I've gone completely Dark...The Dark Side: WSM 18.5"...let the journey begin

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Smoking Guru
Original poster
OTBS Member
Aug 27, 2008
Hey everyone!!! I finally pulled the trigger and grabbed the last available WSM 18 to be found locally...regular $299 price, with the premium cover...they never go on sale around here, so I was willing to pay that for a new rig and buy locally. I was getting itchy about wanting to smoke turkeys (yes, plural) for this Thanksgiving holiday, and I didn't want to roll out the Smoke Vault 24, as it's been residing at my son's house for him to continue learning the craft with. I guess it was enough to give me a shove off the fence and jump on the WSM wagon, which coincidentally, ends my transition into cooking with only charcoal, with the exceptions being possibly for specialty items, but then, I have cold smoked in a charcoal rig before. So, 3 Weber kettles and a WSM now reside on my covered deck (all black, of course), and I'm already smoking in the WSM today. I've been char-grilling and reverse-searing on my pSnP 40" and 18.5' OTG for years (5+) and loved every minute of it. And, yes, with the tip-up grates, I was also doing quite a bit of indirect smokes on the 18. Then, I grabbed a Smokey Joe 14" for the novelty, mainly, but wanted something portable that I could set my 15" Lodge C/I skillet onto, and it fits that purpose quite well. I ordered the last 26.75" OTG kettle available online from Wally-World about 16 months ago (with gift cards from work) for the same purpose as the 18 but with much higher capacity, better features, and last but not least, a stainless (not chrome plated) hinged cooking grate. The 26 OTG model has been renamed as the "original premium" to confuse the innocent (same for the 22.5" OTG..the 18.5" OTG are discontinued
), as they've added the new and slightly improved version (for another $50), but they are available again under the different model name.

Why did I step into the WSM? I love charcoal smoking and grilling, mainly due to the added flavors and the even cooking temperatures...two things I've been noticing the lack of with gassers. I've been down the gas grill and gas smoker roads for long enough to know they aren't for me anymore...not to mention I don't feel the need to have 6 - 20lb propane tanks stashed away to keep my cookers going. The Smoke Vault 24 was my go-to for larger gatherings and such, and it does have it's place for that. I've used a less expensive bullet (Brinkmann Gourmet charcoal with added Smoke n Grill barrel/grates...the Stacker) and a pit (Brinkmann SnP 40" horizontal offset with custom tuning plate, eventually converting to LPG due to massive charcoal consumption). I made tons of mods for them, yet always was left with a gap in performance, excessive fuel consumption, and no possible way to get them to run through the night without refueling...none of which were acceptable for me. We are now a 3 person household, and soon it will be only the spouse and myself at home, so I won't miss the beast, Smoke Vault 24. I already have plans for gatherings to keep my cooking within reasonable limits and the capabilities of my kettles, WSM, and camp dutch ovens, so, no worries on that topic. I leaned away from the WSM 22 for 3 reasons: excessive capacity and more fuel consumption than I would need, and, yep, that extra $100, even though the 22 is a better price for the capacity.

Why did I tell you all of that? A likttle background on myself and the cookers I've used in case you're on the fence and want, but haven't made the decision to buy, a WSM, or something else that's been on your wish-list. My main purpose for this is to give you my experience and insight with a few years and various other cookers under my belt, from a rookie WSM user (myself), to help you decide which direction to go for a new smoker, when you are in the market for said smoker. I will be posting a multitude of smokes provided to me via the WSM 18 in the future, giving details about each smoke, and of course, not to spare any Q-View throughout my journey. That said, I'm BACK, and my future looks dark...very, very dark...
...and now, after finally finding it, I get to use this one, for REAL:

EDIT: at some point I will have to jack it down on the posts and just enjoy the new smoker, so don't blame me for cutting back on posts...'cuz I wanna smoke and eat, too!!! LOL!!!


Inaugural smoke: Chicken Drums and Pork Shoulder Chops

Today's journey consisted of building a seasoning fire with KBB, a medium chunk each of hickory, cherry and apple, in preparation for a chicken drum and shoulder pork chop smoke. I filled the ring about 1/2 full, heaped it towards the center, but kept it a couple inches above the grate in contact with the ring. For starting the fire left the barrel off and inserted a lit propane torch on med/low flame into the the center at approximately a 45* angle from vertical, and about 1 briquette above the grate. I also added a extra charcoal grate from my OTG 18 (upside-down inside the ring), placed perpendicular to the original to hold more of the smaller pieces for longer burn before they drop through into the ash pan (before loading fuel, of course). I let the torch ignite the coals until there were ashen coals showing above the torch and about 4-5" in diameter...then I placed the barrel with foil-lined dry water pan and oil-sprayed cooking grates. I attached my Maverick Pit Probe thermometer to gauge accuracy of the lid thermometer. The lid thermometer was approx. 5-6* higher than grate temp for the duration of seasoning and her maiden smoke today...pretty close, IMHO. I did notice the pit probe reading dropped when I added meat while the lid therm read 75-90* higher, until the temps stabilized again (after replacing the lid)...to be expected.

I initially ran with the lid and intake vents fully opened until temps rose above 225*, then I dialed all three intakes back to about 40% open and monitored temps. It settled in at about 270* with very light breeze and ambient temps in the mid 40's. I let it ride there for about 30 minutes before opening the intakes again to about 60%...this yielded temps in the 310-320* range. Note: this is with a dry, foil-lined water pan...probably not possible to achieve these temps with water, even if you burned hardwood lump, unless you planned on going through tons of fuel. I dropped in 10 seasoned (not brined, marinated or anything fancy) chicken drums after a 2hr burn, with smoke still coming on nice and strong. The drums were still partially frozen...not my ideal way to start, but I like COLD meat when smoking for short periods such as smaller pieces, especially when smoking hot & fast...smoke sticks to cold meat faster than warm meat. I gave the thighs about 60 minutes, then dropped in the chops on the top grate. I checked the leg's I/Ts at just a bit under 90 minutes and they spurted clear juices with a ~180* reading...
...WOW, that was fast!!! The chops were coming out about 10 minutes later in the 160* range...could've yanked em out a bit earlier in the 150-155* range and still been safe, but they weren't dried out, either. And here are the results:

I had an initial upset when I went to dump pics to the computer for editing...my camera memory card was corrupted and all my start pics were lost to the virtual black hole...
...technology is great...when it works. I guess that's what I get for not taking/posting pics for so long, huh? So, grab another card, dump photos to a thumb-drive to free-up space, and everything is good, except for those grate pics of the chicken drums...but I kinda-sorta made up for it.

My latest addition to the Weber Family...nearing the end of today's smoke:

Lower grate with residue of chicken drums...just for the only proof I have that, yes, they were on that grate today...LOL!!!:

And, no, that butane lighter on the table was not used to ignite the briquettes...that would; have been a disaster...LOL!!!

Drums in a S/S steam table pan, ready for enjoyment...seasoning was Alpine Touch (Montana's Special Spice)...just 'cuz I wanted simple and to the point. It's a nicely balanced mix of finely ground (to nearly powder form for easy, uniform application) SPOG, and maybe a couple other spices I haven't yet identified by taste:

Shoulder Pork Chops just probed, with a 155* I/T...BTW, these were seasoned with a steak & chop seasoning similar to the drum seasoning, with a bit larger particle size and a few variations in the ingredients...again, simple and to the point:

The chops were moist and delicious, and the drums were a knock-out!!! I hadn't smoked legs for so long I forgot how good they are. I invited my son and his other half for dinner not long after I got this round rolling. We all enjoyed our dinner, however, my youngest son grabbed 5 (yes, I said five) drums for himself...the last 5 out of 10, that is...he likes chicken...but he LOVES smoked, char-grilled, reverse seared...basically, if it's cooked outdoors, we have zero problems getting him to eat it...LOL!!! OK, enough said about the legs and chops...we're here to talk about what the WSM can (or if it actually happens, cannot) do for me...uh, wait, so I guess the meat IS important...
...moving forward...so, let's face facts here, I love to smoke taters, veggies, and...well, as my avatar line implies.

The crazy part about today? The smoker assembly, meat prep, initial seasoning of the WSM (no, I'm not done seasoning, yet) and today's smoke was stupid-easy...and you know what? I liked it that way!!! The WSM intake adjustments were nearly exactly what I expected. When I let it ramp up after starting and assembling for seasoning, it built up nice and slow over about 30-40 minutes from cold to the 225* range, just like I wanted (the fire was still pretty small). Once the fire spread to the point where it would have ran away, I backed-off the intakes and it climb right into my target range of 310-320*...and it stayed there!!! Monday's smoke will tell me more, as will each consecutive smoke for the next several weeks. Right now, I'm convinced that I should have just dropped the coin on a WSM back in 2008 or 2009 (whenever it was), instead of messing around with the Brinkmann SnP 40, or the Brinkamnn Gourmet "Stacker"...but, they were good stepping-stones, to learn with and experience what it's like to run, mod, test, run, mod, test, run, mod, test...if you're into that sort of thing, which I was at that point in time, it's great. Now, I'm older, wiser, more seasoned, and less apt to fall into a rut...if only I knew then what I know now, I could have saved myself a lot of what I went through and I'd have been just enjoying life in the smoke. And, I'd have purchased 3, possibly even 4 less smokers than I did...and I'd have been that much LESS money invested in smokers and all those 5, 10, 20 dollar mods, for my smoking passion. OTOH, I wouldn't have had the exposure to such challenges, nor would I have gained all the knowledge and skills that came with it, now would I? I also would not have been involved in any secret, prototype projects which I was requested to join along the way. Such as it is, I will end that topic by just saying this: if you readily have the coin or can make compromises/sacrifices in other areas to get a smoker that will not drive you partially (or completely) insane attempting to get it to perform to your liking, I suggest you take those steps to make it happen. Set your priorities, pay your debts, bills, etc, and buy what you can afford, but don't scrimp...put a little away for the right smoker for you when the time is right to grab one.

Speaking of scrimping on gear/cookers, been there, done that, with regrets nearly every time. Am I biased towards Weber or the WSM? Well, I have no serious complaints about any of their charcoal cookers I've owned and cooked with (all received brand-new), thus far, so, maybe that's a trend in their favor, and could sway my opinion, sure. Every manufacturer will experience a certain level of QC issues from time to time, or some design flaws, even if relatively benign...(1) some more than others...(2) some so often you don't even want to walk away from their products, you'll want to RUN. I don't feel that Weber is either (1) or (2), as I've never had to contact their customer support. Most any issues I've had were at least somewhat operator error, and an occasional design flaw, but never a serious one. Most things I've encountered can be corrected with a little common sense and a dash or two of careful consideration for what caused the problem to begin with...then come up with a simple work-around or just be a bit more careful in the future (example: the wobbly 3-legged kettles). So, no I can't couch for their support...but their charcoal-fired products, sure, I'd say give 'em a go. I'm happy with what I have from Weber, and that's not an easy thing to accomplish, as I'm pretty critical about my gear, and look for flaws and ways to avoid possible problems. I have less to worry over since I've gone "dark".

For me, right out of the box, with only minor adjustments (carefully placed and executed hand-bending) to the fuel-door for a better eye-ball fit, this smoker performed very nicely. Sure, there were smoke leaks around the lid/barrel joint...to be expected. Also, a small amount of smoke leaked from the fuel door...again, to be expected. The lid fit rather loosely side-to-side, but level with the flange in the barrel groove, until after this first smoke. I had to grab a good hold on the barrel when I first attempted to remove the lid for I/T check on the drums, because it was stuck from smoke residue, already. That said, I believe within the next several weeks that with regular use, it will seal itself up more and more, with food and smoke residue. So, after it's first smoke,  no I don't plan on the use of nomex gasket material, yet. I may decide to go ahead and add it later, but I want to see how much it will seal on it's own first. Past experience has taught me that a well-used smoker leaks far less than a new one. It's also been my experience that with careful inspection before and during assembly, some flaws can be partially, if not fully corrected before you finish assembly, as was the case here. I'm also convinced that not every smoker has poor fit qualities...some may be better or worse than others. I'm going to give her a chance to prove herself to me before I go completely mod-crazy.

Do I feel this smoker is suitable for hot & fast turkey smokes? Absolutely. If I have to run intakes @ 60% to hold it down in the 310-320* range, it can run far hotter, especially with lighting a bigger fire from the start. I want to push 325-350* on the 24th for her first (of 2, that I know of so far) turkey smokes for the 2015 Thanksgiving holiday...I have no reservations about 14lb birds...I'm wishing I would have chosen closer to 18lb birds, now, just to show what the WSM 18 is capable of. It would handle them, space-wise, and temp-wise, to get through the danger-zone in comfort...that much I'm sure of. Of course, ambient temps, precipitation, etc, will play a role in a downward spiraling chamber temp gauge, if you're not prepared for the weather...that's not a WSM thing...that's a smoker thing, and a grill thing, and a dutch oven thing, and...you get the point.

OK, moving on for some final shots, post smoke...guess what I failed to do away with before I lit the fire in her...knowing upon completion of assembly that I would want it taken care of before her first fire (hint: in regards to extinguishing the fire)? I'll give that away below...

I have a few tablespoons of render chicken fat and caramelized drippings in the water pan foil-liner (for vaporization in the morning to aid in further seasoning of the WSM) when I fire up for another smoke ( a sticky, messy smoker is a happy smoker)...chicken wings, and a couple boneless, skinless thighs for dinner on Monday (thawing it all right now)...maybe I'll figure out something for brunch, as well. That would give me some longer burn time with some meat for seasoning the smoker...:

Just going back together to rest for the evening...lower grate installed...and, no, I'm not cleaning off the residue just yet, as it will be below freezing temps tonight...no worries:

Upper grate installed, with probe wires still dangling...I left them laying on the top grate to prep for the next smoke:

The moment of truth...remember that question I asked earlier? Got a nice, even burn of the coals with that central torch fire-starting method. Oh, forgot to mention, I did add about a dozen cold briquettes right towards the end...turns out I didn't need them...not even close to low fuel...just couldn't see into the fire ring that well and jumped the gun...BTW, I have a brand-new Brinkmann water pan that should fit for a shallower pan, and give more fuel capacity and the ability to view it a little better. Anyway, that's why you're looking at that appears to be fresh coals on top...'cuz they ARE fresh...classic mistake of adding fuel before checking I/Ts...see, even an old hand at this can get rusty when out of practice for too long:

Looks pretty good...choked all the vents about 90 minutes ago, immediately after the meat was off the grates.  Quite a bit of coals left from maybe 6lbs, after that hot & fast smoke, preceded by a relatively hot initial burn for about 90 minutes:

And..., but, wait...
... (no flash pic) OK, I had foreseen this coming before I finished assembly 2 nights ago, BUT, I failed to schedule the necessary out-patient surgery...
...and didn't write any notes along the way, sooooooo...you know when you say: if memory serves me correctly? Well, it probably won't...:

I shook it down gently a couple times to drop the ash through the grates, but it was settled a little already...now it's time to grab my Leatherman and do a quick bend of those pesky vent damper tabs...NOW the dampers actually close fully...probably not an actual air-tight seal, but hopefully enough to knock those hot coals into submission before they burn much longer...that should fix it...I'll know more in the morning:

I didn't raise the coal grate/ring to check on ash deposited in the pan, but I'll do that in the morning...after it's completely cooled down, as I didn't look far enough ahead to have any hooks ready to grab and lift without having an upset and setting something on fire, or, burning the daylights out of myself (I use welding gloves, but hey, trust me, it ain't worth it...it can wait).

Thanks for reading...and most of all, for any of you out there that are prospective buyers of the WSM or whatever your favorite is, if you stay on the fence a while longer...I'll give you more insight as time allows. I work full-time, but it's a little slower right now (well, slow for me is less than 55hrs/week...LOL!!!), so I'll be pounding the coals and wood through this WSM every chance I get.

More to come...stay tuned!!! Got a couple turkeys to smoke in the coming days...one on the 24th, and one on the 26th.

Comments are welcome, and additional insight from seasoned WSM users is welcome, as well. Let me know if I'm totally off the mark (I know, opinions vary, but healthy discussion is how we learn on a forum). I think I've got a good handle on it for now, with hot & fast poultry smokes, anyway. Low & slow will come in due time, but right now I need to get this thing looking (and smelling) not-so-new inside (messy) before turkey-day, hence my choices to smoke poultry and run hotter. I'll figure out a minion firing method that I think will suit me best for low & slow, if the central fire doesn't pan out to my liking. I just don't see it being a problem at this point in time, but, I've been wrong before. A pork shoulder smoke will show me the way down the right path.

See you again, soon!!!

Great smokes to all, and to all a good night!!!

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This morning I was greeted with a cold, dead coal bed, and a fair amount of remaining coals, so bending the tabs out to fully close the intake/exhaust vents worked, as I expected, just like the kettle grills. So, the saved fuel can be used on each consecutive smoke for no waste.

I was so excited to get a burn for seasoning going yesterday that I failed to foresee the issue of grate/ring removal in order to inspect/remove ashes from the fire bowl,. I did come up with a quick solution and a down and dirty, simple, no-cost mod.

So, the dilemma facing me was that you can't really grab onto the fire grate with the fire ring installed, and, in order to leave the coals on the grate when removing to inspect/remove ash, you really should leave the ring installed. What to do, what to do...OK, I have a spool of metal wire and needle-nose pliers with wire cutter...can't be too hard, can it? I cut 2 pieces of wire about 14-15" long, bent into a semi-loop and bent a hook on each end. I inserted these into the section of factory fire grate, hooked the outermost grate wire/bar and after both sides were hooked I was able to raise the entire grate/ring out to do my deed.

Then, time for a quick mod. I bent and looped the wire through the holes in the ring and around the outer grate wire/bar to secure the ring to the fire grate on opposing sides of the ring/grate. I don't see the need for a trip to the hardware store for stove bolts, nuts and washers...this will be durable enough to handle the weight of a fully loaded ring/grate,as this is 12-gauge wire. Now the grate/ring can be easily lifted and carried by just grasping onto the fire ring, with gloves, of course...I always handle my cooker hardware with welding gloves out of habit, whether it's hot or not. Keeps your hands clean and protected from high heat and cuts/abrasions...that's a no-brainer, IMHO., and welding gloves are cheap insurance.

Now, I have removed the cast iron grate from my Gourmet bullet to check my AMNPS smoke generator mod, and that's not something you want to do without careful planning, because the hot ambers get sent everywhere from even the slightest of breezes...just not a good idea at all...one accidental shake of the fire and you just sent a ton of hot ashes and ambers spewing all over the ground and anything within a good distance, so the risk of igniting a unplanned fire with nearby combustibles is high. And, did I mention, when you grab onto a live fire grate, even welding gloves get hot inside very quickly, adding to the possibility of accidentally shaking the fire due to wanting to ditch it in a hurry? OK, I said it...and, yes, I'm speaking from experience...
BTW, that is the only time I've ever felt the need to remove a live fire from a smoker, and I don't roll that way anymore. That said, I don't see any need to remove the fire grate/ring assembly with a live fire, so no need for grab handles, IMHO.

The looped wire hooks for temporary lift handles (2):

Fire grate and ring removed:

Ashes from yesterday's burn, lasting approx 6 hrs (with KBB):

The wire-loop mod securing the fire ring to the fire grate (semi-permanent):

Back into the fire bowl, looking down the inside...almost can't even tell it's in there:

A closer look at the remaining coals from yesterday...still around 1/4 to 1/3 of the ring, and I started around 1/2 full...not too bad considering I was running so hot (310-325*F) for the majority of the time:

Time for another mod: I pulled the fire bowl from a SnG (Smoke n Grill) which I was using for a water pan in the Gourmet "Stacker" (for reduced temp grate variances, top to bottom) and cleaned it up for use in the WSM. It is a perfect fit for the factory supports and, best of all it is only 4-3/8" tall, compatred to the WSM factory pan @ 7", so I gained another 2-5/8" in fire grate clearance;

I tared (turn on scale with empty pan to calibrate) the scale with the clean water pan and added 4lbs of washed pea-gravel (not soap and water washed, it's just unused, rinsed with clear water):

Total weight of pan and gravel...I'll see how much this helps to stabilize temp swings once it's out in the weather on the 24th with a turkey and drip pan loaded with veggies for stock/gravy:

So, far, I think she's ready for round 2, and I just fired it up again with another couple lbs of KBB added to the remnants from yesterday. Just wanted to keep the fire burning as much as I can today to continue seasoning for the turkey smoke in the morning and I had some breakfast sausage links to add more drippings to the foil in the water pan from yesterday. So...

Time for a fire:

I waited about 7-8 minutes, with med/low flame, then dropped a chunk of hickory on top...this will be smoking in another 10 minutes, or so when the briquettes get hot on top:

About 10 minutes with the torch igniting briquettes...can see much fire yet, but it's in there:

30 minutes with the barrle on and intake vents set @ ~20%...around 160* grate temp, and time for some meat. I'll grab the smoke wood and yank it out if it continues this heavy for more than another 20 minutes...otherwise, that could be some seriously smoke links. Then, I'll put the hickory back in to season the smoker a bit more. The beginnings of a little mid-day snack:

So, a quick, low temp smoke (I'll want this to run under 200* and slowly render out some fat) and then I'll ramp the temps up to around 250* and let it soak, add fuel and a mix of apple, cherry and hickory chunks and toss in some wings for dinner!!!

I know our time together has still been quite short, but this smoker is almost too easy. I kinda like that though...easier to use than my Smoke Vault, and anything else I've used thus far. There may be a couple more down and dirty mods in the near future, but I can't think of one I really want or can't live without at the moment...I'm a happy smoker, again!!!

Back later...thanks for peekin'!!!

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Man, those smoked breakfast links are really good!! If you haven't yet, you should smoke these. They taste like a cross between a good hot dog and a store-bought smokey link. And, possibly because I smoked them low & slow with very thin smoke, they rendered out just enough fat to NOT have that greasy feel on the roof of your mouth, and the smoke was light and a dead-on match-up (hickory). I had to ask the wife, and she said, no you never smoked these before...this one goes in the (slightly fading) memory bank for future reference. Everyone has had pan-fried links, and me, not a big fan of them... but smoked? Yep, I'm in.

The WSM was running dead-on @ 200* grate temp when I dropped the links in, but I choked the intakes back to ~10% and it rolled through the next 40 minutes with these links without wavering a bit. Gotta love it!!!

About 25 minutes in...nice smoke reaction going...not dark, but a light golden brown:

40 minutes...firm to the touch...casing has some nice tell-tale wrinkles from shrinkage...grabbed one and snapped it in two...interior color alone told me they're done...I know, measure I/T, but when you see all these signs?:

Bursting with juices...yeah, still some fat in there but they did render out a couple teaspoons more into the foiled pan for seasoning the WSM:

Fats, protein and carbs...that's a balanced diet, right? LOL!!! Buttered white toast, and a couple links on toast...after not eating anything today but 2 small fresh-baked blueberry muffins, now my belly is good to go for the wing smoke...uh, speaking of, time to get the fire built up more, replenish smoke wood and get those wings going soon:

See ya soon!!!

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Already pumping tasty meals outta that WSM!! Those chicken drums look fantastic.

Looking forward to that breakfast sausage

You mentioned your bottom dampers were a little loose. Funny you mention that, because mine were fine until just the other day, I went to pull off the cover (maybe a little too vigorously) and the elastic on the bottom of the cover caught on one of my dampers and bent it a little. I've bent it back and is still a little loose for my liking. Just something to look out for when you're pumped up to start a smoke and go to yank that cover off!
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Already pumping tasty meals outta that WSM!! Those chicken drums look fantastic.

Looking forward to that breakfast sausage

You mentioned your bottom dampers were a little loose. Funny you mention that, because mine were fine until just the other day, I went to pull off the cover (maybe a little too vigorously) and the elastic on the bottom of the cover caught on one of my dampers and bent it a little. I've bent it back and is still a little loose for my liking. Just something to look out for when you're pumped up to start a smoke and go to yank that cover off!
You already know this, but yeah, these are like a dream come true in terms of ease of use. Fire control is so easy to manage, and that was a huge bonus when I stepped up from the Gourmet or the SnP. Fire control on the Weber kettles is great, too, but actually the WSM is even better regarding even temps, and way better than any of my gas smokers.

I know what you mean about yanking the cover off. I had mine assembled on the deck, covered for 2 days. I come home from work early, tossed my gear in the house and went straight to the WSM to get a fire started. That cover fits nice and snug, so I didn't notice what was happening right away. Yep, elastic strap hooked on the damper tab on one ide and the screw head (I think) on the other side. I felt around until I found the snag and then all was well. Takes a little wiggle-work to get that love-bite to break away from the smoker, but that's a good thing...between the snug fit and the elastic strap, I doubt I'll ever loose the cover due to high winds (if it's that strong, I may be more worried about loosing all of my cookers, not just covers).

No, the intake dampers were fine, just the pesky tabs to prevent you from completely shutting it down was the issue. The lid fits a bit loose in the barrel lip, but the smoke loss wasn't really that bad...I've seen a lot worse, like the Brinkmann Gourmet. I actually went as far as to wrap a rope in foil to fill that gap, it was huge. But, I also drilled a 1-1/4" hole in the lid to move the venting all the way to the top, so I changed the exhaust configuration on that bullet, as the original design was to vent from the lid/barrel joint, and this wasn't the best for creating even temps from the grate to the top of the lid. No big deal with small pieces of meat, but toss in a pork picnic shoulder and that changed everything in terms of the need for more uniform temps.
Spoke too soon, nice links!!

I've never thought about smoking those, but now I sure will
Brother, you'll love the smoked links...I was cautious, but no need to be...nothing off-putting about them. Nice snap to the casing instead of being anywhere from a rubbery to a tough, chewy texture like when they are pan-fried. And, this was with a low & slow smoke...300*+ for maybe 25-30 minutes for the whole smoke and they would pop quite nicely when you took a bite...just watch out for those hot, spurting juices. Yeah, one smoke with these and I'm hooked...gotta do it again. Wife said, hey, there's another pack in the freezer, and I'll pick up some more next trip to the store. She's not kidding, either...when she likes something like this, she makes sure I'll have what it takes to do it again. Even if it's not something I'm head over heels about...that's the trade-off...she takes care of me and I take care of her.

She even picked me up a fresh 10lb bag of apple chunks when she grabbed this smoker to bring it home to daddy, 'cuz she likes apple with poultry...so do I. I found the WSM 18 online the night before when we were talking about the upcoming turkey smoke, and there were only 2 left in stock...
...I said if we don't get one quick they'll be gone until spring...no more left anywhere close by...she made a special trip just for this smoker while I was at work, so yeah, she's taking care of me...
Originally, I was looking at the 14, but I think I'd have been disappointed with the cooking grate sizes...good for a chicken on top and fixings over the pan, but not much else. Maybe for retirement when it's just a couple of us in an RV, the the 14" would be perfect, and a whole smoked bird would be just right for 2-4 people, and leftovers for chicken salad for lunch, soups, oven dishes, enchiladas, green chili...OK, enough about leftover chicken...bring back WAY to many memories, and all of them ended in a tasty meal.

Back to the smoking...gotta stoke up the fire for a hot & fast wing smoke!!!

Looks like your having fun with the WSM! Keep up the great work!
Thanks!!! Been a great ride, so far...no regrets. Only one thing, I don't think of it as work...it's a passion.

Dinner is down the pipes, and it was rather tasty.

4lbs of wings and a couple BSCTs (boneless, skinless chicken thighs...for the new guys & gals) came out great!!! A ran to I/Ts of 170* to a bit over 175* in a few of the smaller ones. There's always a couple of variations in size and I try to figure out where the cooler spots might be in the smoker for these occasions, but I don't think there are a lot of temp variances in the WSM. It does seem to run hotter on the upper grate, even with 4lbs of pea-gravel in the water pan, judging by the color on the skin of these wings...bottom wasn't quite as dark, and I don't think that's just smoke color...some has to be a bit of caramelizing due to running above 250*.

Oh, chamber temps were a bit sluggish, but I added about 3/4 of a chimney of cold KBB over a thin layer of hot coals, so maybe it just wasn't quite enough fuel to give it that extra push to get over 300* like I wanted. I'll try to remember to run with at least a half-full ring for hotter smokes from now on, and be sure there is a good amount burning in time for the meat to go under the lid. I really should have been looking @ 300* before these wings went in, and it just wasn't gonna happen, even with starting @ 80% open intakes and then opening them 100% after dropping the meat. I guess I overestimated the remaining coals after the link smoke, and it didn't have enough punch after letting it run for over an hour, maybe 90+ minutes at a bit lower temps with 10% intake, either. On top of that, my wings were...you guessed it...partially frozen, like yesterday's drums. Weird part is, I figured 90 minutes for the wings, 60-70 for the BSCTs, and they were all done at the same time, with adding the thighs about 25 minutes into the wing smoke. So, they all came out on time (straight-up 6:00pm), with chamber temps running nothing over 275*, and starting at 250*, then ending near 250*. Maybe an average of around 260-265*. All is well, but I'll be sure to have at least 3/4 chimney burning and the ring more than 3/4 full before I toss the bird and drip/veggie stock pan under it. Gonna burn some fuel for that run, and the weather isn't going to be favorable, either...cool and windy, but no snow until Wednesday/Thursday.

Speaking of drip pans, I have 6" space between the grates, so I'm not using my S/S pans for the turkey smoke...they're 4" tall. The disposable steam table pans are 2-3/4", so that won't buffer the heat getting to the turkey above nearly as much...but, that's another day and another smoke...we'll see how that all comes together.

This was all seasoned the same as the Drums yesterday, with Alpine. Ready to fly to the dinner plate...the BSCTs will just have to slither like snails, I guess, 'cuz they can't walk without bones...

OK, the rest of dinner is ready...I gotta grab some vittles for the verdict.

Mmm-mmm-mmm!!! Wish we had smoke deliveries through the PM's, 'cuz I'd share this with anyone!!! Wings are one of our favorites, but they are a rare buy for a decent price around here, so they're a treat when we can grab some. Oh, I forgot to mention, but I only added apple to the smoke, as there were some remnants of smoke wood still in the fire when I added cold KBB...didn't want to over do the smoke, and it worked out well. Nice touch of smoke that I could taste even below the skin. The skin was...well, not the best, but then I didn't really try to avoid rubber skin syndrome, either. Maybe a 325* smoke chamber would have helped, along with some pre-smoke treatments, but my fire wasn't running hot enough for that game plan. So, chewy skin again, but I didn't eat much of it. The meat was good even when I couldn't taste seasoning. And, the learning continues...

Catch you all on the flip-side...I have that turkey to run through it's paces later in the morning for a early turkey-day gathering.

I'll post that up when I get a chance, but it may fragmented into several posts throughout the day like a lot of my longer runs, but this will hopefully allow me to drop it all into this thread before I go to bed...back to work on the 25th. Fingers crossed. Turkey day is fast approaching and some of you may want to know a different approach on what you can pull off with your WSM 18, just for "what if" and deciding on your best course of action...so I'll do my best to be of service.

Thanks for peekin'!!!

Great smokes to all, and to all a good night!!!

Tasty looking chicks there!

Since I've started using Jeff's method for wings, brining them in buttermilk, I've always had nice bite through skin on my chicken wings and drums.
Hey Duke, I've heard of the buttermilk dunk a few years back, but I never remember to pick some up and try it when I'm getting ready for a chicken burn. Well, probably doesn't help that most of my chicken runs are on rather short notice. One of these days it will all come together, I hope.

Thanks for the points!!!


I had some issues with a new (to me) fuel...Embers Charcoal. Torch-lighting the center of the heap like I do with KBB was extremely slow on spreading the fire, so I added 1/3 chimney of hot coals to give it a jump start...even that took nearly 3/4 hour to get from 216* to 250* as measure by my Maverick Pit Probe.  That may partly be due to using 4lbs of pea-gravel in flat-bottom Brinkmann SnG fire-pan, but, I never had this much trouble getting up to a decent temp with KBB, even with a medium-sized bird dropped on the grate. It may be better suited for low & slow in moderate ambient temps...
...I'll see how it pans out in the coming weeks. Anyway, turkey is smoking, and, cooking closer to par now.

Oh, for more details on the issues I had:


I'll drop my Beef Loin in when I'm looking at the 5-hr mark for smoke time. OOPS!!! That would be NOW!!!

OK, back to the post...here's our Sunday dinner subject, cross-hatch scored deeply (up to 1/2-5/8") through tougher sub-cap tissues:

I spread the scoring open and sprinkled rub all the way down inside, then patted it down on all sides...shooting an I/T of around 140-142*. Carry-over should pull it up around 145*+...guests and wife lean more towards med...I'm a med/rare steak & beef roast guy, but, what's a couple degrees, right?...it's still gonna be plenty juicy:

Bird is @ 138*, almost through the 40-140* range in 3.5hrs (probed it from the start @ 36*), even with the low chamber temp issues I experienced early on...needed to dump some heat and choke it back, as it was 275* and climbing, and I wanted to slow it down for the beef loin...so, I'll try to settle it in around 220* or so for the remainder of the smoke. Turkey has no time-frame, they just wanted a smoked bird...but I'm shooting for around 5:00pm or sooner, so they can enjoy it for Sunday dinner:

Beef Loin is in, under the bird...hopefully poultry drippings won't flavor the beef too much, but I did season it with the red bell pepper rub used for my smoked bird on my last days off work. Thought about just SPOG & RBP, but quite a bit of this rub left, so...well see...about 10 minutes into the smoke for the beef loin here:

I invited my son and his family over for beef loin dinner this evening...it'll be nice to share and spread around another smoke from the WSM!!!

Back later when this smoke comes to a close.

Thanks for peekin'!!!

Your really kickin out some nice lookin Q from that new toy ! Thumbs Up It all looks really tasty !
Both are looking tasty! Not sure I would give the neighbors the whole turkey!!:biggrin:
Your really kickin out some nice lookin Q from that new toy !
It all looks really tasty !
Thanks!!! I gotta practice when I can!!! Not that I don't know, how, but I want to get through the learning curve with reasonable ease. So far, it's been a breeze. Now today, I changed charcoal types/brands...put a new twist on fire management that threw me off balance for a while, but we're on the rebound and going strong again. A couple more smokes with the Embers charcoal and I'll have a better feel for the amount of burning coals I'll need, based on target temp and ambient conditions.
Good deal on that roast! You'll be eatin' good
Yeah, my wife spotted this one and a smaller bone-in beef rib a few days back, both on sale. I think she has hidden motives, but I don't mind. If she keeps me stocked up with meats (and taters/veggies), then I don't have any excuses for not smoking on my weekends. I can't complain about that, can I???  

Both are looking tasty! Not sure I would give the neighbors the whole turkey!!
Thanks!!! The bird was supposed to be smoked on Thanksgiving day, after I got home from work...work ran much later than I expected and I had to post-pone the smoke. They provided the birds (one roasted/stuffed) and most of the rest of the meal on Thanksgiving Day, so I'm just catching up on a late smoke while I fired-up for the beef loin. I'd rather load it up when I can...even though the beef loin is hardly a load for the 18's grate, I try. I'm just not big on leftover meats, for the most part, otherwise I'd have likely bought the WSM 22 instead of the 18.

I'd rather use more fuel to run a partially loaded smoker and have fresh smoked meats and smoke more often, than run a full smoker and eat leftovers...just me. The 18 seems to be the ideal size for most of my cooking situations...There's only 3 of us at home, now, so it's not a monstrous size with a ton of wasted fuel and grate space. Yet, I can still load far more than we can eat when we have a little gathering. And, I can cook an entire meal in the 18, if I think about it a bit and do a little planning. When I really get jamming on a lot, the OTG kettles come out to play...it's all been good.

Been a fun ride so far!!! The beast Smoke Vault 24 is no longer my favorite rig...sorry girl, nothing personal...I just like charcoal fires more...there's still a place in my heart for you (her and I go back through a lot of time and a TON of smokes). She's getting some use at my son's house now and then, so she's not too lonely.

Time for a smoke check...turkey was at 163* in the thigh about 20 minutes ago.

Oh, I got the WSM settled in around 215-220*, so I figured I'd let the heat soak in a bit more slowly for the bird...kinda let things equalize a bit more before the finish, as I did have up to 278* showing on the pit probe a time or 2 before I dialed everything back around 90 minutes ago. I wanted lower chamber temps for the beef loin, as well, otherwise it will be resting longer than I planned for.

I gotta admit, fuel issues aside, I haven't had an easier smoker to operate...EVER.

Hmm...it would appear that I have created a forced stall in the bird when I dropped the chamber temps back so sharply. I stuck my digital pen in the opposite thigh and breast to verify the meat probe, and temps are no longer rising, so I cracked the intake dampers open just a bit. Chamber temps were pretty steady around 216*, so maybe a bit too low for my plans. I knew better, but then told my neighbors it would be ready in about 90 minutes when I saw the 163* I/T in the thigh...might have called it too soon with the latest development...time will tell...it might fool me and jump another 10* in the next hour.  I can definitely tell I'm out of practice when I find my self making that classic error...learned that one back in late '08 or early '09 doing a pork picnic shoulder in my old GOSM with sub-zero temps, moderately high winds and an ice-storm that turned to snow. Man, was that ever a long night of no sleep.

So, let the real waiting begin...averaging around 160-162* I/T...shooting for my usual minimum of ~172-174* in the thighs and ~168-170* in the breasts:

Oh, and if you hadn't noticed, it is naked...no rub, salt...nothing...per my neighbor's request:

Looks good, and the shrinkage of the skin indicates the meat is cooking through nicely, and fats are rendering out...just not quite up to temp yet.


Turkey came out just in time. I tossed the bone-in beef loin on the upper grate, stabbed my probe and it was dead-on @ 140*.

3hrs, 45minutes...pulled it out just short of 4hrs @ 143* and tossed into a warm over on a pan covered with a foil tent:

Heal cut off...moist, even way out there where it's med/well to well done:

Now, for the moment of truth...oven was warmer than I thought, and rested longer in it than I planned...carry-over went to closer to 155* or so:

Even with it being over-cooked (IMHO), it is still moist, and butter-knife tender:

Guests made Potatoes AuGraten, wife made steamed Califlower (I didn't take any, 'cuz I wasn't that hungry, and this is a larger plate (more food than it looks like):

The dry rub was nice on the beef loin...didn't taste any of the turkey drippings at all...of courswe they fell on the fat-cap, which I didn't eat. Tender, juicy and a nice milder beef flavor, very similar to rib eye sections without the fat. My son asked where he can get these at...I guess he's already thinking of his next smoke in my old SV-24...

Not everything was perfect, with finished temps and extra resting time as they were, but this hunka beef held up to it just fine, and this is pretty lean muscle. One thing that may have given me a bit of an edge is the fact that my water pan is dry...that seals up the surface fibers quickly and reduces natural moisture loss in the meat...I've used dry or wet-to-dry methods for a few years and it does some pretty impressive things like this one tonight. I was impressed, thinking I screwed this one up when I started slicing it away from the bones and saw the color...as it ended up, it was a non-issue. Pink juices on the cutting board, even with drippings in the resting pan. Yeah, I'd do one of these again, in a heart-beat!!! Of course, my finished temps will be much more conservative next time around...maybe 135*-138*...and incidentally, that will reduce cooking time by at ~30 minutes, maybe more.

Gotta check and see if the fire went out after closing the dampers...nope, got one intake damper that flattened-out and won't huge the bowl tight enough, now. Well, I don't have much coals left anyway, but I'll be looking for a fix that doesn't involve drilling out the rivet, first. If not, than there's always screws and washers to refasten...just a minor set-back, IMO.

Oh, forgot to mention this: smoke wood was apple and hickory, but the turkey didn't see much hickory because I placed it towards the outside of the coals, so they would start after I dropped the beef loin into the WSM...as a result, the beef loin got less apple...just a bit of TBS now and then, while it mainly got hickory)...a little play on smoke, if you will.

BTW, chalk this beef loin up as another first for me...

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