How to: cook low and slow

There’s a BIG difference between grilling and barbecuing. Grilling is about fast, high-temperature cooking, whereas barbecue cooking is all about taking it slow at low temps. We put together some BBQ tips to help you keep things low and slow in order to achieve that real, authentic charcoal barbecue flavor.

Step 1: Prepare charcoal for a low and slow cook

When it comes to smoking, it’s important to choose the right charcoal and use indirect charcoal configurations. Hardwood smoke gives BBQ that authentic, clean smoky flavor, which is what our Royal Oak Lump Charcoal and All-Natural Charcoal Briquets were created for. Pairing our charcoal with one of these indirect charcoal configurations below will keep the fire burning to achieve that long, slow cook.

If you own a smoker, this will most likely be your “go-to” method for low and slow cooking. Simply fill the entire charcoal bed with unlit charcoal and add only a few lit pieces to the very top. The lit charcoal pieces on top will slowly light the pieces below them and eventually burn down slowly.

Two-zone fire: parallel configuration
This method can be executed in both your grill or smoker. Start by filling a water pan with hot water and place it in the middle of the grill. Pour a full chimney’s worth of lit charcoal on two sides of your grill, parallel to the water pan. This will help regulate temperature and add moisture to the inside of the grill or smoker.

Charcoal snake
A method that is popularly used on charcoal grills with charcoal briquets. Begin by laying charcoal briquets around the edge of your grill to form an almost complete circle, or a snake. Once the base layer is formed, stack two more layers of charcoal directly on top of it. Fill a water pan with hot water and place it in the middle of the snake. Place about six charcoal briquets in a pile at the head of the charcoal snake and light using Royal Oak All-Natural Tumbleweeds. Over time, the charcoal will slowly burn down the line for a long, slow cook.

Step 2: Add wood chips or chunks

Adding wood chips or chunks gives that extra kick of flavor to your meal but is completely optional. If you choose to add wood chips or chunks, make sure to evenly spread them around the charcoal to ensure flavor fully penetrates the meat. Keep in mind that different types of wood give off different flavors. Wood chips or chunks that have a bold flavor pair best with beef and poultry, whereas chips or chunks that are more mildly flavored pair best with poultry, pork and fish.

Step 3: Smoke at 200° F to 225° F

The ideal temperature for most smoking ranges from 200° F to 225° F. Keeping a consistent temperature throughout the cook is the secret to low and slow smoking. A built-in thermometer or a meat thermometer can be used to monitor internal temperature to ensure consistency throughout the cook.

Step 4: Keep the fire burning

It’s important to maintain proper ventilation inside the grill or smoker to preserve the fire when cooking low and slow. Keep the lid on to avoid unexpected temperature changes, and only lift the lid to either monitor the internal temperature of the meat or to add charcoal. If the temperature fluctuates during the cook, adjust the vents to prevent the fire from burning out. To decrease the temperature, close the vents to reduce the oxygen flow, and to increase the temperature, open the vents fully to allow more oxygen in the grill or smoker.

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