All it takes is TIME and CONFIDENCE to master the art of low and slow charcoal cooking. With COVID-19 keeping you isolated at home, you now have more time than ever before and with a little practice you’ll get the confidence to BBQ like you've never done before.
Guys, imagine cooking a low and slow BBQ feast for your family or your mates when the Covid-19 nightmare is over! Ladies, imagine cooking up a low and slow storm outdoors for your loved ones! With my simple tips and what has taken me years to learn, you'll be a low and slow ISO pitmaster in no time!
What is low and slow?
It’s cooking meat on low heat and for a longer period. You can use a grill/BBQ kettle, an offset smoker or an electric pallet grill. It needs a lid/hood to retain the heat. I cook on everything from a charcoal kettle to an electric pellet grill...oh and a gas BBQ. I'm definitely no BBQ snob! This post is predominantly about what you need to cook low and slow using charcoal but the principals can be applied to whatever you cook on. Chicken, Beef, Pork and lamb are all delicious with the flavour that only charcoal can provide. Read this post and follow me on social media - Instagram, Facebook, You Tube and Tik Tok to learn more.
Low and Slow Gear you need!
- A digital thermometer. I use a Thermo Pro TP-19 thermometer.
- BBQ heat resistant gloves. I use Fireslap Heat Resistant Gloves.
- A good quality apron that has a big front pocket. Perfect to keep a thermometer in! I use my Come Grill With Me apron of course.
- Throw away foil/drip trays.
- Clean old rags or a tea towel.
- A spray bottle.
- Long handle gas lighter (to light your fire starters).
- A Chimney Charcoal Starter to light charcoal faster. I use Firebrand BBQ Chimney which holds up to 3 kgs. Lights up in around 15 minutes.
- The best quality meat you can afford. I use Ashburton Meats in Melbourne.
- Good quality lump and briquette charcoal. I use Firebrand BBQ Charcoal Premium Lump and briquettes.
How to set your BBQ up for low and slow
- Light your charcoal using a chimney. When the charcoal turns a slight grey ash colour, pour it to one side of the BBQ.
- Place a disposable aluminum tray on the other side and add the grill grate on top.
- Heat the BBQ with the hood on until the temperature reaches 120c (248f).
- Place your marinated meat on the grill grate, over the aluminum tray side.
- When I'm cooking pork, I like to add a mix of water and apple juice in the aluminium tray. For everything else, I add some beef stock, water and 4-6 cloves of peeled garlic. The fat dripping in the tray makes for a scrumptious gravy.
Where to start?
I highly recommend mastering low and slow cooks in the following order -
- Charcoal roast chicken because it's the easiest to master and will only take around 2-3 hours. You can focus on your BBQ set up, lighting charcoal and not
having to wrap your roast. Great for beginners!
A successful charcoal roast chicken that's succulent and delicious does something to one's pitmaster confidence!
- Pork ribs because they're easier than beef short ribs and take less time. You can be eating tender juicy pork ribs in 3-4 hours. It's your introduction to wrapping meat with foil or butchers paper if you prefer.
- Lamb shoulder because it's the easiest of the larger cuts to cook and due to slightly more fat, you'll usually end up with a juicy roast with minimal effort. You'll have fall off the bone lamb in around 5-6 hours. One you've mastered the shoulder, progress to the leg of lamb.
- Roast pork/butt because you'll learn little tips from your lamb shoulder that will make you thank your lucky stars you read this post, as you devour your tender succulent pork.Cook time around 5-6 hours.
- Beef short ribs because by the time you're ready to cook these you've fixed and learnt from all the above cooks. Beef short ribs introduce you to the infamous 'stall' and you really do learn that time really is the key to tender juicy beef shorties. Time wise they will take anywhere from 5 hours to 8 hours to cook.
- The Beef Brisket is the last on my list of low and slow cooks to master because there are so many factors that can affect the outcome. You definitely need time on your hands. I usually dedicate a minimum of 12 hours and up to around 16 hours. Some people smoke their briskets for longer! You may face many challenges with a brisket cook.....the "stall" is a major one and usually happens around 150f - 160f, lack of moisture can occur if you don't use a good cut or if you dont spray often. Also it's important to maintain the right temperature throughout the entire cook, which can be hard with charcoal. You'll often see pitmasters using an offset smoker or a Traeger pallet grill for this very reason.
Feeling confident and adventurous having tried all of the above? Try cooking lamb ribs, ox cheeks, duck or lamb shanks low and slow.There are so many different meats and cuts you can conquer.
Note - The "stall" can happen when you cook a big piece of meat low and slow. I had no idea what was happening the first time I experienced a brisket stall. The temperature stayed at 160f for just over an hour! A stall can put a big pause on a cook and the only way I have found to overcome it is to wrap the meat in foil and be patient!
TIP - No matter what kind of meat you are cooking low and slow make sure you rest it! To give you an indication of how long to rest for.....I'll rest a roast chicken for at least 15 minutes, a roast lamb/pork for at least 20 minutes, ribs for 15 minutes and a brisket for 30 minutes to an hour.
Which fuel to use?
I prefer a mix of large lump charcoal and briquettes made by Firebrand BBQ Charcoal. They last longer, don’t spit, don’t smell too strong and have a low smoke. You'll thank me later for not having to experience the highs and lows of other cheaper brands out there like I did.
Low and slow is all about indirect cooking. Whilst some people are awesome at different set ups for it. I use a very simple method of pouring charcoal to one side of the BBQ and placing my meat on the other side. No fancy line ups or charcoal arrangements needed for me.
How much to use?
If I’m cooking a 2kg lamb, I’ll start with 2 kilos of charcoal. That gives you an indication. It really does depend on the size of the lump charcoal and briquettes. The Firebrand BBQ Chimney fits up to 3kg at a time which is awesome. Fill it is with charcoal, sit it on top of 3 natural fire starters and in around 15 minutes you’ll be ready to start cooking! Otherwise expect to wait a good 45 minutes without one.
How to add smoke to charcoal!
You can buy small chunks of different wood that impart flavour to the meat you’re cooking. Some of these are apple, maple, hickory, apricot, mesquite and many more. I have found Natural Smoke Australia is a wonderful family business selling the perfect wood chunks for smoking. Just add 2-3 chunks to your charcoal.
- I like to maintain a 120c (248f) even temperature in my BBQ throughout all my low and slow cooks.
- I like to wrap meat in foil at 160-170f internal temperature and continue cooking it until it reaches 205f. Wrapping at this temperature will also help get through the dreaded 'stall'
- I wrap every time except when I'm cooking chicken (and sometimes beef shorties, if I'm feeling brave) and remove it at 75c (167f).
- Always check the internal temperature using the thickest part of the meat.
I would love to see your low and slow cooks on social media. If you're on Instagram be sure to tag me so I can check out what you've cooked. Love, Irene XO.
Is this a sponsored post? No, it's a post that includes all the products I love and where you can find them. I am not getting any financial gain recommending these companies or products on this post.