By: Max Good
When SnS Grills announced the introduction of their new Charcoal Kettle Grill, many cried out in disbelief that it didn’t come with their signature Slow ‘N Sear charcoal insert. We too were surprised. SnS Grills was built on their innovative charcoal insert, a high quality, stainless steel accessory that instantly upgrades Weber kettles and many other round, charcoal burning cookers by enhancing 2-zone separation and intensifying sear power.
It just seemed strange that SnS would roll out a new charcoal grill called the “Slow ‘N Sear Kettle Grill” without their signature, flagship invention. After hearing some feedback, the company quickly did an about face and announced the Slow ‘N Sear insert would indeed be included in the package, and they raised the price from $280 to $325, 15 bucks less than if the two were purchased separately.
Here is the Slow ‘N Sear insert positioned inside their Kettle Grill. In addition to the enhanced performance for low and slow smoking over the indirect zone on the left, you can easily see how that steel chamber on the right creates a super sear-zone when filled with red hot charcoal. Click here to learn about the importance of 2-zone cooking.
The Deluxe Kettle Grill package includes the upgraded Slow ‘N Sear that has a removable water reservoir and a ventilated bottom. The Deluxe Kettle package is $365. Those who already own the Slow ‘N Sear insert can still purchase the grill only at the original price of $280. Your existing insert will fit just fine.
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So what’s the difference between the Slow ‘N Sear Kettle and a Weber Kettle? Let’s start by comparing apples to apples. The SnS Kettle configuration is not equivalent to a standard Weber Kettle on three legs. It more closely resembles Weber’s Performer Charcoal Grill 22 Inch, which lists for $280, the same as the SnS without the charcoal insert. Both the SnS and Weber models have a fold down side shelf and both are on four legs with a storage rack at the bottom.
Of course the Slow ‘N Sear Charcoal Insert works great in the Weber Kettle, as it was originally designed for it. Buying Weber’s Performer for $280 plus the SnS Insert for $60 will run $15 more than buying the SnS Basic package for $325.
SnS touts their use of stainless steel components, most notably their high quality, 304 grade stainless steel cooking grate. The ash removal system under the SnS Kettle and a few other parts are made of decent, lesser quality stainless steel, but the 304 grade cooking grate is the star of Slow ‘N Sear’s stainless steel show. It’s a big upgrade from Weber’s standard plated steel cooking grate in that it will last forever. A hinged section makes replenishing fuel while cooking easy.
On the other hand, Performer comes with Weber’s Gourmet BBQ System Cooking Grate which has a round, removable center that can be swapped out to insert optional woks, griddles, pizza stones and more. It also has flip up, hinged sections for fuel replenishment on two sides.
Keep in mind that all of Weber’s cool gourmet BBQ goodies must be purchased separately. SnS Grills offers some nice accessories to purchase separately as well.
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Diameter of the SnS charcoal grate is 18 inches vs Weber’s 16 inches, which provides a larger circle of fire when you spread the coals out, and that allows the SnS insert to move further from the grill center, thus enhancing 2-zone heat separation. Additionally, the SnS is porcelain coated, which could help ward off rust.
SnS pays homage to the Weber Kettle by copying its integrated tool hooks on the grill handle as well as the lid cradle from Weber’s Performer Series.
Likewise, the air intake and ash collection system almost duplicate Weber’s design, except SnS has five lower air intake slots instead of three and five comparatively short fan blades. The additional intake slots don’t make a dramatic difference in the amount of air flow, and the short blades don’t work as well as Weber’s longer ones for sweeping ash down into the removable ash bucket.
A good deal of ash is out of reach for those shorties. However, SnS points out their five fan blades are one single piece, while each of the three Weber blades are separate parts. SnS believes this makes them sturdier and less prone to warping.
The lever used for sweeping ash and for opening and closing the intake vents was somewhat difficult to assemble. You have to hold a couple small parts in place from inside the kettle and underneath while popping in the fan lever. If not snapped in properly, the lever flops around. Give it a good twist until it snaps in place. As for the removable ash bucket, it has a looser fit than Weber’s One-Touch design, which some may prefer since the Weber bucket can be slightly more difficult to get on and off.
A very nice feature SnS adds to their kettle grill is a “Smoke Hole” located just above and to the left of the lower intake vents. Many hardcore Weber Kettle aficionados drill a similar hole into their grills to accommodate a temperature controller fan, such as the popular BBQ Guru. Temperature controllers function like thermostats in a home oven. As stated on the BBQ Guru website, “Simply attach your Guru control to your cooker, set your desired temperature, and, almost like magic, it consistently maintains your target cooking temperature.” Temperature controllers use a small fan attached under the fire to regulate the amount of oxygen that enters the firebox. By controlling oxygen, you control cooking temperature.
Click here to explore our reviews and ratings of temperature controllers. The Slow ‘N Sear Kettle’s Smoke Hole makes mounting temperature controllers easy. No nail biting surgery on your brand new shiny kettle required. It has a handy cover to boot!
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Even if you don’t plan on using temperature controllers, the Smoke Hole does double duty as a secondary air intake. For low and slow smoking at 225°F, SnS recommends closing off the lower intake fan blades entirely and just opening up the Smoke Hole. They also instructed us to position the Slow ‘N Sear insert toward the back of the kettle, directly opposite the wide open Smoke Hole in front.
Fill the insert with charcoal, add a few wood chunks and start a small fire in one corner of the chamber. We used a white, paraffin starter cube buried in the left corner to get the fire going.
The fire supplies heat and smoke to foods placed in the indirect zone on the left. SnS instructed us to close the lid with the exhaust damper positioned right above the smoke hole. Then just start smokin’.
SnS positions their thermometer beneath the exhaust damper, closer to the cooking grate than Weber’s Kettle thermometers, which are located higher up toward the lid crest.
Although placing the thermometer closer to the cook surface makes temp readings more accurate, we still recommend using a digital temperature probe clipped to the cooking grate next to your food for precise temperature control. Serious kettle grillers often drill probe port holes to safely thread probe wires into their grills without fear of twisting or kinking the wire leads. SnS does the work for you, incorporating a smaller version of their covered Smoke Hole right above the cooking grate, adjacent to the right side shelf.
We decided to give Meathead’s Famous Last Meal Ribs a go and were able to leave the Smoke Hole open as instructed, then dial in 225°F by dampening the exhaust vent. The set up worked great! Our accurate digital temperature probe, shown clipped in the lower right corner of this picture, helped us bring home the bacon. Or in this case ribs.
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As previously mentioned, the Slow ‘N Sear charcoal insert turns most kettle grills into even better 2-zone sear machines than they already are. If you want thick and juicy steaks with a really dark crispy crust and an evenly pink-red interior from edge to edge, you need to try the reverse sear technique. Many grillers like to sear meats right off the bat, then finish cooking them through at a lower temperature, but that method typically overcooks the interior. Patiently cooking a steak at a low temp of 225°F until the internal meat temp gradually reaches about 115°F, then quickly searing the steak over raging high heat creates a delicious, evenly brown exterior and perfectly pink interior. Learn all about the Reverse Sear by clicking here.
We started with the same set up used for Last Meal Ribs, cooking the steaks low and slow on the indirect side until a meat probe in our thick strip steaks hit around 115°F interior temp. We pulled them off, opened the bottom vents, cradled the lid and let the fire in our Slow ‘N Sear insert get red hot. To expedite the sizzle, out came our trusty BBQ Dragon, a battery powered, clip on fan that gets your fire rip roaring hot in minutes!
Our strip steaks sang out when they hit that red hot sear zone. Flipping early and often to prevent burning and overcooking, our steaks quickly developed that rich, flavorful, brown crust characteristic of the Maillard reaction on the outside without turning brown in the center.
Click here to understand the Maillard reaction and learn why brown is beautiful. (On the outside that is).
No matter what cooker you use, smoking or roasting a whole turkey, or even a whole chicken, is difficult because you’re trying to cook several different pieces of meat at the same time and get them all to come out perfectly done. What happens too often is some parts end up overdone (dry chalky white meat) while others are underdone (raw and chewy dark meat that ends up in the microwave). That’s why we highly recommend spatchcocking whole birds. All you need to do is remove the spine with poultry shears and flatten the bird out. This technique allows for much more even cooking all the way around. It’s not hard. Here’s our short video that shows the process in less than a minute.
However, if you absolutely must have your whole, holiday turkey a la Norman Rockwell presented on a platter at your table, be forewarned that the SnS Kettle lid has a slightly lower profile than Weber’s with around three quarters of an inch less headroom.
Anticipating a problem, before removing our big, fully thawed 18 pound gobbler from the package, we placed it on the SnS Kettle to assess lid clearance. As expected, it didn’t fit.
This is likely not an issue for many kettle lovers, and that 18 pounder was a pretty big bird. In any case, we definitely think spatchcocking is a much better way of cooking whole turkeys on a grill. We just want to point out that Slow ‘N Sear’s lid is lower profile than what you may be used to. SnS contends their low profile lid provides more even heating on the indirect side.
The first production run of SnS Kettles included an adhesive backed fiber gasket kit that you can install on the lip of the lid. It’s meant to provide a tighter seal between the lid and kettle, although Slow ‘N Sear feels it’s not necessary and plans to make it optional going forward.
We found it actually makes seating the lid on the kettle more difficult. Of course that should get better over time as the gasket flattens out and settles in.
Packaging was good and, except for the slight headache of snapping the lower intake damper lever in place, assembly was pretty simple, much like putting together a Weber Kettle. That’s to be expected given the similarities in design.
The Slow ‘N Sear Kettle Grill is mighty nice, but the most impressive thing about it is the Slow ‘N Sear Charcoal Insert itself. We like the high quality 304 stainless steel cooking grate and the Smoke Hole and Probe Port. Otherwise, this grill is very similar to the Weber Performer, which is not a bad thing. If you already have a good charcoal kettle grill that you like, there’s no need to rush out and replace it. But if you don’t have the SnS Charcoal Insert, check to make sure it will fit on your kettle and order it immediately! If you’re in the market for a new charcoal kettle grill in this price range, the Slow ‘N Sear may be for you. It’s definitely worth consideration. For its solid performance and competitive price, we award the Slow ‘N Sear Kettle Grill our AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold Medal.
Ten year warranty on all stainless steel parts, one year warranty on the thermometer and five years on everything else.
We thank Slow ‘N Sear for providing a kettle for our tests.
In 2019 Adrenaline Barbecue Company changed their name to SnS Grills. A Slow ‘N Sear by any other name is still the best accessory we’ve seen for the Weber Charcoal Kettle. Their Slow ‘N Sear is a high quality stainless steel insert that instantly upgrades the smoking and searing power of Weber kettles. SNS is the brain child of our own Huskee Lyons and David Parrish. Dave was our first Pit Boss, manager of the AmazingRibs.com Pitmaster Club, and when he moved on to run ABC, he was succeeded by Huskee. But we don’t love SNS because we love Huskee and Dave, we love it because it is the best of breed and works better than any similar device we’ve tested.
In 2019 they introduced The Slow ‘N Sear Kamado, specially designed to integrate Slow “N Sear for 2-zone cooking. They conintue to expand their catalog.
Published On: 8/24/2020 Last Modified: 3/1/2021
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