Posted by Bam Bam on 2/2/2012
I get asked quite a bit about how I start my coals and
maintain my fire in my WSM’s . It
seems that most often, I hear people have problems with over shooting their
desired temps. First off, let me
dispel a myth. Most WSM owners believe
that they own a “water” cooker.
BBQ tends to be a man’s
game, not always, but mostly.
Therefore very few of us take the time to actually read through the
manual. If you did, you will find
that the water pan in the WSM is a heat sink, not a steamer. It absorbs heat energy in order to help
keep the temps from spiking. No matter what you think, you are NOT receiving
any moisture or flavor benefit from the water or juice that you fill the pan
with. I personally do not ever put
water in my WSM’s, but it’s ok if you do.
Just remember that it takes energy to heat all of that water, which
burns out your charcoal faster. If
you use water, heat it up first if you don’t want to waste fuel. Personally I just hate the mess and I
have gotten to the point where I don’t need the water to help me with maintaining
temps. Hopefully after this, you wont either. Ill touch more on the water pan issue
The most common way to start charcoal in the WSM is what is
called the minion method. This is
where you fire up a chimney full of charcoal, and pour it into the center of
your charcoal ring surrounded by fresh coals. I am not a fan of this method. I feel that too much charcoal
is lit from top to bottom, making it nearly impossible to not have temp spikes in
the beginning of your cook. Also, no matter how hard you try, when you dump lit
charcoal on fresh charcoal, a stray lit chunk ALWAYS lands somewhere outside of
where you want to start the fire from.
This creates an uneven fire, and that will give you issues.
This is how I setup my WSM’s. This method works great whether you use a temp control
device such as the BBQ Guru (I use the Guru and love it) or not. I like to plan on about 45 minutes to
start my cookers. It only takes about 20 minutes to get to temp
but I recommend getting it to temp and maintaining it for 20 minutes
just to make sure it has leveled off. I build a large
pyramid with my charcoal and light it with a Looftlighter. I light just the
tip top of the pyramid. At this
point I obviously do not have the middle section of my WSM in place. It is off to the side. After a few minutes, once a decent
little amount of coal has fired up, I place the middle section and lid back in
place with all vents, top and bottom, wide open.
My trusty Looft Lighter and Good One Lump Charcoal
This is about all I light.
On the flip side, If I am using my beloved BBQ Guru, this
where I would button up the whole cooker, close all of the bottom vents, open
the top vent, and let the fan and controller bring the cooker to temp. I recommend learning how to use your
cooker manually before buying a BBQ Guru
. In my most recent competition, we lost power, then I pulled
my temp probe out of my cooker way too hard and snapped it, so I had to finish
the cook manually in thirty mile per hour wind. Luckily I knew how to manually run my cookers and had no
problems at all.
Now back to manual operation. I usually advise people to shut the back two charcoal vents,
and shut the top vent about halfway once they are within about 40 degrees of
their desired temp. Your temp will
still continue to ramp up, but this will help keep the temps from
overshooting. Generally if the
weather is good, meaning no wind, I can lock in the cooker around 225 to 250
following these steps. If you want
a little more heat, start by opening the top vent all of the way. Then if you need even more heat, open one
of the back vents about a ¼ of the way.
Remember, nothing about BBQ is fast. If you want to increase temp, then make a small change and
wait 10 minutes and repeat if necessary. After a few hours, especially if you use crap Kingsford,
that’s right, I said it ;) Ash will start to build up a bit and you will have
to open vents to keep your temps maintained. This is why I strongly advise using a good natural lump
charcoal. When I say good, I mean
brands like: Good One, Montana, Royal Oak, Chigger Creek, and my personal
favorite, Ozark Oak. Sorry about
the shameless plugs, but I am big believer in Lump charcoal. Its reusable, produces WAY less ash
which in a WSM is imperative, especially for you 18.5 WSM owners, and puts off
a better flavor.
If I am shooting for 225, I would button up the vents here.
After 25 minutes, she is humming along right at 225. Lets Cook!!
As you can tell, I am a BIG fan of the WSM! It really is a great cooker, and Weber
has some of the best customer service around. I also think it says a lot that some of the best cook teams
in the world compete on them, and keep in mind, Weber does not sponsor cook
teams, these pro’s buy theirs just like the rest of us. Teams like Slap Yo Daddy BBQ,
Sweet Peppers, Rythym n Que, and local AZ young guns Loot n Booty BBQ and us,
Bam Bam’s BBQ, all swear by the WSM in competition. That’s it from me, good luck!
TIPS AND TRICKS:
-Every time you open the lid, you add 10 minutes to your cook
-For those of you in cold or windy climates, go to your
local Home Depot or Lowes and buy a 10 foot roll of “48 inch Reflectix” this is
a super economical way to insulate your cooker and provide a wind barrier. I recommend buying some utility Velcro
so you can fully wrap your cooker and keep it in place. One thing to keep in mind, this works
especially well for BBQ Guru or Ique users because you can fully wrap the
cooker top to bottom without having to worry about suffocating your WSM. For those of you without a BBQ Guru,
wrap the Reflectix around the seam between the bottom and middle section of the
cooker, so you do not block your vents and suffocate your coals.
-If you don’t use water in your water pan, double wrap the
water pan in heavy duty foil for easy cleanup. If you are still having temperature spikes and want to
create a heat sink without using water, then buy some ceramic briquettes and
place 10-20 of them in the bottom of your water pan and put another layer of
foil over them to catch grease.
-Be careful with the lid and middle section of your
WSM. Never set the either one on
any hard, or abrasive surface such as concrete or asphalt. Not only will you leave a grease ring
that wont come out, you will chip away at the porcelain coating which will hurt
the seal between the lid and the middle section, or the middle section and the
charcoal bowl. Instead, set the
lid down on a plastic table or a piece of cardboard. Concerning the middle section. The lid and the charcoal bowl are heavier and much more
rigid than the middle section. The
lid and charcoal bowl will help the middle section of the WSM hold
its shape. If the lid and charcoal
bowl are not connected, be careful not to warp the middle section. The middle section is much more flimsy
and can warp fairly easy. I have
warped mine when traveling to competition. My WSM was too tall if the lid or base was connected, so I
had to transport it in 3 pieces. I
packed things around the middle section and they shifted en route to the comp
and warped the middle section of the cooker. Once that happens, your WSM will run extremely hot and
really wont even be useable. Now
my warped cooker is my little backyard fire pit
dang all these years using Kingsford, new we were doing something wrong.
LOL! Sorry Jim. I had to say it ;)
Weber suggests using Kingsford Charcoal. Is it ok to use lump charcoal even though Weber does not recommend it?
Please advise. Thanks.
I use Lump and Kingsford in my WSM. No problem with either. I really like LUMP better for ribs and chicken. But my big meats Kingsford and chunks. Like the Harry So way
How long can I expect to go before adding fuel on a 12+ hour smoke around 225*? Once you have your technique down can I sleep all night or do I have to get up every 2-2.5 hours to check and add wood?