The Weber kettle grill is such a great barbecue because it is affordable and can cook a steak over high direct heat or smoke a pulled pork using indirect heat. I want to show you how to do snake method on weber in this article.
Now when you decide it’s time to try smoking a pork shoulder or brisket using low and slow barbecue techniques, the snake method is the cheapest way to go about it, so let’s dive in now.
What is the Charcoal Snake Method?
The snake method involves setting up the charcoal briquettes around the edge of your Weber kettle grill in the shape of a C.
It was developed by a man by the name of Jim Minion and is also known as the Minion Method.
How the Snake Method works
The idea is that by laying the charcoal briquettes around the edge of the kettle barely touching each other, the fire will gradually make its way around the snake. The result being a low and slow burn.
The temperature will be fairly consistent and normally somewhere around 250°F – 280°F, ideal for smoking large cuts of meat over many hours.
How to Control Temperature
The design of the snake ensures the oven temperature is fairly consistent but sometimes manual adjustments are required.
I always start with my top and bottom vents fully open and see how the temperature ends up, if it’s to high then we slow it down.
This is where the vents on the Weber kettle grill comes into play. If you need to slow the heat down a bit start with the top vent but no more than a quarter shut and give it at least 1o minutes to monitor the temperature for consistency.
If it still needs to come down a bit more, adjust the bottom vents but once again only by minute adjustments. There is nothing worse than shutting down the oxygen too much and have to get it going again.
So key points to remember with the vents, Start with the top vent and only use extremely fine adjustments and give it time to monitor for any changes in pit temperature.
Keep that in mind and your snake will treat your meat right.
How Long Will a Charcoal Snake Last?
Typically the charcoal snake method on Weber kettle will keep burning low and slow for between 8 and 12 hours without any problems. This is long enough to cook just about any size piece of meat you can think of.
The only things that can affect the length of your cook are mainly outdoor temperature, wind, and briquette quality and size, and also the length of your charcoal snake.
Practice makes perfect they say, so experiment with a couple of different things get the rev on it and your will be a low and slow pitmaster in no time flat.
How Much Charcoal to Use for the Snake Method
The amount of charcoal briquettes required for the snake method on Weber will vary between 50 and 80 or so.
Depending how long you want the snake to be burning for will determine how large you make the charcoal snake.
I set up around 60 briquettes to smoke a 4 pound pork scotch and it was done in close to 7 hours using 36 briquettes. Pretty cheap cook in my book.
Does the Charcoal Snake Method Work With Lump Charcoal?
Yes, though it’s important to keep in mind certain things about lump charcoal.
Briquettes are a great choice for charcoal arrangements like the minion method or charcoal snake due to their consistent shape and size, whereas lump charcoal varies in shape and size.
Lump charcoal is generally more expensive than briquettes, not as uniform in size as briquettes, burns a lot quicker and hotter than briquettes making it harder to get a low and slow controlled burn.
Once you find a reliable briquette you won’t really need to muck around with lump charcoal for the snake method on Weber grill.
The Charcoal Snake Method — Step-by-Step
Follow along with these steps for building and using the snake method on Weber charcoal grill and you will be cooking low and slow in no time at all.
Building the Charcoal Snake
Start at one side (I started on the right hand side) and work back around the edge, keep the heat beads facing the same way.
You will need two rows, I tend to put one on top of the other, although you can also lay them next to each other, working all the way back to the opposite side of the Weber.
Be sure to leave enough room for a foil tray or similar vessel that will fit comfortably between the ends of the charcoal snake.
This will take on average around 50 – 60 briquettes. For a longer burn time (12 – 14 hours) you can add a third row. To do this place the first two rows side by side and one single row on top finishing around 3 beads from the end that you will light the snake.
If anticipating a shorter smoke time, still lay out the full snake as you can still reuse any of the heat beads that you don’t use in your next cook.
How to Light the Charcoal Snake
This part is fairly straight forward. Grab around a dozen briquettes and place in your chimney starter.
Place a couple of fire lighters on the charcoal rack, or other heat proof surface, light them up and sit the chimney on top.
After around 10 – 20 minutes, the heat beads should be glowing bright orange and feel hot if placing your hand over the chimney.
Pour the beads onto the start of your charcoal snake covering the ends, top and sides of the briquettes, a long handled pair of tongs comes in real handy with the final placement of the lit beads.
Add any lumps of wood you want for smoking now to the start of the snake. I like to put a piece right near the lit heat beads and another couple next to each other, mostly in the first third of the snake.
This adds the smoking component right to the start of the cooking time when the meat will absorb the most flavour from the wood.
Setting Up the Water Pan
Next up place a foil tray in between the ends of the charcoal snake and pour around 2 litres of boiling water in. This helps in a couple of ways.
It keeps the inside of the Weber moist so that the meat doesn’t dry out and also provides a drip tray to catch any of the juices from your meat.
Using The Snake
Now that you are set up, it’s time to place the grill grate on top get ready to cook. It’s a good idea to place any probes for oven temperature now along with a meat thermometer then add meat directly over the tray.
Vent and Temperature Control
Once the oven comes up to temperature, around 20 minutes or so, keep your eye on the oven probe to check for signs that the temperature is stabilizing.
It is totally acceptable for your Weber kettle temperature to be in the range of 220°F – 280°F during your cook. It will fluctuate because of environmental factors like outside temperatures, wind and also the size of the food that you will be smoking.
If you need to make any adjustments to the vents, start with the top vent on the Weber and only close it by no more than 1 quarter. Wait for 10 minutes and check if the temperature is starting to come back. If it hasn’t, adjust the bottom vent very slightly and wait another 10 minutes.
You really have to give the Weber grill a bit of leeway with temperature control but over time you will learn where the sweet spots are.
Just remember “extremely fine adjustments and wait.” It’s just a learning game which you will get the rev on fairly quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How the snake method works
The Snake Method is a great way to get consistent, low temperatures over an extended period of time when smoking meat. It involves building a half-circle ring of charcoal around the inside edge of your circular charcoal grill and then placing a couple lit briquettes at one end of the ring. This will continuously ignite the adjacent charcoal briquettes, giving you a steady heat that can last for many hours without having to add more charcoal in the middle of the cook.
Won’t unlit briquettes affect the taste of the food?
The debate over whether unlit briquettes will affect the taste of food has been going on for years. While some believe that the binders used to hold the briquettes together can impart a strange flavour, others argue that as long as there is enough oxygen and airflow in your pit, you won’t notice any difference. So technically, no.
How to control temperature
Having control over the internal temperature of your smoker is essential for a successful cook. To do this, you will need to use the top and bottom vents. Start by opening both vents wide open and depending on the weather conditions, you should be able to maintain a good smoke temperature between 225-250°F without any changes required. However, if your temperature gauge hits the 200°F mark, start with adjusting your bottom vent to slow down the draw of oxygen through the cooker and settle on target temp. This will help keep your smoker at an optimal temperature for smoking food.
What is the charcoal snake method?
The Snake Method, or Minion Method, is a low and slow cooking technique used on charcoal grills. It was developed by Jim Minion and is often used with the Weber kettle grill. The technique involves lining the inside of the grill with charcoal briquettes, barely touching each other to form a large “C” around the ring of the grill. Wood chips or chunks are then on top of the briquettes to create smoke. One end of the “C” is lit, and as it slowly burns, it will ignite the rest of the briquettes around it. This method allows for a longer cook time at lower temperatures, which can be great for smoking meats or roasting vegetables.
How long will a charcoal snake last?
There is no straight answer to this one, but anywhere from 8 – 12 hours is common. A few distinct factors like outside temperature and wind play a large part in how long it will last. Different brands of briquettes and the amount you use will also determine the length of time your charcoal snake will burn for. Experimenting is the key to consistency.
How much charcoal to use for the snake method?
This will depend on what size Weber kettle grill you have and also what brand of briquette you are using. My 22″ Weber grill uses between approximately 50 and 80 briquettes depending on the size of the meat I’m cooking and required length of time.
To Sum It All Up
- Start you snake at one side keep the heat beads running the same way.
- Place a water tray in between the ends of the snake.
- Pour lit heat beads on the end of the snake.
- Add smoking wood to the start of the charcoal snake for best flavour.
- Put grill grate into position and add your meat then place the lid on.
- Keep both vents in open position when starting, monitoring temperature.
- Adjust the vents in tiny increments if required and wait for 10 minutes.
- Cooking time between 8 and 12 hours.