the barbecue this summer. We’ve got grilling fish suggestions, how to get your backyard ready for entertaining, and everything else, but the more ambitious pitmasters in training are definitely interested in learning how to make true fall-off-the-bone barbecue (pronounced with a Southern drawl).
Barbecued meat is tender, juicy, smokey, and wonderful when done properly. You won’t even need an expensive pellet smoker or a Big Green Egg barbecue to make it in your own garden. All you actually need is a basic charcoal grill (you know the kind), some knowledge, and some practice (of course).
So, if you want to brag about making authentic smoked barbecue on your $40 backyard Weber Smokey Joe — and on a budget, no less — this is the guide for you. On your backyard cooker, I’ll show you how to smoke meat using a popular low and slow approach. Though mastering barbecue is a lifelong endeavor, preparing succulent pork ribs, shoulder, and beef brisket is much easier than you might believe.
Smoking Meat with Charcoal A Slow Burn
Cooking on a charcoal grill or stove isn’t the same as cooking on a gas grill or stove. You can’t just turn a burner knob to turn up or decrease the heat. Instead, the most important factors impacting heat levels are the amount of fuel, the volume, and the weight of your charcoal. If you use too much charcoal, the temperature of your grill will rise dramatically.
However, there is one popular method for keeping grill heat low and consistent. The charcoal snake method is the name of the approach. In addition, the snake allows your barbecue to burn for hours on end. Because of their spherical shape, the charcoal snake works best in kettle-style barbecues like the Weber Classic. It can also be used on other grills of similar size.
Stack the charcoal briquettes around the inner wall of the grill in two rows of two deep.
Place two regular charcoal briquettes inside your grill to begin. Arrange them side by side on the charcoal grate, just where the inner grill wall meets the grate. The closer one briquette is to the wall, the closer the other is to the wall.
Place two more pairs to the right of the previous pair. Repeat until you have a line of briquettes running halfway around the curving wall of your kettle (in pairs). Then, exactly on top of the already-in-the-grill briquettes, add another length of paired briquettes. You should now have a two-briquette-deep, two-briquette-wide semicircle of charcoal.
Smokewood pieces can be used for a more smoky flavor. In case you are looking for best charcoal smoker, we have some recommendation you can check.
Drop a couple bits of smoke-wood on top of the snake to lend some extra oomph to the smoke taste. Place them near the front of the chain, nearer to where the snake will be lit. When the meat is cold, at the start of the cook, it absorbs the most smoke.
Inside the charcoal tray, consider placing a drip pan filled with hot water. It’ll capture drippings from the meat on top of the grill. The water pan also aids in maintaining grill temperatures.
The minion method calls for briquettes to be placed on top of lit coals.
Smoking Meat with Charcoal: Light the Fuse
Check sure your grill air vents are set halfway open when it’s time to cook (both top and bottom). After that, lay 5 to 12 lighted embers in front of the snake. You can light these coals with a chimney starter. Another option is to use a paraffin tumbleweed fire starter to light your beginning coals directly inside the grill.
For charcoal snake ignition, a tumbleweed fire starter can be used.
Never use lighter fluid to start your snake, regardless of how you start it. Your meat will acquire unpleasant chemical flavors as a result of this. It’s the same with quick-light briquettes. A digital probe thermometer, such as this one, can accurately measure grill temperatures.
Smoking Meat with Charcoal Monitor the Pit
Ignore the hood thermometer that came with your barbecue. They’re all useless in my experience, ranging from 25 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit off the mark. Invest in a fast-read digital thermometer with a connected probe for precise readings. A device like this allows you to see grill temperatures at the level of the meal.
Attaching probe thermometers is a breeze with a grill clip. I recommend using a specially designed metal clip to secure your probe. You can alternatively insert your probe into a ball of aluminum foil and drop it directly on the grill grate if you’re in a hurry.
Place the probe clip on the opposite side of the fire, at food level, on the grill. The recommended temperature for smoking meat is 225 degrees Fahrenheit, while a temperature surge of up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t dangerous. Longer periods of anything above that may cause the meat to become drier and harder than usual.
To change the temperature of the grill, adjust the air vents (seen at the top). If the heat on your grill is too high, consider closing your air vents slightly. Allow at least 15 minutes for the fire to respond. To raise grill temperatures, do the opposite. Also, try adjusting the top or bottom vents only to fine-tune the heat levels. That way, you’ll be able to pinpoint any effects caused by the top or bottom vent.
Smoking Meat with Charcoal: Reap Your Rewards
A semicircle charcoal snake will usually burn for at least 5 hours and up to 8 hours. Of course, your particular experience is determined by a variety of things. These factors include the ambient outside temperature in your area and the design of your barbecue.
This is why barbecuing is so time and effort-intensive.
The benefit of the snake approach is that if you need longer cooking time, you can always add more coals. So whether you’re smoking a rack of baby back ribs (5 hours), St. Louis cut pig ribs, or a large full beef brisket (15 hours), you can count on your reliable charcoal kettle.
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Hi there! I’m a food enthusiast and journalist, and I have a real passion for food that goes beyond the kitchen. I love my dream job and I’m lucky enough to be able to share my knowledge with readers of several large media outlets. My specialty is writing engaging food-related content, and I take pride in being able to connect with my audience. I’m known for my creativity in the kitchen, and I’m confident that I can be the perfect guide for anyone looking to take their culinary journey to the next level.