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How low and slow smoking on your charcoal grill



Delicious charcoal barbeque smoking at home is not as hard as you might think.


Brian Bennett / CNET

It may not be quite spring yet, but it's never too early to think about the grilling season. If you do it right, barbecued meat is tender, juicy, smoky and ridiculously tasty. The good news is that you don't have to own a fancy pellet smoker or an expensive Big Green Egg to fulfill these desires at home. The only thing you really need is a simple charcoal grill, a little know-how and some practice.

So if you ever wanted the cutlets to cook real smoked barbecue, and this on a limited budget, then this guide is for you. Here I explain how your meat smokes low and slow on your backyard stove. Although it is true that controlling BBQ is a lifelong occupation, achieving satisfactory results is much easier than you think.

Barbecue: what's the problem?

Once you taste a good barbecue, it may just surprise you. That is what happened to me, and now it has become a powerful need that often consumes me. Why? Easy. If you cook a tough piece of meat at low temperatures (225 F, 1

07.2 C) long enough, something magical happens.

Connective tissue, normally tough and unpalatable, breaks down. This process, combined with smoldering wood smoke, otherwise raises inedible food to the realm of the fantastic. Pork ribs on the baby's back "falling off the bone", tender pork or juicy slices of beef breast are all good examples of this type of cooking.

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This is the arrangement of coal for the charcoal hose method.


Brian Bennett / CNET

A slow combustion

Cooking with charcoal is not the same as flipping on a gas grill or stove. You can't just turn a burner knob and turn the fire up or down. Instead, the amount of fuel, volume and weight of your charcoal is the biggest factor that influences heat values. Too much charcoal and your grill temperatures will skyrocket.

However, there is one popular way that reliably keeps the heat in the grill low and stable. The technique is known as the charcoal hose method. The hose also lets your grill burn for hours on end. It is easiest to use the charcoal hose in kettle-like grills, such as the Weber Classic, due to their round shape. It also works in other grill shapes of similar sizes.

Stack your charcoal briquettes in two rows of two deep along the inner wall of the grill.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Start by placing two standard charcoal briquettes in your grill. Place them side by side on the charcoal grate, exactly where it touches the inner grill wall. One briquette must be closer to the wall than the other.

Now place two more on the right side of the first pair. Repeat this until you have a row of briquettes (in pairs) that run halfway through the curved wall of your kettle. Then place a different length of paired briquettes directly on top of those that are already in the grill. You should now have a half circle of charcoal, two briquettes deep and two wide.

Add pieces of smoke wood for extra smoky taste.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

To add a little extra oomph to the smoke flavor, drop a few chunks of smoke on top of the hose. Place them near the front of the chain, the closest place where you light the hose. Meat absorbs smoke best when it's cold at the start of the cook.

Also consider placing a drip tray filled with hot water in the charcoal drawer. It will work to catch drops of meat on the grill above. The water pan also helps to stabilize the grill temperatures.

The minion method requires filling illuminated coal with unlit briquettes.


Brian Bennett / CNET

The Minion method is not for me

I know that many people swear by another strategy for burning charcoal, the Minion method. This slow and low technology requires that you add illuminated coal over a larger number of unlit briquettes. I tried, and I personally have not had much success.

Maybe I need more exercise or I have to adjust my fuel quantities. Whatever the reason, my little charcoal fires tend to run away from me. Or they get too hot, or falter and burn out. Anyway, I find the hose method more reliable, even if it requires more work in advance.

Light one end of the hose so that it burns like a wick, low and slow.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Light the wick

When it is time to cook, confirm that the ventilation openings of your grill are half open (both above and below). Next place between 5 to 12 illuminated coals at the front of the hose. You can use a chimney starter to start these coal. Another way to go is to light your starter coal with a paraffin or tumbleweed fire starter, directly in the grill.

You can use a tumbleweed fire starter for charcoal hose ignition.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Regardless of how you start your hose, never use lighter fluid. That gives annoying chemical flavors to your meat. The same applies to quick-light briquettes.

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A digital probe thermometer such as this offers accurate grilling temperatures.


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Guard the well

Ignore this if your grill was supplied with a hood thermometer. In my experience they are all useless, usually around 25 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit off the mark. Invest in a fast digital thermometer, type with a wired probe for accurate measurements. With a gadget like this you can see grill temperatures at the food level.

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A grill clip makes attaching probe thermometers a snap.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

I recommend attaching your probe with a handy metal clip made for this. In a pinch you can also put your probe through a ball of aluminum foil and then drop it directly onto the grill rack.

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Place the probe clip on the right on the food-level grill, on the other side of the food side the fire.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

The ideal temperature for meat smoking is 225 F, although incidental peaks of up to 250 F are no reason for panic. Long stretches of anything that can result in meat that is drier and tougher than normal.

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Adjust the ventilation openings (shown at the top here) to adjust the grill temperatures.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

If you find the heat from the grill too hot, try closing your ventilation openings slightly. Give the fire at least 15 minutes to respond. Do the opposite to increase the grill temperature. Also try calling in the heat levels by adjusting only the top or bottom vents. That way you can detect any effect that causes the top or bottom opening.

Time to eat.


Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Pick your rewards

A semicircular charcoal hose usually burns for at least 5 hours and possibly no less than 8 hours. Of course your exact experience depends on other factors. These include the outside temperature in your neck of the forest and the design of your specific grill.

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Tyler Lizenby / CNET

The great thing about the hose method is that you can always add more coal if you need more cooking time. So whether you smoke a rack with baby back ribs (5 hours), St, Louis sliced ​​pork ribs or a big beef breast (15 hours), your trusted charcoal boiler has you covered. Do you already feel like a barbecue? I know that I am.


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