Master Kettle Barbecue Cooking with these 3 Simple Methods

Kettle barbecues offer more than just the standard grill. You can use it for indirect cooking, roasting, baking, steaming and more. In this post we explore the easy ways you can turn your kettle BBQ to more than just a grill.

  • Save

1. Closed/Open Grill Direct Cooking

HOW: Probably the most common method to cook with the kettle barbecue, the direct cooking method is the easiest and quickest to setup. Simply light up your briquettes or lumpwood charcoal with a chimney starter, allow it to burn for 20 minutes or when it turn ash grey, pour it out onto the charcoal grate and spread out the fuel evenly with a poker or stick.

All you need now is to place the cooking grate over the burning fuel and cook your food directly over the heat. Open the vents on the lid and put the lid over the food to keep the heat circulating around the food. Its easy to forget this step as more people ignore the lid and use the barbecue as an open grill. Keeping the lid on does retain the heat turning the barbecue into an oven

WHY: High heat sears the meat better, keeping the lid shut helps retain the juice in the food making them tastier. Great for cooking small cuts of meat

PERFECT FOR: steaks, small cuts of meat (lamb, venison etc), fish, cuttle fish, prawns, chicken fillet or any food that requires less than 20 minutes to cook.

TIPS: Resist cooking your food immediately upon pouring out the coal, leave it to settle for a few minutes before cooking.

  • Save

2. Fuel on One Side In-Direct Cooking

HOW: For this, you will need a small drip tray. Once fired in the chimney starter for 20 minutes or until the fuel turns ash gray, put the drip tray on one side of the charcoal grate and pour the fuel on the other side. This keeps the heat completely on one side.

All you need to do now is to put the cooking grate on and you have two cooking zones, one for direct cooking on top of the heat, the other for in-direct cooking with the drip tray underneath. Sear and brown your food directly over the heat to seal the juices in. 4-5 minutes on each side should do the trick.

Move the food to the opposite side and put the lid on. Remember to open the vents first before putting the lid on. It doesn’t really matter where you position the vent, the heat is high enough to circulate around the food.

WHY: Offers the flexibility of cooking and in-direct cooking for bigger pieces of meat with bone in. Gives you more control over the heat and method of cooking. You can also start the firing of the coal in-situ, to make the most of the heat, just don’t cook over it under the fuel is glowing ember or ash gray.

PERFECT FOR: chicken thighs, rack of ribs, tenderloins, duck or chicken breast, bigger chicken drums and slightly thicker cuts of meat.

  • Save

TIPS: We use a rectangular baking tin made from thick iron sheet as a drip tray so we soak and wash this up for use again. If you don’t have a baking tin to sacrifice, make your own aluminium drip tray with strong aluminium foil.

3. Roasting or Baking with In-Direct Cooking

Keep the drip tray in the middle of the fuel grate to collect any juices. Fire up the briquettes or lump wood with the chimney starter and leave it for 20 minutes or under the fuel is ash gray or red ember. Pour the fuel around the drip tray, spreading it evenly around piling it higher towards the edge.

Keep your meat or joint in the middle just above the drip tray and cover it with the lid. Remember to open the vent on the lid before putting it on. The heat will circulate in the cooking chamber around the food just like a fan-assisted oven. To make sure that your meat is cook thoroughly check the temperature with a meat thermometer. Digital thermometers offers easier and quicker reading.

WHY: for cooking bigger cuts of meat, large joints or whole birds, the in-direct cooking method without burning the food.

PERFECT FOR: Whole chicken, roast pork joints, roast leg of lamb, bread, roast duck, roast gammon, roast beef, beef tenderloin, bread and pizza

TIPS: We use a small square baking tin made with thick and heavy iron sheets. When finished, leave it to cool, soak in soapy warm water, wash and clean ready for use again next time. Great for smoking too.

  • Save

Other Methods

You may find other kettle barbecue cooking methods using different fuel arrangements as shown in the diagram below from BBQ Viking. However, these are based on the same principles as above.

  • Save

  • Save


For authentic charcoal smoked flavor we recommend using the biggest kettle barbecue you can afford. Here are a few good examples: