How I start and use my WSM....

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by fpnmf, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Fl
    Yup!!

    It does double duty here..it is also the chimney for my MES...

       Craig
     
  2. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    yep

    And as to how long a WSM will run.  Depends of a couple of things.  The 18.5" model will run longer on a load of fuel than the 22.5" model will. Reason appears to be related to the volume of air (and meat) that is being heated.  The 22.5" is bigger so it goes through fuel a little faster than the 18.5" model. 

    Other thing that affects run time is how you set the smoker up.  Water pan will not run as long as a clay flower pot base.  Both serve as heat sink mass to even out temp swings, but the water is more forgiving and can absorb more heat just by the way heated water works.  If you heat the clay pot base to 225* it does not take much energy to keep it there and it will release heat if you drop below 225*.  However if you have a prolonged spike to 240* the clay pot will also heat up to 240* and want to stay there.  On the other hand water by the nature of it's boiling point, prefers to stay a liquid at below 212*.  It takes a considerable amount of energy to convert water at 212* to steam at 212* so water is a excellent temperature moderator as the mass wants to stay at 212* or lower.  If you have the same temp spike in a water pan setup WSM, it will naturally fall back down in temp faster than the clay pot setup.  It's just the physical nature of the water/steam relationship where as the clay pot is not changing physical states, just getting warmer.

    It also depends on how you fire the charcoal too.  Standard light (all lit and ashed over) will go faster than a minion method or the modified "tin can" minion method with the tin can version running the longest. 

    Also depends on weather.  A WSM regardless of size uses less fuel in dry July heat than it will in 10* weather in January.  Rain and wind can also factor in as they cool the outside of the smoker and wick away your heat.  Wind also blows in the vents and can make regulating temps a little more difficult, but just set up a wind break (can be as simple as moving a piece of yard furniture to block the wind somewhat.

    I've done entire shoulder smokes on a single load of charcoal in the summer in my 18.5" model using the flower pot base method.   With a water pan, I usually top off the fuel at around 10-11 hours and that way I get a good nights sleep knowing I'm good for another 10-11 hours.  Probably could run longer, but I like my sleep so I just top it off, get it stable again and turn in and let the WSM do it's thing.

    That's the beauty of the WSM though.  You can set it up a number of ways depending on what you are cooking or how you want it to run.
     
  3. EDIT: NVM...just noticed it's already been answered twice. ;-)
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2013
  4. Excellent step by step. I would like the DigiQ or Guru but do not want to spend the money. With this set-up it's hard to justify buying the draft system.
     
  5. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Fl
    Thanks!!!

       Ya dont really need the guru for sure..it does make things a lot easier...

    I like it when I can fire the thing off in the evening,put 2 - 4 butts in and be sure that when I get up the cook will be close to the end...

    Makes resting, pulling,saucing, bagging and clean up a lot easier than doing it late in the day..

       Craig
     
  6. billmc40

    billmc40 Smoke Blower

    Thanks for the help today. Done my first per smoke. We double smoked a spiral ham for Easter. The WSM wanted to run about 240 to 260. I think with more smokes and practice I will learn how to keep it at about 230. Trying to figure out what to do with the charcoal that didn't finish burning. 

    BillMc
     
  7. hrbhskr

    hrbhskr Newbie

    What are the reasons for not using water in the water pan on the WSM's?
     
  8. Other thing that affects run time is how you set the smoker up.  Water pan will not run as long as a clay flower pot base.  Both serve as heat sink mass to even out temp swings, but the water is more forgiving and can absorb more heat just by the way heated water works.  If you heat the clay pot base to 225* it does not take much energy to keep it there and it will release heat if you drop below 225*.  However if you have a prolonged spike to 240* the clay pot will also heat up to 240* and want to stay there.  On the other hand water by the nature of it's boiling point, prefers to stay a liquid at below 212*.  It takes a considerable amount of energy to convert water at 212* to steam at 212* so water is a excellent temperature moderator as the mass wants to stay at 212* or lower.  If you have the same temp spike in a water pan setup WSM, it will naturally fall back down in temp faster than the clay pot setup.  It's just the physical nature of the water/steam relationship where as the clay pot is not changing physical states, just getting warmer.

    Great article and pictures. Can you post a picture of your clay pot and how you have it set up.
     
  9. When re-heating any product sealed in vacuum bags in hot water (best practice) be sure to keep the water temperature between 175 & 190 degrees F. If you allow the water to boil then the consistency of you product will change... it will tend to get tough & may dry out. 
     
  10. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I bought my 14" clay pot base at Walmart in the garden center (don't recall price as it was several years ago). Thicker is better as you want the material to act as a heat sink and more mass is a better buffer.

    Just double wrap it in aluminum foil to make cleanup easier and sit it in your empty water pan.  Water pan protects it from the full on heat of the lit coals and makes sure the pot base fits your water pan supports.  If you were not using the lower rack, you could just sit it there as well.  I have the old model WSM with the shallow water pan and it fits just fine in mine.  I assume it would fit in the deeper pan they use now as the diameter is the same (remember I have a 18.5" WSM so if you have a 22.5" model you will need a different diameter clay pot base).

    There is also no reason you can't just get a couple of bricks, big rocks, or whatever and sit them on the lower rack and accomplish the same thing.  You can also fill the water pan with sand and then foil over that.  Using a flower pot base lets you fit the heat sink mass in the water pan and leaves your lower rack open for food though.

    I alternate between water in the pan and the flower pot base depending on what I'm cooking or how I'm cooking it. I also use a brinkmann charcoal pan as a water pan as it's much larger than my old style WSM water pan.  Took me about 5 years to burn through my first brinkmann pan as the metal is thin.  When I replaced it, I just bought 2 of them as they are about $5 each and double stacked them.   I always double line with foil for easy cleanup though.
     
  11. teebob2000

    teebob2000 Meat Mopper

    Bill - secret is DON'T OPEN THE LID.  I learned this pretty quickly with my WSM.  If you leave the bottom vents closed or cracked slightly and you're at ~225F on a relatively calm day, it WILL stay at 225F for a long time.  If you MUST open the lid, make it quick!  Every time you open it you give the fire a BIG gulp of fresh air and it raises the temp at a ridiculous rate.Tweaking the positions of the bottom vents can fine-tune your temp really effectively.

    When I start mine, I pretty much use Craig's process.  When my cooking grate-level thermo reaches 200F, I close up the bottom vents entirely and she levels out at 225 within about 20 to 30 minutes.  I use a water pan (big foil buffet pan from Costco) and not a solid heatsink.

    If you don't have a thermo with a remote probe to set on the cooking grate where the meat rests, I'd highly recommend it so you have another point of reference to augment the lid thermo.  The Maverick is one you'll find lots of guys on here use and recommend.

    Enjoy your beast!  It's a good one.

    On the unburned charcoal issue:  I close up every opening tight but it still seems to burn down.  Eventually, though, you'll get good at guesstimating how much fuel you need depending what you're cooking, weather conditions (as mentioned above), etc.  I always use a little bit less than I think I will and then if I need more, I dump some in through the front loading door with a heavy metal scoop I have.  (Again, don't keep it open long!)  I've had mine 3 seasons and I'm pretty good at using just about the right amount.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2013
  12. Why not use a clay pot water pan filled with water?  Wouldn't the water help prevent the clay pot from going above 212 Deg F?  Plus now you've got the clay pot plus the water that's in it acting as a large thermal mass.  Once the water evaporates, the clay pot will still act as the thermal mass so you won't need to open the smoker to add water and mess up the smoker temp.  Just thinkin' out loud!
     
  13. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Clay pot is porous and the clay would want to absorb the water.  I'm pretty sure you would end up cracking the clay pot base from the heat and steam it would make inside the clay.  And besides most clay pot bases need to be put it in an empty water pan to act as a heat shield and allow for proper fit and if you have to do that, just go with a water pan & water in the first place (water pan will also hold a lot more water than the clay pot base would).   Some people run a dry water pan filled with sand and covered with aluminum foil.

    If you are quick and have everything ready at the smoker, it only takes a few seconds to refill the water pan so temp impact is not really an issue. It gets to be a problem if you take the dome off to look at the water pan, leave it off, go find the water pitcher, fill it in the kitchen, etc....   If you prep and have it sitting right there you can almost make NASCAR pit crew times!

    I like water for the way it will moderate a temp back down where a clay pot will overheat easier than a water pan run system.  But all will work.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2013
  14. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Fl
    I have never used water in the pan...dont see the need for it..my stuff usually turns out great..

    When its not great it is not from temp issues..usually not enough garlic...hahahahhahaahha

    Once the meat is in the top comes off mid smoke for the temp probes..thats it ... it stays closed..

    Play sand has toxic stuff in it..  http://safemama.com/2009/05/18/faq-whats-the-deal-with-play-sand/

    Never have foiled the clay saucer either.. it is like a well seasoned Dutch oven now..a quick squirt with the hose makes it all clean again..the water beads up on it...

    When the smoke is over I close the vents and it stops burning..so I add more charcoal next time.. til it fills with ash..then dump it in the firepit..usually about 3 smokes..

    Some folks enjoy trying to build a better mouse trap...(DaveOmakDaveOmakDaveOmak)... I like the way this set up works..YMMV...

    BTW I went to the Triple B party today to see how Raptor ..Poverty Hill Smokers.. was doing...that man can cook a brisket..melty good stuff..

    Last year he made Grand Champion...http://crestviewcha.le3.getliveedit.com/pages/TripleB1

       Craig
     
  15. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I've seen a few threads over at TVWBBB where folks talk about if their clay pot base gets greasy, they toss it out and get a replacement.  Never quite understood why. 
     
  16. Thanks for that link to the toxic play sand.  Guess I'm gonna have to remove that from my Brinkman Gourmet Electric water pan.  I put the sand in a couple of weeks ago and monitored cooker temps with my ET-732 and saw that the temp stayed around 280 deg F.  Was thinking about going back to water to get the temp down anyways.
     
  17. 1; pork butt.  The bark on a pork butt will be ten times better without water.  Water (steam) makes the meat kinda mushy when cooking 250-275* which is where I like to go with a butt.  I don't like mushy pork - I like it kinda stringy when I pull it (by hand).

    2; chicken or turkey.  I like to run 325-350* for poultry to get the fat under the skin to crisp the skin.  That's REAL hard to do with water in the pan.

    3; jerky.  I like a dry environment when smoking jerky.  To help keep temps low I close the top vent a bit.

    4; clean up.  All that bong water has to go somewhere. 

    Your Mileage May Vary.
     
  18. The "Toxic Stuff" in Play Sand is actually not an issue. It's an over-reaction. The supposed toxic material is Crystalline Silica (silicone dioxide - SiO2), commonly know as Silica. Silica is most commonly found in nature as  quartz  or sand (both natural sand and play sand), as well as in the cell walls of diatoms. Silica is used primarily in the production of glass  for windows, drinking glasses, beverage bottles, and many other uses. The majority of optical fibers  for telecommunications  are also made from silica. It is a primary raw material for many white-ware ceramics such as earthenwarestoneware, & porcelain. Silica is a common additive in the production of foods, where it is used primarily as a flow agent in powdered foods, or to absorb water in hygroscopic  applications. It is the primary component of diatomaceous earth, which has many uses ranging from filtration to insect control. In pharmaceutical products, silica aids powder flow when tablets are formed. The only way that Silica could possibly be considered harmful (or toxic) would be if you ground it into a super-fine dust and inhaled it. Please don't let this over-reaction keep you away from the beach... or using Play Sand or natural sand in or around you smoker!
     
  19. ok.  there have been very interesting and helpful posts here in this thread.  all have been very ideal, especially the suggestion of a brick/rock method which I have been applying to my custom 20" smoker.  I may try using the clay base rather than the water pan.

    now, the question I have regards the above quote.  unless fpnmf is refering to a blue bag which is commonly found in grocery stores and such, where can I find this bag otherwise?  I don't remember seeing it at a Walmart on my quest for the Royal Oak lump coals (which I haven't been fond of).
     
  20. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Fl
    The blue bag is what I am referring to....

     Lowes and Home depot have sales twice a year and lots of folks stock up then  ...Memorial and Labor day...

    Today the local Lowes had two 20 pound bags for 19 bucks...show your military or VA card and get an additional 10% off...

    [​IMG]
     

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