I have been using my WSM for abou 5-6 cooks and I am pretty good with keeping my temps usually at 235-250ish...Ive cooked ribs, and chicken wings and beer can chicken. Now I use the minion method everytime. I fill up my chimney about 3/4 and let it catch then i put a outter ring of non lit charcoal in my pit and the lit charcoal from chimney in the middle on inside of non lit charcoal. Now I am at almost 3.5 hours into my cook right now and havent had to add anything. I just play with the vents ever so often. I never ever touch the top vent, its always wide open. Now I also put 2-3 chunks of wood in my pit 5 minutes before i throw the meat on and then another 2-3 halfway through. Now I am not good yet with being able to taste the flavored wood in my food yet But i am unsure if im not using enough wood chunks or to less, or if i should be putting a chunk in an hour?? I know you dont want to make food taste bad by addin to much wood. Also any tips or pointers for dealing with the vents throughout the cook on the WSM??
Maintaining temp on WSM???
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I use quite a bit of wood in my WSM when I load it with charcoal, burying the chunks in the pile and putting more on top around the center, where I add the hot coals.
If you want to develop a taste for the different type woods, start with something strong and universally accepted like hickory. Use it on chicken and ribs where you can taste it. Once you have a taste memory for hickory, then try something lighter like cherry, apple, or peach, also with chicken and ribs. You'll taste the difference.
Then you can start experimenting with other woods, and mixes too. You'll gravitate toward the woods you prefer.
From your pic it looks like you probably have the 18.5" WSM. I've got the 22.5".
I dry smoke (no water in the water pan), which adds LESS wood flavor than wet smoking, and that's the reason I use more wood. From your pic above it looks like you are wet smoking.
When I load my charcoal ring I start with wood because I usually have a layer of used charcoal and carbonized wood from my previous smoke. I'll knock the ash off the old charcoal, then empty my ash bowl if necessary, then put down probably 4-6 good sized chunks of whatever wood or mix of woods I'm using. If the bottom of my wood chunk bucket has a bunch of small pieces or chips in it, I put them in that first layer of wood.
I'll put a layer of cold charcoal over that, then add 4-6 good sized chunks of wood on the top of that, kind of forming a ring of wood. Then I'll dump my hot coals in the middle of the ring.
By loading my WSM this way I don't have to load more wood part way through the smoke and I get a nice clean burn once the top layer of wood starts to carbonize and give me hints of blue smoke, which usually happens between 30 minutes to an hour after I dump the hot charcoal in the smoker. The lower level of wood will preheat then carbonize as the hotter layer above starts to burn down, so it burns cleanly from start to finish.
It isn't unusual for temps to climb with time. It happens more quickly if you take the lid off and send a huge influx of O2 into the chamber which stokes the burn.
Don't sweat 10 degree fluctuations. Heck, with experience on long cooks (more than 6 hours) I don't even sweat 100 degree fluctuations because I'm smoke cooking to a meat IT.
Some folks will swear low n slow is the only way to smoke tough cuts of meat. Not true. Google any oven roasted brisket or pork butt recipe and you'll see temps of 350F. A smoker is a smokey oven. Lower temps increase the window of success for hitting the right result because the meat cooks slower. Even at higher temps the meat will be just as juicy because it goes through the same process whether you smoke/cook it at 225F or 350F.
I use a blower on my WSM because it is like setting the oven, especially with a dry cook. It is bling actually and not necessary. Except for SLC ribs, which I smoke at 250F, everything else gets smoked these days at higher temps, 275 to 350F. Heck, I finished my last 20 lbs of butts as high as 450F once I wrapped them.
The point is don't sweat temps. The meat doesn't care.
That's exactly what a blower does it stokes the fire when needed by blowing air in and not blowing when it wants to drop the temperature it does this based on settings you set.
- 459 Posts. Joined 6/2010
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The water acts as a heat sink to control temps and keep them steady....It does very little if anything for keeping the food moist.
Once you get the nerve to ditch the water and fill your pan with something like play sand instead you will not be sorry. Water is a huge hassle. The day I smoked without it for the first time I swore I'd never use it again.....there's no reason to use it now....
I have the BBQGuru DigiQ DX2. Had some bonus money burning a hole in my pocket. Total cost was right about $270. You can buy blowers from BBQ Guru for less than half that though that apparently work just as well.
I really wasn't going to get one but my wife talked me into it because she wanted her weekends back. I can set it and literally walk away for 10-12 hours or longer, or sleep like a baby and not worry about temps at all. We go to the movies, run errands, sleep, work, whatever. Once you get a handle on maintaining temps the WSM will hum along fine without a blower. The blower just adds another level of confidence that makes it like setting the oven.
X2 what Damon said about water keeping the meat moist. There is not enough steam in the chamber to do so. Due to physics the water helps maintain low temps. Let the pan run dry though and if you were running too hot a fire your temps will spike like crazy once the water is gone. The blower burns only the fuel you need in a dry chamber to maintain temps. It truly is a fuel saver. Has cut my charcoal usage about in half.
My wife, a supertaster, can tell the difference between meat smoked with water in the pan or dry smoked. It tastes oversmoked to her if I use water so that's the real reason I dry smoke. Plus it is definitely easier.
- 220 Posts. Joined 4/2015
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I use an Auberins Controler (http://www.auberins.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=14_27&products_id=396 ) with my WSM. Same idea as the guru, but less money. The blower goes in one of the lower vent holes. The rest are closed off. Sand in the water pan acts as a large thermal mass, helping to control the temperature spikes. It will not keep the temp down as water can ( no change in state to eat up energy ) but it will smooth out the swings a bit as it will absorb heat and radiate it back as the temps lesson.
Back at it Sunday with a flat brisket kept temp at 225ish at grate level adj. vents as necessary took out at 205 soft bark, no smoke ring and seemed steamed to me. Looked well done was tender and juicyish but not rite. What I do wrong? Some say leave vents wide open and cook baby cook. I've tried that and all was good but seemed dryish and hardish crispy bark. Everything else was good. About a 7.5 lb flat
Brisket is a b-ditch to cook. You can do the same thing to two different hunks and get two different results. Try adding more wood for more smoke. What was not correct? Wrong texture? Wrong taste?