Charcoal Snake Method – Slow and Juicy Cooking

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about the charcoal snake method and provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to make such snake at your backyard.
Jeremy Bivens
Jeremy Bivens
Research Writer
Jeremy Bivens is a passionate writer and grilling enthusiast. He's been working as a freelance journalist for over 15 years now and has a particular interest in food writing read more
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Bruce Williams
Bruce Williams
Expert Consultant
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous read more
Last updated: August 11, 2023
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Having a barbecue when the weather is great is a must, especially when you have friends and family around. There are different methods of making barbecue, one of them being the charcoal snake method.

If you’re looking to start cooking barbecue slowly and with low heat, the charcoal snake method is a great place to start. As one of the cheapest and most reliable ways to cook smoked meat, the charcoal snake method is easy to use when making delicious barbecues.

The charcoal snake method is also a great method for anyone who wants to cook barbecue but doesn’t have a dedicated smoker. In this guide, we would take a look at this simple technique and how you can easily follow it to make barbecues.

From the ingredients and appliances that can be used to the step-by-step instructions involved in the charcoal snake method, and other tips and advice, let’s take a closer look at the charcoal snake method.

What This Method Is About

Charcoal Snake Method - Slow and Juicy CookingThe charcoal snake method is a variation of the Minion method, and it is a way to low-heat and slow cook on a charcoal grill. To carry out the charcoal snake method, you build a half-circle ring of charcoal inside the charcoal grill. The grill should be circular, and then you arrange the charcoal around the edge.

Then, light up the briquettes and place a couple of them at one end of the half-circle ring so that the heat and fire would pass through and light the others. Since it’s a half-circle ring, it’s referred to as a snake, thus the charcoal snake method.

Since the briquettes would heat up slowly, it leads to an easily controllable and manageably low temperature over some time.

If you set up the charcoal snake method properly, you won’t have to refuel the barbecue constantly, and it would run for up to 15 hours. This method would be great if you use a grill or a non-dedicated smoker because their walls are not insulated enough for stability and heat retention.

Most people use Weber Kettles for the snake method because of the way the grill is. The charcoal snake shape will stabilize the heat, and the Weber Kettle does not have insulated walls like the usually dedicated smokers. But, once you get the hang of the charcoal snake method, you don’t have to be limited to the Weber Kettle and other circular grills. You can use it on BBQ pits and others like the kamado-style smokers.

You might think that the unlit charcoal briquette will affect the taste of the food, but this is a misconception. There won’t be any strange flavors in your food as long as you do the charcoal snake method the right way. Your pit should have enough airflow and oxygen, and don’t use briquettes with lighter fluid.

Things You’ll Need for Snake Method Smoking

Apart from what you’re cooking, there are other things you need to carry out the BBQ snake method. Here are some of the gear you need:

  • A circular charcoal grill like Weber Kettle. Which is rated by CNN as the best grill for snake method. Trusted Source Best charcoal grills in 2021 | CNN We tested out six kettle-style charcoal grills because when it comes to grilling, charcoal is better. After a handful of cookouts over the last few weeks, there were two clear winners.
  • A medium bag of charcoal briquettes. Briquettes have a uniform shape for a steady burn than any other lump of charcoal.
  • Water pan.
  • Charcoal chimney starter.
  • Smoking wood chunks.
  • A Dual-probe thermometer allows you to monitor the grill and meat temperature.

Charcoal BBQ Snake Method Step-by-Step Instructions

If there’s one good thing about the charcoal snake method, it’s the fact that it’s super easy to learn. The BBQ snake method is straightforward, and if you’re familiar with using all grills or barbecuing in general, then you should be an angle to get the hang of it sooner than later.

Build Your Charcoal Snake

Charcoal Snake Method - Slow and Juicy CookingThe first thing you have to do is build your charcoal snake, and follow the steps below to do so:

  • Arrange your briquettes in two rows and a half-circle shape around the edge of the grill. The first row of briquettes should be against the edge, and the other one should be inside the first row.
  • Repeat the process by arranging the briquettes on top of the first layer. So, the result should be briquettes arranged two layers wide and two layers tall, in a half-circle shape. Keep in mind that the more briquettes you have on the grill, the less space you have for food.
  • The rows of charcoal should stop about three or four briquettes away from the end of the snake. That’s where you will put the lit briquettes that act as a fuse.
  • On top of the snake, put your smoking wood chunks about three inches apart from them. The amount of wood chunks you put depends on how strong you want your smoke flavor to be.
  • Put the water pan at the center of the grill and charcoal snake once you have the briquettes and wood chunks arranged. It would regulate the temperature and add moisture to what you’re cooking.
  • The water pan should be filled up to three-quarters.

Light Your Charcoal Snake

  • Charcoal Snake Method - Slow and Juicy CookingAt the bottom of the chimney starter, put ten briquettes there.
  • Using natural fire starters, light the briquettes acting as a fuse.
  • The charcoal should be placed where the beginning of the snake shape is, then, using your tongs, you can place the fuse briquettes in the space you left for them.
  • Half of them should be against the unlit briquettes to spread the heat, and the other should be on top of the bottom briquette row.
  • One chunk of the smoking wood should be placed right on the lit charcoal, and the grill grate should be placed in its position.
  • Now, you’re set up to grill your meat.

How to Control the Heat

The snake method requires consistently low heat for you to cook your meat or barbecue properly. If the heat fluctuates, the food might not turn out how you’d expect. This is why having a BBQ thermometer would come in handy. You will need the top and bottom vents.

  • Keep both vents wide open.
  • If the weather is good, you should have a temperature between 225- and 250-degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If the smoke temperature goes to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, use the bottom vent to change it. Do this by closing it slightly to slow down the draw of oxygen.
  • As you open the vents, you increase the temperature, and when you close the vent, you lower it. You can do this to keep on adjusting the temperature.

Charcoal Snake Method - Slow and Juicy CookingTips & Advice

Although we’ve covered the general information needed to carry out the snake method of smoking effectively, there are still some tips and advice to keep in mind.

  • Use briquettes and nothing else. Lumps of charcoal will be uneven so that it won’t create even and consistent heat.
  • Consistently adjust the temperature. Don’t rely on the briquettes to keep the temperature low for a long time, but keep on checking and adjusting it so that you don’t end up with burnt or raw food.
  • You can draw smoke over the meat by putting the top vent on the opposite side of the grill.
  • If you don’t have wood chunks, you can use wood chips instead.
  • When arranging your briquettes in the grill, don’t choke down the airflow by adding too much charcoal. This ensures that there’s enough airflow for your food to cook properly.
  • When adjusting your heat and temperature, make them little by little.
  • Use natural fire starters for your snake method, as they are safer and more convenient.
  • Follow the steps for the snake method smoking strictly so that you end up with a well-cooked barbecue.


  • What temperature range is best for this method?

The best temperature for the BBQ snake method is between 225- and 250-degrees Fahrenheit. The smoke temperature should be consistently low and controlled too so that it remains in this range.

  • What type of cooker can be used?

The best kind of cooker for the charcoal snake method is the Weber Kettle, and so it is recommended for those new to the grilling method. You can also use any other circular grill cooker, and once you’re good with it, you can use other types of grill cookers.

  • What charcoals are best for the snake method?

The best type of charcoal for the snake method smoking is briquettes. Don’t use others like lump charcoal, softwoods, binchotan or other types. Instead, use charcoal briquettes for the best result.

Charcoal Snake Method - Slow and Juicy CookingFinal Thoughts

To get a delicious result from a low and slow cook, the snake method smoking is usually seen as the best way. It’s cost-effective and requires low maintenance too. The method is easy for anyone to learn, whether they are new to barbecuing or not, and it’s also reliable for someone experienced with the grill.

You can cook anything with the charcoal snake method, from the briskets to pork, as long as you properly arrange a couple of briquettes, wood chunks, and lit charcoal. You can enjoy a fun barbecue party with your friends and family with the charcoal snake method.


Best charcoal grills in 2021 | CNN
We tested out six kettle-style charcoal grills because when it comes to grilling, charcoal is better. After a handful of cookouts over the last few weeks, there were two clear winners.

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