Lessons Learned From First Cook

Bud Brewer

New member
So last weekend I fixed 4 racks of ribs (2 St. Louis & 2 BB) and they turned out pretty well. (Sorry, no pix as I still live in the dark ages and will give up my flip phone only when I have no other options. I just don't want to pay my cell phone provider for data that I won't use.)

Anyway, my cook was much better than when I used my PBC, but had a few issues (have a 22.5 WSM). First lesson is to make sure you know your charcoal. I did practice runs w/one charcoal, but had to use another when I cooked. It was hard to light, get to temp and then hold temp. This caused the cook to go longer than expected, but was still pleased w/the final product.

Second lesson was to realize that when you drop that much cold meat in the cooker, it's going to take a bit to come up to cooking temp. Patience....

With that said, I have a question. Next cook is going to be pork butt. Planning to do 2 or 3 to feed my co-workers at the shop. Is it better to bring the cooker to a higher temp, put in the meat and let the temp drop to something hopefully near cooking temp...bring the cooker to cooking temp (looking at 225), put in the meat & let the temp drop & then come back up...or just dump the chimney and put the meat on at the same time and let it come up together? For this cook, I'm still going to run water in the pan as a cushion for temp control, but will heat it up on the stove before dumping it in the pan to help save energy from the charcoal.

Any thoughts are always appreciated. Have a good evening!


TVWBB All-Star
I like to let the smoker get around 300+ before I put the meat on. I'll run without water and shoot for around 275 °. Heating the water up b4 is a good idea, and that's what I would do when I ran with water. My advice is to don't worry too much about what temp you're running at. As long as you're over 225, sence you're using water it's not going to get too hot. To me 225° is too slow, I prefer 275+. It's a much more joyful experience when you're not worried about hitting a curtain number on your temp. Hope it goes well for ya and enjoy!

Bob Ivey

TVWBB Emerald Member
Also have a 22 and still use water after 3 years. They don't call it a water smoker for nothing. As for charcoal, most use standard Kingsford blue bag (KBB) in there smokers, not all but most. It is very consistent and easy to get all the time, and it will be on sale later this week at 2 bags for $10.00 at Home Depot and Lowes. I will be buying 5 more of those packs later next week. As for cooking temp, what works for you is the way to go. Recently I have been trying 275* but have always been comfortable at 225*.

As for your charcoal, how are you putting the charcoal in the ring? Is most of it unlit and then putting maybe 15 lit briquests? This is called the Minion Method.

Dustin Dorsey

TVWBB Honor Circle
I'm really wary of overshooting my temp on the WSM. I usually put on my meat a little before I'm at my exact preferred temp. I'll put my meat on around 200 and let it come up to 225 or so slowly. Some people just put on their meat right away. What's right? Pretty much what works for you. If I were cooking at 275 I'd probably do what S. Six is saying. I do cook at higher temps on my offset, but I prefer to run my WSM lower. It's just what I like.


TVWBB Super Fan
When I start a the WSM up in the middle of the night I just load it up. Put 10 or so lit coals on the pile. Set the vents and go back to bed. That way it all comes up to temp together and you get a little bit of cold smoking in as it warms up.
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Bud Brewer

New member
Yes, I have been using the Minion method. I load the ring w/charcoal, light about 15-20 briquettes in my chimney and dump the ash covered coals onto the charcoal in the ring. In my practice runs, I let the temp come up to 200-ish, adjusted my vents and then let it come up to 225. I did this for the rib cook as well, but when I put the meat on, my temp dropped to 120...so I panicked (as I started the cook 3 hours late & felt rushed). This caused me to play with the WSM until the temp stabilized around 215. I realize in retrospect that if I just start my cook at a reasonable time & understand that it will work out, I will enjoy the process even more.

I'm not a huge fan of KBB. It may be in my head, but I swear it gives my food a chemical taste. I do like Stubbs and Royal Oak lump, but want to try Kingford Comp briquettes sometime. Was using hardwood briquettes from Trader Joes w/great success, but the last 2 bags I picked up had a different briquette in it. It looked like this charcoal they previously sold that was made from coconut shells. Hated that stuff. Took 4 attempts in the chimney to finally light...45 min to ash over, and then kept dying out b/c (I think) the ash would not all off the coals as the cook progressed, causing the coal to smother. From now on, I will make sure I use something that I know is consistent.

I guess the lesson I need to understand is that there is many right ways to use the WSM. I just need more experience to see what works best for me.

TJ Heckman

New member
I like to wait about an hour to an hour and a half before putting meat on. I open all the vents and let it burn nice and hot. After about an hour or so, I start closing vents until I get a fairly stable desired cooking temp. By this point I have nice thin smoke, rather than the burning house look when I first light. I read somewhere that the initial heavy smoke contains a lot of creosote, and that can impact the flavor of the meat. Even on the Lang site they say to wait until the heavy smoke dies down. Not sure if this method is better than any other but it's been working for me in my short smoking career. I've also tried Kingsford briquettes as well as Royal Oak lump with indiscernible differences. Now I just stick to lump because it's less processed.

Keith R

..or just dump the chimney and put the meat on at the same time and let it come up together? For this cook, I'm still going to run water in the pan as a cushion for temp control, but will heat it up on the stove before dumping it in the pan to help save energy from the charcoal.


First off, I would not toss the meat and the straight from the chimney charcoal on at the same time. Like TJ said, I wait about an hour or a bit more. For me the first 45-60 minutes after I dump the chimney coals I get billowing smoke.

Finally, heating the water on the stove seems like a lot of work. I use as hot as I can get it from the tap tap water and I think it is hot enough. just my 2 cents


TVWBB Super Fan
I have never licked a chimney, a post or a rail road tie so I have no idea what creosote tastes like. I attribute bitter tasting smoked food as being over smoked, not smoked with the wrong color of smoke.