You don’t need a dedicated Smoker to create great BBQ. All you need is your charcoal grill. Here, I will set up a 22″ Weber Grill for Smoking
I. What you will need:
Bricks (optional, but makes the operation easier)
3 Sheets of Newspaper
II. How to set up your Grill
This is my grill. It is a 22″ Weber One-Touch Charcoal Grill.
When you use your grill as a smoker, you want to achieve temperatures that are much lower than when you are grilling. Typically, you will use recipes that require the temperature to be around 225 and up to 300 degrees. To do this, you need to control the airflow into and out of your grill. I have done a lot of research and have found that it is easier to achieve this by more drastically adjusting the bottom vent of the grill. On the Weber One-Touch Grill, the bottom vent is also the mechanism that moves the ash into the collection bin below the grill. When you are grilling, unlike when you are smoking, you want the vents to be wide open. Below, for smoking, I have set up the vents to be about half open.
I am using this setup to achieve a temperature of around 275 to 300. The advantage of smoking at this temperature range is that not only will your cook be done faster, but also more fat will render from your meats. Aaron Franklin, the James Beard-winning chef-owner of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, which was picked by Bon Appetit Magazine as one of the 20 most important restaurants in America in 2013, smokes all his meats (e.g., brisket, ribs, pulled pork, etc.) at 275. Myron Mixon, the winningest man in barbecue, famously cooks his competition pork butts and briskets at 300 degrees.
Next, I use bricks to separate the area where coals will go from the area where the food will go. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but the bricks help keep the direct heat away from the meat.
Then, I add a pan. I will add hot water to the pan during cooking. This serves two purposes: First, the water will steam, keeping whatever you are smoking a little moister than it would otherwise be. Second, the pan will catch any drippings, thus keeping them off your grill.
The grill grate that came with my grill has hinges that allow the replenishment of coals during a cook. Line up the grate with the area where the coals will go.
Next, soak some wood chips in water. Soak them for at least 30 minutes. Then, wrap them in foil and poke 8-12 holes in the top of the foil. (In future cooks, I will use chunks of wood added directly to the coals, but wood chips are easier to find in stores).
Next, light the coal. I use a Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter. (If you don’t use a chimney starter, this is the time to invest your lighter-fluid money in one). I fill it 2/3 full, which is about 65 briquettes.
I use 3 sheets of newspaper to get the coals lit.
After about 20 minutes, the coals are ready. The top coals should look like they are lightly covered in ash.
Add the coals to the grill.
Add the pan to the other side of the grill. Put the foil with the wood chips in it on the coals. It will take 5-15 minutes for the chips to start smoking.
Now you are ready to add your meat (or whatever you are smoking) and cover the grill with the lid. The vent on the lid should be over the meat. This will allow the smoke to go over your food and out the vent. I usually start with the lid vent half-open and check the temperature before adjusting to reach the desired temperature. Once you add the lid, wait 10 minutes before checking the temperature. Allow the grill to get up to temperature.
A lot of factors go into the temperature you will achieve, but outside temperature and, especially, wind, are the major factors. The day I made this set up, it was about 60 degrees. It was raining and windy. To keep the grill dry, I put it close to the opening of my garage, but there was still some wind. (I opened a door in the back of the garage, and the resulting breeze exhausted the smoke out of the garage and not into it.)
Here was the grill temp after 20 minutes (Don’t remove the lid: Remember: If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’):
Here is the grill temp after 45 minutes (Again, don’t remove the lid):
Here is the grill temp after 1 hour:
After 1 hour, I noticed that the temperature starting to go down. I removed the foil packet of wood chips, which was spent, and added additional coals. This is where the hinged grate is very convenient. I added about 20 briquettes.
You will repeat this process–checking your temperature every 20 minutes or so and adding coals when the temperature starts to drop. Again, the outside temperature and wind conditions will dictate how often you need to replenish the coals.