How To Fire Up Your Smoker With the Minion Method

The Minion Method is a technique for low and slow cooking of larger or tougher cuts of meat without the need for adding more coal in the middle of the 6 to 18-hour cooking sessions. Thanks to this method, even the cheapest, toughest and biggest meat cuts can become tender and mouthwatering.

This low and slow method is easy and quick to set up and will ensure a constant temperature and smoke for up to 18 hours of cooking. It is perfect for overnight cooking when you want to get some rest instead of getting up to add more fuel to the cooker.

The method was invented by Jim Minion, who set up his first Weber Smokey Mountain cooker for a competition without reading the instructions, and thus accidentally and out of necessity, came up with the Minion Method.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about the Minion Method.

Why the Minion Method is recommended for low and slow cooking

Pitmaster Jim Minion accidentally came up with his own way of lighting the charcoal off in his Weber Smokey Mountain cooker for speeding up the cooking for a competition.

Without reading the instructions, he filled up the ring of his brand new cooker with charcoal briquettes, and looking for a way to light them off, he added some hot coals on top of them.

Then, Minion used the vents on the bottom of the cooker to control the airflow and the temperature of the WSM cooker.

Thus, he came up with what is known today as the Minion Method.

It is an ingenious low and slow cooking method, perfect for temperatures ranging from 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. It allows for keeping the temperature consistent for 6 to 18 hours of low and slow cooking, without the need of refueling the cooker during the cooking process.

It is an excellent option for unattended overnight cooking and reduces the risk of temperature surges during cooking.

The advantage of the method is that it allows for a quick-firing up of the smoker and then adjusting it to low and slow cooking for up to 18 hours without the need for refueling the cooker.

It is simple but genius and is almost a “set and forget” low and slow cooking technique for any charcoal smoker.

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Pros of using the Minion Method:

  • It is an excellent technique for long 6 to 18 hour low and slow smoking
  • No refueling or adjustments of the temperatures are needed during the cooking
  • The method allows for a quick start of the smoking in just 15 to 30 minutes
  • Perfect for smoking meat and another food overnight without being disturbed

Cons of using the Minion Method:

  • It is not suitable for smoking at temperatures from 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • It is not acceptable for pitmasters who like to have their briquettes completely lit when cooking because they believe that the charcoal briquettes add to the food’s flavor

How to set up and use the Minion Method for low and slow smoking

One of the best things about this clever low and slow cooking technique is that it is very easy and quiet to set up. In fact, you can prep and get your smoker cooking in just 15 to 30 minutes.

Here is a step by step guide for using the Minion Method:

1. Fill the charcoal chamber of your smoker

  • Fill up the chamber of the smoker with briquettes.
  • Create a well in the center of the ring to make space for the lit starter coals.
  • Place the wood chunks of your choice on top of the briquettes.
  • Open the bottom and top air vents of the cooker.

2. Light up the starter coals

  • When Jim Minion first invented this method, he used a chimney starter to light up the starter coals.
  • You can use a chimney starter, a blow torch, or another lighting device to light them up.
  • When the starter coals become covered with ash at about 70%, add them to the smoker’s chamber.

3. Put the starter coals in the well in the center of the briquettes

  • Place the lit coals in the well which you made in the center of the briquettes.
  • This will allow the coal to gradually light up the briquettes closest to it as it burns out and thus keep the temperature level consistent.

4. Adjust the air vents

  • As soon as the temperature in the smoker reaches 200 degrees Fahrenheit, close the bottom and top vents to 25%.
  • Keep monitoring the temperature until it reaches 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep on adjusting the air vents as needed in order to settle the temperature to the desired level between 225 and 250 degrees.
  • You will need to adjust the air vents in accordance with the amount of lit charcoal you have added to the well in the chamber and the weather conditions.
Minion-Method-for-low-and-slow-smoking
Photo credit: perthbbqschool.com

FAQs about the Minion Method

The Minion Method is simple and easy to set up and use, but there are some questions that newbies to the low and slow cooking technique may have, including:

Can the Minion Method be used with any smoker or grill?

While the inventor of this method, Jim Minion, devised it when using a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker, it is not reserved only for the WSM. In fact, the Minion Method will work for any smoker or cooker which has a charcoal basket. You only need to make sure that the lit coals are properly distanced from the meat or other food.

In order to master this method, you will need to experiment with your specific cooker or smoker and adjust the quantity of the coal, the air vents, and the leakage accordingly.

Should briquettes or lump charcoal be used for the Minion Method?

Both types can be used for the Minion method. Each of them has its pros and cons, as well as some differences to keep in mind:

  • Lump charcoal is not uniformly sized, so you will need to pack the coal tightly to ensure a consistent burn and temperature.
  • Briquettes produce more ash than lump charcoal, which can smother the fire. This means that you will need to monitor the smoker’s temperature or cooker during low and slow cooking.

Will the burning briquettes which are unlit affect the taste of the food?

Many briquettes contain limestone, coal, borax, and cornstarch to help them burn more consistently. This, according to some pitmasters, can cause an “off” flavor to the cooked meat via the Minion method.

But there is no clear evidence that the Minion Method’s unlit briquettes can affect the meat’s taste.

Still, if the potential effect on the taste of the meat worries you, you can use lump charcoal instead of briquettes when setting up the Minion Method for your low and slow cooking.

Can wood chunks be used instead of charcoal?

While you can use wood chunks and logs, this will defeat the Minion Method’s entire purpose. The reason is that the wood will need to be burnt down to hot coals before being placed in the chamber. This is slower than using coal. Plus, you will need to add more wood to the smoker during the cooking, so it will not help make the process a “set and forget” low and slow cooking experience.

Are there alternative variations of the Minion Method?

Yes, there are some variations of the Minion Method invented and used by different pitmasters. Some of the most popular ones include Soo’s Donut (instead of a well, a donut-shaped hole is made in the briquettes), the fuse (a “C-shape” is used instead of a well or donut), and the Pyramid (a pyramid is built with the coals, with a paraffin cube on top).

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