New WSM ?s

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Original poster
Mar 19, 2013
San Diego
I just scored a 22" WSM.  My work gave me a 10 yr gift, but it was a catalog of crap except for a $150 visa card that would only work at certain retailers.  Luckily Cabela's was on there so I figured that would work.  Then I saw that they had smokers! I conned the wife into letting me spend more and get the big WSM.  $265 out the door after Cabelas rebate and my work $$.  I've been looking on here, and there is tons of info, but it's very scattered.  Is there a couple threads that give the basics of temp control with this?  

I have had 2 cheap brinkman coal smokers, but they needed tending every hour or so and it was hard to keep the temps over 200 without burning logs on top of the coal.  Most of it is due to the crappy little charcoal bowl that smolders the charcoal and requires cleaning during every smoke. The WSM holds probably 10x the amount of charcoal if I really loaded it up, and it has a grate so the ash will fall down instead of smolder the coals.  I'm hoping I can get the hang of it and run some long smokes without having to mess with it all the time! I want to smoke a good brisket.  I've had trouble getting a real tender brisket in the cheap brinkman because it's hard to keep the temps high for 8 hrs.  Sometimes after an hour it would drop back to 160 from 210.  The WSM directions say to use 250 for most smokes, and I've never been able to get that high with my old brinkman unless it ran out of water and lit the fat on fire.  I've smoked lots of turkeys, bacon, and pork loins with great success.  Here is one thanksgiving out in Joshua Tree smoking a bird.  I put the pork loin on the top rack, covered in bacon, then the turkey below that, also covered in bacon so the double pork juices drip on to the pork covered turkey! Mmm.

Congrats on the WSM score!  The good news is you are an experienced smoker.  The WSM is a piece of cake to control and everyone seems to have their own technique.  I got mine for Christmas and have 4 smokes on it so far (8.5 lb pork shoulder, 7.5 lb boneless cross rib roast, 3 racks SLC spares, and a meat loaf).  Prior to that I used my Weber Kettles to smoke.

You didn't say if you had a wireless digital thermometer or not.  The lid thermometer on the WSM is decent enough but I always use a Maverick ET-732 as my primary input for chamber and meat temp.

I used the "seasoning" run with my new WSM to figure out temp control on dry smokes.  It ran for more than 13 hours at the temps I wanted on less than a half load of briquettes and an empty water pan.  I seasoned it at temps ranging from 350 down to 210-215.

Since then I have dry smoked on my WSM at temps between 225F and 325/350F and it would go hours stabilized at my desired temp before needing any adjustment.  Others who dry smoke often put playground sand or terra cotta clay in the water pan to replace the water as a temp control.  I have both in the garage but want to get used to just using an empty water pan before adding either.   

I have a bit of a different temp control technique than what I've read here on the board or in the instructions so I'll let others share what they do since it appears to be more common.  I'm still perfecting my technique but have had no problem with desired, stabilized temps.   
I'll be going high tech on this smoker.
 I just ordered some parts to get K type thermocouple probes linked into my 1-wire bus that runs on a raspberry pi  mini computer.  This data goes into my ISY home automation controller so that I will be able to blink house lights, email / text alerts, etc based on smoker or meat temps.  This will also allow bbq and meat temp readings from anywhere with internet access.  This way I can run smokes while I'm at work and have my father in law, or my parents (babysitters) tend the smoker if needed.  It will also allow me to control a fan if it is required.
DANG!  Temp control won't be an issue!

Best guidelines I've read for getting ideas on temp control is on The Virtual Weber Bullet web page under Operating Tips and Modifications.  I don't think I can link to it here but you can Google it.    
Basic set up and temp controll for WSM's:
  • Fill ring either 1/2 full for all the way full with unlit charcoal. 1/2 ring for smokes of 8 hrs. or less full ring for longer smokes. You can bury a few fist sized chunks of wood in the charcoal as well if you wish.
  • Light 1/2 a chimney of charcoal and let it get FULLY lit, then dump it in the middle of your unlit charcoal. I use big tongs to shift it into a little pile if needed. Wait 5 minutes, assemble the smoker with all vents 100% open and no water in the pan.
  • Wait for the lid therm to come up to 200°, fill the water pan with HOT water, put the lid back on and wait for it to come back up to 200°. This is where I like to add 3 or 4 fist sized chunks of wood, lets them get up to temp and past the billowy smoke stage before adding the meat.
  • At 2nd 200° mark fully close two of the bottom dampers, let the temps come up to about 10° bellow your target temp, then adjust the 3rd damper to 50%-75% closed. Wait 10 minutes, watching temp guage carfully, if it is climbing to fast close the vent another 10%-20%, repeat as needed.
  • When you are steady at your target temp put the meat on close it up. Check therm after 10 minutes and adjust that 3rd vent if needed. You should be able to cruise at a given temp with little to no input from you for the entire smoke.
  • Side note - DON'T PEEK! When you lift the lid to spritz, mop, peek, tweak, whatever, it dumps your temps, but it also stokes your fuel by giving it a big input of air. This can lead to rollercoaster temps.
Now since your WSM is new it will burn hotter for the first dozen smokes or so. So you will need to damp it down sooner and may even have to close the 3rd vent entirely, the top vent will always stay 100% open. Once you get it running at a steady temp. make note of your vent positions and you will be able to dial it in much faster on your next smoke. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.