Update April 10, 2016 – We’re adding Slow’n Sear. The Slow’n Sear just outright spanks the Smokenator. We’ll leave the Smokenator listed for now.
We all already know that the Weber Charcoal Kettle is the ULTIMATE grilling machine. It grills, it bakes, it roasts – and it even smokes (true barbecue). While the standard Weber charcoal grill is often the gateway cooker for hardcore BBQ guys, with a little tweaking and practice it can churn out amazing BBQ just like the thousand dollar Jambos and other high quality smokers.
Ready to start doing some barbecue and smoking on your kettle? Here are your options:
Free & Cheap Options for smoking on your Weber Grill
There’s no REAL reason to spend any money on gadgets and bbq mods. Here are the free and cheap ways to smoke on your Weber kettle.
1. Bank & Smoke:
Simply bank a dozen or so coals on one side of your grill and keep your meat on the opposite side of the grill. Use a wood chunk or two to get that true barbecue flavor. Add fresh, unlit charcoal every hour or so. Start with 12 unlit briquettes and add 4 lit and a wood chunk on top. Put your meat on when the smoke is a nice thin blue.
Pros: no investment, relatively effective
Cons: small cooking area, no separator between heat source and food, have to open lid often to add fuel
2. Charcoal Baskets
The Weber Charcoal Baskets are freaking awesome. Not only are they incredibly handy for grilling and lighting charcoal (especially on a Performer with gas assist) – but they’re great for smoking on your grill. Just slide one of the baskets to the side of the grill, fill it with unlit charcoal, and add 5 or 6 lit briquettes to it. Toss a wood chunk on top of it all and you’re ready to barbecue!
Pros: Baskets aren’t uni-taskers. They’re great for grilling. Some members even use them to raise the grates for grilling pizza.
Cons: You’ll still be adding fuel every couple hours or more. No heat shield. Small cooking area.
3. Bank + Bricks:
This is a slight upgrade to the banked coal smoke method of smoking- build a wall with a couple bricks. This wall will contain your lit and unlit fuel – as well as your smoke wood. Compared to banking the charcoal and baskets, this will hold MORE unlit charcoal, which means you’ll be adding fresh unlit charcoal less often. To be safe, you should use fire bricks – although dozens of members have used regular red bricks without issue. I know people have have been smoking on their grill like this for decades.
Cost: Less than $10 (more if you use fire bricks)
Pros: Holds more fuel than simply banking coals, bricks provide heatsink for more indirect cooking and temperature maintenance
Cons: small cooking area, still not much separation between heat and food, have to open lid to add fuel
4. Fuse / Snake Method:
This is a fun one, and one of my personal favorites. Create a long fuse of unlit charcoal around the outside of your grill. Make the fuse/snake 2 or 3 briquette layers deep. Put your smaller wood chunks directly on top of the unlit charcoal snake. Start the smoke by adding 4 or 5 lit and ashed over charcoal briquettes to one end of your fuse. Place your meat directly in the middle of the C or U snake. This works better for butts and shoulders than it does for ribs.
Pros: longer cook time before adding fuel, easy to see how much lit fuel you have. With a little practice, this is a set up that will allow you to walk away for several hours.
Cons: small cooking area, very little separation between food and heat, adding fuel is more tedious than banked methods (assuming you have a hinged grate)
Less than $100
5. The Smokenator
For 60 bucks plus shipping you can pick up a Smokenator. It’s a metal baffle that dedicates about 6″ of space for charcoal and wood, leaving the rest of the charcoal grate wide open for food. It comes with a small water pan and a dedicated cutout for it. The big advantage of the smokenator is that it allows you to use a portion of the charcoal grate as a cooking space. The stainless steel serves as a heat barrier to reduce the direct cooking effect. I would personally skip the water pan and use that space for more fuel.
Cost: $60 on Amazon
Pros: makes cooking on charcoal grate easy, can still cook on half of cooking grate, there’s a layer of steel separating the heat from the meat, holds more fuel than most brick configurations. It also comes in an 18″ version and a 26″ version.
Cons: Water pan is tiny and mostly innefective. still can’t use full cooking grate, have to open lid to add fuel.
6. The Slow ‘N’ Sear
The Slow’n Sear popped on the scene last summer and has effectively curb-stomped the Smokenator. The Slow’n Sear holds more water than the Smokenator. It’s super easy to use. It holds temps for 8-10 hours without issue. It is useful for smoking, indirect grilling, and even direct high heat grilling. It is, quite literally, an accessory that can always stay inside your Weber kettle grill. It’s especially useful for vintage Weber grill users because it acts as a heat shield, which will help prevent damaging the porcelain on those vintage colors. You can pick up the Slow’n Sear from Amazon for $90 shipped. It’s 5lb of stainless steel, and its USA made. You can also read the full Slow’n Sear review
Less than $200
I personally think the $150 mark is the sweet spot.
7. Cajun Bandit Stacker
At $160 shipped, the Cajun Bandit Stacker is a high quality stainless steel ring fits PERFECTLY on your 22″ Weber Charcoal Grill. It raises the cooking grate up about 12 inches and allows you to use the whole cooking grate for food as well as the whole charcoal grate for fuel. This means you can cook a few pork butts, or several racks of ribs without having to roll your ribs or reload your fuel. The charcoal ring and heat diffuser is certainly worth the $20 upgrade – unless you have a nearby restaurant supply store, in which case just go buy a 20″ pizza pan to use as the heat diffuser. Another advantage with the Cajun Bandit Stacker is that it will ALSO fit your Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker or Cajun Bandit Conversion Kit if you ever invest in either.
With the stacker, you can get about 20 hours of low and slow without adding fuel.
Cost: $160 shipped
Pros: can load a LOT of fuel, can utilize full cooking grate, has metal heat shield to separate heat from meat
Cons: if you have to add fuel, you have to remove the whole stacker. Heat shield is a bit flimsy. No water pan. Heat shield doesn’t contain a lot of drippings, so you may need to improvise if cooking more than one pork butt.
The Smoke EZ is an option similar to the Cajun Bandit Stacker. It’s another tube style barbecue extension for smoking on the Weber kettle. The Smoke EZ has some cool perks, like nice wooden handles and an included smoker hanging rack for hanging sausages or fish instead of (or in addition to) using the grate. The Smoke EZ has a version that will fit the 26″ Weber too – something Cajun Bandit hasn’t launched yet.
Pros: Can load a lot of fuel. Can utilize full cooking grate. Includes water pan and charcoal ring. Can also hang sausage, etc
Cons: Charcoal ring and water pan are smaller than expected.
Less than $300
Cajun Bandit Weber Smoker Conversion Kit
Now you’re in the big leagues – this kit will convert your Weber Kettle into a smoker very similar to the Weber Smokey Mountain cooker / smoker. The Cajun Bandit – from the same company that produces the BBQ Stacker – is a full conversion kit. This the ultimate solution. It comes with a leg conversion kit to lower the bowl, a giant water pan, and a 2nd cooking grate. A Weber grill converted into a smoker with the Cajun Bandit actually has some advantages over the Weber Smokey Mountain – namely, it will still easily serve as a grill, and the hinged stainless door knocks the socks off the WSM crappy door.
The Cajun Bandit conversion will turn your Weber Kettle into a hardcore professional level smoker. There are KCBS BBQ champions using these units. A cajun bandit smoker will hold 6 giant pork butts and cook all of them evenly. I’ve cook 18 full slabs of pork ribs on my bandit and all of them cooked evenly. This is the real deal. It’s well made and fits the Weber kettle like a glove. Shipping will set you back about 40 bucks – but you’ll have no regrets with this smoker conversion.
PROS: Well made, fits perfectly together, holds a lot of meat, a lot of fuel, flexible and versatile
CONS: While you don’t HAVE to use the legs, you should – and that involves drilling into your kettle.
Sorry folks, the full Cajun Bandit conversion kit is no longer being made. 🙁