🔥 Build a Fire 🔥. Hold the temps at 225°. Wait several hours and your meat is cooked to perfection — seems simple enough.
But how do we build a fire that’s going to last 5-6 hours for ribs or even 10-13 hours for brisket and pork butts? That’s what we’re talking about in this post. This short read has all the information you need to get started with the Weber Smokey Mountain in just a few minutes.
Starting the Fire
I’m going to describe my setup for the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM), but the advice should apply to any other charcoal smoker. First, the briquettes. Any brand will work fine (like Kingsford or Royal Oak) just don’t use lighter fluid or the “match light” because it will affect the taste of the final product. Use a chimney and parrafin cubes to get the coals going quickly. Fill the chimney ¾ full, light one cube, and put the chimney on the disassembled smoker. In 15 minutes you’re ready to go!
The standard method for smokes, at least those requiring more than a couple hours, is the “Minion Method”. It involves preparing your smoker with a ring of unlit coals. To that we add the pre-lit coals from the chimney. You’ll want a decent pair of gloves. Finally add three chunks of wood on the edge of the lit coals. Hickory is a great all-purpose wood. Set all the vents 100% open and wait until the smoker reaches 225° and the heavy smoke becomes bluish and lighter.
Assembling the Smoker
Assembling the smoker is pretty straightforward: charcoal chamber, charcoal, lit coals, wood chunks, main body (with the water pan and cooking grates), and lid. The one note I’ll make is that foiling the water pan prior to assembly makes cleanup easier later on.
Nine times out of ten you can get the smoker up to 225°, set the bottom vents to ¾ open, leave the lid vent wide open and the WSM will just hold temperatures perfectly. The weather, hot or cold, has no impact on temperatures. I do however, use hot water if temps are near freezing – this just ensures you don’t waste too much of your fuel heating up the water pan. You do need to be conscious of the wind! Wind will sap your temperature every time so do your best to shield your WSM on windy days.
That’s it. Get a good fire going and the WSM will generally take care of the rest. Mind the wind and the vents and you should be set up to have a great smoke.
Supplies Quick List
This is a quick list of everything discussed in this post
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