How to cook Low and slow on a kettle style BBQ

Urban GrillerOct 6th 2015+6
Most of us have used our kettles mainly for roasting and grilling. In Australia, the idea of “low and slow” was unheard of until a few short years ago.
Frustrated by the limitations of the little charcoal fences and the two techniques described in the Weber user guide, and armed with some sage advise from some of the good ol boys in the US, we began experimenting with new fire setups.

The Fuse
The “fuse” method (affectionately referred to as the “snake”) is popular with Australian barbecuers wanting to cook “low and slow”.
The Fuse guarantees a stable temperature, is easy to setup, and can be relied on to cook your food while you are off doing other things. The configuration of the briquettes in the fuse dictates the amount of heat and the length gives the duration of the burn.

In this method, carefully lay two briquettes side by side on the charcoal grate around the wall of the kettle. Starting from the end of the “fuse,” carefully place another briquette on top of the two on the bottom, then lean another on that one; continue leaning the top row on the previous briquette all the way around to the start.

This structure ensures that as the fire burns, the lit briquettes will fall towards the unlit ones and not away from them. At the very start of the fuse, leave four briquettes without the top row. This is a kind of launching pad for the lit briquettes to “mount” the fuse and start the whole thing burning.

Light half a dozen or so briquettes in a chimney. Once they are burning well, carefully place the lit fuel on the “launching pad.” I have set the bottom and top vents to half open.
It is only necessary to adjust the vents if you are fighting ambient conditions like wind or extreme cold.
Wind will blow through the vents and feed the fire making the fuse burn too fast; closing the vents a little can help, but the only real answer to wind is to find a protected spot to cook. Opening the vents will let the fuel burn cleaner and hotter, which helps combat extreme cold.

After half an hour the temperature has settled down to 82° C (180° F). Another half hour later and the fuse has started to light and the temperature is stable at 105° C (220° F). Three hours later and the temperature is still 105° C (220° F). The fuse will progressively burn, but because there are only six or so briquettes burning at any time, the temperature will stay at 105° C (220° F) for many hours without the need for any maintenance. In fact, you don’t even need to be home!

Place some wood chips, chunks, or herbs along the fuse for a progressive release of smoke flavour as the fuse burns.

Increasing the amount of fuel in the fuse will increase the temperature. One briquette will add roughly 25° C (50° F).
For example, if I use a base of two briquettes in the base of the fuse, two on top of that and one more on the top of that (two more briquettes than in the previous example), the temperature settles in nicely at 152° C (305° F), a nice slow roasting temperature.


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Comments 3

  • Another method that I use often is the Kettle version of the Minion Method. This method started by Jim Minion from USA was first done in a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker and he needed a way to reduce the burn and extend the time of the cook up during competition cook ups.
    The method being that you pile a heap of unlit coals on the bottom and place a layer of hot lit coals on the top and allow them to burn down rather than up.

    So to easily convert this to kettle low n slow, you portion your kettle in a 3rd using paver bricks or something that will hold the coals over on one side but won't explode or burst into flames, I found pavers to be good and you might have to overlap the middle ends a bit as the kettle not wide enough.
    Then you pour about 3/4's deep of unlit coals, packing them in really snug, placing some smoking wood on top, then using a chimney elsewhere, you place about 15-20 hot lit coals on top of the unlit and smoking wood and if you have one of those flip top food grates, leave it open so you can plomp a bit of smoking wood on top.
    Close the Bottom vents down to about 10-20% open, leave the top wide open, if you want, place a foil tray full of cold water over near the fire end for temp control and oven moisture.

    Note: before you place the food grate on, ensure you have a decent sized foil tray over the empty side of the BBQ to catch the drips off the food and it also helps keep the bbq clean.

    Place the food grate on the BBQ and you can put lid on to warm up BBQ but we're talking low temp so ensure your food grate is clean beforehand.....I would then place the meat to be cooked over on the empty side over top where the pan sits, put the lid back on with the air vent over the meat, crack open a beer and's gonna take a while!!

    If it's a decent piece of meat like a Brisket, just check it every 3 hours, top up the water pan, check the smoking wood and put lid back and let cook.

    As for the smoke, you should try for a very fine blue line of smoke from the top vent or almost don't want plumes of smoke which means your smoking wood is burning too fast and your fire too hot....shut down bottom vent totally till it settles, careful closing top vent because that smoke can cause a sooty layer on your don't wanna eat that!!



  • Very helpful thank you for the share!

  • Awesome Guide Chris!

    The Snake was the method that got me into low n slow in the first place, and i've had some amazing results with it too!!