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Newbie WSM 18" Questions on Water Pan and Charcoal

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    Newbie WSM 18" Questions on Water Pan and Charcoal

    Hey everybody! Got a WSM 18 for Christmas last year and have been riding the ups and downs of learning to smoke. 1st lesson I learned - ignore the charcoal guide in the instruction manual. I have two pressing questions.

    First the water pan; when I read "no water pan" does that mean an empty water pan (lined with foil) or no water pan? I learned my lesson with rubber-skin chicken to leave the pan empty, but it seems like it would be a mess to have nothing under the bottom grate to catch drippings. I have a 15-20 lower temperature on the lower grate with the pan in place but empty. I haven't checked it with water in it. I also found a website that sells some vortex to place onto of the charcoal ring instead of the water pan. Seems gimmicky to me, and you still need to clean it up.

    Next question is charcoal, especially when I don't want a tough skinned bird. I fill my chimney to the top to start it and then take a coffee can to form a donut. I have also left less unlit charcoal in that circle but shallow I then dump the white charcoal into the center. First way seems to take a while to get to 275 (water pan empty) and then forever to get to 325. Second way jumps faster but I get nervous that it will jump too far past 325. I doubt that is a major issue, though, because this weekend after I finished a chicken I stirred up the coals and my WSM only got up to 360. I use a pro-style briquette on the starter charcoal and then a pro-style lump-log style charcoal around the center. Should I use the briquette only when cooking a bird? Should I leave the charcoal I dump in the center or spread it out some? I have done t-bones and beef tenderloins to perfection with water in the pan and the empty center startup and the lump charcoal. I'd rather not screw up half of this Thanksgiving's meal (****Note - I am not crazy, I will do a trial smoke a couple of weekends before).

    I really appreciate the insights I have seen form folks on other posts and look forward to learning here.

    Hi jsaniga and nice to see you here! Stick around, we are nice folks.

    A few things in response, hopefully helpful

    I don't see 325F as a magic number for chicken. Heck, 375F is better. It's one of those things where cooking it hot and fast is good.

    how are you measuring your temp? Dome therm?

    I use the donut mehtod to light my WSM and it works veyr nicely. I vary the number of briquettes and whether I have water in the pan depending on what temp I'm trying to achieve. If I am leaving the water pan dry, I put a disposable pan on the bottom grate to catch the fat and drippings and then toss it later.


    • jsaniga
      jsaniga commented
      Editing a comment
      ecowper I had to look up what a Hasty-Bake was. I have a gas grill, have had one for years, Guess I missed the charcoal-smoke taste which is why I asked for a smoker. I wanted to start with an WSM so I could learn the basics. The only thing i have truly screwed the pooch on so far was some Salmon, it was a thin cut and it was my first smoke and I followed the briquette instructions from the manual. Three strikes, lol.w

    • jsaniga
      jsaniga commented
      Editing a comment
      ecowper do you ever smoke on that Hasty-Bake or just grill?

    • ecowper
      ecowper commented
      Editing a comment
      jsaniga The WSM is a great smoker. I really like mine. I got it after the Hasty-Bake. For nearly 10 years all I had was the Hasty-Bake and I cooked everything from burgers to steaks to chicken to pork butt to bacon to brisket on it. It’s a truly do it all machine. I added the WSM because I wanted a high capacity, stand alone smoker and did not want to spend $2K plus for such a beast. The WSM absolutely satisfies that. Meanwhile, yes, I still smoke stuff on the HB. Especially ribs.

    For chicken I just toss the water pan on the lawn and cook that bird over direct coals, hot as hell. Spatchcocked as well. For ribs and butts I line the bottom of the water pan with foil and add water in the pan as I’m putting the pieces together. When I did steaks recently I left the pan empty but also lined on the bottom. And I only use the Kingsford professional charcoal they sell at Costco. I did. Y first and only Turkey two years ago on my WSM and it was fantastic. We’re hosting again this year and I’m debating whether or not to use the WSM or toss it on the pellet smoker.

    I’ve looked into some various accessories including the vortex but passed on it. The only accessory I seriously looked at was a new access panel. If I never bought the pellet grill I probably would’ve pulled the trigger on that as well as a fan.

    I’ve only done the minion method too and use this website frequently: https://www.virtualweberbullet.com
    Last edited by radiodome21; October 28, 2021, 05:37 PM.


    • TripleB
      TripleB commented
      Editing a comment
      I agree on checking out virtualweberbullet website. Great info, techniques, accessories, modifications, recipes, etc, on anything Weber. If I have WSM questions, that is the first place I go.

    • Mr. Bones
      Mr. Bones commented
      Editing a comment
      Been a VWB Member fer Many Years, All ya'll ever need to know bout th WSMs can be found there...

      Nuff Said...

    • Elton's BBQ
      Elton's BBQ commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the link!

    Yeah, I never used a water pan whenever I used a WSM. I threw it in the yard. I want all that fat dripping onto that fire!

    I always just used Kingsford Blue and White Bag. But lump would work also, provided that you are buying quality lump.


      I do turkeys a lot on my 18 WSM. I don't use the water pan much anymore for turkey - I only use it for long cooks like brisket and pork butts. I use the minion method to light Kingsford blue charcoal and I have had the wsm up over 400 with that method. I try to keep it around 325 -350 mostly, but I have also done turkey at 250. The skin doesn't get crisp but I think the meat stays more moist, especially the breast meat.


        Welcome to the club, jsaniga! You're going to love the WSM. My wife bought me the 22' last year and it's a beast, very versatile smoker.

        I agree with what ecowper and others have said. I also use Kingsford Pro (the ones you can find at Costco) when I want to get higher temps, as I do find it burns a bit hotter than the normal "blue bag." I'd also recommend trying lump and seeing how you like it. I've had really good success with Jealous Devil when cooking chicken.

        I don't think that I've used any water in the pan since I've had mine. I always line it with foil to catch any drippings and make cleanup easier, but just leave it in there.

        Happy cooking, and this is such a great community, you'll be right at home here!



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