Originally Posted by graphicsman
I had a few questions for some that own a Weber Smokey Mountain 22". I have been looking at the reviews and realized that this is very popular smoker and am leaning on buying one over the POS one i have now. I did have a few questions that i did not find answers to on the forum. The following questions are:
1. Do you guys regularly use the crate above the water pan?? Does it affect temps or over smoke using this crate or do you just use the top crate? I have seen some articles and videos were people said they dont use it.
2. Can you use something other than water in the water pan?
3. While in a smoking run do you just leave it for 6 hours when doing something like a Boston Butt or can you still spray your meat in intervals (such as spraying spare ribs with apple juice every hour)?? If you spray your meat in intervals does it take a long time to build up temps between 200-250 again??
Grapics, I have 2 WSM's and a Cajun Bandit WSM clone. They are all excellent cookers. There is some temp variation at every level. Mine run about 30° lower at the bottom grate than the temp gauge. The top grate is usually about 25° lower than the lid temp gauge. All 3 are just a bit different in how they run. With experience you'll learn the characteristics of yours.
First, I don't use water in the water pan for water. Water is messy, tending it is a PITA and totally unnecessary. There is plenty of moisture in the WSM environment on it's own and the water pan even with juices, flavor additives, etc. provide ZERO enhancement to the flavor of your meat. I don't care what anyone tells you, it's a myth. What I use are Terra Cota pot water trays just slightly smaller than the water pan. I foil line them, turn them upside down, insert them into the water pan and foil line the top of the water pan. It serves as the best direct heat deflector and heat sink of anything I have tried before. When the top gets gunky, simply remove the foil and reline it. No muss, no fuss.
I don't often cook on the lower grate, it's a pain having to remove the top grate to get to the lower grate. You really lose a lot of heat, and it takes a good while to recover. Burn your forearm good one time and you'll know what I mean! If I need more space, I simply fire up another smoker. But, if you are using the lower grate, just be darned careful. OUCH!! (or some other linguistic phrases, not suitable for a family friendly web site)
When smoking, I do tend to the meat, mopping, spritzing, turning etc. But, I do so in a minimal amount of time and only when necessary. Have everything you need handy, so the lid is only removed for as short a time as possible. Everytime you remove the lid, you lose temp, so don't be liftin' it to "check to see how everythings goin'", trust me, it's goin'! If your lookin', you ain't cookin'!
I know you will be spending a good chunk of change on the smoker. Don't get me wrong, it's an excellent smoker. But consider some changes to it. First off, the aluminum side door is junk, and the charcoal basket sits too low and will impede the adjustment of the 3 lower air vents. You can't get them completely closed with the stock basket in place. Since Weber won't address these problems, out of necessity, there is a company that has. C&C Grillin' Co. Home of the Cajun Bandit, makes all sorts of products related to smoking and to the Weber's in particular. I would get the WSM kit right off the bat. It consists of a stainless steel side door and a charcoal basket that sits above the lower vents, so you can adjust them without any interference. Believe me, it's well worth the money.
Hope I've been helpful and don't get me wrong, I love my Weber's. They just need a little TLC. The WSM is one of the best smokers out there, for the money. Competition cooks have won one heck of a lot GC's cooking on them, and they may be the best backyard cooker ever made. Now, get ready for the best dadgum BBQ you've ever had!!!