Weber Charcoal Smoker 18.5" Heat Control

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by john brennan, Jun 22, 2014.

  1. Yesterday was my first attempt at cooking a 3lb pork shoulder for my family and myself. All and all it turned out great and was very pleased. I only had one minor "hiccup" in the whole process, which didn't turn out to be that big of a deal because in the end the meat was cooked perfectly and tasted great... and was done around the time we wanted to eat. Air temp was 75 degrees in Ohio yesterday, and was partly cloudy. When no clouds the smoker was in the sun, light breeze.

    I had another thread within this category regarding the lighting of charcoal and maintaining heat. Several of you replied and suggested the minion method - result was perfect! I moved my smoker over to my in-law's (primarily because they have a tv outside on the patio), and was informed at 10:30pm-11pm the smoker was running at 250dg. The process definitely worked well to maintain a consistent air temp. I lit the charcoal in the chimney via a side burner on the gas grill, and poured it into the center of a ring. I used a can basically as a spacer to make a ring of charcoal and a few chunks of cherry wood.

    In one of the threads, someone said to close to holes (2 of the 3) and adjust the third once the smoker got just above the desired 225-250dg mark. I did that, however the smoker kept climbing and got up to 325dg. I was able after a bit while leaving the third hole barely open and the other 2 completely closed to get the temp to 290-300dg. I also added a pan of water to help absorb some of the heat.

    While cooking, the temp had dropped to just above 250, and then a big plume of white smoke started to come out, and the smoker rose back to the 300 temp. I assume this is because it hit another piece of wood, and new area of charcoal was lit.

    I gave all the back story just to ask if the amount of charcoal I used in the chimney at the start affected the running temperature? I used approx 15-20 bricks of charcoal (blue Kingsford). I saw most people recommended 10-12, but when I was looking at the chimney as I was willing it up, I didn't think that was enough and possibly used too much. Can anyone shed some insight?


    And as an FYI:

    Pork after sitting for 20 hours in the fridge with rub - salt, pepper, locally made seasoning rub here in Upper Sandusky OH, Weber Cajun seasoning, and brown sugar. Used oil to hold the rub to the meat. Also added another round of rub an hour before it went in the smoker.

    Sprayed with apple cider vinegar, apple juice, and butter at the 2 hour mark, and every half hour. Total cook time was 4 1/2 hours @ 290-300dg. And the finished product; however no bark. Flavor was most important to me, and it was there this time. The bone pulled out nice and easy (seen on the left side of the pan), and the "bark looking" area around the meat is where some of the spray caramelized around the meat.

    As always, thanks again in advance for any input!
  2. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Until today, when I installed a BBQ Guru DigiQ DX2, I controlled temps with the bottom and top vents.  Remember the fire triangle: Heat-Fuel-Air.  Air control is what you use to control your temps.  More air, hotter chamber.  Less air, cooler chamber.  Learning where to set your vents and when is key to using the WSM.

    You have air inlets (bottom vents) and air exits (top vent plus any leaks around the door and lid).  Once hot coals are added to the cold briquettes the heat rises from the hot coals and slowly warms the other coals and wood to the ignition point.

    Heated air rises and will seek an exit point.  As the heated air rises it pulls cold air into the WSM from the bottom vents as the heat-fuel-air combustion process seeks equilibrium.  If you completely close down the top vent guess what, very little air will come in the bottom vents because it has no exit.  Reducing air flow accessing the fire reduces the chamber temp.  By controlling the air accessing the fire you control the combustion process and the chamber temperature.

    Contrary to everything I've read about controlling temps on the WSM I use all four vents.  Most instructions say to leave the top vent fully open.  I never do that.  If the bottom vents are set 1/4 open, so is the top vent.  That top vent has the greatest impact on controlling temps because it is the chimney that controls how much air enters the bottom vents.

    I typically have all my vents full open when I fire up my WSM. After I load my WSM with charcoal and wood I never use a full chimney of hot briquettes.  If I'm doing a 225F smoke I use 1/4 to 1/3rd of a hot chimney, about 1/2 chimney for 250-275F smoke, and 3/4 chimney for a hot 300F+ smoke.  Then when I get within 25F of my desired chamber temp I start closing down and matching all my vents.   My WSM likes to cruise about 260-270, but it is leaky.  If I'm going for a 225F smoke I'll often use only one vent on the bottom for temp control, closing the other two down completely.  I match the top and bottom vents.

    Try a dry smoke (no water in the water pan) some time with chicken and a 275F-325F smoke to truly understand what I wrote above about managing temps with air flow.  You'll use much less charcoal once you understand.

    BTW, although pricy, that BBQ Guru DigiQ DX2 I got for Father's Day is like setting the temp on the oven.  First use today.  225F for hours so far.  I'm amazed.  Put it on your Birthday or Christmas list.

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