14.5” - 101


 

P Jordan

New member
I need a lil 101 on operating the 14.5”. I started out smoking with a 14.5” 5 years ago, then a year in switched to a BGE but I always loved the taste of the meats that’s come outta my little bullet and want to get back into it and use it more often. An issue I always had was reloading coal. Do you load in already lit coal or unlit? I always used regular blue bag Kingsford so if I was doing a long smoke I found I would get too much ash and smother the airflow. I’ve reloaded with both lit and unlit but find with that coal I’d still have to dump out the ash. Does professional or lump do better?
 

Lew Newby

TVWBB Gold Member
If I have some hot coals I reload with unlit. When I reload I empty the ash into a metal bucket. I have only used KBB so can’t address the others.
 

BobJ

TVWBB Super Fan
Unless I can't keep the temp up I add unlit thru the door. I do stir the coals a bit to expose some burning coal before adding. If the temp is too low and won't come up by just working the vents I add lit. I've used KBB and the Pro version, this rookie does not notice a difference. I think the only time I had so much ash where the it got in the way was in windy conditions when I go thru quite a bit more on overnight cooks.
 

Barry McCorkle

TVWBB Super Fan
You've touched on my biggest problem with the 14.5. Cooks longer than 8 -9 hours with Kingsford, which is my charcoal of choice, require dumping ash and reloading with lit charcoal. I use Royal Oak Natural sometimes but still don't get the 12 hour cook without having to reload and dumping ash. For comparison, in my 18" WSM, I typically add unlit to keep the fire going.
 

Michael Richards

TVWBB Gold Member
I used Weber charcoal for the first time and loved it. It burned hotter and slower then KBB that I have only used to this point. My plan is for my longer cooks to use my Weber charcoal and for my shorter ones use KBB.
 

James V in Ohio

New member
I used Weber charcoal for the first time and loved it. It burned hotter and slower then KBB that I have only used to this point. My plan is for my longer cooks to use my Weber charcoal and for my shorter ones use KBB.
Great to know - thanks. I’ve only had the smoker for a couple of weeks but my first long smoke was a problem with ash buildup. Will try the Weber charcoal for those in the future. Doing a beer can chicken right now with KBB and it’s holding great - even on this windy day.
 

Michael Richards

TVWBB Gold Member
Great to know - thanks. I’ve only had the smoker for a couple of weeks but my first long smoke was a problem with ash buildup. Will try the Weber charcoal for those in the future. Doing a beer can chicken right now with KBB and it’s holding great - even on this windy day.
Enjoy the chicken, I'm itching to do a whole chicken for enchiladas right now
 

Michael Richards

TVWBB Gold Member
So here has been my limited experience with my new (used) 14.5 WSM. For multiple sessions I used KBB and using the minion method starting with about 12 pieces of charcoal with boiling water in the pan. Every time my pit set in at 250 with all vents open. I have done some full chickens, chicken pieces, and a London Broil. I also have done ribs twice and part of the reason for doing those was to learn how the WSM behaviors as the time progressed. What I learned from those test runs was my WSM stays very stable at 250 using KBB for 6 hours then in the sixth hour the temps started to drop both times I took it that far. If I wanted to keep the temps up I would have had to add fuel toward the end of that firth hour mark. After reading a good bit of research I decided I wanted to try Weber charcoal for my first pork shoulder, the longest cook to this point. I order three bags online, and last Saturday night I went for it. The Weber charcoal is much larger, so I started the minion with like 8 pieces of charcoal. Boiling water in the water pan, and it quickly climbed into the 200's and I shut all three dampers down most the way. I left all the dampers mostly closed the whole cook. I added about 20 unlit pieces of charcoal about 5 hours into the cook (1 am when I went to bed, as a pre-measure to help with the goal of getting some sleep) then as the cook progressed the temps climbed and settled between 275 and 285. I have not been able to do that yet with KBB. The shoulder was done at 9 hours and I closed all the dampers. Later when I went to clean up the smoker I still had charcoal left. I think I could have made it the 9 hours on my original fuel, but it would have been close. The ash was not that bad. Now I could not find the Weber Charcoal local and had to order it online from ABT and it was pricey, but in my mind worth it. So like I said originally, for anything 5 hours or less, I will use the KBB and for my longer cooks I will use the Weber.
 

KEhrl

TVWBB Member
Hey P,

I have a 14 as well and will always re-load with lit coals. This is usually a common occurrence for me since I like to fully load the cooker both racks for long smokes, which subsequently draws more heat. I'll use either 2/3 or a full chimney of coal (I have the smaller compact chimney starter) depending on the estimated time left to cook, and fully light. Then I open and hold the door almost at an angle to launch coals into the pit, I'd recommend a pair of heat resistant gloves while doing this unless you're not too sensitive to the heat (or stubborn to buy some like myself). I just use regular kingsford blue, have had no problems with ash but always need to clean the next day.

Cheers,
Kyle
 

Danny C's

New member
Know this is a little late but two additional suggestions that I find make a big difference: 1: Remove the heat deflecter (I just put it under the smoker when i cook but I don't think it makes a difference either way); 2: Get a second charcoal grate and put it right on top of the existing charcoal grate (this lifts up the charcoal basket by the height of the grate). Both of these steps give more space for the fire to breathe AND more space for the ash to build up, which could mean the difference between needing to clear the ash mid-cook and not needing to. One additional benefit is if you put the second grate on top of the original grate in a cross-hatch pattern, you can use lump charcoal without a significant amount of it falling through the grates when you dump it in.
 

Lee Ingraham

TVWBB Fan
I ended up buying a stainless steel colander and use that as a charcoal basket. It gives it some extra height (about an inch over the charcoal grate). For extended cooks I put the charcoal ring inside the colander and get about half again as much capacity. To do this the water pan has to go. I've replaced it with a deep dish pizza pan that I foil to catch drippings. Another nice thing about the colander is it has handles so I can just lift the whole thing out instead of the ring and grate separately.
 

JGodfrey

New member
I used Weber brand charcoal for smoking a couple of 5-6 lb pork butts last weekend on my 14.5". Temp stayed 225-250 with very little babying for the first 9 hrs or so. Addeed 15 coals lit with a chimney starter (through the door with tongs, did not do the hot squat) and that got the temp back up for the last few hours of cooking. It was my first cook with the Weber charcoal, I was pretty impressed.

HOWEVER, the grill guy at my local Ace Hardware that Weber is discontinuing the charcoal due to poor sales. Buy what you can.
 

MichaelM

TVWBB Super Fan
Great to know - thanks. I’ve only had the smoker for a couple of weeks but my first long smoke was a problem with ash buildup. Will try the Weber charcoal for those in the future. Doing a beer can chicken right now with KBB and it’s holding great - even on this windy day.

Newbie here.. what's the problem with the ash build-up? Blocking air flow through the vents?

And, while I have a pretty good imagination, what is the 'hot squat'?
 

Lee Ingraham

TVWBB Fan
The distance between the bottom of the cooker and the charcoal grate is pretty small in the 14.5". So, it can fill up with ash during long cooks (6+ hours). This will kill off the air flow to your coals and make it difficult to maintain temps. So, the three options are:
  1. Lifting the charcoal grate (which can be a problematic if you intend to use the water pan)
  2. Using lump charcoal (which burns with less ash, but can be hotter and a little erratic on the heat side)
  3. Do the hot squat which is lifting the middle and lid portion off the fire bowl, removing the charcoal ring, grate, and coals, dumping the hot ash into a suitable container, and then do any other fire maintenance you need to do
Number three can be particularly dangerous because the middle portion is full of hot grease, meat and boiling water. Then you also have to contend with the ash, coals and so on. Lots of opportunities to mess up and ruin your cook, but if you're looking to do particularly long cooks in the 14.5" it can be your only option.

To avoid that I typically smoke until the stall and then move to the oven after foiling. After all, you're only looking for heat once you've foiled or wrapped and as Harry Soo says, "BTUs are BTUs."
 

MichaelM

TVWBB Super Fan
Exactly what I imagined. Not something I want to try.

My longest cook thus far was a snick over six hours. I was fine with fuel and there was still a gap between the grate and the ashes. Kingford Blue.
 

CaryLee

New member
I use my 18.5 WSM and when I do go low in charcoal I do add pre-lit charcoal with non lit lump via the door and it works fine. But for my small cooks on my MiniWSM's I find that if I already have my temps on the meat above 140 or so I pretty much finish it off in the oven since most of the smoke work has already been done and to save time and charcoal.
 

Lee Ingraham

TVWBB Fan
But for my small cooks on my MiniWSM's I find that if I already have my temps on the meat above 140 or so I pretty much finish it off in the oven since most of the smoke work has already been done and to save time and charcoal.

Yeah, the same applies for the 14.5" WSMs... Others have said and I agree, it's not so much a problem as it is a limitation. You just accept it and work around it.
 

AlbertHui

New member
I read here that Chris made an aluminum charcoal chute using a piece of aluminum tubing to add coals right through the door. I’ve never tried it, but the concept seems much safer than taking the middle section off.
 

Lee Ingraham

TVWBB Fan
I add lit or unlit coals through the door with a long pair of tongs and some silicone gloves. Should you decide to dump ash (which you will likely need to do with long cooks in a 14.5), you have to remove the mid section.
 

 

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