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Need Help...temp control on 22" WSM

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Ok...is my first smoke of the summer and I'm doing 2 Butts for pulled pork for a 4th of July party. I got the WSM last year, so I have a little experience, but not too much. I use the minion method to start the smoker. Top vent all the way open...bottom vents all the way open to start. Once smoker got to 210...closed two bottom vents and third vent closed 50%. Let the smoker heat up to 235, then put the butts on. Ever since the temp has continued to rise. Have all bottom vents closed and my temp is at 285. I was going to try to cook at 225-250 through the night.


My question from you more experienced WSM users...how can you lower the temps if the bottom are shut 100% and I've always read to never close the top vent...how can I get this thing under control? Also...for more details it is sunny and about 85 degrees here in NC.


Any help would be greatly appreciated.



post #2 of 9
You never want to close that top vent with a dirty burn in progress. Once you are burning cleanly, counter to what many believe, you can close down the top vent to lower the temp if the temp is spiking well beyond your max temp. I've done it many times on both my Kettle and my WSM with no adverse flavors. The key is a clean burning fire (little to no smoke) and only do it long enough to get back in range then open it back up and control with the bottom.
post #3 of 9

What do you have in the water pan?

post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks Noboundaries...that's exactly what I did. I had to do something to stem the tide. So I did close the top vent almost halfway. And luckily I did have a very clean fire at the time. There was really no visible smoke at all, so hopefully it will turn out ok. Needless to say it was very effective in slowly lowering the temp. Been running steady at 235-237 for the last hour. Top vent back to full open.

Thanks again for the advice
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Got a 16" Terra Cotta flower pot base in the water pan.
post #6 of 9
Originally Posted by Toby C View Post

Got a 16" Terra Cotta flower pot base in the water pan.



From your original post it sounds like you did everything good. 


Maybe too many lit charcoals in the center?

Is the bottom bowl, mid section and lid seated tight?

Have zero experience with anything else in the water pan than water. That works great for me, never had any temp control problems at all, even when it was brand new and supposedly they run hot when new. On one smoke I was preoccupied and let the water all evaporate, temp control was all over the place, mainly hot.

post #7 of 9
Sounds like you may have started with to many lit coals. In 85° weather and sunny I start with 18-20 lit coals to maintain 225° full chimney to maintain 325°.
post #8 of 9
I have been using a method which I believe some call the "fuse". I place a coffee can in the center and arrange a load of coals in a C shape. Light one end and let it burn around the circle. It's not as hot as the Minion and is easier to control the temp at lower settings. I can usually keep anywhere between 200-250 fairly easily for over 10 hours.
post #9 of 9

Couple of things:

  • Until you get about a dozen smokes on the WSM the area around the door and lid will not seal very well. Once the smoke residue builds up in all the cracks that seals a lot of the uncontrolled air flow.
  • Does your door have excess gaps? If so you can bend it over your knee to shape it better.
  • Any issues with the body out of round? This can cause excess leakage where the bottom and lid seal to the body.
  • Add a better thermal mass - the terracotta pot base really doesn't work all that well by itself. Using sand or gravel seems to work better. Or if your like me I just use water (as it's designed for) - if your running out water mid smoke you probably aren't filling the pan enough. I usually fill mine as full as I can - I want to say it holds approx. 2 gallons.
  • For lower temp smokes I start with approx. 1/4-1/3 of a chimney of lit charcoal, for hot smokes I use a full chimney, and for really hot smokes I leave my water pan empty.
  • Also keep in mind that lump burns hotter than briquets - you can mix them 50/50 for a nice results - or if you want really long low and slow use all briquets.


Here are a few photo's of my standard charcoal set up, I bury a few chunks of wood in the bottom layer of charcoal as well:




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