Smoking 101 for Memorial Day Weekend

Smoking 101 for Memorial Day Weekend

The world of BBQ is one special place to live in. When I started getting into charcoal grilling, I enjoyed every second of my experience.  From the ceremonial lighting of charcoal, to smoke filling my backyard, followed by grilling and roasting countless meals over the live fire in my Weber Kettle. I was truly in love.  Then…I discovered the world of smoking meats on Weber’s Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker, where I fell in LOVE all over again! 

So you’ve gone ahead and purchased a Weber Smoker, you may ask what’s next?  I’m going to give you some tips below to get you up and started.

Assembly will come first and I assure you, it’s simple and painless.  Just follow the step-by-step instructions and you’ll be ready to rock and roll in under an hour.

Now you may ask, how does the smoker work?  The DNA is made up of 5 main components, which in turn are the reason I believe it performs better than any other.

1. Lid, Mid-Section, and Bowl.  Just like our kettles, the Weber Smoker is made of high quality steel coated in porcelain enamel.  This glass-like coating will help maintain a steady and even temperature despite whatever elements, be rust and scratch resistant, and protect it for a very long time in your backyard. The bullet shape of the smoker allows for optimal convectional heat throughout the unit.

2. Damper System.  You will notice three dampers on the bottom bowl and one on the top bowl.  Majority of the time you will set the three bottom dampers in the beginning of your cook and you will use your top damper to regulate temperature.

3. Two Cooking Grates equals maximum CAPACITY!  What’s great about Weber Smokers is the ability to smoke a lot of food all at once.  Feel like doing pork shoulder and brisket at the same time?  Not a problem when you have two cooking grates!

4. The Water Bowl.  I like to refer to the water bowl as the heart of the smoker. When you fill the bowl with water it sits over the hot coals and acts as a baffle, which pushes the heat around the inside of the smoker, enveloping your food with that Smokey low and slow heat.  It also provides moisture inside the unit to keep your food from drying out over time. If you notice the temperature of your smoker is rising, the first thing would be to check the water pan.  Over long periods of time the water can evaporate, so just simply add more to bring the temperature back down.

5. Charcoal Grate and Charcoal Chamber.  The charcoal grate is where you will place all wood and charcoal. The charcoal chamber is important for keeping the coals in a centralized region on the charcoal grate, so when the charcoal forms to ash you don’t have to worry about that ash clogging the bottom dampers and disrupting the airflow. 

Other TIPS:

  • When lighting any Weber smoker always uses a chimney starter.  The amount of charcoal you light in your chimney will vary depending on the size of your smoker.   After 10-15 minutes, once the charcoal has ashed over, place the lit Chimney on the low cooking grate of the smoker. Then grab your wood chunks and place them on the bottom charcoal grate and top wood with unlit charcoal. After that go back and grab your lit chimney and pour evenly over the top of the unlit charcoal. The idea here is to slowly burn the charcoal from top to bottom, while smoldering the wood chunks and NOT burning the wood chunks.  After the charcoal is set, place the mid-section of the smoker on top and add water into the water pan.  Then place the top lid on, open the top damper, check that the bottom dampers are set, and preheat to desired temperature. Please remember to wear grill gloves during this process.

  •  Clean smoke is your friend.  We’re looking for a light white smoke, not a heavy white smoke or a black smoke.   A lot of times people will put too much wood into their smokers and it will burn creating a heavy dark smoke penetrating the food.  This will give you that bitter taste, so just be cautious of how much wood you use and how you set up the charcoal and wood inside the smoker.
  • The basic temperature range for smoking is 225-275, which is easy to read on the top thermometer.  If you set the smoker up correctly, it should be able to maintain whatever temperature you need consistently for hours on end. 
  • You will notice the grommet hole on the side of the smoker. Simply stick your thermometer probe in through this grommet and insert into your meat.  This will allow you to see the internal temperature of the meat without opening the top lid.  Every time you open the lid moisture and heat escape, so try keeping it closed as much as possible.  Remember, looking isn’t cooking!
  • If you happen to notice your charcoal is burning out and the temperature is dropping, you can conveniently add more charcoal through the front door without taking the hot smoker apart.

I assure you the experience your about to have with your Weber Smoker will create memories for a lifetime.  Grill on!

What are your thoughts? (3)


Gordon M

Just purchased a 22" WSM. Always heard a picture is worth a thousand words. There were no step by step instructions


Kelsey Heidkamp

Hi Gordon! Congrats on your new smoker! It should have come with an assembly guide and an owner's manual. You can download these on our website by clicking here: If you're looking for great recipes to try on your smoker, click here: I hope this helps!



Here's a great way to deal with the ashes when done. Remove the grates, dip out the remaining water with a large spoon or ladle, then with grill gloves remove the water bowl; remove the front door panel & leave the lid off. This will act as an updraft to the remaining coals and they'll burn themselves out completely in a few hours. The next day we put the ashes in a small metal garbage can with a lid, seal it to snuff out any remaining hot ashes and later, dump into the main garbage can.


Kelsey Heidkamp

Hi Lee!

Great tip, thanks for sharing!



Edward J

Thank you Kelsey! Those are awesome tips and tricks. They sure helped me out with my 18.5 WSM. What's a good rule of thumb for how much wood chunks you should use?


Kelsey Heidkamp

Good rule of thumb: Less is more
Be aware of what type of wood your using and how many chunks you add of each. Hickory is a more pungent wood and Apple is a more subtle wood, so a way to gauge not putting in too many strong wood chunks is to blend wood types. For example, you can add 6 chunks of apple to 3 chunks of hickory for a nice blend. A simple X shape of wood chunks layered on the bottom grate will be plenty to start and then gauge from there your preference.


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