Rocketing through charcoal in WSM 22.5"

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by coryb, May 28, 2011.

  1. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    So I'll fill the charcoal pan in my WSM 22.5", dump about 3/4 of a small chimney starter of lit coals on top of the unlit coals, assemble the smoker, get the heat up between 220 and 250 on the gauge in the lid and add the meat.  Temp will fluctuate a bit as expected with having the lid off and adding that cold meat and eventually with the dampers full open again it will rise back up between 220 and 250 where I want it.  Problem is when I try to lock in at those temps with the dampers I'll come back 30mins later or so and the temp will have dropped many times back down to around the 200 mark.  So i have to open the dampers wide again to get the temps up and pretty soon i'm where i want to be so i start choking the dampers down to eventually 1/3rd to a 1/4 each and wait until i have to come out again and do the damper open and close thing again.  This makes for burning through my charcoal pretty fast.  As in an entire pan in about 6 hours a couple Saturdays ago smoking a 9+ lb pork butt.  I finished it in the oven at 250 for 3hrs and had fantastic pork, but I digress...

    Since 5am CST i've had an 11.5lb brisket on here and i've had the temps honestly as stable as i've ever had them on this thing.  All 3 dampers are at a little less than 1/2 open.  I'm guessing 90% of my problem is being patient and figuring out just the right opening on all 3 dampers, but am i on par to burn this full charcoal pan out in 6 hours again same as last time? 
  2. What kind of charcoal are you using?
  3. jakerz66

    jakerz66 Smoke Blower

    I was having the same problem so I went and got a digital Gage with a probe and put it on the grate the lid Gage was 30° cooler then the grate, that could be your problem too.
  4. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    I'm using Kingsford original.  A couple weeks ago I used majority Seven Oaks lump.

    I'm guessing at this point it wouldn't hurt to verify my lid gauge's accuracy.

    Things are moving along very steadily this morning.  Just about 2 and a half hours in and I seem to have found a prime setting for all three dampers as the temp has been holding steady since i last set them almost an hour and a half ago.  I'll continue to monitor every hour to be sure.
  5. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    Well now i'm at the opposite end of the spectrum.  I'm measuring 250+ on the lid gauge with all of the dampers just about closed the last 45mins.  I put an analog oven thermometer on the grill grate with the meat and its measuring about 265.  I closed one of the dampers completely and partially closed the lid damper in an attempt to choke the fire down.  Checking every so often now to see if I can dial it back in.
  6. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    Also, its only been 3.5 hours and my brisket is registering 156 degrees already in the middle of the thick part of the flat.  How is this possible? Guess i'm off to check with my instant check digital.  This is quite the experience.
  7. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    When I start my WSM I only put 8 lit briquettes on the unlit. You can do the minniom method around the perimeter of the charcoal ring, or you can make a pyramid & put the lit briquettes on top in the middle. I have run mine for 20 hours without adding charcoal using Kingsford blue bag.
  8. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    Conclusion: I guess was premature in my posting of problems with my WSM.  Apparently I figured out how to dial the thing in perfectly or at the very least really well yesterday and finished a fantastic tasting brisket for my very first time.  I got the smoker at 225 about 5am and dropped the meat on at 5:04.  I initially had temp control issues for the first couple hours I think because I pulled my seasoned brisket right out of the fridge and onto the smoker.  Next time I'll set the meat out and try to get it to room temperature prior to putting on the smoker.

    I hit 170 degrees about 10am.  I was concerned that the temp was rising so high so fast and thought I'd regret buying my brisket from WalMart.  It rose very slowly and peaked in the mid 180's between 2 and 3pm.  At about 2:30 the smoker temp took a nose dive and i figured i'd burned out all my fuel same as i'd done the first two times using my new smoker.  I opened the door and found a pot full of gray ash.  I stirred it around with a long dowl and found i had about a 1/2 a pot of black charcoal to go yet! Awesome feeling! Stirred ashes off and moved charcoal around and within 5mins I was back in smoking temp and actually trying to keep the heat down.  I actually ran about 90% of the entire smoke with one bottom vent open about 20% and the other 2 closed to keep under 250 degrees.  At 3:45 I was at a full 190 but the meat was still pretty resistant to the insertion of my instant read temp fork probes so i left it on the foil either btw.  At 5 the meat had really softened up and I called it done at 12 hours even.

    Triple wrapped that guy in foil and dropped in my cooler for an hour and 15mins.  Made some taters and opened a can of Bush's beans and had some REALLY good meat for supper.  Very happy with the results but even more happy I finally figured out how to 'play' the right temp in on my new favorite thing in the world, my WSM!
  9. pgsmoker64

    pgsmoker64 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member


    Glad everything worked out for you!  I have had my WSM for about 3 months now and have not had the first temperature control problem, just lucky I guess.  Or it could be all the experience I gained from screwing around with an SFB Chargriller for a year...what a pain.  Yesterday I smoked two 8 lb pork butts with one full load of coal in the ring.  My son and I packed it by hand nice and tight put on several chunks of dry hickory wood.  I only adjusted the dampers a few times and filled up the water bowl three times.  Can't forget about that water bowl. If it goes dry your temps will skyrocket!

    Glad to hear everything is working better now.

  10. justpassingthru

    justpassingthru Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Glad to hear it turned out ok.

    I have a 18.5" WSM and use only lump, I don't use a chimney starter because when I bought it the store didn't have any, instead I fill my ring with lump, open the bottom vents 100%, light a fire starter block and place a #10 can with both ends removed and holes made with a can opener around one end over the lit starter block, toss in 4-5 fist sized chunks of lump, after 15 minutes when there is no longer a flame only glowing charcoal,  I remove the can, close the bottom vents to the percentage of open that has given me 250° in the past, assemble the smoker and then a trick I learned over at TVWB, turn the door upside down and prop it open a couple of inches and let the temp climb to 225°-230°, then close the door and and add my meat,  the meat will absorb the heat that has accumulate from the extra coals burning from the door being open and the smoker will settle in at 250° fairly quickly, like Al I've gone 18 hours and still had lump let over, the trick is to not add too many lit coals to the unlit causing many to start burning creating a high temp, it's better to catch the temp going up rather than trying to bring it down.

    Enjoy the wonderful world of smoking on your WSM.

    Last edited: May 29, 2011

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