i've seen the minion method work in just about anything with and without baskets. The pics showed above didnt need a basket cause the whole firebox was full wall to wall acting as its own basket. However!, take head, that technique most likly worked just fine becaseu he used lump charcoal. If it was briquettes or kingsford, i thing the dogs would have had the meal due to the bitter taste. So lets get into a technical discussion of the minion method.
The addition of unlit coals ontop of a lit fire is bad, the coals light slowly and yuks up your food. Right?? right.
In the minion method, ya dump lit coals on TOP of unlit coals. This causes a vertical/downward burn. As the lower coals light, the fumes burn up thru the lit coals and any unbunt stuff in the fumes has a second chance to burn away. Kind of like the catalytic converter in your car oxidizing and burning the unburned emmissions before going out the exhaust. This is how we get away breaking the rule of not adding unlit charcoal briquettes to a lit fire. Of course, lump is the exception.
These pics KC posted from Jim Ball are using lump charcoal, which is ok to put on top of a fire because all the impurities are already burned out of them. The technique Jim Ball used was to light a can in the center of the lump and have it burn outward... a horizontal Minion method, instead of vertical. OK here, because its lump. But if this was kingsford or other briquettes, I think the lighting of the coals horizontally would cause the impurities to impart a nasty taste on the food. They would rise directly out of the pile, without that second chance and burning off their impurities
Phil, your theory is dead on. In practice I get the same "catalytic converter" effect burning horizontally by starting the fire at the smokebox end of my firebox and having the fumes pass thru the hottest part of the fire before entering the smokebox.
I always use kingsford and chunked up splits and never have had a bad smoke problem in the Cimarron. Following my system, Cue'lio gets similar results. 3 hrs unattended with a chimney of unlit with some chunks ignited by a half chimney or so at the smokebox end, at the end of 3 hrs I push the remaining coal back to the smokebox end, add another load of fresh fuel and start the process again.