What is the Snake Method?
The Snake Method in BBQ is a technique of arranging charcoal briquettes around the inside of your kettle BBQ, in the shape of a snake. You light “the fuse” with hot coals at one end and allow it to burn along the length. This allows for even heat distribution and temperature control, giving you a cooler indirect zone for smoking meat.
Building the Snake
- Begin by making a row two Heatbeads wide around the edge of your BBQ. A snake around 3/4 of the kettle can burn for around 12hrs, depending on temps. If you want a shorter cook, you can make a shorter snake. I’d suggest making it longer than you think though, as you can always create a break in the snake, or close all the vents to shut down the fire and save your unburnt fuel for another cook.
- Repeat the process, with a single row of Heatbeads, on top of your first layer of briquettes. Now, you should have a snake of charcoal that is two briquettes on the bottom, and one on top.
- Add smoking wood of your choice on top of the snake. Place two or three (more if you like a stronger smoke flavour) chunks on the first third to half of the snake. The meat will take on the most smoke and flavour in the first part of the cook, so don’t bother wasting chunks past the halfway point.
- Place a water pan in the middle of the grill. The water pan plays two roles. It adds moisture during the cook but also helps regulate the cooking temperature.
How to Light your Charcoal Snake
- Get 10-12 Heatbeads lit in the bottom of a chimney starter.
- Dump the lit Heatbeads on the start of the snake and use tongs to position the lit Heatbeads in a pile over the start of the snake, “lighting the fuse.”
- Add a chunk of wood directly onto the lit end of the snake.
- Place the cooking grate back into the kettle and put the meat over the water pan.
- Put the lid on the kettle, making sure the top vent is on the opposite side of the grill to the lit charcoal. This will help to draw the smoke over your meat. As the cook professes, you can rotate the lid as the snake burns along.
How to Control Temperature
Now that your snake is set up and burning, you’ll need to take control of the internal temperature.
I prefer to leave the top vent fully open the entire cook, and control the temps using the bottom vents.
- Depending on the weather, you should be able to hold a steady temperature without any changes required.
- Once your temperature gauge hits the 200°F mark, it’s time to adjust the bottom vent. Close it slightly to slow the draw of oxygen through the cooker and settle on the target temp.
- Continue managing the temperature by adjusting the vent as required. Make sure you only make small adjustments and allow time for the changes to take effect.
- For ultimate temperature management, get yourself a wireless multiprobe bbq thermometer, such as the Inkbird IBBQ-4T I have listed here. Attach one probe at grate level and one probe into your meat. This will give you a very accurate view of how your cook is running any adjustments you may need to make.
So there you have it, the Snake Method – a super easy, cost and time-efficient way of cooking low and slow on your Weber Kettle. Great for beginners just starting out on their low & slow journey, but also handy for seasoned pitmasters to have up their sleeve.