How to Smoke on a Kettle

How to Smoke on a Kettle

BBQ is low and slow cooking. While I often prepare pulled pork on my Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, the same great results can be achieved on a Weber kettle. In fact, the benefit of a kettle is its flexibility.

You can grill and BBQ. Grilling uses direct heat underneath the meat.  Think: steak.   BBQ uses indirect heat, which is more like using an oven.  The heat does not come in direct contact with the meat. 

When I’m grilling a lot of meat, my WSM is always fired up.  However, when it is just a few racks for me, the kettle is my BBQ grill of choice.

The great thing about BBQ on a kettle is it does not require any special tools or accessories but there are some that help make the job easier including Weber Briquettes, a chimney starter, and smoking woods.

You can smoke lots of different things on your kettle but I am going to show you how smoke pulled pork.

Pulled pork is made from a pork shoulder from the front legs of a hog.   The blade pork roast, or what is sometimes called the Boston Butt, is the upper part of the arm. When shopping for blade pork roast, be sure it is not boneless. The bone adds a lot to the cut, and when it is finished cooking, nothing beats extracting a clean bone from a mountain of cooked pork.

Step 1: Make the Rub
The initial flavor for the pork is provided by the rub. The rub is a blend of spices that are worked into the pork prior to cooking. Rubs are like relatives; everyone has one. Here is one I use:

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Sweet Paprika
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Garlic
1 teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon Ground Mustard
1/8 teaspoon Celery Seed
1/2 teaspoon Ancho Chili Powder

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl until well blended.

The rub can either be added right before the cook or the night before. The choice is up to you.

One of the keys to good pulled pork is smoke. Thankfully, adding smoke to the grill is easy. For pork, I use sweet woods such as maple or apple. Using a harsher species, like mesquite, might provide too harsh of a taste.

Step 2: Set-up the grill

Soak approximately two large handfuls of wood chips in a large bowl of water for about an hour. Although I said "chips," you can also use wood chunks. If you use chunks, be sure to soak them longer, so the wood becomes saturated with water. Soak the wood so it "smokes" when added to the grill and doesn't simply burn up.

Cooking a five pound pork shoulder can take upwards of 9 hours. That is a long time to keep your kettle grill at an optimal temperature of 250 degrees.  Also, you want to minimize the number of times you open the grill lid because every time you do, you lower the grill temperature and effectively lengthen the amount of time for the cook.

The best way to maintain a low and steady temperature is by using a process known as the Modified Minion Method. By adding lit coals on top of unlit coals, you can maintain a low-temperature fire for a long period of time. The lit coals will slowly heat up the unlit coals. It is a great process. Weber Briquettes burn long so you won't have to refuel as often! 

Place approximately 70-72 unlit Weber Briquettes to one side of your grill, or two piles of 36 Weber Briquettes to both sides.

Place approximately 16 Weber Briquettes in your charcoal chimney and light the chimney.

Heat the coals until they have ashed over (turned grey).

Place an aluminum foil pan in the bottom of the kettle in the location that will be directly below the meat. This will either be in the middle or off to the side. Place a small amount of water in the pan. The pan will catch any drippings from the meat and prevent them from burning.

With the pan in place, add your lit coals to the unlit coals.

Add a handful of soaked wood chips to the lit coals. Place the grate on the kettle, close the lid, and wait for smoke.

The temperature of the kettle needs to be around 250 degrees. This is done by controlling the top and bottom vents of the grill to restrict the flow of oxygen.  To start out, move the bottom vent, so it is half closed and close the top vent almost all of the way.

Although controlling the temperature of the grill by the vents might seem difficult, it's not.

Adjust your top vent until you hit 250 degrees. Make small adjustments. Open it more to raise the temp and close it to lower it. Unless you have some wild temperature swings, your bottom vent will remain untouched for almost the whole cook.

With smoke pouring out of your grill and the temperature gauge around 250, you are ready to place the pork on the grill.

Step 3: Smoke/Grill:

Place the pork on the grate and close the lid.

Plan on at least nine hours to cook the pork. This is in addition to the prep time of readying your grill. Needless to say, if you are planning this meal for dinner, start early or your "dinner" may turn into a "midnight snack!”

Once the pork is on, the grill will need periodic checking to ensure the temperature is where it should be. Some temperature movement is normal, and swings from 225 to 275 is fine. Just adjust your vents to keep yourself on target.

Avoid opening the kettle lid at all costs. Doing so will just let out valuable heat. Instead, grab yourself a good beer, sit back and enjoy the sight and the smell of your grill. 

As the day goes on and your temperature begins to drop, work your top vent to allow more oxygen to flow through the kettle. If your temperature really drops, add some additional lit coals to get your temperature back up. However, in most cases this is not necessary.

You want to cook the pork until it has an internal temperature of 190 degrees F. Although the pork is technically cooked past 150 degrees, 190 degrees ensures this tough piece of meat is transformed into a moist and delicious feast.

Start checking the pork around the 7 1/2 hour mark to see how far you are from the end. Although the internal temperature will rise very fast at the beginning of the cook, it will move very slow towards the end.

When the temperature probe reads 190 degrees, the pork is finally done. Remove the pork from the grill and wrap it aluminum foil. The pork should “rest” at least 30 minutes.

With the rest done, it’s time to get ready to eat.

Give a firm tug on the bone, and it should slide clean out of the meat.  

Then, using a knife, fork, or even your hands, pull the pork apart.  Try not to eat too much as you go.  I bet it smells and tastes great!

With your pork masterpiece complete, serve it however you like and with whatever you want. Top it with a vinegar sauce, mustard sauce, red sauce, bun, or no bun, it is entirely up to you.

This process works great for me, I hope it works just as good for you. Enjoy!

What are your thoughts? (19)

01.10.17

Eric P

Question ==> do you leave the entire fat cap on the cut, or do you trim it?

Thanks!

01.09.17

Mike Lang

Hi Eric -

I leave as much fat on as possible so it can render during the cook. I hope that helps!

Thanks!
Mike

01.07.17

Lucas W

I have done Brisket and Pork Shoulder on my 47cm Kettle using snake method. Turned out awesome both Times. Next one will be ribs.

01.07.17

Mike Lang

Hey Lucas -

That's fantastic! It's simply amazing how versatile the kettle is. Good luck with the ribs, I'm sure they will be great!!

Cheers!
Mike

10.02.16

John C

Smoked my first pork butt today on my kettle and it turned out great! I'm already looking forward to next time. What should I do next time? Brisket?

10.01.16

Mike Lang

Hi John -

That's great news, thanks for sharing! I'm with you, I would now totally go for brisket!!

Let me know how it goes!

Cheers!
Mike

09.26.16

Kingston S

I smoked pork shoulder today on a 22" kettle more-or-less following these instructions. I didn't start with as many briquettes and added more every couple of hours throughout the day. 10½ hours for a 9 pound shoulder. It was about 185° when I took it off the grill. Turned out great, but next time I'll try adding another 90 minutes or so.

09.25.16

Mike Lang

Hey Kingston!

If it turned out great, it sounds like you are crafting your own technique! This I like the sound of! Kick in some more briquettes in the beginning and see if it makes things a little easier for you. I'm glad you found success!

Cheers!
Mike

09.25.16

Randy T

Howdy Mike, great article on long cooking big hunks o' meat!
Amazing how versatile the good ol' kettle is!

I wonder if you have any thoughts on the Modified Minion vs the "Snake" (or "Fuse") method? I've done ribs on the kettle with varying success that way, never tried a large butt or brisket, tri-tip, etc. - but one day, coming to a kettle near me soon!!

09.25.16

Mike Lang

Hey Randy!!

Thanks...and I couldn't agree more!

That's a great question. I've been a long time disciple of the Modified Minion, but in the last year have had just as much success with the "Snake." My typical advice is to go with what works and in this case, they have both worked great for me. The one "benefit" of the Snake, in my opinion, is it fits squarely with my OCD. It's x number of coals lined up x long to produce x hours of heat...minus environmental factors. Of course, that's just me!

It sounds like you have some great cooks ahead! Let me know what you think!

09.25.16

Lucas W

My Webber does not have a thermometer built into the lid. Which one would you recommend as I am wanting to smoke Brisket and Pork on my BBQ? Thank you loads!!!

09.25.16

Mike Lang

Hi Lucas -

Even with a thermometer in the lid, I love to see the temperature both in the meat and on the grate. That's why I love the iGrill thermometers. While they do a great job monitoring temperatures, the fact I can use my smartphone from a distance to keep tabs on the cook is worth its weight in gold!

Grill on!
Mike

08.10.16

Donald H

Hello, just wondering about temperature gauging for smoking here. I am doing an 8 pound shoulder, but realized I don"t have a movable thermometer. I have the thermometer on top of my kettle (22 inch), but it is on top of the side that has the coals. How can I know the temp on the indirect side? Right now the temp on the coals side is just under 400 degrees. Is there any way to figure an approximate temp for the indirect side? Thanks!

08.10.16

Mike Lang

Hi Donald!

The temperature on the lid will be slightly lower than the temperature at grate level. One immediate solution would be to rotate the lid so that the thermometer is over the meat and not the coals. If the temp shows around 400, you will most likely need to close the vents to drop the temp to around 250. I find a wireless probe next to the meat gives the most accurate temperature reading.

I hope this helps! Good luck!
Mike

06.20.16

Kyle C

Wow, this looks amazing. I have one question though, would an 18 in be too small to smoke on?

06.20.16

Mike Lang

Thanks, Kyle! Yes, it is possible, but you will have to really watch the size of meat and may have to reload fuel. A good friend of mine used to smoke on his 18-inch kettle all of the time and had great success! Good luck!

06.09.16

Patrick H

I definitely want to try and do this soon! Sounds delicious! You say add a hand full of wood chips in the beginning but was wondering when to add more and how much!

Thanks for the great tips and recipes!

Pat H

06.09.16

Mike Lang

Hey Pat -

Smoking on the kettle is as simple as it gets. I wouldn't have it any other way. I will probably add a second handful of chips after the smoke dissipates, but not much more than that.

Grill on!
Mike

05.12.16

Pat R

Thank you for this. We inherited a 22" kettle about 5 years ago (I had been wanting one anyway). I was looking for how tos on smoking in a kettle. Now this appears. THANK YOU! I had tried to figure it out myself but it wasn't a pretty sight.

My BF has taken to building up quite the pile of ash inside the kettle, I don't know that he'll be pleased when I clear it out to try my hand at smoking.

05.12.16

Mike Lang

Hey Pat -

We are glad to help out!! No matter how you got it, a Weber kettle is a fantastic addition!!

Most importantly, I'm sure you boyfriend will be thrilled with anything you smoke on the grill!! Good luck!

Cheers!
Mike

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