Herecy!!! I know, but I made an electric WSM.....


David Ward

I've been doing something different for lower temp smokes of sausages & snack sticks in my WSM. I've been using a 1,100 watt el-cheapo Walmart counter top heating element that sits on the fire ring in concert with a pellet tray. That little element would go up to 185 degrees so it was great for smoking at lower temps and then finishing snack sticks and such. I had not modified the counter top heating element and it did still have the thermal limiter installed (I think I paid about $10 at Walmart).

I thought it would be nice to have something that gives me the option of a lower temp smoke that is also stable and controllable (more so than a small pile of charcoals). Electric seems to fit that bill nicely and it also does not add moisture to the air like an LP conversion would (although LP would fit the control-ability requirement). I wanted something that was not a permanent modification to the WSM and would not affect it's use as designed during charcoal smokes.

I bought a Brinkmann element thinking I could use it with a PID to make a damn nice unit for the WSM. It fits, but the way the wire exits the metal plate under the element, it was an issue with my charcoal grate. It would not simply sit on the grate or the fire ring. Also I would have to cut a new opening for the cord to exit as the plug was wider than any of the vent holes. So I kept this in the back of my mind thinking a better solution was out there. But the Brinkmann was doable with modifications (and I had to build a controller unless I wanted full heat all the time).

Then one day was I was browsing replacement heating elements and saw a "universal" replacement element from River Country that was sold on Amazon (I included the link since Amazon is a forum sponsor).

This unit had a removable controller and the element had flanges on both sides for bolting into a smoker. It looks like a clone of the Old Smokey elements and controllers. Only difference was the Old Smokey ones sold for around $70 a set and this one was $39.50 and shipped for free via amazon.

There was a photo showing the element measurements on the amazon page, and it should fit diagonally through the WSM door opening. Ok, I'm a little ahead of my self on that point. When I bought my WSM in 2005, the original door had a hairline stamping crack on the raised section under the knob. Smoke leaked out this crack. Weber sent me a replacement, however by the time I received it a week or so later, I had used the smoker a couple of times and the smoke had filled in the hairline crack. Also I'm a lot less anal about smoke leaks not than I was when I was a newbie. So I had a brand new WSM door in storage. My thought was I could bolt this element to the extra door and simply change out the door to switch from charcoal to electric and still have some degree of temp control without building a PID. Sounded like a winner!

So fast forward a few weeks. Element is here, I dug the "new" door out of storage (that involved a complete cleaning out of the garage - in retrospect it would have been easier to buy a new door for $20, but it's done).

So here is the electric WSM mod......

Heating element & controller (element is said to be a 1,300 watt unit).

Closeup of control unit - not "precise" in it's markings but it should due for the task intended.

Mark the WSM door for cutting. I used the flange as a template.

Element installed in the door. I used a Dremel tool with a flat cutting wheel to cut the opening. Then drilled two holes for the 8x32 bolts.

I used stainless hardware to attache the flanges

Installed on the WSM. Just swap out the door, turning the element diagonal through the opening. Turn upright and close the door when clear.

For now the legs on the far end of the element are sitting on an extra charcoal grate on top of the fire ring. I do have some flat stock I bought to make a U-bracket to extend them to rest on the bottom fire grate. I left it like this for this test.

Element is well centered in the WSM body.

Clean look for the mod, and it can be reversed by putting back in the other door.

This is after 30 minutes of warm up with all vents open on highest setting.

Should work great for snack stick and sausage. I did also try it at lower dial settings. It held 125 and 155 with no problems and should hold anything in between. I have not taken this thermometer out and tested calibration in years, but I do remember it reads about 20* lower than both my BBQ Guru and Maverick probe at the food grate. So I would think the 235* on the dial unit is more like 255* at the grate. This should work great for what I want!!!

Yeah, I know.... that nice shiny door means I need to clean the rest of the smoker (outside at least).
Well, if you're going to put an elec heating element in a WSM that would be how to do it. Looks like a clean install.
Time permitting, I may throw together some Kielbasa this weekend and give it a run on the e-WSM.

Here are some photos from a smoke I did a few weeks ago using the Walmart counter top hot plate as a "proof of concept". Used only the electric counter top element as my heat source. I stepped the heat up like normal using the dial on the unit. Element is on the fire grate. I put a 2nd fire grate on top of the fire ring and set the pellet tray on that with a folded piece of aluminum underneath to keep any ash from dropping on the element. I also used the Weber WSM sausage rack to hold the sausage. These were an experiment where I took a stab at recreating a recipe from Diner's Drive-in's and Dives. It's the Las Vegas, Road Kill Grill, hot links.

The Walmart hot plate only got up to about 185-190* at the grate where the e-WSM is hitting 255*. Should work much better and be easier to dial the temps up in stages with the e-WSM mod. With the hot plate, I had to take the body off, take the extra fire grate with pellet tray off, fiddle with the temp dial and put it back together. If the temp was not where I wanted it, I had to repeat. The external setting is a no brainer.

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Nope, not heresy... I think this is excellent! Really excited about this innovative cold smoking idea! Thanks for sharing!
There seems to be no limit to the innovations that we see here on this Web Site. Chris, you have created a monster (and I LOVE it:cool:).

This looks extremely practical in most every way...

Keep on smokin',
where's the best place to get doors? I just looked at the cajun bandit doors, they look expensive and stainless is hard to work with... I'm wanting to try this---managing a small fire or a snake,,,, not exactly my strong points (why I haven't made jerky on my wsm yet) sells the Weber doors. I just checked and prices vary from $15 to $20 (shipping varies also) from more than one sub-shop on amazon. You could also call Weber and order one.

Mine came with a stress crack in the stamping when I bought it in 2005. I called Weber and they shipped me a new door under warranty, but before it arrived, the smoke from use had filled in the crack and I never bothered to replace it. So I had a spare door on hand when I came up with this idea.

One other thing to consider is my WSM is the old style and had the shallow water pan. I have plenty of clearance between the heating element and the water pan. If you are modifying a new style WSM with the larger pan, I would open the door and make sure you will have clearance for this mod before ordering any parts.
Clint, you probably already thought of this, but buy the CB door and use it for charcoal smoking, and use the old WSM door for the conversion.