5 Reasons to Replace your Offset Smoker with a Weber Kettle

If you’ve had an offset smoker not just for months, but years, try not to insist that it’s a must-have for cooking low-and-slow. This is limiting otherwise (you’ll know why later), less so for moderate enthusiasts of BBQ, versus the hardcore who can’t quite see how greener the grass is on their neighbor’s side of the fence.

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Sure, the smoker has some merit.  Having meats to the side, not over, the heat means it can be kept gentle more easily- with the wood and coals replaced when need be.

Age Gives Way to Frailties

You’ll inevitably grow weary of them as you stand there pondering its leaky nature and its Soviet-familiar, building-an-empire rust.  Your intention might be to have it replaced with one that’s more superior, but remember your neighbor’s obstructive fence?  If you looked at it from a different angle you’d see a peephole large enough for an eyeball.  Peeking through it you’d see a Weber Kettle… on a lawn…

..much greener than yours!

Please, just trade your smoker for your neighbor’s grill, or bargain for it!

Or buy one here and be done with it.

A majority of those serious smokes, like pork shoulders, beef briskets, and ribs, can be done with that Weber Kettle (22-inches mind you).  Almost anything can be cooked on it.  Save for a couple accessories/ gadgetry at most, you shouldn’t have to use anything else.  Why?  Because the secret to slammin’ BBQ is in managing the fire, and equipment has almost no part in that equation.  You will of course want to employ a set of trusty gloves, long-handled tongs, and a grill pan.

-Otherwise, a cooking grate that’s hinged might come in handy, since wood and charcoal can be easily added to a fire already in place.  There might also be an occasion (although rare) for a rotisserie to be set up.

If your heart so desired, you could buy anything and everything the grillosphere has to offer, which might include rib grates, searing (heavy-duty) special grates, and complete BBQ “systems” (that ironically happen to nudge you in buying even more gear).  But as you barbecue more, the need for equipment isn’t usually as important.

Kettles are more than just the workhorse of wieners and burgers on holidays and the every once in a while birthday t-bone.

They can be way more versatile once you’ve learned how to go about setting one up.

First, what is it you imagine yourself doing?  Picture the kettle not only as an oven, but a stove top as well.  Want to quickly get something cooked?  Done.  Want a meat roasted for some hours?  Check.  This doesn’t just apply to meat.  Think fruit and vegetables as well.

Downsides to a Weber Kettle?

But hear me out; appreciation for a kettle only goes so far.  You’ll find downsides in using them for all purposes.  Volume, for instance.  More food can be fit on an offset smoker vs a kettle.  A bullet smoker can even hold more.  Second, the stress level.  Larger items of food can be smoked in a kettle, but with a smoker (specifically made for cooking low-and-slow), allows the fire to be fed with more ease if necessary and the results will generally yield less inconsistency.

See Also: Weber Kettle Review vs Other Charcoal Grills

Still, in a way that’s sort of minimalist, something’s there that’s appealing in regards to a grill familiar to a Swiss army knife, and after mastering proper management of the fire, your kettle can fit that experience of an all-in-one utility.

The techniques listed on the next page will help you vary up more than just the placement of wood and coals- but to bring out your kettle’s full potential.

5It Does Direct Fire

This ain’t the new-school way of using the grill; it’s the old-school- doing it fast and hot.  The charcoal gets distributed across the grill’s bottom entirely in a layer.

Why do it: When a lot of items that grill quickly need to be cooked- a kettle’s great for this, like them wieners and burgers for your kid’s birthday gathering.  For searing, it’s the method preferred.  Firm, thick items, like slices of pineapple, do well here.  Vegetable slices also fit this method well, such as zucchini, onions, and eggplant, and when you coat them in olive oil, herbs and vinegar give way to a bangin’ antipasto.

Cons: You can’t even be a little unorganized, because it doesn’t take long for the food to go on and come off. Items don’t really have anywhere to be put that might be better off cooked longer but at a lower temp.

A Tip: When you’ve really warmed up the fire, the grub can be seared to get some trademark grill lines on fruit, veggies, and fish that are a bit denser, like tuna.  It also makes a huge difference for getting the shells of clams, mussels, and oysters opened.  A fire somewhere in the middle (not too low or high) will allow partially-dense meat and fruit (salmon and mangoes) to be thoroughly cooked.  Same goes for burgers, although the char might be underwhelming.

4Kettle Does Indirect fire

The premium standard for those ‘epic’ modern grilling chefs.  Coals are distributed to one area, leaving one side bare.

Why do it: Allows no sacrifice in grilling flexibility and at the same time, having food moved over to the side with less heat, you can get raw food cooked through entirely (while controlling the process), or even have it smoked. Highly recommended for steaks with more thickness, when you’re looking for a passable char but you’re also aiming for a medium or medium-rare meaty piece.  Very promising for food you’re looking to first char, then smoke up.

Con: The total cooking area is reduced by about ½

Tips: To get smoke started, wood chunks or wood chips should be distributed so the coals are against them. After it catches, the lid gets put on, with the vents on top slivered open for a dense but very low smoke or about ½ open for a lighter, quicker smoke.

3Kettle Does Fire w/ Three Zones

This is not conventional and less useful compared to an indirect, basic method, but experimenting with it is fun (to say the least).  Once you’re ready with the coals, a generous pile is distributed to one area, sloping a pile with fewer coals near it, while leaving the other 1/3 of the cooker untouched.

Why do it: So you can smoke, cook, and sear.  You’re also able to simultaneously cook over several temps.  For example, the hot coals searing a steak underneath while fruit is grilled over hot-medium coals.

Cons: The three zones of temp gauges might not expand as much as limit what you’re cooking since the space is tight. And, cooking over more than one zone simultaneously can be a challenge.

Tips: There’s nothing else to it but timing. Medium heat under sliced eggplant usually will take just as long as a hot flame finishing a hefty burger.  (This should be accordingly planned.)  The zone that’s empty can be used as a safety net if you’re cooking something faster than you’d want.

2It Pulls off a Smolder Ring

Commonly known as “low-and-slow”- for when you set the timer for a longer cook but less heat.  The charcoal gets distributed surrounding the kettle’s perimeter in a ring, width of around three coals. Layer the top by adding more coals. Then place wood chunks on top every two or three inches.

Pros: The fire should be burning no less than six hours, up to 10 or more even (results are dependent on the length and depth of the ring of charcoal).  Best for pork butt, ribs, and other similar sizes of meat.  Those that think of brisket as BBQ’s highest level of attainment, finishes so juicy it’s incredible, with an exterior that’s nicely crusted.

Con: Really no other area of the grill is left to be devoted to other items except that one.

Tips: The fire should be checked about four hours from when you started the kettle. There shouldn’t be but maybe one-thirds of unspent coals left following around.  If you think you won’t reach the amount of hours desired, then coals can be sparingly added (six approximately).  Adding the coals might not be needed, but if/when you decide on it, that should be the only instance adding any is necessary.  Care should be taken to add just enough as it’s cooking because any more can give way to burning and sizzling of the meat’s edges.

1Weber Kettle Rotisserie

To evenly cook meats of substantial mass- seen to be cooked for one or two hours. Within a Weber kettle 22-incher perfectly fits a $150 or so electric rotisserie.  You should distribute coals on either side of your steak, and fill the space right underneath it with a foil drip, aluminum pan.

Why do it: Knocks out entire chickens and roasts.  The chicken’s skin beautifully crisps, and the roast develops an impressive crust; just no effort cooking with a rotisserie.

Cons: An outlet to plug into must be nearby.  It’s not a major hassle setting one up (same for cleaning it afterwards).

Tips: Position various veggies like onions, carrots, and potatoes so the meat drips over them to infuse a flavorful punch.

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