I have had my 22.5 WSM now for almost a month I think and after several cooks I can say that the minion method is the way to go. I fill the charcoal ring all the way up with charcoal and then dump a full charcoal chimney of lit charcoal on top of it.
It will maintain 225-240°F for as much as 14-16 hours easily every time.
I also run my thermometer cable under the lid with no problems. I place the meat based on how soon it will be done. Things with the longer cook times go on the bottom and shorter cook times go on top.
That does not mean you can't move things around later.
For instance the other day I was doing briskets and Boudin. I place the briskets on the bottom rack and the boudin on top. Once the boudin got done, I simply moved the briskets to the top rack.
The door is large enough to check the meat down there, add water if you need to, add fuel if that is really necessary, add more wood chunks and possibly take out some meat if you had something on the bottom such as sausages or something. Anything bigger than that might be possible but I think you risk dropping it or something worse.
I am extremely pleased with the WSM. I say that as a seasoned stick burner. My expensive custom smoker has been in the barn for the last month feeling pretty lonely.
Makes me think of those Swiffer commercials.. what is my smoker doing at night with those other smokers in there.. making googly eyes I'm sure
You're my lady....
Anyway, I have yet to have a problem with the WSM that is anything comparable to problems I have had with other smokers including my custom stick burner.
The flavor I am getting is also amazing and I think it might just be making me real lazy. Great food that tastes like it was cooked on a stick burner and almost no work involved. Yeah, I am definitely growing a lazy streak a mile long
Will I stop using my stick burner? I don't think so since I do like to play with fire as most men do but I think I will find myself using it a lot less.