Half a pork butt in progress, WSM growing pains

Hey all,

Somewhat new WSM 18 owner here,

I rocked a Smokey Joe for 6 years before graduating to a 22.5 kettle, picking up a second 22.5 used for 75 and finally the WSM used for 100 bucks.

I’m fairly proficient at kettle smoking ribs using a 3+3+1 technique, that’s why I got the second kettle for regular grilling while smoking on the first one.

Then while looking for a used jumbo joe, I found that WSM and the wife says I’m at my grill limit.

So in the WSM right out the gate I started with an 8 lb brisket, running foil wrapped heat defuser and followed Harry Soo’s guidance.

Half a chimney of charcoal just caused skyrocketing temps, I was using Kingsford competition charcoal I got from Costco, during the cook due to run ups, I twice had to pull all coals and start fresh, carefully lifting the entire cooker with my gloves, no drops yet.

My second swap out, I had some kingsford blue sitting there and swapped it in, while only lighting 5 charcoal, that seemed to help and I was able to finish. The brisket actually came out great, I had to run hotter than I wanted at the end (~300) to power through to the finish line.

My next venture was the other half of this pork butt. It was originally about 12 lbs, the wife had me cut it up into different portions, about 1.5 lbs or so to spread it out.

I ran with a foiled heat defuser and 5 lit coals in center of pile with hickory chunks.

The temp ran up on me and I had to sit with shut vents for a long time to try and recover, I actually removed fuel during 2 different times again.

Pulled em off the grill 6 hours later and finished em in the crockpot, they still came out good.

3rd adventure was a pot roast the wife wanted smoked, less than 2 lbs.

This was a waste of time, for some reason, it took ten hours, the temp ran up, i actually decided to use the stock water pan to help temps, which made them more manageable. It came out ok but I’d rather do a brisket again if I’m putting that much time in....

4th adventure was 6 racks of ribs, I kept the water pan in and filled the whole time.

This time I started with a charcoal ring delete and snaked 4 briquette around the bowl, starting with 4 lit.

I couldn’t keep temps up, so I had to do some rearranging and add a half chimney of lit charcoal in the middle of the cook, but got it done, used the smoker for 4 hours, the oven for 2 and called it. They were well received.

Now I sit here with my remaining pork butt chunks, did the brinkmann water pan swap, started with a half chimney of blue in the middle (minion method),
1 bottom vent 1/4 open, others shut, top vent 1/4 open, temps stable.

Spiked at 290 while I went to the store and wife was checking with the order to close top vent halfway. Shutting all bottom vents and leaving top 1/8th open got me back.

I’m glad I haven’t had a cook go catastrophically wrong, but I am living next to the cooker or in Bluetooth range of my probes nearly all cook.

My normal vent setup is back 2 closed, front 1 open 1/4 or less, top open 1/4 or less during the majority of the cook.

This WSM doesn’t have any mods, but is seasoned fairly well, I still get some leakby at the lid due to probe wires and at the top of the door.

My biggest problem is runaway temps...

Is anyone able to share their experiences with run away temps and how they’ve mitigated them to make future cooks more successful?

I already read the guide on the main site, my cooker is on the east side of the house so it sees the sun from sunrise to about 2pm.

I’ll figure out how to post pics eventually.

Happy BBQing!



TVWBB Hall of Fame
Hey, welcome to the site Nick!
Seems like you have plenty of experience and are well versed in this little thing we call BBQ.

And that's the thing. What we or you or me call BBQ is based on our preferences, what you call runaway temps are actually standard temps to me.:wsm:
I prefer to let the cook come to me, as in watch the meat more then the temps. And that's what I call growing up pains.:)
If I run 25 -50 degs hotter then target I start checking sooner.
I don't run an ATC or use any probes, just a turkey fryer therm in the top vent.


MikeS in Alaska

I generally let my WSM run in the 240 to 275 range, That seems to be where they settle in for the long run. And they will drift up and down in that range without damper fiddling. I run without an ATC but I use the Thermoworks Smoke 2 probe unit to monitor temps.

Fred BW

Are you sure of the accuracy of your thermometers?
If you are having problems with only one bottom,and the top open 1/4 or less. You must have some pretty good size leaks.
I smoke almost everything shooting for 275. 300 is not all that far out of the ball park.
I would barely crack all 3 bottom vents open,and open the top about 1/3. I myself use about 1/3 of lit chimney and pour it onto a loaded charcoal ring.
Here is Chris's write up on the subject.
Thanks for the feedback gents, I haven’t verified my probes yet so I will definitely pursue that.

I do have some leak by, I’m torn between doing the aftermarket probe install or just cutting a notch to help with the lid, maybe going with the Smokey bandit door or gasketing, other than that I don’t notice smoke escaping elsewhere.

My normal tolerance is 250s or so on top grate, 220s on bottom, but that’s just what a lot of recipes recommend...

Back in my kettle smoking days I used to focus on 225 and could keep it relatively easily.

So operating around 300 doesn’t affect the end product? I’m sure it differs whether we are talking about pork, beef, etc...

Thanks again!

Fred BW

I myself after experiencing some looong stalls raise the temp around the stall. I have a temp controller,and all I really have to do is turn the knob. I also wrap most everything for a period.I do try not to go above 300 but don't panic if it happens.
There are lots of threads here about high heat cooks. Especially brisket.
You should easily be able to hold 225 (or less) if your smoker is working the way it's supposed to.
BUT getting 2 big pork butts through the stall at 225 can try your patience:)
Thanks Frank,

I’ve definitely raised the temp at the tail end to meet deadlines for meals...I’ll look more into high heat cooks to improve my knowledge.


Hey Nick...I’m also a new 18.5 owner. Had it for a few months now and have had some really great cooks.

I’ve found that the WSM can be a bit picky on small loads of charcoal. I now never use less than half a load. Only on Tri-tip will I play games because a higher temp is not an issue on such a short cook.

For me, I only use water on long cooks (pork butt, brisket). For ribs and tri-tip I don’t bother because it takes too long to get the bark to set. I never try to do 225F...your target should be 250 for most long cooks and 275 or better is simply no issue. Like others have said, 235-275 is the sweet spot for these guys.

And yes, pot roast is a waste of time, regardless of the cost difference. To much invested time for, well, pot-roast.

I never use more than 15-20 brickets in my chimney. Otherwise you will get a temp spike to start out. I also have an electric water pot that I boil water in if I intend to use the water pan. Better to get that temp up right away or you might overshoot once the water boils.
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Mark Foreman

New member
I have a WSM 22 and use water. It’s a water smoker after all. I have made one change over time, when doing smaller meats or shorter cooks, I use the 22 kettle. Once I started using only one basket, I can get it to hold 250 without water for about 2 1/2 hours. The other advantage I found is I can take meat off and rest it while getting a hot fire going for reverse sear. Maybe it’s me, but to me it’s just easier.

As much as I like the 22, I too have had some challenges with smaller amounts of coal. I just figure I’m using the right tool for the job and I think it’s fun to smoke on a kettle!