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

  • Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.
SMF is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
I pushed until the fire started peetering out...not quite enough charcoal for this smoke, and I didn't wanted to stoke it up more for the little bit of extra smoke I'd have gotten on the chuck. Should have just filled it level to the top of the ring and this wouldn't have been an issue. Almost got to 160* I/T when the chamber temps started falling off...dropped to 184* by the time I got a crock-pot warming-up. And I've been smelling smoke ever since. I put the taters and onions into the crock over the chuck just long enough to steam the tater skins so they're a bit more loose for easier peeling, and a bit more tender onion...about 30 minutes. Taters and onions are cooling in a pan, now.

Outer layer on the onions has some shrinkage, so they've cooked partially, like I wanted, but not to the point of loosing those precious juices and oils:

Not much for drippings in the foil to recover due to to the lower I/T of the chuck, so I won't worry about these drippings...I'll get plenty from the crock-pot for gravy:

I/T was starting to drop when I got this into the crock, so I've increased the actual time to finish it due to the fire dying-down before I wanted the chuck to come out, but no hurry on this. I still have 3 more hours until my planned time for dinner, and wifey might not be home yet by then, anyway. The good thing is, I have options for finishing this chuck, and can remain flexible. I was leaning towards finishing in a crock-pot from the start, just to save on some charcoal when a guy would normally foil...if you do foil. I usually don't foil any more, but for this smoke, I want less bark and more tenderness throughout.

See ya soon!!!

More great cooks, nice !
Really nice Eric!
I have a crock-pot with about 3.5qts of finished product for your drooling pleasures...let me get those pics up and you can see the end result.

The chucky road it out for about 2 hours in the crock-pot to reach a finished temp of between 203-205*, depending on where I probed. I rested it while peeling potatoes and trying to make the gravy in the crock-pot...it was just way too slow, so I broke out a sauce pan to gitter-dun. I actually had a light boil going in the crock, added some water and starch while whisking it vigorously, but it never got hot enough to thicken much.

The russets were kinda a bugger to peel just because they were only partially cooked. I finished them in the sauce pan with the gravy stock, before I hit it again with more starch-water. Worked out quick and easy that way.

Ready to rest:

Pulled...some tougher spots due to coming up to finished temps faster than I thought it would, but I managed it fine...all hand pulled, no forks or other tools:

Finishing the potatoes after peeling and chunking them up:

1st layer is down:

Taters next:

Thickened gravy...time for a gentle folding to bring it all together:

And, ready to heat through for a few minutes...gravy was still boiling when I poured it over the top:

Garnished with smoked red onion...

That wasn't too difficult...a little bit more learning with the smoked taters, being I wanted to peel and cut up into larger bite-sized chunks, but I got through it (peeling was tougher than I figured it would be). Red or yellow potatoes are a better choice for a dish like this because you can fully cook, then chunk-up, or vice-versa, and, leave the skin on if you like. I used these because they were starting to sprout, so time to cook 'em or loose 'em...and, the reason for very low & slow smoker temps...so I get more smoke before they were cooked, then, I could peel and finish cooking after cutting them up.

I've done similar meals, but I always experiment just a bit with methods and ingredients. Speaking of ingredients, I added some ham base to the gravy for a little extra dimension in background flavor...man, that was a nice change that I wasn't really expecting. I tasted it before pouring into the crock-pot, of course, just in case that idea was way out in left field. It added even more of a mild smoke flavor. No salt added other than what was in the ham base, and no other seasonings...it didn't need it...perfect.

Wife loves it...gotta agree with her. Tasty meal, for sure...and as always, I'd do it again...if I ever quite experimenting and try a re-do...LOL!!!

Thanks again for peekin'!!! Great smokes to all, and to all a good night!!!

Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: dukeburger
Wife loves it...gotta agree with her. Tasty meal, for sure...and as always, I'd do it again...if I ever quite experimenting and try a re-do...LOL!!!


I love it, taters, onions & beef.  

Deliciously simple, (but time consuming). Very impressive.
Thanks, Foam!!! Really, the finish took less than an hour...peeling taters and pulling beef...gravy took about 5 minutes, once I had the proper tool for the job. I suspected the crock-pot wouldn't get hot enough, but I had to give it a shot anyway...now I know for sure.

Looks like you also had a great meal!  You've got that WSM dialed in
Thanks, DB!! Yeah, I'm getting pretty comfortable with it already. When I lit the fire and got the drum on, I didn't open the intakes beyond where I dialed it in from the start (about 25%)...watched the temp slowly rise, smoke coming on nice and strong...just kicked back in my chair and peeked outside through the window at probes and the lid therm every 20-30 minutes until it was stable after a cold start-up (about 1hr)...piece a cake. It settled in around 200* after a little bump to around 210* or less, and I thought, hmm, how'd I do that? With a slower starting fuel? Well, I guess for me, the WSM is a natural...should have went this route long ago. Ah, but then a lot of the learning up until now would have never happened, so I can't complain.

The only thing I didn't get close today enough was fuel quantity...fell a bit short, but another 1.5-2lbs would have done the job, I'm sure. I just got a little itchy about loading up the ring after loosing some coals a few smokes back, but I just wasn't looking/feeling close enough when I choked it off for the night and it smoldered until they were gone. I should be able to load it to the brim and have enough for most smokes without any worries...except a pork shoulder or brisket, of course. So, I'll try to get over that little mishap, and then the WSM and I will be golden (only lost about 3-4lbs of coals, anyway...hardly enough to beat myself up over...LOL!!!).

Oh, and the newer fuel has had some minor challenges, but I think I've got the Embers pretty well figured out, as well. It took a few rounds to get a better handle on it, but it's kinda growing on me...starting to like it's characteristics. Seems like it needs a bigger fire and less unlit coals for hot and fast...just get after it and let it rip. For low and slow, you can start out small and it will bring temps up slowly as the fire spreads, however, I usually like to roll that way with slower cooking...so, it fits right into my game plan, as it did today. It seemed to be pretty darn steady for the better part of this smoke, which was roughly 6 hours. For hot and fast, lump would be better than any briquettes (they burn hotter & faster), and it's no different with Embers, but a big hot coal-base will push the WSM 18 towards the 300* mark in cooler weather...you'll burn up some fuel doing it, of course, and it's not as efficient as running ~225-250* as far as the fuel use per lb of meat to reach finished temp...that I haven't ran actual numbers on, but hot and fast with a big fire seemed to burn up the bulk of an 80% full ring in less than 4hrs on my 3.8lb Rib Eye/Taters smoke. Just something I'll be watching for later this month, as I'll be running through 2 more before January. I may not try pushing it quite as hot, but I don't want to smoking Rib Eyes all day, either, and I'll want some Idaho taters fresh off the grates to dine one as well...I mean, you gotta have a big ol' tater with a nice thick slice of Rib Eye, don't you...LOL!!!

Been another fun ride today, though...a little more of learning curve is under my belt. Huh, I just re-thought that statement...most of the learning curve is gone. Matching everything up between target temps, fuel and smoker...pretty much there already. Sunday is pork steaks, and whatever I can scrounge up to go with them...the challenge will be, I'll want to smoke these steaks nice and slow, too, and whatever goes in with it will probably need finishing in another cooker...maybe (to get hot enough)...but hey, I'm flexible. I might just come up with something that will cook at lower temps, unlike taters. Right now, it escapes me. OK, Cauliflower and/or Broccoli might fit a lower temp cooking (with a bit of steam to help push it along), but they may not a great match for pork steak, IMHO...unless...add a cheese sauce...hmm, I'll be thinking about this until time for eyelid inspections...LOL!!! OK, enough thinking out load through my fingers onto the keyboard for one night...



Another weekend of fun in the smoke has come to an end. I had my pork steaks thawing for a few days in the refer, so the meat was good for a nice slow ride in the WSM. I was contemplating what to toss in with them and though a 1/2 size foil steam pan of beans might be the trick I was waiting for since last night. No need to cook, just heat them, through, however, when I sized these monster steaks, I changed my other mind and decided to go the stove-top route for beans. 4lbs of pork steaks plus that pan, well, it just didn't look good. It was all good eating, none-the-less.

I fired the WSM with a 2/3 ring of Embers briquettes, small fire in the center with torch for ignition and intakes set to about 20%, lid fully opened. Winds were crazy today and out of the S-S/W, which I was not prepared for. This was not the prevailing winds, as it's blowing in some warmer weather form the south. Temps peaked @ 50*, so warm, but the wind was just plain nuts...gusts were strong enough to take me off balance more than once just walking from the door to the smoker, just 10-12 feet away.

I wanted to run close to 200* grate temps...not normal low & slow, no, a bit below, especially for my elevation of 5K ft. The idea is to run slow enough to hold onto those precious juices in the steaks, and that did work. I had my pit probe centered on the lower grate over the foil-lined, dry water pan with 4lbs of pea-gravel. A second probe was on the upper grate...want to be sure there wasn't a large difference between the grates caused by the pea-gravel heating slowly...found out my suspicions were correct, and confirmed by the 2nd hour into this smoke, so I rotated the meats from grate to grate to even out the cooking. Grate temps started out about 35* cooler on the lower grate, then got closer to 20* cooler after 3 hours into the smoke. So, it was a gamble to leave the thermal mass in the pan for this lower temp smoke, but with the winds I figured it would all shake out about the same by loosing some heat and time to do a rotation of meats, or remove the mass and possibly suffer a lot more temp swings...I opted for more stable temps and to do the extra deed to keep things cooking evenly. BTW, wind gusts were often enough to such a lot of heat off the lid, as the lid therm would drop about 5060* at times, while the probes were holding pretty steady throughout, with just minor bumps when I did go have a look now and then.

Here's that 2-hr point in time when I decided to do the swap:

After the swap:

4 hrs and temps measured by pocket digital were in the 150*+ range, so I decided to we'd give 'em the fork and knife treatment (butter knife, that is...didn't need the heavy-duty sharp steak knives)...should have went about 20 minutes longer, but we were getting into the mood for food:

The beans are a spin-off version of Dutches Wick Beans. I used only beans (2 - 1.75lb cans), Rotel tomatoes and chilies (1 can), pineapple (1 - 20 oz can of chunks, drained...juice reserved for the chef...LOL!!!), and this time around I used a full 12oz pack of bacon and rendered it down, then drained off the fat. Put it all into the same pot the bacon was slowly rendered down in to heat through, and viola!!! Nice textures and great flavor with a little bit of creeper-mode heat...catches up with you if you just eat beans non-stop...:

This was a little more rare than I'm accustomed to for pork, so I nuked it for 45 seconds...just me...some like it rather pink, but I stepped it up to a bit lighter shade...maybe 155*.

That was a really nice, simple meal...not a complete diet for most, but once in a while we skip the veggies. Steaks were relatively tender for the cut, and had a very moist interior...partly due to the really low chamber temps. One thing I did notice with this slower smoke was that slightly off-taste, and bit stronger in the smoke, and I only used one small chunk of apple, so I know it wasn't from that. I suspect the charcoal was doing a bit more smoldering with this lower chamber temp, instead of burning a little hotter and reducing that coal smoke effect. So, I may try to run in the 225* range for the next low & slow smokes and see if that corrects the issue...in theory, it should. That was a bit of a trade-off between the retained moisture running that slow, and that off taste...I'll shoot for loosing the off-taste and probably still see similar retained moisture...I had to try it again, though...works fine in propane rigs...just me...and we learn by doing.

Thanks for peekin'!!!

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

  • Like
Reactions: dukeburger
Holy crap. What a thread. Glad your back and on fire.
Holy crap. What a thread. Glad your back and on fire.
Ha-ha!!! Thanks, brother!!! Oh, I'm not ready to slow down for a while yet...maybe January, but if the weather isn't flat-out ugly? I'll probably still be rolling. I just may have to gear up for some curing again...miss doing my chicken salami...wife, kids and friends miss me doing it too...LOL!!! I do have to drop the cover back on the WSM for a few days, but Friday marks the start-up for a couple more daily smokes...

Another great job, Eric. Smoky or not, it looks incredible.
Thanks, DB!!! A bit too smokey...maybe...thing is, I'm my own worst critic. Thinking back on it now, my wife said she thought it was really good...ate 1/2 of a 1lbr and that's a lot for her...with no complaints. She's not a heavy smoke lover, either...it doesn't agree with her guts at all. So, yeah, may be it's just me being a bit too finicky, as I've rarely run across this situation in the past...uh, darn...I can't even remember how many years...is that a bad thing??? I have developed a rather keen sense of taste for smoke, though...probably due to my previous experiences with preparing to cook for larger family gatherings and my daughters wedding...it had to be as near to my definition of perfect as humanly possible, given the circumstances...or I wasn't happy with it. If you ever have been into cooking that big you know the feeling, the pressure and anticipation...the gratification when everyone sits down to eat and the voices nearly go silent...that's your first indication that you've done your part well. Of course, the compliments to follow just confirm what you already are feeling has just transpired...there's no better feeling than to know your best was good enough. Anyway, kinda drug myself back a couple years there...fond memories. I really should trust my instincts. I'll still follow through with the plan of staying at or above a target chamber temp of 225*...just makes more sense to me to avoid any possible risk of that off-flavored smoke (still thinking it's from smoldering coals). And, this is just one more step towards getting the perfect smoke from yet another rig in my arsenal.

Oh, did I mention Saturday's smoke victim yet? No, I didn't...double smoked Smithfield ham (9.38lbs, if I recall)...probably will be my longest smoke to date with the WSM. A good reason for a full load of fuel, for sure, especially if mother nature will be showing up for the party. I haven't scrounged through the freezers for Friday's victim yet...rest assured, there is something in there with my name and a that date on it...it just doesn't know it yet.

Have a great evening, fellas, and keep those smokers warm and happy!!!


Lucky for me I chose a shorter smoke for today, because I was working on the wife's car for about 3 hours this morning (coil-packs, plugs and intake gasket).

I still had some Red Bell Pepper Rub from turkey day, so I used more of if this afternoon. Oh, I removed the pea-gravel from the SnG pan today to hopefully reduce the larger upper to lower grate temp variances. Still running with Embers charcoal. I tried starting a fire with the torch through the intake, but the torch went out after I put the barrel on...still unsure what caused that. So, I pulled the barrel and started a central fire again. Loaded the ring about 1/2 full for this shorter smoke. Had about 2/3 of the grate for remnant coals from last smoke after shaking off and dumping the ash.

Wifey picked up the meat yesterday afternoon so I'd have something for a shorter smoke today...

Just sorting out the CSRs so I can drop the smallest ones on the bottom grate, where, according to my limited experience, runs cooler than the upper grate:

7.5lbs of irregular cut CSRs makes things a little challenging to load, but I managed...don't think I'd want to try more than this amount, though:

I think if I can find a boneless pork butt and cut my own CRSs would be much better. I'd even be willing to bone it out myself. I like them thick cut, around 1.5", and about 2-1/2" wide. These were very random thickness, and some were more of a wedge. Inexperienced meat cutter, I guess.

I'm running around 190* lower grate and bit over 200* upper grate with a small chunk each of apple and hickory. I'll bump temps up about 10-15* after 1-3/4 hours and give 'em another 3/4 hour before probing the thicker parts. I want to pan/tent for an hour or so @160*+ I/T and brush on a little bit of...(gulp)...sauce. I know, with this rub, they don't need no stinking sauce...just for a change of pace and to satisfy my curiosity, 'cuz I rarely sauce for anything other than the occasional smoked bird or grilled chicken pieces. So, it's sticky CSRs today.

Smoke is on @3:00pm MDT...dinner's planned for 6:30 if you can make it!!!

Catch you with the finish ASAP!!!

Last edited:
CSRs have been properly dined upon.

I knew when I started eating that it's been WAY too long since I last smoked CSRs. We had guests over and they brought the sides. The smoke flavor on the CSRs with hickory and apple was perfect...light, but not weak. Sauce was OK...I don't sauce much, but it was a nice change from the usual. In reality, a bit heavier dose of RBP rub will give plenty of sweetness to the overall flavor profile. Nice and easy meal...just what I needed after that back-wrecker of a project I tackled this morning...that, too, was successful...no more codes or check engine light...

Time for sauce to finish these up...I/Ts on the couple I checked were above 155*. Smoke time was 1-3/4hrs @ ~195*, and 3/4 hour @ 215*:

I sauce so often that couldn't even find my silicone brushes...
...so, I poured on some honey bbq, tossed them around with tongs to coat well and popped 'em into the "O" for 3/4hr @ 250*, and 1/4hr @ 300*, no foil, because they were still sweating quite a bit and rendered out some more fat.

Ready for the "O":

CSR, potato salad and stuffing:

That was tasty!!! I told my oldest daughter what I was smoking this weekend: "save me some, please, please, please". So, there will be a baggy of CSRs and another of double-smoked ham waiting for her...the ham is Saturday's smoke.

I'm getting more and more comfortable with the WSM and the Embers charcoal with each smoke. Feels like a good fitting glove these days...like it's meant to be. I still want to grab some lump if I can find some for a decent price and see what that does for a hot & fast bird smoke, but in a pinch, with 2 chimneys, I can pour in a load of hot coals and it will do pretty well, just a bit shy on temps, as I'd like to see ~325* in cooler weather...lump should do the trick.

Thanks for peekin'!!!

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

Nice start, I'm on my way!!


Wait, am I already too late??
Hey, got about 3lbs left, and we've filled our bellies...come on down!!!
Looking good, love me some csr's.

Rub recipe?
I didn't write this one down, but it's one of many variants of RBP rub that I blended for our early Thanksgiving smoked bird. That's what so nice about RBP...I can play around with it a lot and never have a flop...it's pretty forgiving, but short of tossing together some really off-the-wall ingredients, I don't think you could make a bad rub as long as you start with SPOG and RBP. The RBP is the only ingredient that most folks don't already have on hand, but I'm working on converting more and more kitchen spice cabinets every day...LOL!!!

If memory serves me, and oddly, I usually can remember my rubs now days, this one had:

1 Tbsp - 5 peppercorn, med/fine ground

2 Tbsp - red bell pepper, powdered (you can't buy this ground, that I know of...you can use much more if you like...very mild and sweet)

2 Tbsp - minced dried garlic

2 Tbsp - onion, medium/fine gorund

1.5 Tbsp - sea salt (add more or less to your preference...I chose sea salt over kosher for a bit less sodium and better flavor, IMHO)

1/4 tsp - sage

1/2 tsp - cumin

1 Tbsp - smoked paprika powder (this can be omitted if the flavor may be to strong for you, or sub with Spanish paprika)

1 Tbsp - thyme

Do not grind the salt or garlic...this gives you some larger particle size. Everything else can be ground together, especially the sage, as it's rubbed, not powdered, so it needs a good pulverizing so it disperses into the blend more evenly. Sage is strong, so always use it sparingly with BBQ rubs...cumin is another one to use lightly. Thyme is moderately strong...goes great with beef, but lends some very nice aromas and flavor on pork and poultry as well...maybe not with chili powder based rubs, but this is true of RBP.

I use the above because they are basics that we like on smoked meats...especially the RBP...once you try it, it's hard to look back.

I would have used rosemary in this rub at 3/4-1 Tbsp, but had none around...and still don't...time to do some spice shopping.

Thanks fellas!!!

Last edited:
I just read this post from start to finish this morning. I gained 5lbs just looking at all the pics. Great post!
I just read this post from start to finish this morning. I gained 5lbs just looking at all the pics. Great post!
Thank you!!! It has been a fun ride so far with the WSM 18, and I figured from the start that it would be worthy of sharing with everyone here.

I have a 9.4lb Smithfield Ham perched upon the upper grate since 10:00am, with cherry @ ~235-240*. Taters will go in shortly. Pics to follow when I get that far. The will remain ham naked...no rub, no glaze...reduced sodium and taste great just the way they, so I'm not messing with a good thing.

SmokingMeatForums.com is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

Latest posts

Hot Threads