If you've read through this blog you'll notice that I'm a big fan of using my charcoal grill to smoke meats. I demonstrate that with some hard work it is possible to have great BBQ on a charcoal grill. However, it is pretty tricky and requires quite bit of work. I decided to upgrade to Weber's Smokey Mountain 18.5 inch smoker. Below are some pictures of my first few smokes on this great Weber smoker.
Note: I also posted a very detailed account of what it's like to smoke on a Weber Smokey Mountain that I think may be very helpful.
The Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) is a relatively small smoker that resembles R2D2. It comes in three sections, the bottom section contains the charcoal and the wood, the middle section contains two grates and a pretty large water pan and the top section is the lid which contains the thermometer and the cooking space for the top grate.
The picture below shows what the WSM looks like with the top two sections removed. Here it is sitting next to my Performer.
There are three vents on the bottom section to allow quite a bit of variability with your air flow. I use my Weber Performer to light the charcoal and then I pour the lit coals overtop of a full ring of unlit coals with wood chunks interspersed. This is referred to as the Minion method and in my opinion it works quite well for allowing you to maintain 225-250 degrees for a very long time. The Minion Method is described quite well on the internet and perhaps one day I'll have a page explaining it.
The above picture is looking down the top of the smoker with no grates inside. You can see the water pan filled with water. I took this picture before my first smoke in the WSM. It's not that clean anymore!
The picture above is my first cook on the WSM. I trimmed a rack of spare ribs to St. Louis style, layed it on the top grate and it was done in 4-5 hours. The WSM held 250 degrees the entire time and I had to do nothing at all other than peek at it every once in a while to determine it if was finished. The ribs turned out fantastic. A few weeks later I smoked 5 racks of babyback ribs on the top grate of the WSM. Interestingly enough, 5 racks were finished in 5 hours as well. I wasn't sure if the extra meat would take longer. The WSM is a beast and can smoke large amounts of meat! Take a look at the pictures below. Yesterday I smoked 9 racks of ribs! 5 racks on the top grate and 4 racks on the bottom grate. All of this meat was also done in 5 hours. Incredible! The WSM held 225 degrees the entire time.
The above picture was at time 0. Below are two pictures after 5 hours. These ribs were a big hit. The meat fell off the bone and was very juicy.
The Weber Smokey Mountain is much different from the standard smokers found at your local hardware store. The WSM is constructed out of a Porcelain-Enameled lid and bowl which really helps maintain temperature for a long period of time. The WSM reminds me of a bomb calorimeter from chemistry lab! The WSM seems to hold temperature for upwards of 12+ hours according to some discussion forum threads I've read. So far I've smoked a couple of turkey breasts, babyback ribs, spare ribs and a pork shoulder. I'm just starting to master the WSM so in the future I'll begin posting photos, recipes and tips on how to use and get the most out of a weber smokey mountain. What I like the most about the WSM is its ability to hold temperature. It is very difficult to keep a consistant low 225-250 degree temperature on a charcoal grill. I found myself contstantly adding a few coals, changing the vents, taking a few coals out, etc. While this is a great exercise to get you familiar with charcoal smoking it can become quite tedious. The WSM is truly a set and forget smoker. You light it, put your meat on and come back later to delicious barbecue. Now, I do like to come back and spray apple cidar on the ribs, or splash some mop sauce on a pork shoulder. So while the WSM allows you to set it and forget it. I don't. I like to tinker. I stoke the coals, add some extra wood chunks, turn the meat, spray the meat etc. because that's part of the fun!
Check out my page on how to light a WSM smoker for smoking BBQ ribs!