Good barbecue is about three or four things, the meat, the grill, the vents, the amount of time to cook and the quality of your sauces and dry rub seasonings. At Jake's Famous Foods we are expert in the quality of our bbq rubs and sauces for sale. But today we are going to talk about the most misunderstood segment of the bbq process and that’s heat management and using your vents. My personal stable of barbecue grills numbers in the 5 to 6 category and yet over the past eight or so years I’ve concentrated most of my time on my Weber. I do so because the grill plate is big enough and yet small enough to manage a good sized rack of ribs and a whole chicken combined. There’s not a lot to the grill and even the most novice of barbecuers can get the hang of the grill pretty quickly. And yet with all that simplicity it still took time to master or adequately manage the process of heat control. As they used to say in the Western days when they’d found a solution to a problem…”we think we’ve got our leg up on her now” so let’s get started with ideas to help you manage your bbq vents.
First off, the ways and methods of managing bbq vents will change depending on the meats to be grilled, the type of wood or charcoal to be used and the conditions surrounding the grill, whether it is cold or hot outside. In the case of cool temperatures the surface of the grill will be colder and will take more heat to maintain an average ranged cooking temperature. To get that averaged range temperature will require more air circulation and more fire source available through the use of charcoal or wood. Take for example you decide to bbq ribs and before you do that you avail yourself access our website: Jake's Famous Foods.
You pre-seasoned your meat and you're using a standard indirect cooking method in your Weber. Meaning you’ve situated the bulk of your charcoal on one side of the grill leaving the opposite side clear of any charcoal. In addition you’ve positioned a water pan over the charcoals so as to create steam to drive some moisture back into the meat that might be lost during the grilling process. Your bottom and top vents are wide open. But the fly in the ointment is that it’s 40 degrees outside even though the sun is out. While this isn’t a perfect storm tragedy what you will need to realize is that your proposed 3 hour cook will probably take as long as 4 hours if not more. The whole process depends on whether your intent is to grill the ribs or smoke the ribs. But for the sake of this discussion let’s focus on grilling. The external temperature of 40 degrees will actively work against the heating process causing the charcoals to burn at a lower rate. Even though both grates are wide open you may have to add more charcoal. How do you solve this problem? We’ve got the answer. Charcoal Chimney…if you don’t have one, go out and get one now. This chimney will allow you to pre-heat a good size of the charcoal which can then be evenly spread over the unlit charcoal. By doing so you’ll ensure that you manage the heat in a meaningful way as opposed to being controlled by the temperature circulating around your grill. Now the real issue is how and when do you adjust the vents for maximum heat management?
Now, let’s focus on a stellar day with temperatures around 78 degrees, almost no breeze and the sun fully peaked. This temperature is optimum for grilling. Very little time will need to be spent on managing the vents, however, just because the temps are optimum does not mean that one can simply avoid the process.
So, in both cases of cold and hot, let’s first target the desired cooking temperature. For smoked baby back ribs that are using our natural dry rubs we’ll concentrate on an average temperature between 225 and 240 degrees. There’s 15 degrees of adjustment and heat management which should not be too difficult on a Weber. Let’s first start with the bottom vents wide open. This setup will allow maximum draw of air across the charcoals. Second, let’s take some standard masking tape and circle the vent adjuster on the lid of the grill. Now with the vents fully opened, let’s take a marker and create a line out from the left most opening of each of the vents. Transfer that line down to the tape. Now, let’s move the adjuster to the right until the vents are fully closed. Transfer a line down from the left most opening onto the tape. These two lines represent the vent when it is fully opened. Now comes the really important part knowing how to segment the line. Let’s divide the distance between the two lines into increments just like you would see on a scale or thermometer. Each notch would represent 10 degrees on the scale. My notches would be about 1/8 inch apart and I would have approximately 5 notches representing about 5 degrees each. Even more important is to realize that if your vent adjuster has 4 holes then the degrees total is cumulative making a 1/8 inch adjustment equivalent to 20 degrees. Many ask, "is controlling the vents that critical and sensitive?" And the answer is, yes.
Now, with the vent gradients delineated and your charcoal burning comes the time to start the bbq process. Place the meat opposite the heated charcoal. Close the lid as fast as humanly possible. If you don’t have a remote temperature thermometer or temperature sensor on your grill you’ll need to use a metal cooking thermometer. Before getting my remote sensor I took a standard kitchen thermometer and placed that into one of the vent openings and just let it hang there for about 5 minutes to check the temperature. Now this is not the best method mainly because the temperature gauge is some distance away from the actual surface of the meat. But you’ll be able to adjust the vents to manage the level of heat your desire.
Managing the vents with wood smoke can require some skill. If you’re planning on using wood just keep in mind that the use will drive the temperature up for a limited period of time. Wood depending on the chunk size can increase the temperature somewhere around 10 to 15 degrees. The larger the wood chunk the longer the burn cycle and the greater the increase in temperature. I prefer using about 4 to 5 ounces of wood only. The small an amount is enough to adequately smoke the meat without overpowering the taste. If you can get segments that are about 2 ounces each then spread them out across the charcoals.
Grill vents will traditionally work the same across all Weber grills. For those that do not have Weber grills the concepts are the same. The keys are just keeping an eye on the location of the vents, whether they are on the sides, or underneath only. If the vents are on the sides you’ll still want to focus on indirect cooking that allows the air to draw across the charcoal toward the meat. I would really perform a dry run with a chimney full of charcoal in the grill without meat. Just let the charcoal get to its perfect state with the coals completely ashed over. Then start adjusting the controller side vents using the marking method that I described above. The process should be to layout the degree increments, then adjust the grill, wait about 5 minutes then adjust the vents again. Record the measurements before and after each time you adjust the grill. Once all the measurements are recorded including how long the charcoal lasts in the grill then it’s time to work on actual barbecue.
Now, on to larger meats, let’s say you want to cook the very popular Dino sized beef ribs. Beef ribs of that size are going to take time and just the right amount of heat management. But no matter you’ve got your grill measurements marked, you have a good thermometer and you’ve properly seasoned your ribs with Jake’s Famous natural dry rubs for sale. Beef ribs require a higher cook temperature in the 275 degree range and will need to remain in that position for about 3 hours until their internal temperature reaches about 200 degrees. You’ll need an adequate amount of charcoal to cook for that long a period approximately 1/3 to a half a standard 15 pound bag of regular charcoal. To truly manage the vents and temperatures of any grill use only standard non treated charcoal which will allow you to evenly manage the heat cycle. That’s a lot to say, when actually what we mean is, if you use treated charcoal it burns faster and makes the heat harder to manage. Now, keep an eye on the vents and properly rest the meat once it has achieved the desired temperature. I think you'll find that the results are well worth the setup process.
Exceptions and adjustments in the heat management process. Sometimes try as we may we find that we just can’t get a handle on the management of temperatures around the grill. We believe we have the answer to the issue. It is entirely possible that somehow your lid or grill has either been damaged or warped and is not closing properly. An easy way to determine this is to add a piece of smoking wood to the charcoal then completely close the bottom vents. You’ll notice right away once the oxygen is removed the wood source will begin to smoke. Note the locations of the smoke as it comes from around the grill. If the smoke only pours through the top vents then perfect your grill is fine. If the smoke pours from two or three spots besides the grill vent then you may need to tap the grill lid to make sealing adjustments. Now using remote thermometers with wires will cause a gap at the mating sections of the grill. This gap will cause you to open the vents an additional 5 degrees but this should be nominal overall. Try to spread the wires apart to balance out the gap. Remember, once you’ve figured out where your air losses are then you can design ways to compensate for the loss.
To help satisfy they bbq urge we’ve built a boat load of products that are on the market right now and available when you shop natural bbq sauce online and when your order bbq sauce online. Below we’ve listed our key seven dry rubs and our standing of natural barbecue sauces. These all represent our basic stable of natural bbq rubs and sauces for sale.
Tri Tip Steak and Rib Rub
Santa Barbara Rub
San Ysidro Rub
Santa Maria Dry Rub
Memphis Dry Rub
California Chipotle Dry Rub
California Chicken Dry Rub
Really Good Mild Barbecue Sauce
Really Nice Medium Hot Barbecue Sauce
Really Hot Barbecue Sauce
Maple Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
Memphis Blues Barbecue Sauce
Texas Style Inspired Barbecue Sauce
Our finest bbq rubs and sauces for sale are available online on our website Jake's Famous Foods. See our natural bbq rubs and sauces for sale and shop natural bbq sauce online today.