Abstract It is well-known that a 2-edge-connected cubic graph has a 3-edge-colouring if and only if it has a 4-flow. Snarks are usually regarded to be, in some sense, the minimal cubic graphs without a 3-edge-colouring. We defined the notion of 4-flow-critical graphs as an alternative concept towards minimal graphs. It turns out that every snark has a 4-flow-critical snark as a minor. We verify, surprisingly, that less than 5% of the snarks with up to 28 vertices are 4-flow-critical. On the other hand, there are infinitely many 4-flow-critical snarks, as every flower-snark is 4-flow-critical. These observations give some insight into a new research approach regarding Tutteʼs Flow Conjectures.