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Help with WSM Temperature Control

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I have a 18.5 inch WSM and have a difficult time controlling temperature. I want to hold 220 - 230 degrees, but usually I run 260 - 280 degrees at the cooking grate.


I use charcoal briquettes. I start with 1 - 2 chimneys unlit, topped with 1/2 chimney lit; Minion method. There is water in the pan, cold or hot, matter not. A few chunks of wood are burried in the unlit charcoal and a couple chunks on top of the hot coals.


The top vent is always 100% open. I start with the bottom vents 100% open, and rapidly bring them to 10 - 25% open.


What can I do to lower the temperature? Start with less unlit charcoal?


Thanks, Walt


post #2 of 8

Please read about the Minion method of charcoal/heat control at Jim's advise and methodology will almost guarantee a good burn and heat where you want it. The advice works with other vertical/charcoal fired smokers like ECBs. I used to use the Minion method with my $50 Brinkman and then with my 18.5 inch WSM. Good luck.

post #3 of 8

I usually start with 6-8 lit briquettes. Also when the temp gets up around 200, shut the bottom vents completely & leave 1 just cracked open. It should slowly get up to the range you want, if it stops & the temp starts falling open the vent up a little more. I emphasize a little. You may have to play with the one vent a little to get it stabilized, but when you do it should stay there for hours. If this is a new WSM they do tend to run a little hot the first few smokes until they get a coating on the inside.

post #4 of 8

Is it still fairly new? The first few times the WSM will run hot. I usually fill the charcoal ring completely no matter how long of a cook I am planning. I just shut her down when I am finished and use any left over coals on the next smoke. Depending on ambient temperatures I use about 10 - 20 lit coals. I individually place them in various spots on top of the unlit charcoal and have all vents wide open. Once temp is at or about 200° I shut the bottom vents completely except for 1 which I leave at about 25%. I then monitor temps until I get it where I want it and its on cruise control from then on with some slight tweaking through out the day. Alot of people will pour the lit coals into the center of the ring that they have used a tin can with the top and bottom cut out to hold the space. I tried this once but had to many coals lighting at the same time.


Hope this helps!

post #5 of 8

I very rarely have to run more than one vent barely cracked open in the summer on my 18.5 WSM, in the winter I still don't use more than one vent open although I do have to open her up more when the temps drop below 20 or 30 degrees outside.  


I start about same way as you do, except if it is a long smoke I will put more unlit coals on the top before I set everything on top, I can usaully get 8-10 sometimes up to 13hrs before I need to add more lump.  I do start with all three bottom vents open, but once I hit 190-200ish then close all but one that I put at half way untill 225ish.


If you have all three vents open then you should try using just one.  If I have a lot of wind I try to use the open vent on the downwind side of the smoker, and if there is little to no breeze then I will use the vent on the upwind side of the smoker.  I usually try to put the vent on the lid on the opposite side of the open bottom vent, and always put the lid back on the same way everytime afterwards, just on principle.


I also make sure and put access door on the downwind side of the smoker, especially if you have a lot of wind.  I can usually get it to hold right between 225 and 250 this way.


Hope this helps.

post #6 of 8

Wow, I thought that I might be able to add some input but it appears the last three hit the nail on the head!  As SmokinAl once advised me, these smokers are a lot easier to get up to temp then they are to get DOWN to temp.  In other words, once it gets to 200, close 'er down and bring it the rest of the way slowly.  If not, you'll get it to 250+, you'll try and shut it down, you'll end up with temps that you are saying you are getting and you'll have little to no chance to drop them back into the ideal 200-250 (225 is where I like it for most things) range. 


I learned this from experience on my last smoke.  Ran perfect temp until hour 13 or 14, dropped a few unlit coals in, they got hot quicker then I expected and temps sky rocketed to 275.  I shut all my vents down and had absolutely no change in temp for quite some time!


Good luck and don't forget the Q-View!

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

Success! I smoked two 10-pound pork butts yesterday; they came out great. I started with 1 1/2 chimneys unlit charcoal and 10 lit charcoals. It was slow to come up to temperature, but once there I was able to hold and adjust quite well. The bottom vents averaged 25% open each. I had to adjust when the 95* sun was baking on it and when I added charcoal after the sun went down. Thanks for all of your advice.

post #8 of 8

Glad it worked out for you Walt, but!



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