Originally Posted by BBQ Grail
I start with a full ring of charcoal mixed with about 5 fist sized chunks of wood. I create a small indentation in the middle of ring. Into the middle of the of the charcoal indentation I place 10 lit, ashed over briqs.
Bottom and top vents wide open. Once the grate temp reaches 195 degrees I close all the vents half way. As the temps start to rise a little at a time I close the bottom vents until the temp reaches the 225 degree range. At that point I let the WSM chug along for 30 minutes. Then I put the meat on. Some people will take the temp up a little higher than the desired cooking temp so when they put the meat on the temp doesn't fall that far. I don't normally worry about that.
Keep in mind that I do not use water in the water pan. I use a foiled 14 inch terra cotta saucer. This, in my opinion, allows me far greater control over my temps than using water.
Keep practicing, you'll get it...
Thats almost exactly how Ive done it for 3 years. Only exception is I use play sand in the foiled waterpan, about 2/3 full, then covered again with foil to catch the drippings. Makes cleanup a 10 sec breeze. I close the bottom vents to 1/3 open as soon as the top shelf grate temp (maverick lead, thru a small hole in a two inch block of wood) hits 190 degrees. The WSM will settle in at 228-236 degrees and hold there for 8 hrs. No guru needed. Like Ron says, its easier to catch the temp on the way up, by damping down the lower vents than waiting for it to lower if it gets too high. I'd say I have clean sweet blue and a rock steady 228 in about 45 mins after dumping the chimney of lit in the center of the unlit coals.
I use Kingsforg briquettes also exclusively. make sure your stashed charcoal bags stay DRY, up off of cement floors in sheds and garages. A little moisture will definitely show in SLOW burns.