WSM using a lot of charcoal

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by wrbasher, Aug 5, 2015.

  1. wrbasher

    wrbasher Fire Starter

    I recently picked up the wsm 22.5 and this thing uses a ton of fuel. I had the day off of work so I decided I would do some abt's early and ribs for dinner. Knowing I would be running the smoker all day, I filled the charcoal ring. I've read about people getting 16-18 hours on a single fill.

    It was about 70 degrees and winds up to about 20 mph in wny today. I was using kbb charcoal and started with the minion method. I began with about half a chimney of briquetes. Smoker was running at 225 pretty steadily with lower dampers wide open. The garbage cans and box the smoker came in served as a wind break. Fire was started about ten am and needed more fuel approx 5 pm.
    Seems to me that about 20 lbs of charcoal should last more than seven hours at 225. I can't seem to catch a calm day to smoke to determine if the wind is the culprit. Any ideas would be welcome.
  2. On my 18.5 WSM, I smoked several different meats over a 22 hour period @ 225(less than 12-15 lbs of charcoal total). I only added charcoal once, after 18 hours and I'm not really sure I needed it. The 22.5 is going to need more fuel, due to the increased size and volume, but 20 lbs seems a bit much for only 7 hours.

    On my 18.5, I only need to keep a single lower vent slightly open, 33-50%,  to maintain a steady 225-230.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2015
  3. wrbasher

    wrbasher Fire Starter

    That's the kind of consistency I'm looking for! I forgot to mention I filled the water pan with hot water.
  4. I have never used any liquid in the water pan. The water in the pan will take more energy and heat, than the WSM itself.
  5. damon555

    damon555 Smoking Fanatic

    The water pan doesn't need can run it a few different ways. I prefer sand.....others prefer ceramic saucers....other prefer nothing at all. Your WSM will use a lot of fuel at first. As it gets sealed up your charcoal consumption will go down significantly.
  6. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Wow, yeah, 7 hours on 20 lbs.  I easily get 20 hours out of a 20 lb bag.  The filled water pan is definitely the culprit due to physics.  Water, no matter how much heat you add to it, is only going to heat to 210F.  

    I rarely put water in my water pan.   
  7. wrbasher

    wrbasher Fire Starter

    I'll try running it with no water next time. With any luck the wind won't be gusting (seems the wind know what days I'm off of work). At this pace, charcoal better go on sale again real soon! Despite the charcoal use, I should mention that the ribs turned out awesome!
  8. phatbac

    phatbac Master of the Pit

    Try putting some aluminum foil over your water pan with nothing in it and use that air pocket as the heat shield. I run mine  hotter (250-275) but i also use royal oak lump charcoal not kingsford. I can use a bout 3.5 lbs of royal oak for about  6-7 hours at 275. I like the flavor of KBB for the grill (like bugers and dogs etc.) but try some royal oak lump for the low and slow, does burn a little hot but flavor is really good.

    Hope that helps

    Happy Smoking,

    phatbac  (Aaron)
  9. wrbasher

    wrbasher Fire Starter

    Just an update, I did some ribs and a London broil over the weekend. Left the water pan empty and moved smoker behind the car hole (garage) where the wind is minimized. After 6 hours of chugging along at 230-250, still had half a ring of charcoal left and it was much easier at maintaining temp. I have to conclude that the wind was the biggest factor in chewing through charcoal and low temps.
  10. The more you smoke with it the better seasoned it will be the more efficient it will be as well... but like said above the combo of water in the pan wind and lack of seasoning ad alot to to with it and running your smoker at higher heats will cause it to eat coal  
  11. fdannyw

    fdannyw Smoke Blower

    I have to agree with jc the more you season and the rest it will take time getting use to controlling your smoker
  12. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Wind it the biggest enemy, I have a 6 ft. x 8 ft. welding blanket I use to wrap mine on windy days, and it works like a charm. I fill my pan with hot water, and on one 20 lb. bag of charcoal I can run at least 18+ hrs. even in the dead of winter on a windy day.

  13. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You can also cut back on how much hot coals you start with. I only have a 18.5 but only light 10-15 briquettes to start smoking.
  14. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I've mentioned it many times here before. Using a propane torch to light your fuel is the most efficient method of lighting a charcoal BBQ. I've never gone through 10 pounds of charcoal in my WSM on longer smokes (16-20 hrs).By using the torch you aren't losing charcoal by ore burning it outside the smoker. You get up to temp in under ten minutes and you get no white smoke. Just saying give it a try. I works great.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2015
  15. krubby

    krubby Smoke Blower

    I have the WSM 22.5, still kind of a newbie (have had it for about 9 months, maybe 10-15 smokes under my belt).

    I am STILL using water in the water pan.  I also think I need to switch over and stop.  But even with the water I can get about 14-15 hours on a full load in mid 70's-80's F temp low winds.

    If I eliminate using water I assume I could get closer to 18 + hours as well.  So much like others have said, if you eliminate the water, fnd days with lower winds (or shelter) and as it gets sealed up from smokes I think you will have much better luck

    still will use more than the 18.5 I think though of course
  16. wrbasher

    wrbasher Fire Starter

    There is a harbor freight store coming soon right up the road from me. I'd like to give the welding blanket a try. I'm also hoping Kingsford goes on sale again soon for the holiday. When you use almost a whole bag on a short smoke you go through it very quickly
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2015
  17. i agree with this method the small propane torches are not expensive either 

    but in my 14.5 i can prob get 4 8-10hr smokes out of a 20# bag of kbb IF im running at 225-250 but if i run 300 one load will last around 6-8 hr 

    i do not use anything in the water pan just foil it for easy clean up.
  18. fdannyw

    fdannyw Smoke Blower

    I only use half that and I use kbb
  19. ivanstein

    ivanstein Fire Starter

    Here are my findings...

    If you want to make low temps easier to maintain, the water helps. I can go from 200-225 and maintain rock steady temps all day long. From a physics stand point, water is an excellent medium for transfer of energy. One of the reasons they use it in a car's radiator over alcohol or freon etc. So, for good control t lower temps, use water.

    For higher temps,its hard to get all the steam over about 250 without pressurization, so for 250+, leave the water out.

    I have found that the WSM will use all the fuel you want to let it. If you start with a few hot coals and burn top down (Minion method) or the "fuse" you can hold nice low temps for a long time. Now, if you light a full chimey of coals, throw it on the grate and pour the coals over the top, it will get about as hot as a star on the high end of the main sequence. It will also burn the fuel very quickly. Even closing the vents all the way, it will burn fuel like crazy.

    So,my bets are that you're burning lots of coals at once and probably countering that with the water in the pan. Try lighting about 10 coals and dropping them on the top of the rest of the coals or the end of the fuse. If the smoker doesn't come up to temp, light a few more and throw them in. One of those Weber parafin cubes works pretty well to start a good amount of coals for a good 250 cook.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2015

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