New WSM 22.5 – Needing Advice

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by mickhlr, Feb 22, 2016.

  1. mickhlr

    mickhlr Smoke Blower

    Even though this is my first post to the Charcoal Smokers section, I have posted several to other stick burners and Old Country Wrangler smokers threads.   I’ve been smoking meat for a lot of years, and have been using an Old Country Wrangler stick burner for the past 3-4 years.   I have smoked a lot of good meat on the Wrangler, but I’ve been looking at adding a smoker that doesn’t take up all my time fiddling with it.  

    I can’t afford $2-$5K on a good stick burner.   I don’t like the pellet smokers.   I don’t like the propane smokers.   And, I think the $1200 for an XL BGE is ridiculous.   So, being a Weber fan from way back, the WSM 22.5 seems to be a good choice.   And, after much deliberation, I went ahead and ordered a WSM 22.5 from Home Depot yesterday.   It is supposed to be in by Saturday.

    I smoke a lot of brisket, beef ribs, and beef sausage. (Hey! Beef is what we do in Texas!)   But, I also do some turkey breasts, spare ribs, chicken, and an occasional pork butt.   Here are a few links to some posts I’ve added to on the forum.

    So, basically what I want to learn to do is to be able to produce the same quality of smoked meat on the WSM, as I’ve been able to do on the Wrangler…but without all the time required to sit and watch the temps on the Wrangler.   I’m getting too old to sit out on the patio for 8-12 hour smokes, almost constantly watching temps, stoking the fire, adding wood, etc.   And, forget starting a butt or a brisket the night before…there’s just no way, as I have way too much fluctuation in temps.   So, I have to get up at 3:00am to put on a long smoke, then sit there and watch it all day…when I need to be doing something else.   Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I enjoy that part of it…but occasionally I’d like to throw the meat on and forget about it for a couple of hours, at least.

    I’ve read where some people say the 18.5 WSM is easier to hold temp than the 22.5.   Is that true?   How about it, WSM 22.5 owners?   What is your secret to keep your WSM 22.5 holding temp?

    I’ve also read where some people say they didn’t season their WSM at all.   I don’t know about that, as I normally season anything…from my 26” Weber Kettle grill, to my Weber Genesis propane grill.   BTW…the $800 I spent on the E-330 Genesis was a total waste of money, as now that I have the 26” kettle, I never use the propane grill.   And, since I’ve had several 22” Weber Kettles, as well as several other Weber propane grills through the years, I’ve become accustomed to Weber quality, and that’s why I started looking at the WSM.    

    How much wood do you use?   Does the size of the wood chips make it burn hotter?   I know lump charcoal makes any of them burn hotter.   One thing I’m worried about is getting a good smoky taste and smoke ring on my meat.   With the Wrangler, I only use about ¾ of a Weber charcoal starter of charcoal, just to get everything started.   After that, I use wood for the entire smoke.   I keep a 1/3 cord red oak splits, 1/3 cord of post oak splits, and 1/3 cord of hickory splits, just for smoking.   Those splits are about 14”-16”.   Will they be too large to use in a WSM 22.5?   Of course, I can saw off a lot of chunks for use in the WSM from my smoking wood splits stacks.   I’m just wondering how much to use, and what size?  I’m sure I’ll learn what I can do, but just looking for a good starting point.

    What temp does the 22.5 WSM like to run at?   I’ve heard they like to run around 275*, while the 18.5 WSM like to run around 225*.   You can’t just shut off a couple of bottom vents and maybe halfway on the top one to get it down to 225* or so?   I will say I’m used to running around 275*-290* on my Wrangler, which turns those 12-hour brisket smokes down to about 7-hour smokes.   I’ve kept it running hot and fast on purpose, because I don’t like sitting there watching it for 12 hours.   Unless I’m doing a pork butt, then I will make it stay down at 225* for 12-14 hours.

    And, I’ve read where everyone is saying the 22.5 uses a lot more charcoal than the 18.5…which sounds normal to me.   I’m not worried about that.

    I’ve also read complaints about the temp gauge not working properly.   I don’t care about that either, as I use a Maverick for the grate temp.   For my Wrangler, I know when the temp gauge on it is sitting at 200*, it’s actually 275*…as it’s always a good 75*-80* off.   I hardly ever look at it.
  2. drewed

    drewed Meat Mopper

    I prefer to use "chunks" of wood in my 22" WSM.  The chunks are about fist sized.  I run between 5-10 chunks depending on what I'm smoking.  I will start with about 5 chunks in with the charcoal when I start and I'll toss in another or two when ever I get a wild hair.  

    A WSM will run at what ever temp you want it to.  It is just a matter of adjusting the vents.  I leave my top vent alone and and only play with the bottoms.  

    If you are cooking hot and fast, you will want to fill the water pan about 1/3 to 1/2 with play sand and then foil it.  If you use water you will have a harder time reaching higher temps.  Some guys go with a 20" pizza stone, but I havent forked over the $75 for one yet.
  3. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Well Howdy MickHLR!  Welcome to the bullet smoker club. 

    We'll see if I can post something here without my screen freezing.  Been driving me crazy.  I miss this place a lot!

    When loading my 22.5" I put down a layer of charcoal, 4-6 chunks of wood (fist sized), another layer of charcoal and another 4-6 chunks of wood.  Then dump my hot charcoals in the middle of the pile.  If I'm aiming for low n slow, 1/4 chimney of hot charcoal.  Hot and fast, 3/4 to full chimney.  Next time I use the smoker I just add more charcoal and wood if necessary to the used charcoal, cleaning the ash out every 2-4 smokes.  Whether you use lump or briquettes is purely a personal choice.  I use bricks the majority of the time. 

    I use wood chunks generally.  I have an oak tree in my backyard and have used splits many times from the trimmings.  They work fine as long as they are no thicker than 1 1/2" - 2" and the split equals 4-6 chunks of wood.   

    I dry smoke (no water) 99% of the time.  The empty water pan is basically a heat diffuser for me.  Loading it with sand, clay, ceramic pellets all work to create a heat sink to keep temps stable.  I'm lazy and leave mine empty, just lining it with HD foil if I'm not using a drip pan.  Loading the pan with water will keep the chamber temps down 225F or lower and increase the smoke flavor.   

    A dry WSM will run for many hours in the mid-temp range of 260-280.  I was happy just managing the vents every 3-4-6 hours until my wife said add a BBQ Guru DigiQ DX2 blower with some bonus money I had burning a hole in my pocket.  Turned my WSM into a set-n-forget for just about any temp I desire.  Its almost like setting the kitchen oven.  You can pick up a complete installation kit for less than $300.  Now it will go 8-10-12 hours with no fiddling at all.  Overnight cooks are a piece of cake with no worries of waking up to a cold smoker.  I tend to smoke in that 260-280 range so I rarely go longer than 12 hours.  Heck, for just a few bucks more you can install extra adapters on your Kettles and switch the blower between Webers.     

    Seasoning?  When mine was new I washed off the shipping/packing oils then did a dry run to figure out the vent control for various temps.  Got 13 hours on 1/2 load of charcoal in a dry WSM.  Have fun with the new smoker! 
  4. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

  5. ej73

    ej73 Fire Starter

    I own and use the 18.5 WSM a lot. Not 100% sure it's exactly how the 22" acts, but here's what I've experienced: it holds temps for an amazingly long time, while not burning through tons of fuel. When I'm done with a cook, I've let it go just to see how much longer - and usually I'm in bed before it's burned out.

    Unlike some folk, I use some water in the pan, as I just like knowing there's humidity, and some say it helps hold the temp once reached. But if you start things up and assemble the unit fast, including the water pan, it can get stuck around 190-210. I learned that the hard way, disassembling and letting it breathe a bit to get up to 250.

    The 18.5 is a little too narrow for logs, so I always use chunks with a mix of lump and competition briqs. Number of wood chunks depends on meat, time, and if the wife's eating, too - she hates stuff that's "too smoky." On average, I go 4 medium/large chunks.

    The temp gauge is definitely off. Sometimes by 10, sometimes by 30, it's random. So the Maverick is a must-have.

    I always keep my top vent open, bottoms for temp control. Also, make sure water doesn't sneak into the base mixed w/ the charcoal (rain storm hits, etc.) - it can get moldy down there fast. I also always disassemble it and spread out the parts (one bad mold experience will do that to ya)

    You should go ahead and season it while you mess with it. Especially if you'll be using water. I've gone from filling it up to now putting in about 1/3 of water.

    Overall - I love this smoker. Have had it about a year, and smoking every other weekend, it's still working like a champ. If I end up competing this year, I might buy another! So yeah - you made an awesome decision!
  6. lemans

    lemans Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Spray the inside with canola oil and do a spatchcock
    Chicken. That should season it well. It will take two or three cooks to get it to where it is nice and stable. The new shiny inside reflects a lot of heat so it may run hot
    But keep top vent open and bottom three just cracked
    And you r good to go!!
  7. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    They are very easy to learn to use.

    I too have a BBQ Guru on mine & they are well worth the investment.

  8. mickhlr

    mickhlr Smoke Blower

    Drewed, Noboundaries, Keith, EJ73, Lemans, and Al, thanks to all of you for the info.  This forum has always been a wealth of information, no matter which way you choose to smoke meat.  You might know, just as I get really good at smoking on a stick burner, I want to change to something else.  But, I'm pretty sure I'll still use the stick burner for short smokes, and it's easy to maintain hot and fast. 

    Does anyone ever have a problem with thick white smoke when a chunk of wood is lit from the coals?  That's one thing I've been afraid of...and I'm always looking for TBS, which gives a good smoke ring and taste, but will not give the meat too much of a smoky taste.  Like I mentioned, on a stick burner, it's all about air flow, and keeping all the doors open when adding a stick of wood, then letting it get burning good, before closing doors and resetting vents to get your target temp back...normally takes about 5 minutes.  This eliminates the thick white smoke...and keeps TBS, even if it does cause the temps to fluctuate during that 5 minutes of adding a stick...and then probably another 5 - 10 minutes to get your temps back on target. 

    I've actually tried to do some short smoking on my 26" Weber Kettle.  Since it's so large, I'd put the charcoal on the back side, with a split of wood in front and kinda holding the charcoal on that back side.  Sometimes it works well, for sausages and such, but sometimes I do get thick white smoke from that split getting started from the charcoal.  And, I've just wondered if it was because it was a large split, instead of a couple of chunks.  I have been able to keep that 26" Kettle at 225* on the grate, by doing this.  I'll put my top vent on the back side where the charcoal is, and that temp gauge will show 350*-375* over there.  But, the grate temp on the other side, according to the Maverick, will stay right at 225*-250*, like you say, by just adjusting the bottom vents.  So, maybe that gave me some practice on how to work the WSM.   

    I know it's going to be a new ballgame from what I'm used to.  And, being from Texas, it's all about brisket.  I'm  just getting too old to work my butt off to smoke a brisket.  But, if I can't get the same quality as I can with the stick burner, I will be disappointed.  I am ready to play with it though, and see what I can do. 

    Thanks again for all the info.   
  9. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    You sound very knowledgeable, so I'm confident you will do very well with the WSM.

    Play around with it a little, I think you will be amazed at how good the BBQ is coming off one.

  10. mickhlr

    mickhlr Smoke Blower

    Thanks again Al...I just love barbecue, and it's always fun trying to perfect it.  But, very few really can.  And, being retired Air Force, I have eaten barbecue all over the world...and most states.

    Some have called me a brisket snob, which I take as a compliment.  LOL!  I'm my own worst critic, probably because I've been lucky enough to taste some of the best brisket in the world, in some of the barbecue joints in Texas. 

    I've been to most of the Texas Monthly Top 50 Barbecue Joints in the World.  As Texas Monthly says if they're best in Texas, they are the best in the world.  It's a joke, but some people can't take a joke and I've been criticized on this forum for mentioning this before.  But, I just think some people get offended by almost anything nowadays.  It's actually a very good thing Texas Monthly does every 3 years with these rankings...and it's a big deal to make the list.  However, it does make for some long lines at some of these joints.  Franklin's is the only high-rated joint I haven't been to, and I'm sorry but I'm not standing in line for 4 hours for anybody's brisket.  It is ranked number one...and the only one ranked a 5.0 of 5.0.  There are 4 others ranked 4.75, and few ranked 4.5, and I've been to all of those.  I will say, for my taste, Louie Mueller's (4.75 rating) is the best overall.  But, Snow's (4.75 rating) has the best brisket I've ever's almost buttery, and practically chews itself.  But, everyone has different tastes, my wife for one...doesn't like brisket or beef ribs.  Pork and turkey for her...I'm not sure she's really from Texas, as she claims.  :)

    I know in some parts of the country, barbecue is all about the sauce.  But, those are pork barbecue places.  Texas is all about beef, and our rubs consist mainly of course ground black pepper and kosher salt...possibly a little garlic.  And, sauce is definitely a no-no.  In fact, some barbecue joints don't even have sauce, or forks...i.e. Kreuz Market.  But, honestly, not all the barbecue joints in Texas can smoke a good brisket.  And, there's no-telling how many thousands of barbecue joints are in the state.  These 50 joints for sure can smoke a good brisket.  But, when you say the word "barbecue" in Texas, that means brisket, for the most part...I'll throw beef ribs in there as well.  Whereas, in most other parts of the country, it means pork ribs or pork butt.

    And, I am looking forward to playing around with the WSM.  From all I've read, I think I will like it.
  11. mickhlr

    mickhlr Smoke Blower

    Hey Ray, once again, thanks for the info.  I too have always gone hot and fast, due to the amount of time playing with my stick burner.  Now, I want to try a low and slow at 225* just to see if there's any difference in the end.  Now, I understand the water pan will allow me to do that. 

    Also, just read your DigiQ DX2 post from June 2014.  That was a great post, with a lot of good info.  I'm looking at starting from scratch with the gasket kit, the stainless charcoal door, and the DigiQ.  Would you say that would be a good idea?  Or, should I play with it a while first?  Remember, I'm coming from a stick burner, and am used to sitting out there all day, drinking whiskey, and adjusting temps, adding wood, etc.  If it gets too much "set and forget" it will interrupt my whiskey drinking time.  LOL! 
  12. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I have the 18.5 and four home built mini-wsm smokers. Primarily use the mini's but drag out the 18.5 for larger cuts when needed. I am a dry pit smoker so I just wrap the pan in foil and let it catch drippings. I do both hot and low and slow in all the smokers. I use a bit different lighting method than most that I have found works great. I will load the basket completely full with fuel. Add 2-6 hunks (2"-3") of smoke wood to that. Then assemble the smoker, and open all the vents wide open. Then I take a lit propane torch and insert it into one of the lower vent holes. I let that burn until the pit temp is 30°-50° degrees above my target temp. Once there I remove the torch and let it settle in. If the temp is 15°-20° degrees my target temp I let the pit rise naturally. Any lower and I'll give it another round of the torch.  Using  this method preheats everything in the smoker. You aren't burning fuel outside the smoker so all of the heat remains in the smoker. You also don't get the white smoke start up. When my cook is done I shut everything down and snuff the fire. I reuse the unspent fuel for the next cook. Longest cook I have ever done in the mini-wsm on one load was 16 hours @ 265°. The 18.5 I'm not sure yet. Longest cook was 18 hours, meat was done and I'm not sure when the fire went out. Still had a 1/4 basket or so left of fuel. My only complaint is I want to upgrade the door on the 18.5. It doesn't fit well and does leak. Probably should go visit Cajun Bandit and order one!
  13. cajun cooker

    cajun cooker Newbie

  14. cajun cooker

    cajun cooker Newbie

    I build and operate commercial cookers i found knowing the moisture content of the wood you're using can control how fast the wood burns I use wood that is not dried by a kiln this allows the wood to burn longer and slower and maintains a more accurate temperature
  15. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Mick, thanks for the nice words.

    Gasket right from the beginning? My new WSM was slightly out of round. Still I smoked on it for about 6 months before I added the gasket kit. Took longer to clean than to install the gasket! If yours is nice and round when you get it, it should seal after a few smokes. Mine never did seal.

    As far as the white smoke, yep, I get that. Without the Guru the smoke would take about 60-90 minutes to start getting blue hints of color. Then I'd load the meat. With the Guru it cuts that time in half.
  16. mickhlr

    mickhlr Smoke Blower

    Well, I got my new WSM in on Tuesday, and put it together...even added some wheels. Of course, I couldn't wait to get home last night and fire it up. I filled the charcoal basket with charcoal. I had cut down some of my splits I use on my offset to large chunks, and added 4 of them...2 buried in the coals and 2 on top. I started about 1/2 charcoal chimney with charcoal, and then created a little hole in the middle of the charcoal in the WSM and poured it in.

    No meat, no water in water pan...was just going to check it out. I was worried at first, from so much smoke.

    After about 45 minutes, I had TBS, and a solid temp of about 250* for about 30 minutes. I would've put my meat on this time.

    With all 3 bottom vents cracked about 1/3 way open, and the top vent open all the way, it held temp right about 250* for 2 1/2 hours. I had my Maverick on the top grate, and was amazed at how close the built-in temp gauge was to the true grate temp. Going from here, up to 320* and back, the deviation was never more than about 8 degrees, and when there was a difference the Maverick always showed a tad cooler. This amazed me, because on my Old Country Wrangler stickburner, the grate temp is about 75* hotter than the built-in thermometer, and on my Weber Genesis grill the grate temp is 80* hotter than the built-in thermometer. So, naturally, I was ecstatic about this...and had already been shopping Amazon for an adjustable thermometer to replace the built-in one. I can forget that now. 

    After holding at 250* for about 2 1/2 hours, I opened up all bottom vents and let it climb. Didn't take too long to get to 320*, where it stayed for about an hour. I think this is as hot as mine will get...which is fine with me.

    I have to say, overall I was very impressed with my new 22.5 WSM. And, believe me, it is WAY easier to control temps than it is on an offset stickburner. I think we will have a fun time. Can't wait to actually smoke some meat this weekend in it.

    One thing I was told on another post when I was inquiring about the WSM was to catch the temp on the way up, as it's hard to get it back down once you let it get up too high. That is most definitely true, as it took about an hour, maybe longer, to get back down to 250* after being at 320*. I will have to remember that. But, I think I am going to really enjoy smoking meat on this bad-boy...and I believe it will be a lot more laid-back than what I've been used to. Just let the WSM do all the work. I love it!!
  17. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Well.. hot diggity dog... so I guess all your worries are laid to rest ?? for now anyways ... did you give it a good coat of cooking oil on the inside to season it ?? anyways.. enjoy your new rig...

  18. lemans

    lemans Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    On my 22 WSM .. Two cents closed and the third just a crack (1/8) inch will give ya 250 for 8 hours
  19. mickhlr

    mickhlr Smoke Blower

    Well, I got my new WSM in on Tuesday, and put it together...even added some wheels. Of course, I couldn't wait to get home last night and fire it up. I filled the charcoal basket with charcoal. I had cut down some of my splits I use on my offset to large chunks, and added 4 of them...2 buried in the coals and 2 on top. I started about 1/2 charcoal chimney with charcoal, and then created a little hole in the middle of the charcoal in the WSM and poured it in.

    No meat, no water in water pan...was just going to check it out. I was worried at first, from so much smoke.
    Yes, Keith.  I'm a happy camper, though still apprehensive.  I'm going to test with some spare ribs and a double-smoked ham tomorrow...and maybe some beef ribs Sunday.  Might even go for it, and do a pork butt.  Maybe a couple more weeks before I try a brisket. 

    It's a big jump going from a stickburner to a WSM.  Being a computer systems engineer, it actually reminds me of going from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 back 20 years ago.  My first thoughts was Windows 95 does too much for me...but you get used to that. LOL!
  20. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Sounds like you have it dialed in already.

    They do tend to smoke a lot for about a half hour then they settle down.


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