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WSM questions

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by gatorfan316, Sep 8, 2010.

  1. I have a WSM 22.5" smoker and am new at smoking so I have some questions. I have seasoned my smoker and tried to smoke some chicken (although it didn't turn out as well as I would have liked) but I have some questions for anyone who has a WSM smoker.

    #1- Does briquetts or lump coal work best?

    #2- Do you put just water in the water pan or do you add other things like spices or apple juice?

    #3- Do you have to use the water pan? If not do you leave it in or take it out?

    #4- I had an issue controlling the temp. I had water in the pan but I think I had too much coal in the fire ring. Does this sound like it would have been my issue? I even had the vents closed except for a small crack.

    #5- What do you guys use for your heat source?

    I have the smoke covered with pecan, cherry and apple wood chunks. I also have hickory chips.

    Thanks for any help you guys can give me.
  2. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the WSM club, I have the 22.5 WSM as well. Couple of questions:

    1) when you say the chicken didn't turn out good what do you mean by that?

    2) what were your temp controll issues? how did you set up and light your WSM?

    As for the other stuff:

    1) plain old water works fine in the water pan, it is just there to act as a heat sink to regulate temperatures. Just fill it with hot tap water at the start of the smoke, then check it after 8 or 9 hrs. if your smoke is that long.

    2) you can use lump or briquets, both work well. Lump will start faster and hotter, so if you don't damp it down as soon as it gets to 200° it can get away from you and shoot up over 300° real fast. Briquets produce more ash, but burn longer and lower for long smokes.

    3) my basic set up of a full ring is fill the ring approx. 1/3 full, add about 5 fist sized chunks of wood (hickory, apple, ect.), fill ring rest of the way add another 5 pieces of wood. Light a half or full chimney of briquets, when they are ashed over dump them in the middle of the filled ring - don't spread them out (bottom vents are 100% open at this phase). Wait approx. 10 minutes then put on the center section, put water in the pan (fill it), put on the lid and watch the lid therm till it hits 200°. Close bottom vents approx 3/4 closed, wait 10 minutes, temps should steady out around 240-250. For lower temps insead of 3/4 closed on the vents at 200, fully close 2 vents, and put the third at 3/4 closed... that should steady out around 200-220.

    Top vent is always 100% open.
  3. 1- The skin was very tough. Like eating a brown paper bag.

    2- The temp shot up to 280-300 and I could not get it back down even by closing the vents on the bottom. To start it I placed about a half bag of unlit coal in the bottom, started coal in the chimney and placed that on top of the unlit coal. I then placed 4 pieces of wood for smoke (too much for chicken as it turns out). Everything went well for the first hour but then I guess all of the coal caught and the temp shot up on me. Even if I took the top off for several minutes to try and lose some heat, as soon as I put it back on the needle raced back up to 280-300.

    Would it help if I smoked the chicken on the lower rack directly above the water pan? 
  4. rp ribking

    rp ribking Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    280 to 300 degrees is where you should smoke chicken.
  5. dave54

    dave54 Smoking Fanatic

    Taking the lid off doesn't help you lose heat, it lets more air into

    it and gets more coals burning hotter .

    You're better off closing off the air completely and waiting it out.
  6. HMMMMMM, everything I have read including the instructions that came with the smoker said cook at 250 until the internal temp reaches 167.

    I will try to cook at a higher temp next time. I just have to figure out how to get the skin to not be as tough as a paper bag.
  7. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Chicken is one of the few things you "smoke" at higher temperatures - specifically because of the skin issue. If you smoke chicken at low temps it will have great flavor and be super moist, but as you noticed the skin will be very tough. So a lot of folks crank the heat up to 300°-350° that way the skin crisps better, another optioin is to toss the chicken onto a hot grill for a few minutes after smoking it to help crisp the skin. But as you spend time reading you will come across many competition tricks for getting that tender chicken skin, some folks swear by them but they can be a lot of extra work for just making dinner for the family.

    Also a lot of WSM owners notice that when their WSM is new it tends to run a little bit hotter than after you have used it for a while. Main thing is to get it assembled and get the lid on it before it gets to hot, once the temps run away from you it can be extremely hard to bring them back under controll. But if you catch the temps on the way up and them damp it down, you can always open the vents a little bit at a time to get up to the temp you want to maintain. Once you get to where you can dial in the temp you want then using a WSM is super easy, most times I get mine set up, dialed in, meat on, and I can leave it alone for up to 10 hrs.
  8. herkysprings

    herkysprings Smoking Fanatic

    Another thing you can try, is to leave the chicken in the fridge, UNCOVERED for a few hours. This will (I think) dry out the skin a bit and help make it crisp up.

    Or go skinless. Seriously, its pretty good!

    Otherwise the replacement door that you can buy at : http://www.cajunbandit.com/  will also help with vent control. If your door doesnt fit right and is letting air in you can bend it a bit or buy that.
  9. Thanks for the advice guys.

    I will have to order that new door Herky. I did notice that it doesn't fit well even after I tried to bend it some.