Skip to Content

Charcoal Snake Method: How To Turn Your Grill Into a Smoker

Charcoal Snake Method: How To Turn Your Grill Into a Smoker

If you want to make smoked pork butt or brisket but do not have an electric smoker, offset smoker, or smoker, the charcoal snake method will allow you to smoke food in your kamado grill.

You can smoke meat in a kettle grill at a consistently low temperature for up to 12 hours.

How Does a Charcoal Snake Work?

Essentially, the charcoal snake method works by creating a half-circle ring of charcoal. 

This charcoal ring runs around the inside edge of your circular kamado grill or charcoal grill.

Next, a few charcoal briquettes are lit at one end of the snake, and like a domino effect, each briquette will light the next charcoal.

Because the charcoal is lit slowly, it will create a constant yet controllable low temperature for a long period of time.

The charcoal snake method is also called the fuse.

 It is perfect if you want to smoke ribs for hours without having to consistently add more charcoal mid-cook. 

If the smoker is set up correctly, it can last for as long as 12-15 hours.

In addition to this, this is also beneficial since grills are not designed with insulated walls that are designed to retain heat and maintain consistent temperatures.

Using the snake and a water pan will work together to stabilize the ambient temperature of your makeshift smoker.

Will Unlit Briquettes Affect the Flavor of the Food?

In short, unlit charcoal briquettes will not affect the flavor of your precious smoked brisket.

Unfortunately, there is a terrible myth floating around in the BBQ sphere briquettes.

Briquettes contain binders that give them their uniform shape; some people suggest that these binders will impart a negative flavor to the food as they ignite.

However, the truth is, if there is sufficient oxygen and air circulation in your grill, there should not be any weird flavors imparted into your food. 

Nevertheless, you should not go gun how and smother your charcoal by blocking the airflow. In addition to this, do not use briquettes that are produced with lighter fluid.

The Charcoal Snake Method: How To Turn Your Grill Into a Smoker

The great thing about the charcoal snake method is that it does not need a lot of expensive equipment to turn your grill into a smoker.

All you need is a charcoal grill, a bag of charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, wood chunks, a water pan, and a chimney starter.

If you are using lump charcoal to build your charcoal snake, make sure the pieces of coal are similar in size. 

In addition to this, you may also want to use a dual probe smoker thermometer so you can monitor the grill’s temperature and your meat’s internal temperature.

The first step of the snake method is to build the fuse. First, start by making two rows of charcoal briquettes.

The first row of charcoal should follow the edge of the grill, while the second row should be adjacent to the first row.

Build another layer of briquettes on top of the first row of briquettes. 

Overall, the snake should look like a half-circle of charcoal that’s two briquettes in width and two briquettes in height. 

Stop the top row of briquettes about 3-4 briquettes from the end of the fuse.

This is the spot where lit charcoal will sit and serve as a fuse igniting the rest of the briquettes in the row.

Stop your top rows about three or four briquettes from the end of the snake.

This is where your lit charcoal will sit, acting as a fuse for the rest of the row.

Add 2-3 wood chunks to the first half of the snake. Set the wood chips about 2-3 inches apart.

If you desire a stronger smoky flavor, add a few more wood chips along with the snake.

Place the water pan in the middle of the charcoal snake. 

The water pan will add moisture throughout the smoking process and help to control the grill’s internal temperature. 

Fill the water pan 3/4 of the way full.

How To Light a Charcoal Snake

Lighting a charcoal snake is very simple and easy to do. Simply place 10 briquettes into the bottom of your chimney starter.

You can use firestarter cubs to light the charcoal. Alternatively, you can also use a balled-up paper towel that’s been soaked in all to light the briquettes.

Light the charcoal briquettes and wait for them to ash over. Add the charcoal to the grill near the start of the snake.

Arrange the charcoal in the designated spot you left for them using a pair of tongs.

Ultimately, you want to lean half of the lit charcoals against the unlit briquettes and the remaining half on top of the bottom rows of briquettes.

Set one wood chip directly onto the lit charcoal and place the grill’s cooking grate on top of the charcoal snake.

Now your grill is ready to smoke your pork shoulder.

First, position the lid on top of the grill so that the vent is opposite the lit charcoal to pull smoke over the meat.

Final Thoughts

If you do not have a smoker, there’s no need to fret. After all, smokers can cost a lot of money.

Furthermore, there are so many smokers on the market that it can easily become overwhelming trying to find the perfect smoker.

The snake method is the answer to all of your problems. If you’ve already got a grill, you can easily turn it into a smoker.

The snake method is an inexpensive, low-effort, and low-maintenance way to slow cook any meat at a low temperature.

It is easy enough for new barbecuers to get the hang of, but it is also dependable enough to be used by a BBQ enthusiast if their smoker were to break down.

With a few rows of stacked briquettes or charcoal and a handful of wood chips, you can smoke just about anything from pork shoulder to shoulder roast.