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WSM - willing to give it one last shot before giving up

indianaman79

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Joined May 4, 2012
Hi All -

help! so i've continuously failed with my WSM with the problem being that it cooks way too hot for smoking. my last attempt was a brisket using the minion method with wood chunks. I checked on the temp an hour and a half after i put the brisket on and it was cooking at 375 degrees. I have all my ports closed except the top and the water bowl is about 2/3's full - I am out of ideas. i'm so frustrated that i'm about to throw it away and just go full electric. Does anyone have any tips?
 

Chasdev

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For starters, I prefer hot and fast cooking briskets, that temp is only 25 degrees over what I always cook them.
As to controlling the temp, forget minion or use a much smaller snake and add briquettes when the temp starts to drop.
In fact you should try to use an amount of briquette that allows both the vents to be open as that's how you get the best smoke flavor from the wood chunks you add.
Yes, you might have to tinker with the fire every hour or two but that's brisket cooking unless you get a digital controled fan rig.
I have a "Party Q" device on my kamado and it works great at keeping the temps in range.
I believe they have one for the WSM as well.
 

browneyesvictim

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Well indianaman79, welcome! You came to the right place. First, a few more details would be helpful How many lit briquettes are you starting with? How many wood chunks and how did you place them in/on your coals? Were they all burning at once? Where are you seeing the 375' temp? Was it on the mechanical therm on the lid or somewhere else?
 

sandyut

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Where are you seeing the 375' temp? Was it on the mechanical therm on the lid or somewhere else?
agreed a touch more detail would help. My lid thermometer that came with it was off by 90 degrees. weber replaced it but it was still WAY off. I immediately switched to a thermoworks DOT with an air probe clipped to the grate.

WSMs should be controllable. I was able to get to a place of leaving the water bowl dry over time.
 

zwiller

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I'll let the others help you but MES + AMNPS is legit set and forget. LOVE mine. Check FB marketplace there are TONS of them there cheap.
 

bakerman

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indianaman79,
You have come to the right place for help. I can attest to having the same issues with my 1 month old WSM 22.5. To start with they do burn hotter, but after a few (I am at #6 ) cooks it does settle down. Don't give up! I found that I was using too much charcoal in the chimney to start , and had my temps take off to 375 degrees. I cut my starter chimney down to about half, and had much better control. I also learned the hard way that Lump charcoal tends to burn hotter than briquettes. For Chicken Lump is what I use, for low and slow I use briquettes.
I would suggest cooking something less time consuming until you get the hang of it. Learn what the WSM can and cannot do. I had a thread here about closing the top vent ( after TBS mind you) part way to help control the temps. I learned a bit more about the vents and how to work with them. Brisket requires a lot of your time to monitor the temps, keeping the WSM below 250 is trickey , but it can be done.
One important thing I learned is when starting up , try to get the temp to regulate about 10-20 degrees shy of what you are aiming for. What I mean is close off two of the lower vents and the third lower vent to about 1/4 when you get close, and it should settle in closer to that temp.
FWIW you can cook a brisket hot and fast too, I just prefer low and slow. But it can take a long time. Last weekend I did 2 chuck roasts instead of a brisket. Came out perfect and took 6 hours as opposed to 12-16 for a brisket. YMMV.

Again don't give up. You got a great smoker, you need to spend some time with it. I wish you good fortune.

Bakerman
 

indianaman79

Newbie
22
11
Joined May 4, 2012
indianaman79,
You have come to the right place for help. I can attest to having the same issues with my 1 month old WSM 22.5. To start with they do burn hotter, but after a few (I am at #6 ) cooks it does settle down. Don't give up! I found that I was using too much charcoal in the chimney to start , and had my temps take off to 375 degrees. I cut my starter chimney down to about half, and had much better control. I also learned the hard way that Lump charcoal tends to burn hotter than briquettes. For Chicken Lump is what I use, for low and slow I use briquettes.
I would suggest cooking something less time consuming until you get the hang of it. Learn what the WSM can and cannot do. I had a thread here about closing the top vent ( after TBS mind you) part way to help control the temps. I learned a bit more about the vents and how to work with them. Brisket requires a lot of your time to monitor the temps, keeping the WSM below 250 is trickey , but it can be done.
One important thing I learned is when starting up , try to get the temp to regulate about 10-20 degrees shy of what you are aiming for. What I mean is close off two of the lower vents and the third lower vent to about 1/4 when you get close, and it should settle in closer to that temp.
FWIW you can cook a brisket hot and fast too, I just prefer low and slow. But it can take a long time. Last weekend I did 2 chuck roasts instead of a brisket. Came out perfect and took 6 hours as opposed to 12-16 for a brisket. YMMV.

Again don't give up. You got a great smoker, you need to spend some time with it. I wish you good fortune.

Bakerman
i appreciate the advice and i'll put it to use - thanks!
 

indianaman79

Newbie
22
11
Joined May 4, 2012
Well indianaman79, welcome! You came to the right place. First, a few more details would be helpful How many lit briquettes are you starting with? How many wood chunks and how did you place them in/on your coals? Were they all burning at once? Where are you seeing the 375' temp? Was it on the mechanical therm on the lid or somewhere else?
1) the 375 temp was registered on a blue tooth thermometer - i try to avoid the lid thermometer 2)how my lit briqs? the chimney was 3/4's full (also the webber chimney) and were "cooking" for ~25-30 min before i dropped them in the center of the smoker 3) i used 4 wood chunks about the size of my hand placed directly on top of the unlit charcoal. i went outside when the temp was hitting ~400 degrees and all the wood was on fire at once.
 

SmokinAl

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I start my WSM with a full charcoal ring with a mix of wood chunks, & briquettes, then put about 10-12 lit briquettes on top of the pile. I do have a BBQ Guru so the temp stays where you set it, but even without the Guru, a WSM is about as set & forget as you can get. When you get about 20 degrees under your set point , shut down 2 of the 3 bottom vents & leave the third one about 1/4 open. The top vent should be open fully. If your smoker runs anywhere between 225-300, it’s no big deal. Your food will get done sooner at the higher temps, and take a bit longer at the lower temps. I just let the smoker run where it wants to run at. Don’t obsess with the “proper“ temp. Just let it ride & keep checking the IT of the meat.
Al
 

gmc2003

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Hey there IM79. There are quite a few folks here that smoke and swear by the WSM. I happen to be one although I haven't used mine in a long while. First thing I see is that your starting off with too many lit coals. When I start my 22" WSM I normally only use about 5 - 10 fully lit coals. Next I see you mentioned that you placed your wood on top to the coals. Try burying them in the coals at various distances in the ring. That way they won't all ignite at once. I also align them inline with one of the vents. Third thing I would try is to fill the charcoal ring up, make a dimple in the center all the way down to the charcoal grate, and then fill the dimple up with the 5 -10 lit coals. Vents open fully. When you get about 30 or so degrees from your target temp start closing down the vents to retard the rise in temperature. Make adjustments at this stage as needed. Once your settled in on temp then put your meat on. I don't normally use water in the pan, and smoke around 250*. If I'm looking to smoke at 225* then I will use boiling water in the pan.

Chris

If you need any clarification on what I said - feel free to ask or just ignore it all together.
 

SlowmotionQue

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Joined Feb 6, 2019
1) the 375 temp was registered on a blue tooth thermometer - i try to avoid the lid thermometer 2)how my lit briqs? the chimney was 3/4's full (also the webber chimney) and were "cooking" for ~25-30 min before i dropped them in the center of the smoker 3) i used 4 wood chunks about the size of my hand placed directly on top of the unlit charcoal. i went outside when the temp was hitting ~400 degrees and all the wood was on fire at once.
I’d make a few suggestions. And ask a few questions.

1. How well is your Bluetooth thermometer calibrated and where are you placing the probe?

2. I’d suggest burying your wood chunks under the coals and lighting considerably fewer coals for your start up.

3. I’d go with a full water pan and reassemble everything once your starter coals were lit and placed on top of the unlit coals. All vents wide open.

4. About 100 degrees away from target temp, I’d shut the bottom vents at least halfway down and the top vent 2/3 of the way down

It is the top vent which has the most influence on your temps.
 

Colin1230

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Joined Jan 18, 2021
When I got my first WSM, I did several dry runs (no meat) until I got the hang of temperature control. Of course my first mistake was starting with too many lit coals. After a few days and a few tries I finally figured it out and was ready to try some ribs. It was life changing how good they were. Don't give up. Really good food is in your near future.
 

indianaman79

Newbie
22
11
Joined May 4, 2012
I’d make a few suggestions. And ask a few questions.

1. How well is your Bluetooth thermometer calibrated and where are you placing the probe?

2. I’d suggest burying your wood chunks under the coals and lighting considerably fewer coals for your start up.

3. I’d go with a full water pan and reassemble everything once your starter coals were lit and placed on top of the unlit coals. All vents wide open.

4. About 100 degrees away from target temp, I’d shut the bottom vents at least halfway down and the top vent 2/3 of the way down

It is the top vent which has the most influence on your temps.
1) reads 32 degrees in ice water (that has been sitting awhile)
2) thanks! i'll try this next time
3) my only concern about that was when the temps were high, the water pan was boiling A LOT, i'm worried about liquid boiling over and putting out the coals
4) i'll try this as well - thanks!
 

noboundaries

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Man oh man, I wish Weber would change their loading and starting instructions in their manual. They need to get with the times and reflect how users are actually making the smoker work.

HEY WEBER! CONTACT ME AND I'LL REWRITE YOUR MANUAL! (standard rates apply).
 

MileHighSmokerGirl

Meat Mopper
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Joined Nov 29, 2019
I had high temp issues starting out with my 18.5”.

Location is everything. Where are you setting yours up at? I initially did mine in the driveway and it got knocked over by the wind.
Eventually moved it to the front corner of the porch where the garage and house meet and it is a perfect wind break. My temps really stabilized over there.

D8515310-39EF-43C0-8FD6-6EAD7BBCA95E.jpeg


I’d also recommend some vent controllers like fire dial or pit boss that can make automatic adjustments to maintain the necessary stable temps.

Don’t give up, there’s an initial learning curve but once you get the hang of it, these smokers are money!
 

bass

Fire Starter
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34
Joined Apr 27, 2013
Initially I had issues with the WSM running too hot as well. As others have indicated- too much fuel (and sometimes too much air) is the culprit.

I generally start with about 1/2 a ring of charcoal.
I used to do a chimney that was full for starting but found it was way too much. When I’m feeling lazy i’ll skip the chimney & just use a MAPP torch to start the charcoal off. When we BBQ at work we generally just use an acetylene torch to start the coals going.

The BBQ Guru controller works great at modulating airflow to the fire.

If you’re still running hot with a BBQ guru- find & seal air leaks. Build a hot & smoky fire & close all the vents. Wherever you get the most smoke billowing out from - that’s where the air is getting in.
Common leakpoints on the WSM are the door seal & the lid. There’s several common solutions online for sealing the door. I used some fiberglass/Teflon. Rope gasket from McMaster Carr around the lid seat.

I gave up on water in the pan. Instead I have a big paver stone in there. Serves the same function (thermal mass for a heat sink) with less mess / maintenance.


As so many others have said- the WSM is a great little cooker. Dont give up on it!
 

SlowmotionQue

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Joined Feb 6, 2019
1) reads 32 degrees in ice water (that has been sitting awhile)
2) thanks! i'll try this next time
3) my only concern about that was when the temps were high, the water pan was boiling A LOT, i'm worried about liquid boiling over and putting out the coals
4) i'll try this as well - thanks!
With regard to #3, the combination of lighting only a handful of coals as starter coals, say 8-10 briquetees if you're using briquettes, and a full water pan (or filling the water pan after you get the midsection in place), and then immediately assembling the WSM with the vents adjusted as suggested, and right after adding the starter coals, it will make it difficult for your water to ever reach it's boiling point.

I use an over sized water pan for long cooks, but the stock water pan with water in it will work too, albeit not as long before the water evaporates from it. The pic below shows how I fill the water pan after adding my starter coals.

I fill it about halfway, then sit the midsection onto the bottom section and then fill it the rest of the way before putting the lid on it and closing it down.

The water makes it harder for the temps to get out of control. I've tried sand as well as the empty water bowl liked with foil and keep coming back to water. The sand left a "hot sand" odor and taste, aside from getting hard in the pan, and the empty foil lined water pan made it harder to keep my temps under control.


IMG_6858 3.JPG
 
Last edited:

TomCrump

Fire Starter
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Joined Aug 11, 2019
When I got my first WSM, I did several dry runs (no meat) until I got the hang of temperature control. Of course my first mistake was starting with too many lit coals. After a few days and a few tries I finally figured it out and was ready to try some ribs. It was life changing how good they were. Don't give up. Really good food is in your near future.

Your thoughts reflect what I am thinking. If the fire is too large, it will be hard to throttle a WSM down.

I fill my charcoal ring, but light it with a single tumbleweed. I use water in the water tray. When temps hit 200, I throttle the vents back to about a 1/4 inch, and make adjustments from there.

I like, and use, my 22" WSM as often as I do my Yoder Wichita, my Weber Summit, and my RT-700. I thoroughly enjoy it's performance.
 

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