The Slow ‘N Sear from Adrenaline Barbecue Company is one of the most popular grill accessories on the market. If you watch meat smoking tutorials on YouTube or keep up with BBQ blogs, you’ve probably come across someone singing its praises. But is it really worth it? I recently got my hands on the Slow N Sear – specifically this 2.0 version – and after several smoking and grilling sessions, I’m ready to give you my thoughts!
Who Can Benefit from a Slow 'N Sear?
Before getting into the nitty gritty, let’s talk about who would find a Slow ‘N Sear useful. The Slow ‘N Sear is ideal for someone who:
- Doesn’t have the space and/or budget for a large, dedicated smoker.
- Is new to smoking and wants to get their feet wet with a modest setup, rather than starting with a more complex cooker (especially if they already own a Weber Kettle grill).
- Wants to create consistently perfect steaks with the reverse-searing method.
What Can You Make with It?
As the name implies, the Slow ‘N Sear can be used for both low-n-slow smoking and reverse-searing. What I want to stress in this section is that there are no limitations when it comes to smoking. I was happy to find that it can handle any piece of meat, so long as it fits on the Weber Kettle. As an example, here is a 14-pound brisket I smoked (with room to spare!):
My First Impressions
When my Slow ‘N Sear arrived in the mail, I was surprised by the weight of it. Looking on ABC’s site, I found that it’s over 7 pounds of 16-gauge 430 stainless steel. It’s not something that will get bent or dented with regular use. You would have to really try to damage this thing, and I’m confident mine will hold up for years to come.
I was also surprised to find that the water pan is removable. That appears to be something new with the 2.0 version, and it’s a nice way to create more space if you’re only searing.
Slow 'N Sear vs Snake Method (Banking Coals Around the Edges)
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “I can just use the snake method to bank my coals around the edges for two-zone cooking. Why do I need another accessory?” This is definitely a valid thought, and you can get some great results from simply stacking your coals on one side of your grill. However, the Slow ‘N Sear definitely has its advantages.
The main advantage is consistency. With the Slow N Sear, charcoal briquettes are all tightly bunched together in one defined area, so they will burn the same way every single time. The snake method works, but you won’t get 8+ hours of consistent temperatures every time.
And when it comes to searing, grouping your coals in the charcoal reservoir means they will be much closer to the grill grates, allowing you to get a higher temperature sear.
Tips, Tricks, and Mistakes to Avoid
If you do get a Slow ‘N Sear, here are some tips to make the most of it:
- Use charcoal briquettes instead of lump charcoal for low-n-slow cooks. The consistent size of briquettes will create a more stable temperature. If you’re reverse-searing some steaks, feel free to enjoy the great flavor an extra heat from hardwood lump charcoal, and check out my lump charcoal buying guide if you’re not familiar with it.
- Go with wood chunks over chips, since chips burn up much faster than chunks.
- Fill the water reservoir with hot water. That way, the steam will start to come off (almost) immediately.
- When you have to open the lid during a cook, do it quickly. The fire will love all that extra oxygen, and your coals can really start burning quick if you leave the lid off for too long. Getting the temperature down is never too much of a hassle, but letting too much charcoal burn up will shorten the cook time. This is also a good place to say – if it isn’t clear already – that taking the lid off of your grill is NOT a good way to lower the temperature, and will have the opposite effect.
- Be sure to clean up ash so that it doesn’t interfere with airflow. Remember that consistent, predictable temps are one of the benefits of this product – keep it that way by cleaning regularly!
- If you’re cooking multiple pieces of meat, leave enough room in between them for air to flow, otherwise they won’t cook at the same rate. Don’t let those rib racks touch!
- If you cook a really large piece of meat, like a brisket, be sure to turn it halfway through your cook. If you don’t, you will get an uneven bark with more smoke on one side.
Useful Slow N Sear Accessories
Here are some common accessories you might consider using with the Slow ‘N Sear. Some are completely optional, while others – like a quality smoker thermometer – are necessities:
- Make sure your grill has hinged grill grates so you can easily access the charcoal/wood reservoir area.
- A thermometer with at least two probes is key for monitoring the temperature of the chamber and your meat. I personally recommend the ThermoPro TP20 as the best smoker thermometer on the market.
- Fire starters, which come in the form of cubes or all-natural bundles, are my favorite way to light charcoal. Whatever you do, don’t use lighter fluid or buy briquettes already covered in fluid, as you will definitely taste it on your food.
- If you have ambitions of entering steak competitions or just want perfect grill marks at home, consider getting raised rail grill grates.
Smokenator vs. Slow 'N Sear
The Smokenator and Slow N Sear are similar accessories, but there are some key differences in design. The Slow ‘N Sear is open on top, which allows you to sear meat above the coals. This isn’t possible with the Smokenator, which is made only for smoking.
Also, the Smokenator, which is less than half of the weight of the Slow ‘N Sear, doesn’t feel quite as sturdy. Don’t get me wrong, the Smokenator isn’t a poorly built accessory. It just doesn’t feel quite as thick and durable when you hold it in your hands.
It’s just hard for me to see any advantages that the Smokenator has over the Slow ‘N Sear – but if you disagree and swear by the Smokenator, please let me know why in the comments below!
Slow 'N Sear Alternatives
We’ve just gone over the Smokenator above, but what about other alternatives? Is there anything else worth checking out?
There is the BBQ Vortex, which is a simple cylindrical device for holding charcoal in the center of the grill chamber. This works for smaller pieces of meat that you can position around the edges of the grill, but it won’t allow you to smoke larger pieces of meat like brisket.
Weber also makes their Char-Basket Charcoal Briquet Holders, which come as a pair. They can be positioned together in the center or on either side. Again, I feel the Slow ‘N Sear’s setup of having all the charcoal on one side is better.
If you already own a Weber Kettle and want to start smoking low-and-slow, the Slow ‘N Sear is a must-have accessory. It’s clearly the best way to smoke on a charcoal grill, in my opinion. Really, the only limitation of this device is the size of your grill. If you want to cook multiple briskets or more than two racks of ribs, you’ll want to use something larger. Otherwise, the Slow ‘N Sear can literally handle anything else you would want to smoke or grill.
One thing I haven’t addressed is just how fun it is to use. The setup is small, simple, and consistent, so you feel completely in control of your cooking environment. If you’re a mad scientist of BBQ, you will enjoy refining your recipes and techniques in this lab of sorts.
I hope this Slow N Sear review has been useful. If you have questions or opinions on any of the products and accessories mentioned in this article, please let me know in the comments below!