New to charcoal smoking

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Original poster
Oct 11, 2020
Hello all,

First off I want to apologize if this isn't the right place to post this sort of thread but I have a question I would like to try to get an answer to.

I'm still pretty new to smoking, been doing it about a year now on a propane smoker just learning the basics n stuff. But now my lovely girlfriend bought me a WSM18 for my birthday so now I get to have some real fun. I've been watching a few videos about how to operate and control the temperatures n such and how much charcoal to use for like 8-16 hour smokes, but my question I can't seem to find is, can anyone give me a good answer on how much charcoal I should be using for around a 3-4 hour smoke? I don't wanna fill up the whole ring with charcoal to only use it for 3-4 hours and waste all that fuel., Like if I only fill up half the ring will I still be able to get it up to temperature? I want to smoke a turkey at 300f°.

Sorry if it's not specific enough and would gladly give more info if needed, new to all this, thanks everyone.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Feb 25, 2018
E Tn
Welcome, when you get a few cooks in on your smoker it will start sealing better and when all the dampers are closed it will snuff out the charcoal, that can be reused the next time, its hard to predict how much for a certain amount of run time as charcoal burns at different rates ect. I would rather have too much as too little. she sounds like a keeper but hope she knows this is a addiction and she is helping you down this slippery slope lol . I like to smoke turkeys on low temp lots of smoke for a couple- 3 hrs then into a cooking bag and then the oven to finish with crispy skin.


Smoking Fanatic
Jan 18, 2020
Fill it up and set the vents for the temp you want and when done shut the vents down and the fire will go out.
Adding a layer of insulation to the rim of the lid will help it shut down quickly FWIW..
The charcoal that does not get consumed will be fine for your next cook.
I and many others "re-use" charcoal every time we cook.
If your next cook won't be for weeks and you live in an area that's super humid, you may consider removing the briquettes and storing them in a giant zip lock or other air tight storage container so they don't inhale too much moisture from the atmosphere.
Otherwise, just leave them in the cooker and the next time you cook just toss in a dozen new briquettes and go to town.
Rinse and repeat.

unclebubbas bbq

Smoking Fanatic
Jun 26, 2013
Rocky Hill, CT
In the owners manual I believe it tells you how many pieces of charcoal to use, my guess is for a 3-4 hour cook it will be about 30 pieces, use the minion method and use a half of a chimney to start it. If you don't know what the minion method is then go to youtube


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
May 7, 2017
I have a WSM also. I always use 1 full bag of charcoal regardless of how long my smoke is. Once my food is done, I shut down (close) all the vents. I reuse the old charcoal. It saves money also!
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Smoking Fanatic
Nov 12, 2020
Buford, GA
I used the minion method with my WSM 18 today. I used half old charcoal and half new---filled 3/4s to top of ring-Couldn't believe I didn't get 4 hours smoke in. I am trying to blame the small old charcoal??????????????? Oh well-living and learning. Also, I used water pan today---1/2 full with WARM water. I am wondering since my water I added was not boiling water that the vents were open more early on for more heat needed because of the water?????? OK--third clue....I did something I have not done before. The little empty spot in the middle of the charcoal where you dump your starter hot coals? I had a big hunk of mesquite right there to pour the hot coals on.

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