Fast charcoal usage?

Tracy Seelhammer

New member
I was hoping that my first post to VWBB wouldn't be a HELP post, but alas!

Background: I've been smoking on various smokers (electric, propane, and the Weber Kettle) for the past 10 years or so. I took the big step to upgrade to the 22" WSM, and have been very happy. I've done 4 or 5 short smokes (ribs, primarily) and have been pleased - no issues. I did have some leakage around the door and top section, so I invested in the WSM Gasket Kit from Island Outdoors. Did another short smoke to tighten everything up, and all was right with the world.

Last Friday night, I loaded 6 fist-sized chunks of hickory under a whole 15.7 pound bag of Royal Oak charcoal about 6 pm. Started 20 briquets in a chimney starter until 70% ashed, put them in the dead center dip of the charcoal load in the WSM, put the pieces together, added 2 gallons of hot water and waited. All vents wide open. Outside temp: 43 degrees F, no wind.
About 6:30 pm, the temp was up to 200 degrees F. Closed the bottom vents to 1/4 open. Temp climbed about 10 degrees over the next 20 minutes , so I loaded my 14 trimmed full packer on the top rack (top vent still open).
About 7:00 pm, the temp had stabilized at 230 degrees F (no change over a 20 minute period). So me and the Mrs. go out for dinner and a beverage or two.
We get home around 9 pm and the temp is riding right at 233 degrees F. No adjustments needed or made (bottoms still at 1/4 open, top still wide open).
Check temp at 11 pm. No change. Outside temp at 39 degrees. Still no wind.
Check temp at 1 am. It's 225 degrees F, no reason to panic.
Check temp at 2 am. It's 195 degrees F. I open the door to check on the charcoal and it is 95% used up - like I maybe have 30 minutes of any sort of heat left. I pull the meat, cover it, and it goes in the oven at 225.

Question: How did the whole bag get used up in just 8 hours? It never got critically hot and the vents were never misadjusted. I was hoping for at least 12-14 hours, but I'm glad I caught it when I did. By 7 am the next morning, I was looking at a pile of ash.

(Bright side? The dome thermometer appears to be spot on to the top grate temp!

(EDIT: fixing words to make more sense)
 

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GilFisher

New member
This is close to my experience this past weekend. I used a little less than 15 pounds (maybe 13.5-14), and lit the fire using the same method, also with five fist-sized pecan chunks, except I ran at about 280-285 for the cook with DigiQ assistance (beef ribs were the main meat on top grate). My 22 is new, was only the second time being fired up. Not so much leaking from the door, and any leakage from the lid/mid second joint I jammed foil down into. I got about 6 hours before the temp dropped, but was able to get it back up for another hour+ by opening the vents a bit and shaking off the ash from coals etc.... So about seven hours? From everyone I've talked to about it, it seems adding more than 15/16 pounds of charcoal would be the first step. Completely fill up your ring, maybe to overflowing. I'm also considering added a second grate below the charcoal, turned 90 degress from the other to avoid losing small chunks of burning coal, as many have done. I also nearly doubled the capacity of my basket by constructing a ring to fit on top of the original ring.

EDIT: A few people have suggested a different lighting method, where you just pour the lit coals over the fire (probably a bit more than 20). That is how I did things with my offset. I may also try that.
 
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MartinB

TVWBB Pro
Well, it takes what it takes. I probably get 1 hr /lb - ish on 18".
Id guess, the 22 gets 50% less or so.
 

timothy

TVWBB Hall of Fame
Yea the big boy is a pig on fuel. Then add the water, and waiting to come up to temp (which eats btus) and your prolly round that hr per #.

Tim
 

Tracy Seelhammer

New member
Thank you to all who responded. I knew the 22 was a fuel hog, I just didn't anticipate how big of a hog. We'll see how she does tomorrow with 17 pounds of boneless pork shoulder with the Kingsford Pro that I picked up at Costco during the sale.
 

Jim Strickland

TVWBB Fan
Tracy l'm late with this reply but when l use any liquid (water, apple juice, etc.) in the water pan l 1st boil the liquid and carefully dump it in. This way l'm not waiting as long to get my 22'' up to temperature. As far as temperature is concerned, l usually can get a 225 deg to 235 deg smoke to last about 12 to 13 hr. It's really a fuel hog on the high temperature cooks with no liquid. I've used the Minion with about 20 or so lit coals on low temp and a full chimney on higher temps. For shorter time smoking l've used the snake method. Just my 2 cents worth.
 

Tracy Seelhammer

New member
Tracy l'm late with this reply but when l use any liquid (water, apple juice, etc.) in the water pan l 1st boil the liquid and carefully dump it in. This way l'm not waiting as long to get my 22'' up to temperature. As far as temperature is concerned, l usually can get a 225 deg to 235 deg smoke to last about 12 to 13 hr. It's really a fuel hog on the high temperature cooks with no liquid. I've used the Minion with about 20 or so lit coals on low temp and a full chimney on higher temps. For shorter time smoking l've used the snake method. Just my 2 cents worth.
I filled the ring to overflowing with Kingsford Pro that I got at Costco. It was about 90% of the 18 pound bag. I started 20 briquets and put them in the center of the pile. Because of last weekend, I used hot water (not boiling, but way hotter than I would normally dip my hand into). It only took 20 minutes to get up to 200 degrees (16 pounds of pork shoulder and 15 pounds of brisket on at this time) and then another 15 to get to 235. It held VERY nicely between 230 and 235 for the rest of the morning and afternoon. I had each bottom vent at around 1/4 open.

I pulled everything off about 10 hours later when I was struggling to keep it above 215 - vents had been wide open for about 2 hours, I had already tapped the ash off twice, and it was almost burned out. I'm not afraid of using the oven when it comes to finishing if necessary.

I think I will need to plan on an additional load of charcoal if I want to get this running past 12 hours, but things will also change when I'm not running the WSM in 33 degree weather!
 

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