Why we love the Smokey Mountain

Whenever we go to comps, people always ask why we use the particular smokers that we do. As all of us  love our BBQ and are family men, many of the features that we desired in our competition cookers are the same as what we need for home use.

For this reason, we choose to use Weber Smokey Mountains (WSMs) for nearly all of our cooks. The key features that we love are the ability to cook for extended periods of time at stable temperatures, without the need for refuelling. This means less time spent tending BBQs and more time with family and friends.

6kg of Heat Beads Coconut briquettes 10 hours into a 14 run.

The WSM is a vertical water smoker, consisting of a firebox in the base, a large water pan and two vertically arranged cooking grates. In the 18.5 inch WSMS that we use, the fire ring holds 7 to 8 kg of Heat Beads briquettes and. This amount of fuel is easily good enough for a 14 to 16 hour cook at 250 Fahrenheit. You’ll note I specifically mentioned the Heat Beads briquettes, as there are a lot of cheap and nasty brands also on the market that just simply do not work for low and slow cooking. These days, we stick with what we believe is the best product for our purposes.

Although the WSM is incredibly easy to use, there are some tricks that will improve your cooks significantly.

Using two sheets of foil in a cross works best
Foiled!

First and foremost, foiling the water pan is a must to making cleanup easier. Although some people foil the entire pan inside and out, I don’t, for a couple of reasons. In my opinion, the soot from the fire is most difficult to clean off, whilst the rendered fat from the cooking meat cleans out of the bowl very easily with hot water (in fact, my water bowls usually go straight into the dishwasher along with my cooking grates). For this reason, I only foil the base of the bowl. Also, I’ve never been able to successful foil the pan so no fat laden water penetrates through, thereby requiring the same cleaning as if I hadn’t foiled. In terms of what to use, the Costco, Kirkland branded foil is the only stuff to use. It’s thick, strong and wide and perfect for the job.

Unlike some of the other cheaper bullet smokers on the market, the WSM does not need careful management of the water levels. In fact, the more water, the more stable the cooking temperatures are. There’s no need to start with hot water either. Just 3/4 fill the water pan with cold water and let it run.

If you look on the web, there are a lot of sites dedicated to the WSM, with many of them dedicated to temperature control and vent settings. To be honest, I’m not sure how useful these are as every cook varies according to fuel load, environmental factors such as wind and rain, and the cooking load onboard. What is fair to say, is that temperature control in the WSM is like stretching a large rubber band. I always leave the top vent fully open and adjust my cooking temps using the lower three vents. At times, these lower vents may be almost completely closed as the WSM is very efficient on fuel and requires minimal airflow once up to temp. It is important to remember that adjusting vents won’t produce immediate results, but changes take place more slowly over twenty minutes or so. For this reason, it’s important to watch temperatures and make adjustments to the vents in a pre-emptive strike, before high or low temperatures become a problem.

225-250f is perfect
When I first started cooking on the WSM, there was no BBQ Alliance in Australia, so most information was gained from reading US sites. It’s fair to say that they are a little more committed to fine temp control than we are, which can be infuriating. I soon started to become incredibly frustrated by the 5-10 degree shifts in temp I was experiencing during my cooks. It is really important to remember the WSM holds a live fire, it’s not an oven. It may run slightly hot, or slightly cold at times, but it’s not something to worry about. It flows along like a wave of happy, smokey, cooking goodness.
If you are a new WSM owner, I also strongly suggest adding some handles to the fire bowl in the base. They make clean up a hell of a lot easier and they allow you to remove the lit fire bowl from the smoker if you have a disaster. Some simple threaded rod works wonders.
Whilst a bullet smoker like the WSM won’t suit everyone who wants to tend a live fire, they produce fantastic food for pretty minimal effort and financial outlay. We’ve found them to be the perfect option for us. Why not give one a go?

Author: AJ

Complete BBQ tragic and committed collector of BBQs, particularly Webers. Even known to talk BBQ recipes in his sleep, AJ’s years of cooking triumphs and failures have left him completely convinced that BBQ is overthought.

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