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Given its history and what it has achieved since around 30,000BC, Charcoal might be one of the most underrated discoveries of all time. It was used by cavemen to draw on the walls of their homes.
It was an essential enabler of the Bronze Age in 3000BC, without it no metal would have been smelted. Around 1500 years later it was an integral part of the Iron Age.
Charcoal can produce heat of up to 1000 degrees which is far hotter than you could ever achieve with wood.
Regardless of what type of barbecue you have, it’s more than likely you use charcoal but, do you know how it’s made?
It starts with a plant or animal substance, such as wood, that has been burnt with limited oxygen and somewhere very dry.
Imagine a tree that is struck by lighting creating a fire. The tree falls to the ground and becomes partially buried by the soil.
It slowly smokes without a flame due to a lack of oxygen and eventually, it becomes charcoal.
In the past, we learned from nature and buried burning wood underground to commercially create charcoal.
Today, we use purpose-built, large kilns to help make the process more efficient. We also make two different types. Lump charcoal and briquettes. Both of which can be used on the Weber Smokey Mountain.
Let’s take a look at this amazing little lump of carbon and minerals and how it helps your WSM produce delicious smokes, every time.
Can You Burn Wood In Weber Smokey Mountain
The short answer is yes. You can burn wood in the Weber Smokey Mountain. However, the WSM is designed to use charcoal as its main fuel source. You burn wood to add the smoke flavor to your meats.
Hardwood from fruit or nut-bearing trees is the ideal type if you are looking for the best flavor. So consider apple, cherry, pecan, and oak.
How To Add More Charcoal To Weber Smokey Mountain
Regardless of how long you have been smoking it’s likely you will find yourself needing to add more charcoal at some point. Several things can affect the way your charcoal burns.
The weather can have an impact on fuel efficiency, as can the temperature of your meat at the start and whether you are cooking with the water pan or not.
It is best to start with more charcoal than you think you need but, if you run out there are two ways you can add Charcoal to the Weber Smokey Mountain.
- Through the access door – this is the safest and best option for adding more charcoal
- Lifting the lid and middle section off to access the charcoal chamber – known as the hot squat and carries a risk of burns, spills and various small disasters you want to avoid
Weber Smokey Mountain Adding Charcoal Mid Cook
If you are adding more charcoal mid-cook then your safest option is to use the access door. You will need a charcoal chute, this can be easily made from wood or metal.
You also need to consider the temperature stability, Adding unlit charcoal could cause you an issue if you are very low on lit coals.
So it is always a good idea to add the required amount to a Weber chimney starter, light it and then add this to your WSM via the charcoal chute. This way you will be able to stabilize the temperature quicker which will cause the least amount of stress to your smoke.
How Much Charcoal Weber Smokey Mountain
How much charcoal you need to add depends on what you are cooking and how long you want to cook it for.
A good starting point would be to half fill your charcoal basket with briquettes and then add half a chimney of lit bricks.
This should give you three to five hours at around 275 degrees. Practice is the key here. You may find it helpful to do some dry runs before you throw in an expensive cut of meat!
Can You Use Lump Charcoal In A Weber Smokey Mountain
Yes, you can use wither lump or briquets in your WSM. Lump charcoal is favored by some pitmasters because it is a natural fuel. Briquettes are man-made and have a few additives to help make them more fuel-efficient.
Which Type Of Charcoal Last Longest In WSM
Lump charcoal is completely natural with nothing added to it. It can reach much higher temperatures but it is not as efficient as briquettes.
You may find it harder to get a consistent result using lump coal as there are a few variables within each batch.
You may find a mix of wood types and sizes as they use multiple types of cut-offs and tree limbs. Whereas the briquettes are more uniform in shape and size.
Weber Smokey Mountain Adding Lump Charcoal
You can add lump charcoal to your Weber Smokey Mountain in the same way you add briquettes. Because the lump charcoal is better for hotter smokes, you may find you don’t need to worry about adding it mid-cook.
If you do, use a charcoal chute. You can add the lump charcoal unlit as it burns quicker and hotter.
Reloading Weber Smokey Mountain
There are two methods for reloading your Weber Smokey Mountain
- The Chute method uses the access door and is the safest way to add more fuel. It’s best to add some lit coals to ensure consistency in your temperature.
- The Hot Squat method is what it says on the tin. You remove the lid and middle section of your smoker completely. This gives you access to the charcoal chamber and you can easily add your coals and take stock of the situation. However, several things can go wrong here including personal injury. If Weber wanted you to reload like this, they would have given you some handles!
When Should You Add Charcoal To Weber Smokey Mountain?
The best time to add charcoal to your Weber Smokey Mountain is before you start to cook. Always add more than you think you will need.
How Long Does Charcoal Last In Weber Smokey Mountain?
Many factors will change how long charcoal lasts in your Weber Smokey Mountain. This includes:
- Size of your WSM
- Lump or briquettes
- The temperature outside
- Temperature of your meat
- The required temperature of your smoke chamber
- Use of water pan
Weber Smokey Mountain 18 Burn Time
On average, if smoking in optimal conditions, a full load of charcoal in your Weber Smokey Mountain 18 can burn between 12-14 hours. This depends on many factors including the type of fuel, the temperature of your burn, and outside weather conditions.
Weber Smokey Mountain 22 Burn Time
A Weber Smokey Mountain 22 can go up to 20 hours in optimal conditions and without the water pan.