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If you own the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) then you’ll already know why it has been unofficially dubbed The King Of The Coals.
This feisty smoker certainly lives up to the reputation and makes smoking your favourite foods incredibly simple.
The WSM can also be used to grill foods, so it’s versatile too!
Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned Pitmaster, the WSM will help you turn out the most delicious brisket, the juiciest pork butt, and finger-licking ribs.
If you have just purchased a Weber Smokey Mountain then a great way to get to know your new smoker is to do a couple of dry runs.
This can really help to season a smoker and, most importantly, will give you a chance to get to know how it works before throwing in your favourite joint of meat!
One of the first things you should master is the vent settings.
It’s an important part of your smoker and understanding what each vent does and what is for will ensure you get consistent results every time you get smoking.
Vents on a smoker are vital.
Their main job is to control the temperature inside.
The firebox will bring your WSM to the desired temperature, but it’s the vents that keep this steady for up to sixteen hours of cooking time!
It’s a delicate balance that is pretty simple to master once you understand the process.
There are two main vents, the intake and the exhaust.
You will find the exhaust vent on the top of your WSM.
Your intake vents are located under the firebox, once you have your fuel burning the heat will rise.
Your exhaust vent helps to create a vacuum that will draw more air under the firebox. it is this constant airflow that warms up your smoker.
During the process of your smoke, you will close off some of the intake vents.
If you close them all, your firebox will burn out, The exhaust vent needs to remain open, as well as drawing oxygen through the intake vent, it expels all the gases and smoke.
This prevents your WSM from going up in flames!
Know we know the basics, let’s take a closer look at the Weber Smokey Mountain vent settings.
How Do You Use The Weber Smokey Mountain Vents?
You will use the vents throughout the whole cooking process.
Your exhaust vent (or top vent) will be open throughout the cooking process.
Your intake vents (under the fire pit) will vary.
Once your WSM has been lit, the temperature will go up very quickly.
While it’s best not to let the temperature overshoot your target, if you find that it has you can reduce the heat by closing off all the intake vents for a little while.
It is quite important to remember that heating up your smoker is much easier than cooling it down.
While the WSM has a thermometer of its own, it can be beneficial to invest in a digital one.
This gives you a more accurate idea of the internal temperature.
You should also remember that adding meat to the smoker will bring the temperature down.
This is where the dry runs come in handy.
Each smoker is different so knowing how much heat yours loses when open or when meat is added, will give you the best results.
It’s important to remember that the outside temperature can have an effect too.
When your WSM has reached the desired temperature, you will need to close off some of your intake vents.
There are three vents here that can be independently shut.
It can take a little time to master exactly how many you need to close, or how much you need to close them to keep the temperature constant.
You will need to make adjustments, give it time to settle, then adjust again if need be.
Over time you will learn to be more accurate with this. To begin with, it involves a little trial and error.
What Are The Best Vent Settings To Use On A WSM?
Depending on what you are cooking and for how long, It is best to have your intake vents partially open through cooking, Your thermometer will help you find the right setting.
In most cases leaving one of the intake vents open will give you a good constant temperature.
Your exhaust vent should remain open at all times but you can partially close it.
The exhaust vent must be open more than the intake vents, this will encourage the airflow and expel all the gases and excess smoke.
Vent Settings For Maintaining Constant Temp In a Weber Smokey Mountain
Once your WSM reaches the temperature that you require, you should shut the vents off to around 1/3 open, leaving the exhaust vent open.
Keep an eye on the temperature for 10-15 minutes and make minor adjustments should you need.
If your temperature is dropping too low, you will need to slightly open one more of the three intake vents.
If the temperature is too high, you should close the final intake vent to half.
It may take a few goes to stabilise your temperature.
WSM Vent Settings For Hot And Fast
Hot and Fast is a great way to cook some meats such as chicken.
This involves cooking the meat right over the coals so you won’t need any water.
You want to place your meat on the top rack.
You should leave all three intake vents open, as well as the exhaust vent for the entire smoke.
WSM Vent Settings For Low And Slow
Low and slow is any cook time over four hours.
This is great for pork butt or brisket.
When cooking like this you will put your meat on the lower rack and once your temperature is stable you will have some of your intake vents closed.
The usual setting would be around 1/3 intake shut, but this will depend on the outside temperature and your smoker.
Newer smokers that haven’t been seasoned might run hot, so you may find you need to leave just half a vent open for the entire cooking time.
With a slow and low approach, make sure you check the temperature regularly.
Your exhaust vent should stay open at all times.
Positioning The Top Vent On A Weber Smokey Mountain
Your exhaust vent is located at the top of your WSM.
When cooking you should always have your top vent at least partially open.
You can close it a little to control the temperature inside the smoker, but the top vent must always stay open more than the intake vents.
Never cook with the exhaust vent completely closed.
This will stop the oxygen circulating and could cause an explosion due to the gas.
WSM Vent Setting With Minion Method
The Minion method is great for low and slow smokes.
You rely on the hot coals to slowly ignite cold coals, this reduces the need to keep adding fuel.
It will give you a longer burn time.
For this method, you would have all three of the intake vents open.
The exhaust vent will always be open. once the smoker reaches 200 degrees, close one vent, You will notice the temperature rise a little.
When this happens, close another.
You can leave the third open or adjust it accordingly to keep a steady constant temperature.
The coolest thing about the Minion Method is that it was discovered entirely by accident by a man called Jim Minion.
Jim was in a BBQ competition in the ’90s using the WSM.
It was the first time he had used this smoker but he was in a hurry so, he literally threw the instructions in the bin, chucked a handful of hot coals on the Weber and went on to win the competition.
Pretty cool, right?
Hopefully, you will feel a little more confident about your Weber Smokey Mountain vent settings now, so get out into the backyard and start your journey to becoming the greatest Pitmaster of all time!
Robert is a certified Pitmaster, with over a decade of experience in smoking the best meats you’ll ever feast upon. He also has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio. When he’s not researching technical topics, he’s most likely barbecuing in his backyard.