First time using WSM this weekend

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by nygiant, Jun 10, 2016.

  1. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    So some of you might have seen the thread I started a week or 2 ago.  My wife surprised me with a 18.5" WSM for an anniversary gift.  Put it together and it's been sitting in the garage for 2 weeks.  I've been wanting to try it out so bad but I have a full time day job and then have a landscape business I run as soon as I get home everyday.  Working this weekend too but I HAVE TO break this thing in and take a break for once.  I figure I'll do something relatively quick (baby back ribs) and do a butt when I actually have more time.  I'm going to do the ribs 2-2-1 through a recipe I found On this site last year that was posted by I'm guessing this website's owner named Jeff?  Its a "advanced" method where you add some extra stuff to the foiling step.  At any rate I'm excited to do this.

    I have been reading endlessly on this site and watching some youtube vids as well.  A member named @fpnmf (Craig) started a thread a few years ago titled "How I start and use my WSM"  Great info there and that's what I've been reading most recently.  I still have some questions though and was hoping someone could help me out a little.  I'm going to do the minion method.  A chef I know just gave me a few big soup cans so I can use one for the center area to dump the lit coals into.  I am still not sure on how much actual cahrcoal to use though for this cook.  If I were to use my chimney starter as a measuring device, how many of those would you fill up and dump for the unlit charcoal?  How about for the lit charcoal in the center? 12 briquettes?

    Now I know this is a MAJOR debate from reading and watching videos....the water pan!  What would some of you more experienced guys recommend for me who will be using this WSM for the first time?  I have done a few smokes on my webber kettle grill but nothing on a true smoker.  Water, clay flower pot saucer, nothing at all?  I'm just not sure.  Kind of leaning towards water only due to the fact I've read it helps maintain the temp more easily and especially since mine will be running hot due to being brand new.  After that, not sure I'd use water.  Does that seem like a logical decision?

    Going to use my Maverick probe for the smoker temp.  Read the lid thermometer is off by 30+ degrees.  Which grate is best to put that on, top or bottom?  Since I'm going to do 2 racks I'm assuming I need to cut each in half since I've read the 18.5 WSM will not hold a full rack because they are too long.  So if I will have 4 sections of ribs do I do them all on the top rack, bottom rack or split between the 2?  Don't want to over think this but I want to have a plan.  I might have some more questions but can't think of them right now.  Any help and tips are appreciated.  Thanks.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2016
  2. I'll give you my estimates because I don't have an 18.5, if anything these are over estimates, hopefully someone who owns one can correct me if I'm too far off.  I'd say about 2/3's full on the charcoal ring, and about 1/2 full on your chimney.  I use water in the bowl for the first few hours of a long smoke, so I'd use water to start for your ribs.  You'll decide for yourself with experience whether a water pan is necessary, its not a big deal one way or the other.  If you go with water in the pan, you'll want to monitor temps on the bottom grill, unless they will fit on one grill then do them up top.  Hope this helps, good luck and enjoy.
  3. My $0.02...

    Either lump or briquettes, with 4-6 fist sized chunks of wood for flavoring, work well in the WSM.

    Fill the charcoal ring and add 15-20 lit charcoal onto the top, in the center of the unlit charcoal. Close two of the lower vents to control the temperatures with the third. Top vent 100% open. This way you won't get the temperatures too high at the start. Let the temperature settle and when the white smoke changes to TBS, add your ribs. Once you are done with the smoke, close all the vents and snuff the fire. Next time you use your WSM, shake the ash out of the charcoal and reuse what's left from the next smoke.

    For the water bowl, I only line mine with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. No water, sand or anything else.

    I'd split the ribs between the 2 grates. If you notice one or the other finishing faster, swap them.

    Have fun and enjoy!!!
    sauced likes this.
  4. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    Awesome guys I appreciate your responses very much.
  5. chad e

    chad e Smoke Blower SMF Premier Member

    22" on my back porch. Whole bag in the 12 briquette to "light" and drop smack dab in the center of the donut. No need for a soup can. I promise it's not that hard. How much wood you use will depend on which wood and how much smoke you want. Just remember not to race up to temp. Creep up slowly to where you want it. Cooling it down is much harder than bringing the heat up. Best of luck!
  6. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    Yeah I guess you're right. I had seen something on YouTube about someone using that soup can and so I ended up getting one… Oh well. Yeah thanks for mentioning not letting it get too hot right off the bat. I think I was reading or someone mentioned earlier that once it gets up around 180–190 to close all the vents but one and leave that one about halfway until it's up to around 225.
  7. lemans

    lemans Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Great advice. I have two 22's but works the same as a 14 or 18. Two lower vents close. Third one open a pencil width.. Top vent full open. The trick is to start cool and work your temp up to 225-250 . It will go for 8 hours like that..
  8. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    So I did three racks of ribs and my personal feelings are nowhere near my company's feelings. They absolutely loved him raved about them, said how they were tender flavorful etc. I think they were too tender and I'm not sure I like to the rub that I used. I did the 2-2-1 method and I think they got way too tender in my opinion. When I took them out of the foil to put them on for the last hour I could not move them without them falling apart. The bones were coming out of the meat like it was pulled pork. They were able to firm up a little bit but when I took them off and put them on a cutting board to cut you couldn't cut individual ribs. It's like they all just came apart. Everyone was flipping out at how good they were but to be quite honest, I was disappointed. I know ribs should be tender but they should still be on the bone allowing you to bite the meat off of the bone and it should pull away easily. At least that's what I have read on this site. So I guess maybe I will try them again but not for oil them and maybe look for a different rub. I had a little bit of rub left that I made but used some stuff that I bought from Costco. Maybe I'm just too particular and hard on myself but I feel I can do a lot better.

    Also I've read it takes at least 4, 5 maybe 6 different smokes to get that Weber working right after a layer builds up on the inside. I had a few different temperature fluctuations and then it got down to like 200° and then it would jump up to like 265. Had to open vents close vents had to babysit a little more than I thought. Although I guess that's normal from what I've read.

    I did not put anything in the pan except I want it with foil. And I guess some juices drip down onto the hot foil and started a grease fire in the bottom which took a minute or so to extinguish by placing the lid back on and closing all the vents. I had a bunch of black smoke coming out so maybe I will try water in the bowl next time.

    Like I said earlier, I have done several smokes on the Weber kettle grill using the snake method. First time using a true smoker. It also used a little more charcoal that I would've imagined for just a five hour smoke. I filled the charcoal rang oh most all the way up and I just took the ash off of it yesterday and there's a couple handfuls of small coals left. I don't know if that's normal or not. I also had my Maverick temperature probe sitting on the bottom grate. I'm wondering if I should've just stuck it in through that rubber gasket on the side rather than attaching it to the grate itself? I'm thinking maybe I had it too close to the edge and it was picking up the heat coming directly from next to the water pan and maybe one some of the pieces of wood caught on fire that's why the temperature spiked really high?

    Also I should've taken the advice that I read on here and cut the racks of ribs. I was able to get two on the bottom rack one on the top rack without cutting but they were smashed up against the edges of the smoker. It also made it hard to find a decent place to clip the probe to the grate.

    Anyways if you have any additional tips or feedback and what I just posted I would be interested to hear that. Here's a picture of them below .
    There is also a picture of the charcoal and wood I used for this particular smoke.

    Last edited: Jun 15, 2016
  9. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I like to use multiple rubs when in doubt and cut my racks in half to fit my 18.5 so I can try different rubs and sauces if I like. Lots of people love fall off the bone ribs but that's pulled pork to me as well at least they were happy! A few more smokes tinkering with your methods and you'll be happy. Looks like you had a lot of wood in there but if you liked the flavor that's fine just less room for charcoal on longer smokes it seems to me it's easier to add wood then charcoal. Good luck on the next smoke!
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2016
  10. chad e

    chad e Smoke Blower SMF Premier Member

    As it becomes more air tight through use, mine became more"manageable". Both temp wise and fuel wise.
    I haven't experienced it yet but I've seen people say that meat creates an air pocket next to it so don't want to stick probe to terribly close. Anyway...more smoked = more experience and remember you are your harshest critic. You will get your method and your smoker dialed in soon enough. There's a learning curve to everything!
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2016
  11. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    Good info and you're right, will definitely cut next time.  I also like the idea of using different rubs and different sauces during the same smoke to see which tastes best.  Yeah, maybe it was a lot of wood.  The apple pieces were really small so I used several to equate to an actual chunk.  The hickory are pieces from an actual log I have that's been cut.  Just wanted to make sure they had a smokey flavor.
  12. nygiant

    nygiant Smoke Blower

    Yeah, I've read that it takes a few.  I don't know, maybe I should have just  sprayed some non stick spray all over the inside and burned charcoal before I used it??

    About the probe, I wonder if I just stuck it in where that little silicone circle is at that Weber puts on the smoker? It's specifically for probes but don't actually clip it to the grate, just stick it all the way in there.  I think it's positioned exactly in the middle between the grate levels.
  13. I'm also a virtual newbie with a 22 WSM, but I do have a few smokes under my belt.

    Here are my observations so far;

    My grill has a temp it likes to run using the Minion Method and a lower but longer temp it seems to run using the snake method.

    I think every grill has a temp it'll just settle in at.  I don't fight my temp, I adjust my cooking time.

    Make sure you use the "Journal" pages that are in your owner's manual.

    Keep copious notes and make small adjustments each time.

    Have fun with it!
    nygiant likes this.

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