The stability of a vertical smoker in 5 steps
I confess I was long in doubt whether to write this post or not. The ideal set up to make a Kettle run in Low & Slow has always been one of my most heartfelt and definitely one of the ones I’ve been focusing over the years. Anyway I never did on these pages yet and still receive many questions today. Hoping not to bore the most experienced readers, I decided to reproduce it, perhaps even standing on the details:
In my opinion the best way to ensure optimum stability and temperature management conditions on a Low and Slow cooking on a Kettle is to make it behave as if it was a vertical smoker.
So we have before to understand well as a WSM or similar smoker, work. The basic principle is the interposition of a water pan between the heat source and the food (not casually it is called a water smoker). Its purpose is not to preserve food from dehydration, as many believe but to saturate the water chamber with vapor. Not going the water to a temperature above 100ºC, until it is over, the cooking temperature will fix to temperatures close to this limit, the same temperatures that would be the ideal ones for Low & Slow cooking.
It is therefore necessary to recreate the same principle within a Kettle.
- We take a 6-portions foil pan and bend it over halfway to the long side. Let us now refer to the two supporting axes of the combustion grid and, with scissors, we engage two grooves of a few cm in correspondence to the latter. Finally, pour the pan on the uprights by creating a vertical bulkhead that divides the combustion area into two zones. You can decide the proportions by choosing how far from the borders the pan is to put. The smallest part can go from 1/5 to 1/3 of the total area. The longer the burning time will be, the smaller the burning time will be, adapting for example to the baking of the ribs. On the contrary, it will be bigger and more durable and perfect for example for a Brisket.
- Place briquettes or charcoal off in the smallest area starting from one side, filling the available space but taking care to leave a final space for about a dozen briquettes.
- With foil sheets now proceed to tap all the surface of the largest part of the combustion grid. The purpose is that the inlet air from the lower vents is forced to pass through the smaller area before going out from the upper ones.
- We then add briquettes that were lit up in the empty space we had left free in the smallest air. The quantity is a function of the room temperature: in stormy winter months, 18-20 briquettes may also be needed. In the warmer months of summer, it 8 can be enough. By the time you will easily make the eye in this sense, but consider that it is enough to be in the right order of magnitude, wealth more or less will make no difference. In our case, however, we have added 12.
- Finally, place the cooking grate in its housing. At the center of the smallest area, we place a plum-cake foam pan filled with hot water. In contrast to the WSM that is powered by a turned on whole chimney and that is therefore able to take to boil the entire contents of the water pan in a very short time, in our case we are talking about a handful of burnt briquettes. Using cold water would subtract an important amount of expressed heat by making it longer and more complex to get stabilized. Before placing the Water pan, we can insert a wooden chunk between the smoked quill or place it on the cooking grate immediately at the briquettes.
What we have got is that all the air entering the Kettle goes to feed the braces forced into a little cooking chamber piccola which behavior is highly governable. Above the boil we placed a water pan containing water maintained in constant boiling so as to saturate the cooking chamber’s moisture. By setting a quarter of the opening of the lower and upper vents, within five minutes we find ourselves in a stable condition of 120° C.
Our Kettle is behaving like a WSM to demonstrate once again its great versatility, which is probably the greatest strength.
And you, how do you set up for using your Kettle in Low & Slow?