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on August 17, 2010
My BBQ team Slap Yo Daddy BBQ from Diamond Bar, California, has been competing using these smokers which I bought off Amazon with free Prime shipping. They work flawlessly and are easy to use and clean up. Our WSMs regularly allow us to win Grand Championships even when we go up against other smokers costing over $15,000.

The key step once your smoker arrives is to ensure you season it properly. New WSMs will tend to overheat until you are able to get grease and gunk on the inside and around the rim where the lid sits to ensure an air tight seal. The fastest way to season is to do the following: Phase One - cover the water pan completely with aluminum foil and run a full load of lit Kingsford briquettes and let it run as hot as it can with no water in the pan (over 350 degrees) to burn off any manufacturing residue. Clean out the ash and proceed to phase two.

Phase Two - fill the charcoal basket 1/2 full of unlit briquettes. Then put in a 1/2 chimney of lit Kingsford briquettes in the middle. This will allow a slow burn for 3-5 hours at 72 degrees outside temperature. Adjust the vents to get 275 degrees on the dome thermometer. Put bacon strips, chicken parts, pork fat, or any other scrap meat you don't plan to eat. The key is to get fatty meats to generate lots of grease. Toss in a couple of tennis-sized wood chunks to generate smoke. Repeat Phase Two at least twice before you cook meat that you want to eat.

Phase Three - When you cook meat you plan to eat, take a tip from me and don't use any water in the pan. When I cook, I just cover the water pan with foil top and bottom. I foil it twice so I can remove the second layer after the cook and refoil it. That way, I don't have to clean my pan. It works just as well, AFTER YOU SEASON YOUR WSM, when you cook without water in the pan. Dry heat allows the crust to form faster on the meat (called the bark). Once the crust forms on the meat, you can introduce moisture. I just spray water with a regular spray bottle to encourage bark formation after the initial crusting (Maillard reaction) has begun. To test for properly formed bark, use your finger nail and scrape the meat surface. If the crust has formed, it will not come off when you gently scrape it with your fingernail. If the crust comes off, the bark has not set (still wet) so don't spray until it sets. Let it cook longer and check back in 15 mins. You'll get much better results this way. We've won many awards with this technique.

When it comes to cleaning your WSM, never wash the insides. Get a good grill brush and scrape down the insides and dome. You need the "aroma" which takes several years to build up. I NEVER mix my meat WSMs from my seafood and hotdog WSMs. Nothing destroys the aroma faster than cooking fish/seafood/hotdogs in a WSM used to cook chicken, ribs, pork, brisket, and tri tip. That's why you should buy a pair if you plan to cook seafood/fish/hotdogs. Better yet, get a Weber Kettle for those meats. Remember to always empty the ash from the bottom and grease on the foiled water pan to avoid fires and any rancid old oil smell before you cook. When you need to clean the grates, put the grates in a big plastic trash bag, put on gloves, and spray oven cleaner on the grates while in the bag and let sit for 1/2 hour. Hose off the grates. It's as easy as that. To clean the outsides, I use Simple Green spray.

Enjoy your WSMs. They are awesome and built to last.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Updated March 18, 2014 - in response to questions on fire and temp management on the WSM-18, I added a link with more tips [...]

OK. A reader notified me that Amazon deleted my link to my bbq team website where I feature easy recipes of the backyard cook.
No worries, you can find it if you Google my team name. It's got pics and such. For the words, I cut and pasted the info for you as follows:

Fire Control

Before I describe how to season your new WSM, I want to explain the basics of fire control in a barbecue pit. Regardless of the pit you're using, they all have three major components that you'll need to learn to control to maintain proper cooking temperatures: 1) the air intake, 2) fuel you're using, and 3) the exhaust vent/chimney. I use Kingsford Blue briquettes so my description assumes you use the same fuel. If you use something else, your mileage will vary.

I've used KF Blue since I started competing in 2008 and with over two dozen Grand Championships and 80+ first places including a first place USA in chicken in the Kansas City Barbecue Society Team of the Year 2012; I know KF Blue works well. Besides, I buy them on sale in the summer months for half price and stockpile them for my classes and contest year where I use over a hundred 20-lb bags annually. Yes, I do use other types of fuel like lump charcoal and pellets but I like to compete using KF Blue (no, they are not my sponsor) because I can fly into any city in America and drive my rental car to Walmart to pick up one bag of KF Blue and win a Grand Championship.

In the WSM, there are three circular intake damper vents at the bottom that can be opened or closed as needed to allow more or less air to enter the pit. More air and the temperature goes up and less air causes the pit temperature to go down. The circular fire steel fire ring holds your charcoal and you can adjust the amount of charcoal depending on how long you need to run the pit.

If you run it for chicken (2 hours), you only need to fill the ring about 1/3 way. If you want to cook ribs (6 hours), you will fill it about 2/3 way. If you're cooking brisket and pork butt (> 12 hours), you want to fill it all the way going past the top of the charcoal ring until it is overflowing. Be sure to remove the excess briquettes that have fallen over the side of the charcoal ring. Do a bit of Jenga and create a volcano shaped crater at in the middle of the overflowing mound of charcoal by removing excess briquettes and returning them to the charcoal bag. When you're ready to start cooking, carefully dump a half charcoal chimney of lit briquettes into the crater. Over the next 12-16 hours, the briquettes will burn gradually outwards as the temperature stays constant. I cook my long haul meats at 250F and everything else (chicken, ribs, tri tip, beef ribs, etc) at 275F.

If you are using a full overflowing load of briquettes for a 12+ hour cook, the standard deep WSM water pan won't work because it sits too low and will bump up against the top of your briquettes. No worries. Just remove the deep water pan and use the silver aluminum heat shield instead. You need to unsnap the heat shield and wrap it in double layer of aluminum foil and use that ultra-light pan in place of the deep water pan. If you have access to a WSM circa 2008 and earlier, those older WSMs come with a shallow water pan that does not bump into the briquettes. Alternatively, you can go to Home Depot and get yourself a terra cotta planter base that's the same diameter as the WSM water pan. I don't like the terra cotta approach as it's added weight I have to carry when I transport my WSMs which have already accumulated over 100,000 miles of travel all over the US.

Of the three components I mentioned: intake, fuel choice and amount, and the exhaust, the most effective component to maintain constant temperature is not the intake nor the fuel. It's the exhaust. Many beginners I come across are not aware of that. All seasoned pitmasters know how to intuitively draft their pit using "clean" smoke to color and flavor their barbecue meats. The draft refers to the vacuum effect when you open or close the exhaust vent of your pit.

When you open the exhaust vent on the WSM, you allow hot air to leave the pit and this creates a vacuum suction to draw air in from the bottom intakes. Thus, by skillfully manipulating the top vent, you can control your WSM like a pro. Many beginners constantly fiddle with their intake dampers in hopes to maintain a constant temperature with less success than leaving the bottom vents untouched and fiddling with the top vent to control the draft within their WSM. In future articles, I'll address the mechanics of damper control on the WSM (e.g., old school versus automated blower systems) and the science on dirty smoke, white smoke, clean smoke, blue smoke, sour smoke, etc. For now, just give my technique a try and see if it works for you.

Once you have seasoned your WSM using the steps below, follow my technique to light your pit and leave one bottom vent open and the top vent half open. Allow your pit to come slowly up to temp (it may take 30-45 minutes). If the pit starts to over temp, gradually shut down the top vent and it will calm down. New WSMs invariably overheat until after half a dozen cooks so be prepared to cook with top and bottom vents all completely closed in your first few cooks. If you have the top vent completely open and one bottom vent completely open and your pit does not come up in temp, you can open a second bottom vent, followed by a third. Usually when you open the second or third, it means you're out of fuel. You can toss 20 briquettes through the fire door and be careful not to snuff out the fire. If your fire is already out, you have to light your briquettes before you toss them into the WSM.

Here's are a couple of tips if you need ramp up temps quickly. You can prop a ½ inch piece of wood to keep the WSM dome lid ajar. Alternatively, you can open the WSM fire door and let air in to crank up the temps. With both of these quick fix approaches, do not leave your WSM unattended as the temps could rise fast and you'll burn your meats.
135135 comments|2,172 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 7, 2009
As a fan of the earlier Smokey Mountain Cooker, I'm surprised and gratified with the changes they made to the smoker.

The previous smoker was an easy 5 stars in my book. I guess I'd have to give this one 6 stars, because it's better!

After using my old smoker for some time, I began finding ways to improve it. It seems that Weber thought so too, and their changes include all of mine plus a few more.

Here are some important improvements:

Wider door for adding charcoal & such. This is NOT a small detail but rather a much appreciated design change. The older model's smaller door made it more difficult to place wood chunks or new charcoal where I wanted them and once upon a time I knocked the water pan down into the coals trying to put a wood chunk toward the back of the smoker.

The door latch is spring loaded and features a lever type handle. The previous door latch is not spring loaded and had a featureless round knob. It was less secure and not always easy to tell if the latch was fully closed. Now it's obvious -- for those of us who need things to be obvious. :)

Built-in thermometer! To think I paid more than Amazon's current price on the smoker and then another $50 on a thermometer. Mine is even in the same place on the lid. Great minds think alike, I guess... and Weber added this useful feature while keeping the price under control.

Bottom ash catch pan. I never thought of that one but then again I have a concrete pad set up and it was never a big deal to sweep up a few stray ashes.

Overall, the smoker performs as well as the older model but is much easier to use. With the thermometer, it will be much easier to maintain temperature and smoke up some great grub right out of the box.

I am by no means an expert, but here are a few quick tips for using this smoker.

0. If you are interested in instant gratification, get a gas grill or go out for dinner. It takes some work, time and patience to use and maintain this smoker.
1. Keep the temperature as stable as you can.
2. Don't lift the lid any more than you have to (for mopping, adding charcoal, etc.
3. Use briquets, at least at first. It's much easier to work with compared to lump charcoal. If you do choose to use lump charcoal, don't add any extra wood chips or would chunks! You'll oversmoke the food and that's bad!
4. Start early. Give the charcoal time to start up, and the liquid in the water pan to get up to temperature before you put on the food.
5. Line the water pan with aluminum foil. Trust me; it will be much easier to clean later if you do!
6. Make small changes to the vents when you need to adjust the temperature. Give it some time to work.
7. Get a good book on smoking. I think we all know a good place to look for one...
8. The internet is your friend. Check out Weber's site, some of the bbq forums and most definitely Virtual Weber Bullet.
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on October 23, 2013
I just received my 14.5 WSM a week ago and I've already cooked on it 5 times including a KCBS sanctioned BBQ competition in SoCal with over 40 teams. This new WSM looks like they shot the 18.5 model with a shrink ray! It works just as well as its larger brothers with the convenience of a smaller tailgating-sized Smokey Joe. With a single load of charcoal filled just above the charcoal ring (about 1/3 of a 20lbs bag), I was able to maintain 225º for 16 hours using the Minion method! Of course, your mileage may vary.

This model also has some of the new improvements that Weber has added to the larger models. They include a silicone temperature grommet and handles on the lower food grate. The grommet, which is located between the food grates, is for food probes, pit probes and stick thermometers. This location is ideal so that a stick thermometer can give a better temperature reading on the lower food grate. Handles on the lower food grate is something that we've been asking for for years. There are several mods found on the internet on how to make your own; however, now Weber has listened to their fans and have included this essential feature.

Thus far, I've cooked rib tips, chicken thighs, tri tip and one overnight cook of bone-in pork shoulder. The 10lbs. shoulders barely fit (as I expected); one on each food grate. They both turned out just as excellent as they would have on the larger models. You can also fit a whole chicken fryer on each grate as well a trimmed brisket flat or point (or a whole 12lbs. packer with the point & flat separated and placed on different food grates). Three whole racks of St. Louis Style spare ribs can be cooked on a single food grate with a stand-up rib rack by trimming to 6-8 bones or you can roll/coil the ribs as well. Simply stated, this cooker puts out excellent BBQ.

This WSM is definitely more practical for everyday home cooking for the modern family. You can cook more reasonable amounts of food without using all the charcoal and wasted space that you would encounter with the larger WSMs. The unit comes up to temp faster than the larger models and snuffs out quite easily by closing all the vent dampers.

The price point on this unit may be seem a bit high, but it is what it is and we pretty much expected the price as it falls in line with what the MSRP is for the the larger units.

Weber used to make a WSM similar in size to the this model over 30 years ago, but discontinued the model after 1-2 years due to poor sales. That particular unit is now considered a collectors item for many Weber fans today. Now everyone can enjoy this awesome little unit, at last.

I highly recommend this WSM for Weber fans and owners of the larger WSM units. For those who have hesitated in purchasing a WSM because of its size and charcoal and food requirements, they can finally make the plunge and acquire this reasonably sized unit to begin their epic BBQ journey.
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on December 8, 2010
First; let's just say that Amazon is great as a fulfillment company! This massive cooker was delivered in a few days - free shipping of course just as we have come to expect.

Ok; onto the Weber. I've owned the Weber Kettle Grills since the 70's and my Dad bought his first one from George Stephens back in the 1950's - they are top quality charcoal grills and allow for indirect cooking which is the key to excellent results.

For a long time I've thought about getting a smoker cooker and gave thought to an offset smoker, Big Green Egg and other types of cookers, but came back to looking at the WSM and finally purchased it about two months ago. I came in a very well packed and organized box - clearly the Weber engineering folks spent a lot of time working on this and I was pleasantly surprised at how well all the pieces fit. All of the packaging materials were recyclable as well; very nice.

From start to finish it takes about 30 minutes to put this together and anyone can do it.

What I didn't realize is how immobile this thing is once it's assembled. It's essentially 3 sections; the lid, the center section which holds the two cooking grates and the water bowl, and the bottom charcoal section. As others have pointed out, the Virtual Weber Bullet website [...] has some great tips and ideas and I built a stand to put this on that is on wheels (see pics at top of page). That's really helpful for shuttling this thing around the patio or into the garage.

So far I've done 4 cooks and each exceeded my expectations! Last weekend I cooked two pork butts starting at 11P and taking them off the grill the following day at 3P - Best Pulled Pork I've ever had! We had 12 people over for dinner and all were ecstatic over the taste! Great smoke ring and bark on the outside and melt in your mouth pork; I made a Carolina based sauce to accompany it and wow was that good!
I've also made ribs (5.5 hours), smoked fresh salmon and a smoked chicken.

Be prepared to buy charcoal! I buy 2 20lb bags at Home Depot for $16. The long cook above - 16 hours - was done with only ONE fill of the charcoal chamber using the minion method! I did fill the chamber with an entire 20lb bag, but never added charcoal the entire cook! Wow! I should also add that the WSM held a temp at 250F the entire time.

If you want to entertain friends in a new and fun fashion, this is a great way to go! I've also posted a couple pics of the cooked pork and pulled pork. Great stuff.
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on May 11, 2009
I bought this smoker after extensive research. I have always been the "grill master" in my family, but never invested in a smoker. After using the Weber website and a few other websites dedicated to smoker cooking, I was able to successfully smoke 2 whole chickens the first time! The chickens were moist and had the most delicious, delicate, smoky favor!

I was so confident in my skills that a few weeks later ( and after much research) I had a BBQ at my house and smoked 15 lbs of chicken, 4 slabs of ribs, and 2 pork shoulders! I had to stay awake most of the night before (off & on), but the thermometer and the ease of use in adding charcoal made it very easy... I received rave reviews for my meat at the BBQ the next day!

If you're in the market for a smoker- this is it! It's great for everyone- experienced or newbie- it's worth the money 2x over!!!

P.S.- I didn't bother with a lot of the extras but the following items were invaluable. I used paraffin cubes that worked wonders!!! (non-toxic/no taste- found at Lowes) Also, If you're planning on ribs- invest $15 in a standing rib rack- you can stand 4 slabs up at a time- conserving space while not compromising on taste...
Happy Smoking!
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on September 18, 2012
I'm a complete novice to smoking. All I "thought" I knew before was it was hard, time consuming, messy but tasted great! I once tried to smoke 2 pork butts on my gas infrared grill which took over 14 hours and didn't turn out good at all. There wasn't much smoke flavor and the butts were a red-ish tint vice that nice dark bark you see with charcoal.

So I set out to find the perfect smoker. The balance between ease of use, price, quality construction and most importantly, delivered great results. I just assumed that charcoal was a hassle so I looked primarily at propane and electric smokers. I thought I found some winners such as the Brinkman propane smoker and the Lowes cheap-o special MasterForge propane smoker. They had decent reviews and lots of complaints about leaks and build quality. The food results looked OK but not amazing.

During my quest to find the best propane or electric smoker I kept coming across this Weber Smokey Mountain smoker. TONS of reviews all stating this smoker is amazing. But I was skeptical about having to deal with the "hassle" of charcoal. I knew charcoal delivered the BEST tasting and looking meats, but was it worth the "hassle"?

I put "hassle" in quotes because it's anything but. Using The Minion Method (This was Greek to me at first until I read about it. It's a BREEZE!) I was able to easily get the WSM smoker up to heat and keep it there all day. I didn't have to add charcoal or wood chunks. Didn't have to keep messing with the coals, nothing. I lit it up and let it burn. EASY. Just as simple as turning on a propane tank or plugging in an electric smoker. That day I smoked 2 phenomenal rack of ribs and 2 pork butts. I'll attach pictures!

If you take anything from this review PLEASE READ THIS LINE: I am a complete novice to smoking. I spent about 45 minutes reading some tips on amazingribs(dot)com and virtualweberbullet(dot)com and before you know it, I was sold. The Minion Method takes out all the "hassle" of charcoal and you get that great dark tasty bark and delicious smokey flavor!

If you're deciding between this or a cheaper, propane or electric smoker, BUY THIS SMOKER. Spend the little extra and get a smoker that will last you a lifetime. I PROMISE you will not regret it. Feel free to ask me ANYTHING and I'll get back to you ASAP!
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on July 14, 2009
This is a great cooker , I've cooked on a lot of smokers and this one is the best.
First cook was 2 pork shoulders and it could not have gone better.
You can dial this in to 225 degrees and it will hold that temp overnight.
Put the pork on at 9 pm and it was ready to shred at 9am. The best part?
I did not have to get out of bed to check on it! Kudos to weber on the WSM !
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on April 11, 2009
I am cooking ribs on my 22" WSM as I type this. This will be my third time cooking since I received it a few weeks ago and the results I've been getting have been some of the tastiest barbeque I've ever had. The design is excellent, the build quality is excellent, the instructions and support from Weber - all excellent. But after all this "hype" the reason I only gave it 4 stars out of 5 is because, as good as it is, I believe Weber has over-priced it somewhat. I would have expected something of this size and quality to be priced closer to $350 or so.

Anyway, the good news is, the key to successful barbeque is temperature control. I threw away money a few years ago on a cheaper smoker in which it was almost impossible to control and ruined several dollars worth of meat trying. But temperature control is what makes this unit great. The WSM almost feels like cheating. Once you get it set, it just seems to stay locked into a very narrow temperature range requiring very little adjustment as it cooks. It's as easy to keep it "locked in" at 200 degrees as it is to keep it at 325. However, there are a few little tips and tricks of the trade to cooking on a smoker and barbeque in general that require a little research, trial and error, and discussion with experienced "pit masters." For this I highly recommend The Virtual Weber Bullet website and The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board. There is a wealth of knowledge there and you can get questions answered by professionals as well as pit master wannabes who are just starting out and learning too.

I would recommend starting with a Weber Smokey Mountain, a high-quality, easy to use smoker, rather than wasting money on a cheaper one only to realize later that it's too frustrating to use and then have to break down and buy the good one later. That would be the MOST expensive way to get into barbeque at home.
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on June 14, 2009
Having been a Weber user since 1975, I figured that this was going to be a great little smoker. I had never smoked a thing in my life (Not entirely true, I grew up in the 60's).

It took about 15 minutes to assemble. A snap. And since it was in 3 major pieces, it was easy to get from the assembly area, the living room, to the smoking area outside. I poured in enough briquets to fill the briquet containment ring. Heck, I didn't know what was too much or not enough. Turned out it was a good amount.

I lit it up just like the Weber kettle I have and got the coals all toasty. Put on the middle stage, got the hose and filled the water bowl, put on the top grate, threw on a 6 pound pork roast that I had put a dry rub on (about.com, dry rub recipes, Kansas city style). Put on the lid and began smoking, the meat that is.

I fiddled with it for about an hour just getting a feel for the air adjustments. It didn't take much to get a temp set perfect.

I added briquets, 10-15, every 90-120 min or so and rustled the others around to keep the ash off of them. A long pair of cheesy, dollar store tongs was helpful for doing this. I also added a stick of well-seasoned plum wood at the same time. Nummy nummy!

8 hours later I had a smoked pork roast that was GONE after being done as all of the neighbors wanted to try some. Needless to say it was a hit with me and a crowd.

Next day I fired it up, put a brined whole chicken on it with NO rub or sauce. 3.5 hours later I had chicken to die for.

My wife told me I could NOT smoke our Westy.

Buy this thing. Painless, fiddleless, fool proof. Nuff said. Straight up. (Did I mention how well made and heavy duty it is?)

Y'all gotta smoke with this think.
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on December 29, 2013
Finally received my 14.5 in WSM and its very easy to assemble. It only take 20 minutes following the instructions from the booklet.

This is a perfect size for us and it can hold a lot of food and very portable. And thanks to the previous reviewers here, I am glad I pick this instead of the bigger size. It doesn't take up a lot of space and no wasted space on the grate and wasted charcoal if not feeding a big crowd. It also looks very cute in the patio.

It can fit one 11 lb bone in pork shoulder (butt) on the top grate and also the bottom. It can really maintains the temperature and use less charcoal for 10-12 hr continuous smoking and the result is yummy lol.

I am happy with my purchase and would recommend this to anyone who love to bbq. I also owned a weber 22.5 inch one-touch gold with smokenator, weberQ gas and a weber go-anywhere charcoal grill. Now we can do more bbq using different weber grills.
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