The Minion Method-Part I
07/25/06 - 21:05 Filed in: Smoking | Smoking Tips | Charcoal
The Minion Method is a technique for getting a long, slow controlled burn and is ideal for use in a smoker like my CharGriller Smokin’ Pro. This entry will talk about my take on the Minion Method and how I use the Minion Method in the Side Firebox of my Smoker Though this entry is specific to my CharGriller Smokin’ Pro,, the general principles apply to other smokers with Side Fireboxes. Some of the ideas may also be adaptable to other types of grills too.
The Minion Method is named after it’s inventor, Jim Minion, a competition cook who first pioneered the technique. The Principle is you use a small amount of lit coals on a much larger pile of unlit coals. The lit coals slowly ignite the neighboring coals and create a slow controlled burn. In my CharGriller under ideal weather conditions in a cook where I’ve not had to lift the lid too much, I’ve gotten up to nine hours out of one batch of coals.
The Side Firebox (Here after called SFB) has a grate down near the bottom intended for holding coals, plus a grille at mid height intended for cooking food. The problem with using the lower grate for the coals is the ash buildup quickly reaches this level and smothers the coals. If you use the grill for the coals, the ash can build up higher and you don’t have to empty the ash drawer as often. I’ve gotten around 20 hours of cooking in before having to empty the ash drawer. This will of course depend on the charcoal you’re using and the temperature you’re cooking at etc.
CharGriller sells charcoal baskets intended for use in the main chamber to help with indirect grilling. Many CG owners use a pair of these baskets sitting the grille grate to hold the charcoal for long cooks. It should be noted that putting the charcoal up this high will soon melt the paint off the top of the SFB and this cooking method is not “supported” by CharGriller. Having said that, many CG owners use a pair of the CG baskets or home made baskets to cook this way. The price you pay is you must keep the area where the paint flakes off, oiled and rust free.
When I use the Minion method I fill the baskets outside the SFB up to their rim and place them in the SFB. I distribute two or three wood chunks per basket to generate smoke throughout the burn. You must tilt the baskets to place them so do not fill them past their rim. The opening for the SFB is slightly smaller than the baskets so you have to do a little maneuvering to drop in the baskets. You should practice this action with a cool grill a few times. You tilt the end closest to the main chamber down and slide it forward as if you were going to slide it into the hole between the SFB and the main cooking chamber. This allows you to get the basket in and moved forward so the rear of the basket has room to drop into place. Once the first basket is in the SFB slide it to the rear of the SFB. The second basket is placed with the same tilt and slide move. The second basket is placed in the front of the SFB closer to the lid. For a long cook you will need to remove the baskets for “in-flight refueling” so it is important you get this move down by practicing with cool baskets.
Once the baskets are in you can fill them to just under the inside of the SFB lid. You can pour coals in from the bag or place them by hand. You must take care to avoid pouring coals beyond the limits of the baskets. I’ll often place the upper tier of coals by hand to avoid starting an avalanche. You’ll need to leave a pocket near the opening to the Main Chamber for the lit coals you will use to get things started. For me I light about 25-30 coals in my charcoal chimney, so I leave room to get this many coals on the pile.
After lighting the charcoal chimney it takes about 15 minutes to get the coals so they are gray and ashed over. This time is for Kingsford, Duraflame seems to take about 12 minutes to get going. I don a pair of elbow length BBQ gloves and carefully pour the lit coals into the pocket I’ve left in the Charcoal baskets. This should be done slowly and carefully to avoid having the lit coals cascade out of the baskets and into the Main Chamber. I keep a pair of old beat up tongs around that I’ll use to move the coals around as I dump them in. I usually need to do this in two or three pours, distributing the coals and pouring some more. When I’m done I’ll move them around some more to make sure the lit coals are in a compact pile near the opening from the SFB to the main chamber.
At this point it is time to shut the lid and let the grill heat up. In the next part of this entry I will talk about getting the grill up to temperature and keeping it there. Also I will describe my technique for doing an in-flight refueling using a second set of baskets.
In 2007 I discovered a MUCH SAFER way to do In-Flight Refueling. I no longer use the method described here and you shouldn’t try it either. See this blog entry of more information: IN-FLIGHT REFUELING
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