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Learning how to control the temperature on the Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM for short) was a challenge for me. The WSM was my first smoker and I had never used charcoal before. As much as I was intimidated by the thought of using charcoal, I pushed forward.
After a few tries, I found out that using charcoal and controlling the temperatures on a Weber Smokey Mountain is pretty easy! The WSM is a great smoker and holds its temperature very well, so I rarely had to make adjustments to maintain smoking temperatures.
In this article, we will go over how to use the vents to control the temperature of your Weber Smokey Mountain.
How To Use The Vents On The Weber Smokey Mountain?
On your Weber Smokey Mountain, there are a total of 4 vents. One exhaust vent on the lid and 3 intake vents at the base of the smoker.
The exhaust vent is, as the name suggests, a vent that allows the smoke to exit the smoker. This vent should be left open all the way during the entire smoke. This vent is for pulling the air and smoke from the fire, up to the cooking chamber and out of the smoker. This flow is crucial to getting that smoke flavor we desire.
The 3 intake vents on the base of the WSM, are where air is let in to feed your fire. Any temperature control you do will always be done with these 3 vents! Understanding how to adjust these vents, comes from understanding how a fire burns.
A fire needs oxygen to burn and without it, the fire dies out. The more oxygen you give a fire, the hotter it is going to burn. Likewise, the less oxygen you give a fire, the cooler it will burn. By opening and closing the vents on the side, we can control how much air our fire is getting.
How To Increase The Temperature On Your Weber Smokey Mountain?
To increase the temperature in the Weber Smokey Mountain, open the 3 bottom vents on the smoker by making small adjustments. It will take about 15 minutes to see the temperature of your smoker come up.
The more open the vents are, the more air your fire is receiving and the hotter it will get. Just be careful as it doesn’t take much adjustment to raise the temperature. If you open the vents too much your Weber Smokey Mountain will run too hot.
How To Lower The Temperature On Your Weber Smokey Mountain?
To lower the temperature on your Weber Smokey Mountain, partially close the 3 bottom vents, restricting the amount of air the fire can receive. Make small adjustments as necessary and never close your vents completely.
As stated above, it takes about 15 minutes from the time you adjust the vent to the time you see your smoker’s temperature stabilize. Be patient and do not over adjust.
Vent Settings For The Weber Smokey Mountain?
Now that we know how the vents work, as well as how to raise and lower the temperature, how far open or closed do we leave the vents on the Weber Smokey Mountain?
There are many factors that affect how hot your Weber Smokey Mountain runs, but as a good rule of thumb, you should leave your 3 bottom vents at about the width of a pencil. This gives your fire the right amount of air to run between 225° and 275° Fahrenheit.
I find that my WSM tends to run hot, so I typically end up closing one of the 3 bottom vents. Always start with the pencil rule and adjust your smoker accordingly.
Factors Effecting Your Weber Smokey Mountain’s Temperature?
When understanding how to control the temperature of your Weber Smokey Mountain, it is important to know what factors affect your WSM temperature so you can adjust the vents accordingly.
Is it cold, hot, rainy? The type of weather is going to play a huge factor in your smoker’s temperature and how you use your vents.
If it is cold outside or raining, your smoker is going to need to run hotter to maintain smoking temperatures. When smoking in these conditions, it is important to open your vents more than you would typically to give your fire that extra airflow.
Contrary to that, if it is hot outside, your Weber Smokey Mountain won’t need much airflow at all to maintain it temperature. In fact, if your smoker is sitting in direct sunlight on a hot day, you might have a hard time keeping your temperatures under control.
Under hot conditions, you can close the vents more than you typically would. Just remember not to close them too much otherwise you will get dirty smoke.
Amount And Type Of Charcoal:
There are two types of charcoal used for smoking meat, lump charcoal and charcoal briquettes. Lump charcoal tends to burn hotter and faster, so when using this type of charcoal, you may need to close your vents down a little more to keep your temperatures within smoking range.
Additionally, how much charcoal you use greatly affects your smoker’s temperature. Using too much charcoal will cause your Weber Smokey Mountain to run too hot making it almost impossible to bring your temperatures back down by closing the vents.
Wind is very annoying to deal with when smoking meat. Not only does it cause constant temperature fluctuations, but it causes your smoker to use more fuel. When smoking meat, try to shield or block the wind from your smoker as much as you can.
If you are not able to shield your smoker from the wind, you will most likely have to open your vents to get more airflow into your smoker.
When smoking on the Weber Smokey Mountain, it is important to understand how these factors affect your smoker’s temperature so you can properly adjust your vents. While temperature control might be difficult at first, stick with it. It gets easier the more you smoke!
And remember make small adjustments and give them time to adjust the temperature!
How To Tell What Temperature The Weber Smokey Mountain Is At?
The Weber Smokey Mountain comes with a built-in temperature gauge on the lid. While you can use this to read the temperature of your Weber Smokey Mountain, we find that the best way to get an accurate temperature reading is by using a Bluetooth thermometer.
We don’t like to use the temperature gauge on the lid because, like most smokers, it isn’t completely accurate. Because of where to temperature probe sits, it is not reading the temperatures at grate level where your food actually cooks.
In some cases, this can end up being a 25° difference. The best way to get an accurate temperature reading, is to use a Bluetooth thermometer to measure the temperature at grate level.
There are many great, and affordable options on the market. I personally really like the Chugod Bluetooth thermometer on Amazon. It is an affordable, and easy to use thermometer with up to 6 probes that allows you to monitor temperatures from your phone. No more getting up and walking outside to constantly check!
Not only does it allow you to track temperatures from your phone, but you can use the app to set temperature limits and ranges. When the smoker hits that target temperature or goes outside of that range, it will automatically alert you. It really takes the stress out of smoking meat.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. Controlling your Weber Smokey Mountain might be difficult at first, but it gets much easier every smoke. Once you get the process down, you shouldn’t have to make many adjustments, if any at all!