Sometimes it’s the simplest things that prove to be the most effective. That’s definitely the case when it comes to the BBQ fuel dome, or vortex as most of the BBQ community commonly refer to it.
To say I was sceptical, despite praise from some die hard vortex fans and seasoned Q’ers, was a bit of an understatement. I was pleasantly surprised however.
The BBQ fuel dome is a cone shaped piece of rolled steel which fits perfectly in kettle BBQs measuring 47cm and up, as well as ceramic BBQs such as Big Green Egg and Kamado. It can be used in a number of ways depending on the type of cook you’re going for, and I’ll touch on each of these methods here.
I was sent the fuel dome to review, but as always I was free to give my honest opinion. The dome comes with a set of instruction (which you really should read) a sample pack of organic apple wood chunks and natural firelighters, which I thought was a nice touch.
High Heat Indirect Cooking
In my opinion the fuel dome excels at high heat, indirect cooking. It’s what I’ve found myself using it for again and again, more often than not with bone-in chicken pieces. I initially started by filling the fuel dome, narrow end up, with unlit briquettes and lighting them in situ. This worked fine, but being in the habit of using a chimney starter saw me reverting to this lighting method for future cooks.
This set up has the fuel dome acting like a chimney, creating extremely high temperatures within the BBQ, simultaneously shielding the food from direct heat. Unlike regular cooks I do on the BBQ, I found it was best not to pay too much attention to the lid thermometer and just follow the fool proof instructions that come with the kit. It’ll get very, very hot!
For chicken thighs, drum sticks and wings, I follow this method. Place the fuel dome in the centre of the BBQ’s fuel grate. Once your fuel is ‘set’ or fully ashed over, dump it into the dome and place the food grate on top. Leave all vents open to begin with, and let your BBQ preheat for 5 – 10 minutes. Giving the fuel dome an initial burn off is also a good idea to ensure any factory residues from the machining process have been removed.
Now, place your food around the perimeter of the cooking grate, pop a couple of chunks of smoking wood directly over the lit fuel and place the lid on the BBQ with the exhaust/top vent at the 12 o’clock position. At this stage I close down my bottom vent by 1/3 to 1/2 according to the instructions and turn my BBQ lid 90˚ every 15 minutes. This is an important step, and although not explained in the instructions, I imagine it’s to allow the same amount of indirect heat to come into contact with all the food.
After 45 minutes, I like to have a look. There’s no need to turn the chicken or touch it at all, trust me. Usually I give it a final 15 minutes for perfectly juicy, crispy-skinned chicken. It’s worked perfectly every time and although the level of heat and cooking time seems excessive, the final product is incredible.
I’ve also used this set up for burgers, but they need less time so keep an eye on them every 15 minutes or so.
The fuel dome is also ideal for afterburner steaks (searing directly over the lit fuel) and for this I like to use half a dome of lit fuel rather than it being full.
This is the only way I cook bone-in chicken now. The results are just so good.
The popular ‘beer can’ chicken can sometime be a little awkward to pull off in a kettle BBQ, due to the available height between the cooking grate and lid. By flipping the fuel dome so that the wide end is facing upwards, it’s possible to sit the beer can chicken inside it, surrounding the fuel dome with lit fuel in a ‘ring of fire’ configuration without the need for the cooking grate.
I’m personally not a fan of beer can chicken, contraversially perhaps, I just don’t think it adds anything to the meat and is inferior to chicken cooked on a rotisserie for instance. This aside, the fuel dome would be ideal if this is the way you wanted to go.
Low & Slow Cooking/Smoking
Leaving the fuel dome with the wide end uppermost, unlit fuel can be placed around the outside in a minion/snake formation and the meat placed directly over the fuel dome which redirects the flow of heat up and around the meat. Good for pieces of meat such as pork butts or large chickens.
I absolutely love this product. With Christmas fast approaching I think it’d make a great stocking filler or just a nice little treat for yourself.
Get yours here – BBQ Fuel Dome