Got A Kettle BBQ?
Here Are Some Great
Tips And Tricks

If you own a kettle bbq, such as a Weber barbeque, then here are some great tips and ideas to help you get the most from it.

As well as your standard gas grill barbecues, the kettle is another popular type. There are more than one manufacturer, but perhaps the most famous is Weber.

You’ll often find that the terms 'Weber BBQs' and 'kettle BBQs' are used interchangeably when people are talking about them, and I’m no different. I own a Weber and think it’s great (I have no affiliation to Weber, I just like their barbecues!).

A Kettle BBQ uses briquettes (like small pieces of charcoal) to cook food. These briquettes are lit using fire lighters, and then they heat up to become glowing coals (after about 45 minutes). These coals then become the source of heat to cook your food.

One advantage a kettle bbq has is that you can use it for both direct and indirect cooking. Direct cooking is when the food is cooked directly over the hot coals. Cooking this way is much quicker, and similar to a regular barbecue. Indirect cooking is when the hot coals are placed to the sides of the kettle, and the food is placed on a rack just above and in between the coals. The heat then surrounds the food and cooks it. It’s a slower but less intensive method, but the results are well worth the wait.

When you buy a kettle bbq, it’s important to read the instructions carefully. It will give you the information you need for that particular type when it comes to quantities of briquettes and so on. The tips I’m going to give you below are more general. Given the range of kettles on the market, I simply can’t cater for each type!

Let’s start from the beginning – I’ll assume you’ve placed the required number of briquettes in the kettle along with some fire lighters to get them started. Her we go with some invaluable tips that I’ve learned from years of practice!

  • Make sure the air vents at the bottom of the kettle are fully open. I’ve sometimes forgotten and wondered why everything was taking so long.

  • Once you’ve lit the fire lighters, wait about 10 seconds to make sure they’re well alight before placing the briquettes over them.

  • At first, the briquettes may produce a lot of smoke. Don’t stand there breathing it in, and make sure you close any doors or windows to the house around you.

  • While you’re trying not to breath in the smoke and fumes, spend a minute or two checking that the fire lighters haven’t been smothered and that they’re still burning well.

  • Once your satisfied everything’s burning well, then you can leave the kettle while the briquettes heat up. However, leave the lid off the kettle to allow as much air as possible to feed the fire. If it’s windy though, some kettles have a lid rest that allow you to prop the lid open while protecting the fire from wind. Do that, if your kettle allows for it, otherwise try to find a more protected spot.

  • The briquettes usually take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to heat up completely. It is very important to allow this process to complete. All the briquettes should be completely ashed over (so they’re white or beige in colour) before you start cooking. If not, your food may have an unpleasant taste to it.

  • Sometimes you may notice that some briquettes are fully ashed over, while others are only half so, or still unlit. Furthermore, there may be fewer briquettes alight on one side of the kettle than the other. I’ve especially had these problems on windy days, even with the lid supposedly protecting the fire. Often, too, the fire lighters may have gone out too soon. What I’ll simply do is (using tongs) move the briquettes around so there’s an even spread of lit and unlit coals. Try to place completely unlit coals directly on top of lit ones so that they catch alight.

  • Once the fire is ready, you can start cooking. I’ll use some cooking spray on the wire rack to stop the food sticking to it. Oh, and when you put the rack in, make sure you are wearing some protection on your hands as you’ll find the handles of the rack will go directly above the hot coals! Ouch.

  • Once your food is in, and you’ve placed any drip trays in (depending on what you’re cooking), put the lid on and make sure that both the lid vent and the bottom vents under the kettle are open. This is very important as kettles work by drawing cold air in through the bottom, heating it with the coals, cooking the food with the hot air, and releasing said hot air out the top.

  • While your food is cooking, don’t be tempted to continually check on it by lifting the lid! All this will do is release a lot of heat which will adversely affect the cooking. Be patient!

  • Once the time is up for whatever you’re cooking, then remove the lid and take the food out. If it’s a roast, then put it straight onto the carving tray. I find I need help with this step – I’ll remove the meat with tongs and a carving fork while someone else holds the tray. Oh, and don’t forget gloves for this step either.

  • While the food is resting, you need to close off a kettle bbq to allow the fire to extinguish. Put the lid back on, and close both top and bottom vents. This will starve the fire of oxygen and so eventually put it out. Note that this takes a while, so make sure small children are kept away until you’ve checked the kettle has cooled down. This can take several hours.

  • Another great thing about a kettle bbq is that you really don’t need to spend too much time cleaning them. Just empty the ash out into a plastic bag, and then use a hose to give it a once over. I just make sure there’s no leftover ash lying around. I’ll scrape any excess fat residue from the rack but really this adds to the flavour of the next barbecue, so don’t clean it too much!

That’s it. Hopefully you’ve picked up a few good tips here, or maybe I’ve answered a nagging problem you’ve had!

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