Have you been dreaming of smoky, low and slow meats but don’t have a smoker? Even though there’s countless recipes and ideas for smoked pork and beef, there’s no need to feel left out. It’s actually pretty easy to smoke on a kettle grill. Want to know how? This step by step guide will walk you through how to turn your kettle grill into a smoker so that those melt in your mouth ribs will soon be yours to enjoy.
Preparing to Smoke on a Kettle Grill
As with most things, successful smoking on a kettle grill is all about the preparation. Your kettle grill is designed for the high heat needed for standard grilling. So, your aim is to rewire the system with a few simple tricks.
Firstly, light a chimney of coals as you normally would and wait for a layer of ash to form. Then, load one side of your kettle grill with the coals and leave the other side empty. You don’t want the meat to have direct contact with the heat source.
Fill an aluminum tray with water and place it in the space. This will help to regulate the temperature of your grill and keep the meat moist as the water evaporates. Because you’ll be placing the meat directly over the water tray, it’ll also catch any drippings, preventing them from burning and making a mess of your grill.
Finally, add the pieces of hardwood that have been soaked in water, ready to give your meat that smoky flavor.
Getting the Temperature Right
Getting the temperature of your kettle grill to mimic that of a smoker is the key to how well your smoked meats will turn out. Start by restricting the airflow into your grill by closing the bottom air vent entirely and turning the top vent so that it’s only about 1/3rd open. You should notice that the temperature falls quickly before leveling out to a steadier decline. Aim for 225°F but give yourself a bit of grace. A bit higher or lower will be just fine.
Once you’re at about 225°F, add your meat to the grate above the water pan making sure that it’s not sticking out over the coals. Then, line the top air vent up with the meat, to encourage the smoke to pass over it as it leaves the kettle.
From here on out, your task is to keep that temperature between 225°F and 300°F. Plan to run a check every 15 minutes, opening or closing the bottom air vent if needed – open to increase heat, close to decrease.
After about one to one and a half hours your initial coal will probably have burnt through. Restock it with some more pre-lit coals and hardwood if necessary. Also take this opportunity to turn the meat to ensure an even cook.
Cooking Times for Smoking on a Kettle Grill
How long it takes to smoke meat is another topic altogether but, as a guide, you’re looking at anything from 4 hours for baby back ribs to 14-18 hours for beef brisket. The temperature of the meat is generally a better guide than the cooking duration. So, grab your meat thermometer and start checking at about an hour or so before you’d expect it to be done.
- Brisket – 185°F
- Beef ribs – 175°F
- Pork butt – 175°F
- Pork ribs – 170°F
- Chicken – 170°F
- Turkey – 165°F
So, there you have it! With a little dedication and practice, the kettle grill sitting in your shed right now could be used to turn out delicious, smoky barbecued meat your friends and family won’t forget.