Advice for WSM newbie

Discussion in 'Grilling Tips' started by fireandsmoke, Oct 11, 2015.

  1. fireandsmoke

    fireandsmoke Newbie

    I'm relatively new to smoking on my 18" WSM and have been having difficult time getting the unit to maintain temps for an extended amount of time (over 60-80min) without vent adjustments. This seems to be different from other experiences of WSM users on the forum who tell of their cookers holding temps for hours and hours with limited adjustment - set it and forget type deal.

    I have been using a good quality lump (
    And lighting it with Harry Soo's donut method. And closing down the vents to hit my targets pretty close. I have been filling the water pan about half way and not had to refill. Despite the success early in the cook (hitting initial targets), I am having real hard time with big fluctuations - as much as 30+ degrees. The end product has been pretty good but I have really had to work the vents. I usually close all bottom vents most of the way after hitting the target. I have tried closing all but one bottom vent completely but the coals don't burn evenly in the bowl. So I keep all open the same amount (usually very little once hitting initial temps). The darn thing just won't hang in for more than an hour or so without adjustment. Very frustrating on overnight or long cooks.

    Any advice from you lump / WSM users out there would be really helpful. How do you all get your WSM to sit tight for hours?

    Thanks (and sorry for the long post!)!
  2. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Lump isn't as stable as using briquettes. Lump burns hotter than briquettes so it is easy to overshoot temps. I don't use water in my water pan. I just foil it and use it as a diffuser.

    With lump try and get it packed at tight as possible. Because of the random shapes there is more room for air to circulate around the fuel. Which will fuel the fire more.

    For lighting I use what is called the side light method. I fill my basket with fuel and my smoke wood. Put the body and lid on the base. Open all vents. Take a propane torch light it and stick it in one of the lower vents. Keep it running and watch your temps. I usually go 20-30 degrees over my target temp. Pull the torch and let things settle down. It will usually drop 20 degrees or so below my target temp. I torch again to right at target temp. Remove. It will drop again, then as it starts rising I will adjust the vents. I leave the lid vent wide open all the time and just adjust the lower vents. Typically I pick the vent that is least effected by wind to leave open. On long smokes below 265 I typically have one vent barely open.

    Setting temp takes some practice and patience. As your smoker seasons itself temps will become more stable.
  3. fireandsmoke

    fireandsmoke Newbie

    Thanks For the tips sailor. Would the use of a water pan even out the big swings in temp by acting like a heat sink?

    Maybe I need to do a couple of seasoning runs. I wasn't patient enough to do more than the high heat burn. Too eager to cook something to eat...
  4. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    One of the problems with the water pan is once it hits 212 it's boiling and producing steam. A better heat sink is sand or gravel. In the pan covered with foil.

    The best way to season the WSM is to cook with it. The grease and junk is what helps seal it up.
  5. fireandsmoke

    fireandsmoke Newbie

    Thanks. Maybe I'll try sand on an upcoming cook
  6. mike5051

    mike5051 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I do the same as dirtsailor.  No water in the bowl, just foil it.  I have only used Kingsford briquettes so I can't comment on lump.  I can maintain between 225 and 250 for 12 hours with one vent barely open.  I use the Minion method with about 15 lit briquetets on a full basket of briquettes and wood chunks.  Glad you joined us!

  7. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I am new to the wsm. Actually doing my first long cook on it today. I agree however with what many are saying. When I was messing around with it and doing test runs I filled the bowl with water and the temp management was rough. Then I removed the water and just left a foiled bowl and it stays within my target temp for hours and hours. Have a butt in the cooker now and it's been in the 300-315 range for 2 hours and I haven't done a thing. It's a rock!
  8. fireandsmoke

    fireandsmoke Newbie

    Looks like the next run will be waterless
  9. fireandsmoke

    fireandsmoke Newbie

    Quick thanks for the advice. Did some baby backs this past weekend. No water in pan and packed the lump in pretty tight. The WSM hung in solid at 275-ish (was a little pressed for time) for 3+ hours despite it being very windy.

    End product was great and it was nice not to have to constantly check on things.

  10. mike5051

    mike5051 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Great job!  Those ribs look tasty!  [​IMG]

  11. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    winner winner... rib dinner.... Thumbs Up
  12. worktogthr

    worktogthr Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Excellent looking ribs! 275 is a great temp for ribs in my opinions.
  13. fireandsmoke

    fireandsmoke Newbie

    Thanks for the compliments...
  14. riverturd

    riverturd Newbie

    Good lookin ribs! I have a 22.5 Wsm run royal oak lump, full bowl of coal,use minion method, full pot of water, vents wide open, let er go! 225-275! Good for hours, depending on wind! All nite cooks no problem
  15. erezoni11

    erezoni11 Newbie

    What is the explanation for wrapping the water pan with foil ? How does it work by keeping the temp constantly?
  16. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You foil a dry bowl for easy clean up.
  17. lemans

    lemans Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hey. Here's the story.. WSM , Kingsford briquettes ,
    Four hunks of hickory( your choice) pour 1/2 Weber chimney of lit in the center. Foil your water pan
    No water!!! Assemble the smoker. Two of the three bottom vent closed . The third open the width of a pencil . Top vent 1/3 open. Let the smoker sit like this 20 mins. Should be at 240-260. Put on your meat
    A full charcoal pan should burn 8-10 hours without playing much with it

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