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Unread 08-15-2011, 10:33 AM   #1
plethoraofpinatas
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Default WSM Temperature Control Problems

Over the weekend I participated in a charity competition and I was having some serious problems with temperature control. Please give advice!

Normally I cook chicken and ribs on my bullet smokers (22.5in WSM and 18" ProQ) and I have my schedule figured pretty well to minimize the number of times I have to open or close the smoker. However, for this comp I was cooking pork shoulder, pork ribs, chicken quarters, ABTs, and Moinks. Due to the varying cook times for each dish and the large amount of food I served, I had to open the smoker 2-3 times more often than normal. The result of this was that i burned through twice as much charcoal (good thing I brought extra!) and had unexpected temperature spikes, one time up to 350 degrees (I normally smoke at 230-250).

After some quick searching on this board, I attribute the temp spikes to my overloading the WSMs with charcoal and getting too many coals burning at once. I started with the coal basket overflowing because I wanted to minimize the number of fuel reloads I would have to do since I would be cooking for 15+ hours. I used the Minion Method and poured ~15 pieces of ashed-over lump at one end of the basket. I used Cowboy Lump.

Can a WSM not handle 15+ hours of cooking with multiple rounds of servings? By this I mean we served pulled pork at 2pm and 5pm so I put one pork shoulder on at 2am and one at 4am. We served ribs every two hours from 1pm to 5pm, so I staggered the timings for each batch. We served ABTs and Moinks every 1.5-2 hours.

I wonder if I'm overworking this type of smoker? Thanks in advance for your advice!
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Unread 08-15-2011, 10:40 AM   #2
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Everytime you take the lid off of the WSM you are allowing a whole bunch of fresh air to get in, and it will affect your temps.

Cowboy lump also has a reputation of burning hot and not lasting long. It is believed (by some) to be because it is predominantly made from kiln dried lumber (furniture and flooring scraps) instead of plain old wood straight from the tree.
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Unread 08-15-2011, 10:45 AM   #3
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I'm also thinking it may be your charcoal. I use "natural" briquettes, and my temps recover very quickly with lid liftings.
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Unread 08-15-2011, 10:56 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harbormaster View Post
Cowboy lump also has a reputation of burning hot and not lasting long. It is believed (by some) to be because it is predominantly made from kiln dried lumber (furniture and flooring scraps) instead of plain old wood straight from the tree.
Wow, I never knew that! That's interesting because I believe it is written on the Cowboy Lump bag that it is "kiln-dried to last longer"
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Unread 08-15-2011, 11:06 AM   #5
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One thing you can do to help cut down on the temp spikes is to shut down all three lower vents a few minutes before you lift the lid. Unless you have some big leaks in your access door, this should limit the flow of air through the smoker while the lid is off.
Keep the three vents closed after closing the lid and only open them when you are sure any spikes have settled down.
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Unread 08-15-2011, 11:09 AM   #6
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I started out with Royal lump and found that it burned out and fast. I switched over to Kingfords blue bag charcoal and it works great (lots of ash though). I can get about 12 hours out of my 22.5" WSM on a full charcoal ring with a full chimney lit on top(minion method) cooking at 225. I might be able to push it a little longer if I go with 15 coals (around half a chimney) instead of a full chimney.

I know a lot of people say lump is better for Q but I honestly can't taste the difference (as long as you don't go with lighter fluid or match lit).

I think 15+ hours on a 22.5" might be hard to pull off - especially with opening it several times. I have heard of the 18.5" pulling off those times but never the 22.5.
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Unread 08-15-2011, 12:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaskew82 View Post
I think 15+ hours on a 22.5" might be hard to pull off - especially with opening it several times. I have heard of the 18.5" pulling off those times but never the 22.5.
I was able to get over 10 hours out of a full basket on the 22.5". Once the temps continued to drop with all three vents completely open I took the WSM apart, pushed the remaining lit coals to one edge and reloaded the rest of the basket. I was able to complete the cook and had a few hours to spare before the coals died again.
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Unread 08-15-2011, 02:19 PM   #8
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want to see a wsm get hot...remove the door (3/4 of a-ways thur a butt cook) and come back 15+ mins latter to a water oil pan fire! thats hot..........
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