Smoke Signals

The other day I came across an article that discussed the history of smoke signals. One particularly interesting section mentioned how the smoke signal is one of the world's oldest forms of communication. Instantly, I thought about grilling (of course) and how nowadays smoke signals provide a way for our grills to talk to us.

If you're grilling like a true Weber enthusiast, you know your lid must stay closed while cooking. This keeps heat inside and allows the grill to cook your food the way it was designed to. However, with the lid closed, you can't see what's happening inside of the grill. To remedy this problem, we have lots of tools that help us understand what's going on at any given time.

We use timers to help remind us when our food is done, and meat thermometers to help ensure our meal is grilled to the appropriate doneness. But one simple, and often overlooked indicator, is the color of smoke. This is where paying close attention can make all the difference in your grilling results.

Smoke is a natural part of grilling, and it infuses foods with that woodsy, BBQ flavor we all love. White colored smoke coming out of the grill signals that the food is being grilled correctly. At this point, just relax and let the grill do its job. But black smoke is a signal that the grill needs to be adjusted. It could mean that you have some flare-ups occurring inside the grill.

If this is the case, don't worry. Just open the lid and move your food to an indirect area on the grill. Then, lower the temperature inside the grill by either closing the vents on a charcoal grill or turning the controls knobs to medium or low on a gas grill.

That's about it! So let's recap:

Step 1: Pay attention and read the smoke signals.
Step 2: Adjust your grill if necessary.

This simple knowledge will help ensure that your grilling is done to perfection, every single time. Now get out there and fire things up!

What are your thoughts? (8)


Mike F

Kevin, recently purchased the SMC and tried my first turkey. At the start the smoker was at 250 degrees. Once the meat had a chance to warm I added the wood chips. From that point on the temp dropped to 200 and I could not get it back up. I added more charcoal. More pre-lit charcoal, and at no time did I remove the lid. I tried about every configuration on the vents you could think of. I read where people are smoking various kinds of meats for different lengths of time, which requires opening the lid and losing heat, and still have everything done at the same time. How are they getting the heat back up so quickly? I'm using the same charcoal I used in my old Coleman where maintaining heat for 12-14 hours was never a problem. Any suggestions?


Kevin Kolman

Hi Mike,

Congratulations on the Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker. It is one of my favorites, so much so that I own 8 of them! Sounds like you were on the right track with 250 degrees. The temperature will drop when food is on and usually takes 15-20 minutes to equalize and begin to go back up. I like opening the vents in the bowl a quarter of the way open and the lid vent half way. I control temperatures from the lid vent, not the bottom vents. I like those staying a quarter of the way open at all times. If I continue to have lower temperatures, I adjust the lid vent only. If that's all the way open, I then will open each bottom vent to half way. One thing you did not mention was the water pan. Usually for 6-8 hour smokes, add 2-2.5 liters of water. For longer smokes, 14-16 hour, add 3-4 liters of water. If you had to much water in the water pan that could have caused the temperatures to be a little low. I will tell you it does take some time for the smoker to get back up to temperature, say 10-15 minutes. Overtime you will get very good at it, all it takes is practice. Hope this helps. Happy Holidays and Happy Grilling!


Joel B

I'm experimenting with the air vents on my Smokey mountain smoker but would love on where to start in terms of how far to open them. I started with both the upper and lower vents about half way open. The heat seemed very high when I first assembled the smoker over the brackets that had turned grey. The heat then dropped and I opened all the vents (upper and lower) all the way open and it has been holding at 225 very consistently. Does that sound right?


Kevin Kolman

Hi Nosehair :
This is a great question. Here are a couple of tips I can give you from my experience. I usually start with the bottom dampers open about a quarter of an inch and with the top damper opened all the way. I then adjust the temperature of the smoker using this top damper—leaving the bottom damper opened at a quarter of an inch. Also make sure you have enough charcoal fuel and water in water pan because this will really effect the temperature of the smoker over time. In the end as long as you can keep your Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, in the you are on the right tract. Keep up the good work and Happy Smoking!!-Kevin


Lisa L

Bought a Weber kettle after one that was free wore out and the only complaint is the handles could do better by being wood. We replaced the handles on the old one with wood and they tend to stay cooler. No other complaints about it love the vent control we have with it and the long handle that has replaced the little spinner on the bottom...



I just bought Weber Grill Spray to try on our new gas grill, it was the worst spray I have ever bought. The food stuck to the grill after using half a can we gave up and switched back to PAM. Don't buy it, cost is almost $3.00 a can and it doesn't work.


Jeff H

Kevin, Yesterday, I just purchase the 2290 Rotisserie for my Performer. The whole chicken was very juicy last night. Does Weber offer additional forks hold two whole chickens at the same time, or is there away to arrange both chickens by using only two forks?

Re: Phil's post from Dec 22, 2010, you should let others know that the grate hangs nicely from the Tuck Away lid holder by hanging it over the center tab of the lid holder.

Thanks, Hoppy


Kevin Kolman

Hoppy, Weber does offer the option to purchase additional forks for the charcoal rotisserie. The part number should be 88967. Just keep in mind that the rotisserie motor has a weight capacity of 20 pounds. Give Weber’s customer service a call at 800-446-1071 to order the extra forks. As an FYI go to the help section and under schematics you can search for all Weber grill parts and accessories. Congrats on the tip and getting a 2290. Happy Grilling.-Kevin


Dale N

Just bought a Smokey Mountain Smoker and already have a questiion before putting a fire in it. Type of fuel to use? Weber manual recommends charcoal briquets while I have friends that use only lump coal. Can you help explain the differance?


Kevin Kolman

Glad to hear you bought your first Smokey Mountain Cooker smoker. I have a couple of them myself and they have to be one my favorite Weber products. Your question about what type of fuel to use is one I get all the time. There are a couple of different fuel types you can use on a Weber smoker. You can use charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal. There are advantages to using either one although Weber recommends using charcoal briquettes for the best results. The reason is that charcoal briquettes burn more consistent and longer than lump charcoal. Charcoal briquettes are produced from wood products with binders and fillers which give them their shape. These features also give charcoal briquettes the ability to burn longer and to be a more consistent heat source over time. However others prefer lump charcoal because of its natural form. This fuel source does not contain the binders or fillers of a charcoal briquette and therefore is considered a more ìnaturalî fuel. Given this fact, lump charcoal tends to burn hotter and much faster than a charcoal briquette. This causes lump charcoal to burn for a much shorter period of time. Lump charcoal is not a uniform shape so the pieces can be small, big, long or short. This causes some inconsistency in temperatures over time. Consistency and temperatures are two major factors that will give you the best results when smoking. You will see that maintaining temperatures in your smoker is much easier when using charcoal briquettes. Hopefully that helps, good luck and enjoy the new Weber grill!!-Kevin


john b

I just got a smokey mountain smoker for Christmas. However, I am used to electric and liked that a lot since you did not have to horse around adding charcoal or wood. Thus a couple questions-- in the smoker-- do you have to use charcoal? Can you use oak wood? Secondly have you seen an electric element that could heat the water?


Philip R

Dear Weber, I have a Weber Performer and I love it (this is my 3rd weber), but have a complaint. When I am preparing the charcole (maintenance) I do not have a place to hang the dirty Grilling Rack. I normally lean the rack against the frame of the Grill but it leaves grease on the frame. I went to my local Lowes and purchased the Weber style Stainless Steel tools holder #306431 and put it on the back side of the grill lid holder. All I had to do to secure it was hang the tool holder over the Kettle lid support and crimp the tabs around the lid support brace. No holes to drill and it does not rub the Kettle lid when opened. Pass this along to the design team as ask them to put a rack holder on the next generation of the Performer. Happy Holiday's Phil


Kevin Kolman

Gatorsportsnut, What an outstanding gift to receive for Christmas! Sounds like you already have a solid background in smoking and the Weber smoker will raise this level to all new heights. Weber recommends using charcoal briquettes inside the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker smoker. From my experience briquettes give you a very solid fuel source that can last you up to 6-8 hours if used correctly. You can extend smoking times by adding more charcoal and water either at the beginning of the smoking process or throughout the process. That is completely up to you. Weber also recommends that you use wood chunks throughout the grilling process. Just make sure you know how pungent each type of wood is before smoking something on the smoker. If you use to much of a certain type of wood the food your are smoking can have a very bitter taste to it. For your second question concerning an electric element that will heat the water, there is no need for one. The heat from the charcoal will help heat up the water. The high capacity water pan does a couple different things during the smoking process. One, it helps regulate temperatures throughout the smoking process. Two, it helps circulate air up to the food you are smoking. This helps keep the temperatures inside the smoker constant throughout the smoking process. If you need any more information please check out This site is a great resource for information concerning the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker. Congratulations on the great gift and good luck with your new Weber!! -Kevin


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