Over the years of owning a Weber Kettle grill, I've heard of a number of different accessories. However, the one I've heard about the most is the Slow N' Sear.
I figured after all these years, I'd see what the fuss was about and buy one to test and review.
The short of it is: I like the Slow N' Sear, a lot.
For those unaware, the Slow N' Sear is an accessory designed for kettle grills, like the Weber Kettle (which is also my favorite smoker/grill).
The name perfectly describes it's purpose.
The Slow N' Sear is for cooking low and slow (Slow) as well as (N') for high heat searing (Sear).
Essentially, the Slow N' Sear creates a quintessential two-zone fire.
It creates a direct radiant heat zone for searing steaks as well as a cool, convection zone for smoking meat.
There are two different versions of the Slow N' Sear insert for kettle grills. The original version and the Deluxe version. This review is based on the Deluxe version.
Note: There are also other variations of the Slow N' Sear. These are engineered for specific types of grills. For example, the Low Profile version is for Kamados; The XL version is for 26" kettles; The Charcoal baskets are for 18" kettles.
Shipping isn't usually worth mentioning as it's almost always on the shipper who handles your packages. However, I figured I'd make it a point to showcase as much as possible.
While the package/box arrived in what appeared to be bad condition, the Slow N' Sear was fine inside.
Inside the package:
Everything was safe and sound and wrapped up nicely in bubble-wrap.
I also noticed that the folks at Slow N' Sear added a piece of styrofoam to the front of the basket to prevent it from moving around and potentially denting.
This is definitely a nice addition and a sign of a brand that actually cares.
There are no moving parts involved in the Slow N' Sear. It arrives ready to use right out of the package.
The entire Slow N' Sear is welded and rivet-fastened - the welds are very well done and the rivets hold everything securely in place.
The water reservoir is also removable and simply slides in and out of the charcoal basket.
The thing I enjoy most about the Slow N' Sear is that it makes using a kettle grill easier.
Traditionally, the way to use a charcoal kettle grill is to create a two-zone fire.
The fire arrangement looks like this:
In this scenario we have a cool zone on the left for the steak to come up in temperature, before being placed in the hot zone to sear/finish (this method is also called reverse searing).
The above is absolutely fine to do - it's worked well for me for over a decade.
In order to smoke on a kettle grill you need to strategically arrange the briquettes so that they self-ignite over a period of time. The two most common methods are the minion method and the charcoal snake.
Here's an example of the snake method on my old charcoal kettle grill:
Creating a two-zone fire is rather easy. You light up a charcoal chimney of either briquettes or lump charcoal, wait for it to ignite, and then bank the charcoal off to one side. You then cover the lid and allow the grill to come up in temperature.
However, smoking on a kettle grill can be a hassle. Setting up the snake itself can be time consuming and you get your hands dirty. While I could care less about getting charcoal dust on my hands, it's definitely a pain the butt to wipe it off on my pants, in the snow, or in the sink.
With the Slow N' Sear, you can simply dump the briquettes into the charcoal basket and call it good. Even lighting the charcoal is rather easy. I simply grab my small butane torch, aim it at a few coals, wait for them to begin ashing over, cover the lid and walk away.
Meaning, I don't have to take my chimney out, firelighter, etc. I just do everything inside the Slow N' Sear.
Most of the time, my charcoal snakes last 5-8 hours at 250F - which is fairly good. However, once the coals are out, you need to take the food off the grates and then re-setup the charcoal snake.
With the Slow N' Sear, you simply lift your hinged grates and add more charcoal.
The same could be said for adding water to the water pan, you simply pour new water into the reservoir without removing the grates.
I will note, don't expect the world in terms of adding hours to cook time. In my experience a full charcoal basket at 250F lasts around 5-8 hours - about the same as the charcoal snake. Slow N' Sear says in their description: 8+ hours uninterrupted; Which I could see happening.
While these things may feel small in the grand scheme of things. They just make the experience that much easier. I know beginners can tend to panic when smoking meat and in my opinion, the Slow N' Sear further dumbs everything down.
I have owned a number of products for Barbecue and can just tell the Slow N' Sear will last a lifetime; It's made of 7+ lbs of 16-gauge 430 stainless steel, the welds are clean, and the rivets are securely fastened.
Overall, the Slow N' Sear is a wonderful product and truly impressed me.
I've owned and used a Weber kettle for years.
No joke, my previous Weber kettle was so old it didn't have a heat deflector on the handle, a thermometer on the lid, a lid holder, etc.
Before I replaced my Weber kettle with one of the newer iterations, I made use of strategic charcoal arrangements like the minion method, charcoal snake, or a regular two-zone fire.
In my opinion, these methods work completely fine if you don't have something like the Slow N' Sear.
However, after using the Slow N' Sear for a lot of different tests now, I can definitely say it makes using a kettle grill easier.
For example, if you're using your kettle grill to smoke meat like brisket and you use the charcoal snake, it's a heck of a lot easier to add more coals to the Slow N' Sear than it is to setup a new charcoal snake half-way through a cook.
Trust me, the Snake method can last 5-8 hours no problem. However, I'm from New England and like to smoke brisket when it's -5F outside. Meaning, you'll burn through charcoal much quicker.
Once the snake is done, you need to remove the brisket from the grates, setup a new snake and then place it back on the grates. If it sounds like a pain in the butt, it's because it is.
Even adding water to the water pan is easier.
So no, the Slow N' Sear is not absolutely necessary. However, it certainly makes using a kettle grill easier in almost every way.