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WSM Charcoal Burn Length Problems

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    WSM Charcoal Burn Length Problems

    I got a WSM 18.5" a few weeks ago and have been enjoying it. I keep running into an issue with the amount of time I get out of charcoal.

    Have been using Royal Oaks lump charcoal. Last Saturday, I filled the ring to the top and lit some charcoal in an upside down chimney starter. Added the lit coals to the pile and spread them around. I then added 4 fist-sized chunks of hickory. I was able to keep the temperatures close to my desired temp of 250 for a couple of hours. 2.5 hours later, my temperatures starting dropping quickly and I couldn't keep them above 200. I had to take the smoker apart and add more charcoal to get the temps I wanted (wanted 300 for the rest of the cook). After adding more charcoal, the temperatures still fluctuated a lot.

    What am I doing wrong? Should I switch to briquettes?

    #2
    I have never used lump in my wsm, but I think it burns faster than briquettes in the wsm. I just use regular KBB, and I get 12-14 hours at 225-250 in my 18.5.

    Comment


    • Troutman
      Troutman commented
      Editing a comment
      I've never been happy with lump in my WSMs. I think the void spaces you get yields to much loss of volume. I've always used KBB with zero problems with temp or time. I'm sure switching to Royal Oak briquettes would be a better choice for you.

    • Jared49
      Jared49 commented
      Editing a comment
      I have the WSM 18.5 and following most of the advice here have only used briquettes, tried KBB & Weber’s and have gotten the 12+hours as mentioned here. I’m happy and not changing them out.

    #3
    I use lump in my Big Green Egg with no problem, but when I had an old bullet smoke similar to your SMW I used briquettes. I would switch to briquettes.

    Comment


      #4
      Look up Harry Soo's donut method. I use this set up method religiously. I actually use an old coffee can with both ends open to achieve the hole in the middle. I then pour the lit coals in the hole, grab some long tongs or pliers and pull the can out. Works really well. Also, try using briquettes. More even burn.
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      Comment


      • Troutman
        Troutman commented
        Editing a comment
        I do the same thing, learned it from another source though.

      • klflowers
        klflowers commented
        Editing a comment
        I need to try this. I use the minion method

      • Pobeque
        Pobeque commented
        Editing a comment
        I use that setup, mostly (no coffee can, just dig out a hole) in my 22" WSM and get 12 hours easy on KBB blue bag

      #5
      Seems like my method was at least close to being right. Will have to grab some briquettes for sure. Just realizing now that Soo uses KBB all the time.

      Thanks for the replies!

      Comment


      • Hulagn1971
        Hulagn1971 commented
        Editing a comment
        Best of luck on the next cook!

      • TripleB
        TripleB commented
        Editing a comment
        Go to www.virtualweberbullet.com . More info on your WSM than you’ll ever need on operating tips. Including the Minion method described by Hulagan1971.
        Last edited by TripleB; May 4, 2020, 02:26 PM.

      #6
      I use nothing but briquettes in my WSM ..... Usually just KBB, although I like Cowboy briquettes and Kingsford Pro as well. I use Harry Soo’s donut method. With a full load of charcoal and 40 lit briquettes, I get 12-13 hours in the WSM 22. Sometimes have to add 100 briquettes when cooking a brisket.

      PaulstheRibList uses a fuse method that seems to work really well also.

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      Comment


      • PaulstheRibList
        PaulstheRibList commented
        Editing a comment
        THanks ecowper. I experimented a ton, and found the Fuse gave me the smallest amount of fuel lit at any one time, which is my goal. Smaller, higher temp fire with more airflow yields cleaner smoke!

      • NotTheGolfer
        NotTheGolfer commented
        Editing a comment
        How much would you change the amount of kit/unlit charcoal for a WSM 18.5? Also, what are your vent settings like?

      • ecowper
        ecowper commented
        Editing a comment
        NotTheGolfer my thinking is you probably only need 25-30 lit briq’s on the 18.5. My bottom vents are about 1/3 open and top vent I use to manage temp and airflow, usually 1/2.

      #7
      I don't have a WSM but do find that briquettes give a more consistent burn than lump when used in my kettle or offset. I have not used Royal Oak lump, but have found that Royal Oak briquettes are by far the shortest burning charcoal I've tasted in a kettle, using the Slow 'N Sear. In my kettle, 7-8 pounds of RO briquettes gives me a 5-6 hour burn time, versus 7-8 hours for a load of KBB, 10ish for a load of B&B lump, and 12+ for a load of Weber briquettes.

      Comment


      • jfmorris
        jfmorris commented
        Editing a comment
        Troutman I have to agree - I like lump ok for direct grilling, but it burns too much faster and inconsistently for smoking. I've noticed if I light a full chimney of lump, when I come back to dump the chimney, its half empty.

      • Andrrr
        Andrrr commented
        Editing a comment
        jfmorris "I don't have a WSM"..... yet...

      • ecowper
        ecowper commented
        Editing a comment
        My go to briquettes for the WSM - Cowboy, KBB, Kingsford Pro

      #8
      Thanks everyone for the massive amounts of great info. Going to try some KBB tomorrow.

      Comment


        #9
        So yesterday I had my first cook on my 18.5 WSM! I cooked a pork butt, and it turned out DELICIOUS, but I did have a burn length problem I was hoping some of you could shed some light on: My fire wouldn’t stay hot enough (even with all of the vents fully opened) after about 8.5 hours, and I had to move the pork butt to an inside oven. Some things for you to know:

        1. I was using the “Soo Donut Method” with my charcoal setup
        2. I lit up 40 hot coals in a Weber chimney starter to put in the center of the “donut”
        3. It was about 40 degrees F when I started the cook, and it stayed close to that temperature (a little colder than that, even) throughout the day. It was a little bit windier than the average day...the wind was on and off. I did a “dry run” the day before with warmer, more pleasant conditions, and the fire made it close to 11.5 hours before I couldn’t get the temperature back up.
        4. The vent settings I used throughout the day kept the temperature pretty steady between 225 and 250ish.
        5. I hit what seemed like a stall at around 150, but I upped the cooker temperature a little bit, and that pretty much pushed me through it. However I hit what I think really was the stall later at about 168°, and I had to wrap the meat to push it through. This is the point where I really started having problems with the temperature on the cooker. I probably had to move the meat to the oven about an hour after wrapping it.
        6. After moving the meat to the oven, I took apart the cooker and noticed that there were still a few coals and wood burning that were generating heat.

        Where did I go wrong? I am looking to lengthen my cooks so I can eventually do a FULL cook in the future. I eventually want to be able to do brisket in my smoker, as well. Are there any tricks you can give me to lengthen my cooks? Thank you

        Comment


          #10
          NotTheGolfer - I assume you're using briquettes? As for #2 on your list - 40 hot coals (briquettes?) sounds a lot. I would use a lot less to get the fire goaing.

          Also, not directly related to the fire, but still: cook a pork butt at 275 deg F instead, will shorten the cook by hours, but still with great results.

          Comment


          • NotTheGolfer
            NotTheGolfer commented
            Editing a comment
            Thank you for the thoughts! How many fewer coals should I use to start the fire?

          • ecowper
            ecowper commented
            Editing a comment
            I’d think that on the WSM 18 I’d do 30

          #11
          NotTheGolfer a few things from my experience on my WSM 22.5 .... but first: Glad you had a great first cook on your WSM, it is a fine cooking machine!

          On the WSM 22.5 I do a donut, but I only light 40 briquettes. I think you could light fewer briquettes and be just fine. I also think that this probably lit more charcoal than you needed at any given time. Additionally, wind can definitely accelerate your charcoal burn. And finally, I find that once the amount of charcoal falls below a certain point (typically about 25% of the charcoal ring) I have a really hard time keeping temps above 225F or so.
          Last edited by ecowper; December 30, 2020, 11:55 AM.

          Comment


          • NotTheGolfer
            NotTheGolfer commented
            Editing a comment
            What do you typically do when you get to the point that your temps won’t stay above 225? Is there any way to extend the burn?

          • ecowper
            ecowper commented
            Editing a comment
            Typically, when I see that happening, I add another chimney of lit briquttes

          • Henrik
            Henrik commented
            Editing a comment
            Exactly! Just refill!

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