I've been wanting to try using my WSM like this for a while where I remove the water pan and the lower rack and smoke/cook on just the top rack. I guess it is closer to grilling but I still wanted to try it. I did so today.
I had two 2.5 lb tri tips, 6 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, and 10 boneless/skinless chicken thighs. I split the smoke up where I did the beef first, then when it was done I removed it and loaded the chicken.
I loaded the 22.5" WSM with KBB charcoal and hickory wood, then evenly dumped 1/4 chimney of hot KBB over the charcoal/wood in the ring.
The chamber temp rose QUICKLY, reaching 250F in a couple of minutes, even before I could get the Guru attached. I closed down the vents and brought the chamber temp down to 225F before turning on the Guru and setting a pit temp of 235F. The temps stabilized and the smoke settled down. I loaded the tri tips. They were done in just under an hour, much faster than I expected. I wanted to take them off at 133F IT but didn't catch them until 137F. They were still juicy and delicious, just a little more done than I like.
I loaded the orange juiced brined and dusted chicken using a Texas Chipotle Coffee rub I put together and modified slightly from a recipe I found online. Because the chicken was skinless and boneless I left the chamber temp the same as I used for the beef, 235F.
The chicken breasts reached 148F IT in an hour and that's when I sauced them. They took another hour to reach an IT of 165F. The sauce was pretty cold when I applied it but did not burn or darken. It caramelized okay. I probably needed to apply another layer of sauce but didn't want to whip up another batch.
Overall I liked using the WSM like this. The absence of ANY thermal mass in the smoker was apparent. The Maverick algorithm is much more responsive than the Guru algorithm. I could watch the Guru chase the desired chamber temp on the Maverick much more than when there is the empty water pan and lower rack in the smoker. And there was MUCH more chasing than when I put water in the water pan. Still, the chamber temp never got more than 10 degrees off the temp set on the Guru.
The heating was much more even across the top grate than with the water pan in the smoker, which tends to direct the heat up the outsides of the smoker. What was interesting was the lid therm read 50 degrees lower than temps at the top grate on the Maverick or the Guru.
The bottom of the meats did not burn and were not cooked any more than the top of the meat. I did not flip any of the meats. There were also no flareups from drippings and I smoked/cooked the tri tips fat side down. The meat did not brown any more than it does when smoked with the water pan in the smoker.
I think I'll use this method in the future more often due to the even heating. Cleanup is definitely easier.