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This is a story that might be of interest to some of the young guys new to smoking, and maybe a few oldies like myself.
I cooked my first brisket in a little cone-shaped grill in 1972, instantly fell in love with slow-cooked brisket over coals, and have been cooking barbecue ever since. Over the years, I’ve owned barrel style cookers, 22 ½” Weber kettles, WSMs, and a Big Green Egg. A year ago, we sold our home and moved close-in to the places we shop, doctors, etc. We moved into a town home and I reluctantly parted with the last of my charcoal/wood smokers/grills , a WSM and a Kettle, leaving me with only a Genesis Gas Grill.
I learned to cook briskets, butts, and ribs on the gas grill, even added a little smoke. But it was never the same as the barbecue I had always cooked with charcoal and wood chunks. I started watching Craig’s List and bought a 18 ½” Weber kettle yesterday. Would have preferred another 22 ½”, but none had been listed since I’d been looking, so I went with the 18 ½”.
I prepared a pork butt with rub and put it in the frig last night. This morning, at 7:30 I put it on the gasser to let it start warming/cooking while I was getting the kettle going. I used the “ring of charcoal” around the perimeter of the kettle like I have seen on the Forum , with several wood chunks on top of the charcoal ring. I fired up the first six coals at the front of the ring, and placed a drip pan in the center, inside the ring of coals. With the kettle set-up and ready, I moved the butt from the gasser to the kettle. This was at 8:00 a.m.
The only adjustment I made during the morning was to add another layer of coals on top of the coals I had started with. That is, my initial ring of coals was made up of three coals, two coals side by side, and one on top, all the way around. After about an hour of watching the cooking temperature through the opening in the top of the lid, it was only running at about 185 to 190 degrees, so I added another layer of coals on top of the ring. The only time I took a reading after that, it was cooking at 225 degrees. It may have gone up a little more later, but I never checked it. (While I was making this adjustment, I put the butt back on the gasser to keep it cooking.)
As I recall, this butt weighed about six pounds, bone in. The meat temperature, taken at several places, was between 190 and 195 degrees at 3:30 p.m. At that point, I foiled it and placed it in an insulated bag, and held it that way until dinner time around 6:00 p.m. It was great, had that charcoal/wood flavor that we’ve always loved.
The point of all this is to say that the ring of coals works like a charm for turning a kettle into a great little smoker. If you like to make barbecue for the family and ever find yourself in a situation where you have limited room for smoking and grilling, a kettle used in this manner will get the job done. Hope this will be helpful to someone.
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