Repurpose that old roaster pan, turn it into a smoker
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Grilling Good Eats: How and when to use the snake method for low and slow deliciousness

Snake Method
A Weber Kettle can be used as a smoker

By Mike Thayer

When you hear somebody say they’re going to fire up the BBQ and put some burgers on, chuckle.

Doing up some burgers is grilling, not BBQ. Grilling is hot fire, searing meats, quick cooking tasty morsels over direct heat like, you guessed it, burgers! Hot dogs, kabobs, pork chops and steaks are all excellent fare for grilling.

Real BBQ isn’t about burgers or hot dogs, BBQ is about a method of cooking - low and slow - it’s about infusing smoky flavor into meats over a long period of time. A low and slow method is perfect for larger cuts of meat like beef brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, whole chickens or turkey that are smoked for hours at a time using indirect heat, they‘re not close to the fire.

"But Mike, don't I need a smoker to do that?" you ask...

No!  You can use your grill, heck, I've even repurposed an old roasting pan, turning it into a mini-smoker.  A Weber Kettle grill can crank out some great smoked meats and BBQ using a charcoal set up called the Snake Method.

Going low and slow on a Weber Kettle or similar style grills is easy. To set up the Snake, what you want to do is put a semi-circle of briquettes at least two briquettes across around the inside edge of the grill. Do NOT connect the starting and finish points (head and tail), we‘re building a snake, not a circle. You can also do this with square or rectangular grills, just line the walls with your briquettes and remember - DO NOT connect the head and the tail. After making your ‘snake’ put about 15 briquettes in your charcoal chimney and light. When you see that orange glow, add them to one end of the snake. This is also a great time to add wood chunks, dropping them in spots along your ‘snake’ lined coals. Put on your cooking grate and place your meats in the center of the grill, there shouldn‘t be any coals underneath it. There you go, indirect heat and the grill’s lid is going to do the work for you. Put the lid on and keep it on, only take it off to turn your roast or whatever you decided to smoke about half way through the recommended cooking time for example. Don’t lift the lid to check it after just 30 minutes, don’t lift the lid just to get a better whiff of what’s cooking, you’ll release all the low and slow heat the lid has built up to put that great smokiness into the meat. What you are smoking and how long a cook you need will determine the height and depth of your snake. Pictured, is a standard 2x1 snake (two briquettes, one layer). Without the wood chunks, that snake setup typically gives you cook time of about six hours at 225 degrees. Putting another layer of briquettes on top will extend your cook time, but it will also increase the temperature. Each grill is different, learning the best build for your snake will come with experience. I like to use an aluminum pan filled with water along with the snake, it helps maintain a steady temperature and keeps the meat moist, the result is a better smoke flavor on the meat.

Roast Beef
Roast Beef done on a Weber, using the Snake Method

TIP:  Do NOT soak wood chips in water! You want clean smoke with a slight blue hue flavoring your food. White smoke - which is what you get with wet wood - is a BITTER smoke, which means food with a bitter taste.  Personally, I think wood chips are a waste of money (they're made for gas grills), I buy wood chunks. They have a much longer burn time and deliver a better smoke flavor than chips.

Meats ideally suited for low and slow deliciousness using the Snake Method:

  • Ribs
  • Pork Shoulder, a.k.a., Pork Butt
  • Whole Pork Loin
  • Beef Roast
  • Brisket
  • Whole Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Spiral Ham, Ham Roast
  • Salmon
  • Leg of Lamb, Lamb Roast
  • Meat Loaf (and wrapped in bacon... It's Another Dose of YUM!)

$pend Wisely My Friends...

For more great grilling information to include a boat load of recipes, check out my book, Grilling Good Eats now available in paperback on Amazon!

Grilling Good Eats Book

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