A few great cooks w/ Ceramic briquettes



New member
Just want to describe a new method I used over the past few days on my 22" WSM. I'll start by describing the setup: I lined the water pan with about 35 of these ceramic briquettes I picked up on Amazon then placed foil over top to avoid as much cleaning as possible. I also have a Cajun Bandit door and handle. I also have gaskets around the door area, I put that on prior to ordering the door, not sure it's really needed anymore. These are the only mods I have on my WSM.
My first cook was chicken thighs. I actually had 40 of the ceramic briquettes on and had an issue getting the temp over 275- I like to cook thighs a bit higher around the 300-325 range. I also didn't put a lot of charcoal (I only use Kingsford Original) in as thighs are typically a pretty quick cook. But it was my first attempt, so wasn't expecting perfection. I did find the temps were rock solid for about 2 hours with the vents fully open.
The next cook was a brisket, I wanted to keep this one simple so I only used a 50/50 salt and pepper rub and smoked it over hickory chunks. With briskets I only use the WSM for about 6-7 hours to get smoke and bark on it, then wrap in butcher paper and throw it in the oven to finish because I wake up early (2:30am-ish) to get it on and done in time for dinner. This way I can sneak a nap in and not have to worry about the temps of the cooker. Prior to the cook I removed a few briquettes to get it to 35 and added an aluminum half-tray filled half-way with water right on top of the briquettes. Figured for longer cooks I will still need at least a little bit of water. I also added a half-tray on the lower shelf to catch some drippings of the brisket. I typically start the cooker with the minion method. I found the heat-up process and time for the smoke to settle was about the same. Climbed up to 250 in about 30 mins and once I dialed in the dampers (exhaust fully open) it stayed rock solid at 250 throughout the cook.
During the cook I left it alone the first 3 or so hours, only monitoring temps of the cooker. I checked the brisket around the 3.5 hour mark and it was looking real nice, bark was setting and it had a nice color. It looked a little on the dry side so I spritzed some beef broth on it. About the 6-hour mark I pulled it off, wrapped in butcher paper then threw it in the oven at 250. I think I pulled it out of the oven too early, not all the fat/collagen rendered in it and it failed the pull test. But overall, it was pretty darn good and had a nice smoke ring and bark to it. Here is a pic of the point (my favorite) after slicing into it:


Next up was spare ribs. This was the day after the brisket and while getting the WSM ready I noticed there was A LOT of charcoal left. More so than normal. I am assuming this is a result of the ceramic bricks holding heat and helping to maintain temps in the smoker. I'm also attributing this to the not-so-leaky Cajun Bandit door.
Clean up was pretty simple, just swapped some aluminum foil (cleaned the grates while hot the day before), added more charcoal and wood chunks, then lit it up.
For spare ribs I remove the membrane and excess fat, but typically do not remove anything else prior to the cook. I did the 3-2-1 method for these ribs and cooked them at 225. I always rub them prior to starting the cooker and let the rub set in. Setup was the same as the brisket with foil lined over the ceramic briquettes and a half-tray water pan on top of that. No pan for drippings on this cook.
Once the WSM got to 225 it again stayed there at a pretty steady rate. There was one fluctuation in which the wind picked up and was gusting pretty strong, so the smoker got up around 250, but a quick adjustment got it back down to 225 in a reasonable time frame. Checked the ribs around the two hour mark and they were looking great. Spritzed a little water on them, probably didn't need to but I figured while I have it open, might as well. I didn't look again until it was time to wrap. Into some foil they went with butter, brown sugar, rub, and a vinegar bbq sauce - wrapped tight then back on the smoker. Two hours the temps stayed solid with some minor adjustments along the way - the wind would not stay in a particular direction or at a steady speed so it was kind of annoying to keep adjusting, but that's the life of cooking outdoors.
Finally it was time to unwrap. I save the juices from the foil and baste the ribs a couple times in the final hour. It really sets them up with a nice sweet and tacky finish. The end result was phenomenal - wife said best ribs I've ever made. They had a perfect bite (not mushy and not tough) and could pull the bone out clean. Pic of the end result:


At the end of this cook I was again shocked at how much charcoal was left over. Could have easily gone a few more hours and kept the temp steady without having to do anything aside from adjusting the dampers.

In the past, I've filled the water pan with water for these cooks, as instructed to do so by the owners manual. Where this is useful in keeping temps stable and a humid cooking chamber, I have found it also creates a mess in the cooker - sometimes with just one cook. As mentioned, I do keep water in the cooker, nowhere near as much as by using the water pan. In both cooks that I used water, there was still about half the amount of water left that I started with. I spritzed a little bit along the way - end results were still moist and tender.
With all three of these cooks there was nowhere near as much of a mess. We'll see in a couple days if any flakes or anything happens. But overall, I am very happy and will continue to experiment with this. Next up is pulled pork.

After one short cook and two longer cooks I have found ceramic briquettes used in place of water in the water pan are amazing at holding steady temps in the 22" WSM and in my opinion don't make as much of a mess compared to using water in the water pan. This method still results in fantastic, tender and delicious BBQ. Give it a try!
I'm glad to see you tried the ceramic briquettes and it is working for you. The brisket and ribs look amazing. I just cooked a spatchcock chicken using them and the WSM held between 322 and 328 degrees for over two hours. Can't wait to see the pulled pork.
I am really interested in cooking with the ceramic briquettes, thanks for this detailed report of your experience. I am on the verge of purchasing some. The ribs look so good!
A few updates! Finally got to cook the pork butt, instead of doing traditional BBQ pulled pork I went with a Cinco de Mayo theme and turned it into carnitas, delicious! Smoker ran great, although a little under my target temp of 275- the recipe I used had the pork cook at 275 for the smoking process and the braising process, again it turned out fantastic! I should have taken a few of the ceramic briquettes out, the temp outside was low 40s and there was a cold breeze the whole time. But I was able to keep the WSM around 260-265 the duration of the cook, so it wasn't too far off the target temp. Vents were mostly wide open with some slight adjustments along the way. I'm thinking the cold day played a big role here.
Sadly, I was too busy drinking tequila and dos equis and forgot to take any pics of the pork butt. It had a great bark/color that lasted even after a few hours of braising.

Additionally in terms of cleaning/ maintenance - the smoker sat unused since I smoked the ribs last week. When done with the ribs I scrubbed the grates, dumped the ash/ used coals, got rid of the aluminum water pan and replaced the foil over the ceramic bricks then stashed the WSM on my porch and covered it up. In the past I've noticed after coming back a week or more later there can be some flaking or sections even turn a brownish color. That was not the case here, very happy with that.

Ceramic Briquettes for another win!
Sounds like it went well. The brown flaking usually only happens to me when I use water. With a dry pan or ceramic briquettes, I haven't had it happen.
Those always interested me instead of sand or water in the bowl. Glad it’s working out.