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New 18-1/2" and 22-1/2"
Weber Smokey Mountain Cookers for 2009

Originally posted: 09/01/2008
Last updated: 02/21/2014

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In this topic:

The WSM you cook on in 2008 is essentially the same product people were cooking on back in 1981. With the exception of changing some rust-prone steel parts to aluminum and changing the lid handle from wood to plastic, it's basically the same product after all these years.

It's been a great product that has served us well, but for many years we've been hoping for some product improvements and innovation. A bigger cooker with greater cooking capacity, a built-in thermometer, a bigger, more stable water pan, a better access door, and a charcoal grate that doesn't drop charcoal into the bottom of the bowl.

Well, your prayers have been answered!

The new 2009 18-1/2" and 22-1/2" Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smokers

The new 2009 18-1/2" and 22-1/2" Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smokers

In October 2008, Weber introduced an improved 18-1/2" Smokey Mountain Cooker and a new, larger 22-1/2" Smokey Mountain Cooker.

Pricing & Availability

These cookers began shipping in mid-November, 2008 and can be ordered from Amazon.com:

22-1/2" Features

  • Two 22" cooking grates
  • Built-in lid thermometer with 1.5" stem
    • Temperature range of 100-350°F in 5°F increments
  • Additional handle on edge of lid to assist with lifting
  • Larger 4-1/4" vent dampers, each with four 3/4" holes
  • Improved access door
    • Taller, much wider door opening
    • Door handle indicates locked position
    • Latching mechanism pulls door tight to middle cooking section
    • Clever new design allows the door to be removed entirely or have it open downward but still attached to the cooker—without hinges
  • Improved water pan
    • 3 gallon capacity
    • More solid fit on grill straps
  • Sturdier legs
  • Improved charcoal grate prevents charcoal from falling through into the bowl
  • Larger charcoal chamber holds an entire warehouse club-sized bag of briquettes
  • More headroom between the top cooking grate and the lid, and more space between the top and bottom cooking grates
  • Heat shield mounted to the legs under the charcoal bowl protects patio or deck
  • Improved packaging protects the product during journey from factory to front porch
  • Updated owners manual operating instructions and modern recipes

18-1/2" Features

  • Built-in lid thermometer with 1.5" stem
    • Temperature range of 100-350°F in 5°F increments
  • Improved access door
    • Door handle indicates locked position
    • Latching mechanism pulls door tight to middle cooking section
    • Clever new design allows the door to be removed entirely or have it open downward but still attached to the cooker—without hinges
  • Improved water pan
    • 2.5 gallon capacity
    • More solid fit on grill straps
    • Less headroom between bottom of water pan and charcoal chamber
  • Sturdier legs
  • Improved charcoal grate prevents charcoal from falling through into the bowl
  • Heat shield mounted to the legs under the charcoal bowl protects patio or deck
  • Improved packaging protects the product during journey from factory to front porch
  • Updated owners manual operating instructions and modern recipes

Detailed Specs

Model 721001 18-1/2" Model 731001 22-1/2"
Height 41-1/2" 48-1/2"
Width 18-7/8" 22-7/8"
Weight 37 pounds 52 pounds
Top cooking grate 17-1/2"
240-1/2 sq. in.
21-1/2"
363 sq. in.
Bottom cooking grate 17"
227 sq. in.
20-3/4"
338 sq. in.
Distance between cooking grates 7-1/2" 9"
Water pan 14-3/8" x 7"
2.5 gallons
18-3/4" x 4-1/4"
3 gallons
Distance between water pan and charcoal grate 5-3/4" 12-1/2"
Charcoal chamber 14-1/2" x 4-3/4" 17" x 4-3/4"
Charcoal grate 15-1/4" 18-1/4"
Distance between charcoal grate and bottom of charcoal bowl 4-1/2" 5-1/4"
Lid 18-1/2" OD x 13" (including handle)
10-1/2" between inside top of lid and top cooking grate
22-1/2" OD x 14-5/16" (including handle)
11-13/16" between inside top of lid and top cooking grate
Lid damper One 3" damper with three 3/4" holes One 4-1/4" damper with four 3/4" holes
Thermometer 100-350°F, 5°F increments
1-1/2" stem
100-350°F, 5°F increments
1-1/2" stem
Thermometer hole in lid 3/8" 3/8"
Middle cooking section 18-3/4" OD / 17-5/8" ID x 17-1/2"
6" between screw holes
22-7/8" OD / 21-3/4" ID x 21-1/2"
7-1/4" between screw holes
Access opening 7-1/4" x 10" 12-3/4" x 13-7/8"
Access door 8-1/8" x 11-5/8" 14" x 16-1/4"
Access door knob 3" long 3" long
Charcoal bowl 18-1/2" OD x 10" (without legs), 12-3/8" (with legs) 22-5/8" OD x 12" (without legs), 14-1/4" (with legs)
Charcoal bowl dampers Three 3" dampers with three 3/4" holes Three 4-1/4" dampers with four 3/4" holes
Legs Three, 11-1/2" x 1-1/2" Three, 13-1/4" x 2"

Videos on YouTube

Weber was kind enough to provide a pre-production version of the 22-1/2" WSM so I could cook on it and provide feedback. You can watch my comments as I open the box for the first time and assemble the cooker, and see a comparison between the old 18-1/2" WSM and the new 22-1/2" WSM.

22-1/2" Photo Gallery

Click thumbnails for larger images.

WSM front view WSM top view Close-up of lid handle, damper, and thermometer Close-up of lid handle and vent damper Overhead view of lid handle, damper, and thermometer
Close-up of lid vent damper Close-up of lid edge handle Close-up of thermometer Thermometer and bezel removed from lid Thermometer inside lid
View of lid edge handle and access door View of access door Close-up of access door knob View of open access door Access door hanging from side of WSM
Close-up of access door detail Close-up of access door latch View of leg, bowl damper, and heat shield Close-up of leg Profile view of leg
View of legs, damper, and heat shield View into middle cooking section Water pan in middle cooking section Close-up of water pan and grill strap Charcoal grate
Charcoal chamber on charcoal grate Bottom cooking grate Top cooking grate Two nested Weber rib racks Two Weber chimney starters on charcoal grate

18-1/2" vs. 22-1/2" Comparison Photos

Smaller parts are 18-1/2" parts, larger parts are 22-1/2" parts.

Click thumbnails for larger images.

Overhead view of water pans Side view of water pans Detail of water pan lip Overhead of nested top cooking grates Overhead of nested bottom cooking grates
Overhead of charcoal grates Overhead of nested charcoal grates Overhead of charcoal chambers Overhead of nested charcoal chambers Nested charcoal chambers inside bowl


Test Cook #1

6 Slabs Pork Loin Back Ribs - Total weight approximately 13 pounds
August 11, 2008

I fired the 22-1/2" WSM using the Minion Method and a 9-pound bag of Kingsford charcoal briquettes. I spread 40 hot coals over the unlit briquettes, added 3 chunks of apple wood, and put 2 gallons of water into the pan.

The 6 slabs of ribs were cooked on the top cooking grate using a Weber rib rack, 4 slabs in the rack and 2 slabs on either side, flat on the grate.

With all the vents wide open, it took about an hour for the cooker to rise to 225°F. I was able to easily control temperature over the next few hours until these ribs were tender.

You will notice that there was very little fuel left over after I shut down the cooker. This may be due to the out-of-round condition exhibited by this pre-production unit. Having said that, I think this cooker generally uses more fuel because of its larger size and dampers.

The first 3 photos below show a comparison of ribs on the old WSM and the new 22-1/2" WSM.

Click thumbnails for larger images.

Ribs flat on grate, 18" left, 22" right
18-1/2" left,
22-1/2" right
Ribs in rib rack, 18" left, 22" right
18-1/2" left,
22-1/2" right
Rolled ribs on grate, 18" left, 22" right
18-1/2" left,
22-1/2" right
FireStarter cubes on charcoal grate Lighting the chimney starter
Unlit charcoal in the charcoal chamber Hot coals spread over unlit briquettes Smoke wood place on hot coals Foiled water pan inside cooker Front view of ribs in rib rack
Side view of ribs in rib rack Open access door during cooking process Finished ribs in the cooker Leftover fuel after cooking Ashes in bottom of bowl


Test Cook #2

6 Beer Can Chickens - About 5 pounds each, total weight 30 pounds
August 15, 2008

I fired the 22-1/2" WSM using 7 pounds of Duraflame lump charcoal. I spread a hot chimney full of lump over the unlit lump, added 3 chunks of cherry wood, and put 2 gallons of water into the pan.

Three chickens went onto both the top and bottom cooking grates. The cooker immediately jumped past 250°F, and even with all the bottom vents fully closed, the cooker ran in the 260-270°F range for 90 minutes before drifting down to 245-250°F and stayed there 2-1/2 hours until these chickens were done. I never did open the bottom vents.

The first 2 photos below show a comparison of beer can chicken on the old WSM and the new 22-1/2" WSM.

Click thumbnails for larger images.

Beer can chickens on bottom grate, 18" left, 22" right
18-1/2" left,
22-1/2" right
Chickens touch
top grate on 18-1/2"
Beer can chickens on top grate, 18" left, 22" right
18-1/2" left,
22-1/2" right
Overhead view of 4 beer can chickens on 22" top grate FireStarter cubes on charcoal grate Lighting a chimney full of lump charcoal
Hot lump in chimney Three chunks of cherry wood Hot coals spread over unlit lump Smoke wood on top of hot coals Six chickens on cooker
Overhead view of 6 chickens in cooker Close-up of thermometer Finished chicken in cooker Fuel leftover after cooking  


Test Cook #3

6 Pork Butts - Total untrimmed weight approximately 45 pounds
August 22, 2008

I fired the 22-1/2" WSM using the Minion Method and a 21.6-pound bag of Kingsford charcoal briquettes. I spread 50 hot coals over the unlit briquettes, added 4 chunks of apple wood, and put 2 gallons of water into the pan.

Three pork butts went onto both the top and bottom cooking grates. As with the ribs before and with all the vents wide open, it took almost an hour for the cooker to rise to 230°F. The cooker ran in the 225-250°F range easily for another 5 hours, but during the remaining 5-1/2 hours the cooker languished around 200°F, even with all the bottom vents wide open, stirring the coals twice to rejuvenate them, and having used foil to fill the out-of-round gaps at the beginning of the cook.

I was able to finish the butts successfully, but with the cooker temperature drifting below 200°F and with very little fuel left. I need to explore different methods to see how to get more than 11-1/2 hours of cooking time.

The first photo below show a comparison of pork butts on the old WSM and the new 22-1/2" WSM.

Click thumbnails for larger images.

Pork butts on top grate, 18" left, 22" right
18-1/2" left,
22-1/2" right
Top grate load test - 45 pounds of pork butt Smoke wood and hot coals in charcoal chamber Six pork butts in cooker Finished pulled pork and whole cooked butts
Close-up of pulled pork Close-up of three cooked butts Using foil to close out-of-round gaps around bowl Fuel leftover after cooking Ashes in bowl


Test Cook #4

6 Pork Butts - Total untrimmed weight approximately 45 lbs.
September 5, 2008

My fourth test cook was another 45 pounds of pork butt. I wanted to see if I could get more than 11 hours out of a big bag of Kingsford. This time I used 2 gallons of hot water in the pan instead of cool water. It was a calm, warm night and never went below 63°F outside.

Someone at Weber told me they got 14 hours of cooking time by starting with a lot of hot Kingsford, setting the top vent just 3/4 open, and closing all the bottom vents for the entire cook. So, I spread a full Weber chimney of hot coals over the remainder of a 21.6-pound bag of Kingsford and set the vents as described above. I used foil to plug the gaps in the out-of-round condition of the cooker. The meat sat at room temperature for 1 hour before going into the cooker.

I could not get the cooker temperature over 200°F. After about 90 minutes of this, I opened just 1 bottom vent 100% and it ran at 225°F for a long time. Toward the end of the cook, I had 2 bottom vents open 100%.

Once again, at about 11 hours the cooker was dropping to 200-210°F. The meat was done at 11-1/2 hours. I shook loose the ashes to reveal less than a chimney-full of partial briquettes in various stages of burning.

Click thumbnails for larger images.

21.6 pounds Kingsford ready to go 6 pork butts loaded into the 22" WSM Finished pork butt in the cooker 6 finished pork butts in the kitchen Leftover fuel and ashes after 11.5 hours of cooking
Remaining fuel after ashes were shaken out        


Test Cook #5

2 Beef Briskets - Total untrimmed weight approximately 31 lbs.
September 12, 2008

I trimmed a few large areas of fat from each brisket and cooked them using the Minion Method...50 hot briquettes over the remainder of a 21.6-pound bag of Kingsford, plus 2 gallons of hot water in the water pan. I did not refill the water pan during the cook.

I cooked overnight, from 9:00pm to 11:00am the next morning. It never got below 59°F outside. It took 2 hours for the cooker to come up to 225°F with all vents wide open. The cooker then ran 225-250°F for the next 6 hours. After that I never measured a temp over 225°F even with all vents fully open and stirring the coals once.

The brisket on the top cooking grate reached 185°F after 12 hours of cooking and got foiled and moved into a dry cooler to rest for a few hours. I moved the brisket from the bottom grate to the top and cooked for another 2 hours. It only reached 180°F after 14 hours of cooking, and at this point the cooker had dropped to 177°F, so I removed it from the cooker.

You can see the monster smoke ring achieved by the slow ramp-up of cooker temp during those first 2 hours.

I am coming to the realization that the 22-1/2" WSM consumes more fuel in general than the 18-1/2" version. Yes, you're potentially cooking more pounds of meat and putting more water in the pan, and both of those affect fuel usage, but this new cooker also radiates more heat because of greater surface area, and it has to heat a larger amount of air inside the cooker, and more air is drawn through the cooker because of the larger vent dampers. All these factors affect fuel consumption.

Click thumbnails for larger images.

15 pound brisket on 18" WSM
18-1/2" WSM
15 pound brisket on 18" WSM
22-1/2" WSM
Two 15-pound briskets go into the 22" WSM Nightvision photo of thermometer Foiled briskets resting in dry cooler
Slicing brisket across the grain Close-up of smoke ring on brisket slices Leftover fuel and ashes    


More Cooking Photos

Grilled Skirt Steak
September 10, 2008

Decided to use the 22-1/2" WSM as a "Smokey Joe on steroids" to grill skirt steak over lump charcoal. Delish!

Click thumbnails for larger images.

22" WSM as Smokey Joe on steroids Skirt steak grilled over lump charcoal on 22" WSM


Visit to Weber Corporate Offices

Ben Stephen Ernie Boys Sherry Bale Erich Schlosser Gathering for lunch
Ribs coming out of the 22" WSM        

On August 25, 2008, I had the pleasure of visiting Weber's corporate offices in Palatine, IL.

In a series of meetings throughout the morning, I met with members of the packaging development team, the smoker R&D team, and several product managers for the smoker and for accessories. We discussed a wide variety of topics related to the new 18-1/2" and 22-1/2" Smokey Mountain Cookers, as well as some discussion about the smoker market segment in general.

During these meetings, they shared some information that clarifies or corrects some things that I commented on in the videos I made when unpacking and assembling the new 22-1/2" smoker. Soon, I will make another short video to document these items, including minor tweaks to product packaging, comments about the fit of component parts, and Weber's take on safety issues related to the heat shield and adding handles to various parts of the cooker.

I got an inside look at how the product packaging is developed and tested to ensure it not only meets, but exceeds many times over, the standards of the shipping industry. Weber clearly understands that the packaging of the 1980's is not sufficient in 2008, given that the box passes through so many hands on its journey from factory to front porch. They have put a lot of thought and engineering into the packaging design and materials to ensure that the product has the best chance of arriving in good shape, whether it's shipped right side up, upside down, or on its side. They've even figured out a way to prevent the vent dampers from being crushed during shipping, something I had not noticed before and that I will explain in my next video. And more good news...all of the packaging is easily recycled.

After packaging, the conversation shifted to R&D. We spent some time talking about the glitches I noted in my videos, including the way the charcoal grate sits in the bowl, the loose vent damper, and the out of round condition. It looks like Weber understands these issues and is considering options to address each of them. Based on our discussions, I am hopeful that we may see better consistency in the way parts fit together. We'll see what happens.

They asked me a lot of questions about what I liked about the new 22-1/2" design and why. They asked me why this new 22-1/2" unit would appeal to all of you. I mentioned cooking capacity, flexibility to cook larger items or items in different configurations (like slabs of ribs flat on the grate), and the fact that they had addressed some of the most obvious missing features and niggling problems.

We also had a chance to discuss some of the other missing features that many of you have commented about and why you want them, like a probe thermometer eyelet and handles on the middle cooking section and on the bottom cooking grate. As I suspected, these kinds of handles are features that Weber does not want to add for reasons of safety. They do not want to tempt you to remove the middle cooking section or the bottom cooking grate during operation.

I offered a few suggestions for additional improvements, like a thermometer with a higher temperature range, some indication of the halfway point between the large 50°F increments on the dial, the idea of the cooker coming in different colors, and some other ideas that I probably can't go into here (I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement) but ideas that could potentially add interest, fun, and functionality to the smoker product line. Oh, and I mentioned the leaky vinyl cover! I asked if there was a way they could design it so the seams fall below the edge of the lid. It would be great if they put some energy into solving this issue.

Another bit of news is that Weber will be delivering a more relevant owner's manual. It will contain operating instructions that are more similar to those we use today, and all of the recipes will be updated. It looks like there will be more emphasis on smoking instructions and less emphasis on little-used configurations like steaming that are described in the old manual. I encouraged them to try, at least in a basic way, to explain some of the factors that affect cooker performance, including sun vs. shade, wind, volume of meat and water used, type and amount of charcoal used, etc., and to make sure that they point out all of the great features of the product, some of which may not be self-evident, like the benefits of the heat shield.

So let's talk about the new heat shield for a moment. Turns out that it works by creating an insulating layer of air between the bowl and the aluminum shield to protect your deck, patio, lawn, etc. The interesting thing is that it also causes more heat energy to stay inside the cooker, so there should be marginally better cooker performance as a side benefit of the shield. Who knew?

Regarding the fact that the heat shield cannot be removed after assembly, this is intentional. Since it is considered a safety feature, Weber does not want you removing it, forgetting to put it back, having it fall out by accident, etc. They don't believe it will catch ashes or get clogged with debris during use or storage. We'll see over time.

Toward the end of my visit, we had a wide-ranging discussion about the kinds of accessories I use when barbecuing with the WSM, and they asked questions about specific accessories and if they would be of interest to folks like us. The Weber folks were coy about their plans in this area, but I got the feeling they have a few tricks up their sleeves, so we'll just have to wait and see what they do.

As far as availability goes, full-scale production of the new smokers will begin in October and they’ll start shipping to retailers after that, but Weber has no control over when retailers will begin selling. Many retailers are so focused on the traditional Christmas selling season that they don’t start thinking about barbecues until January. So it will be interesting to see where and when the new products pop-up first.

Now, as if all this wasn't enough, I had a chance to cook with Ernie Boys, the VP of Product Management for Weber charcoal grills, right out in front of the corporate headquarters, in the shadow of the original brick patio barbecue belonging to George Stephen himself. Ernie got the ribs and beer can chicken prepped the night before, I got the 18-1/2" and 22-1/2" WSMs fired-up first thing in the morning, and by lunchtime we were all gathered around enjoying some great barbecue. Truly a memorable experience!

During lunch, it was my great honor to meet the "father of the WSM", Erich Schlosser. Erich is the Senior Project Engineer for R&D and knows all about the origins of the WSM. He pumped me with questions about the 22-1/2" smoker—Did they get it right? What will people think of it? Was the second handle on the edge of the lid a good idea? Do we need to make a bigger smoker? I could have spent all afternoon talking to him about the WSM, but time ran out and I had to head to the airport.

Oh, and did I mention all the old and new Weber grills and advertising and memorabilia around the offices? The original 1952 kettle sits in the lobby. Turn the corner and you run into a big, beautiful, 6-burner, top-of-the-line Summit. Nearby is an old red kettle with metal handles and rubber tires, and the next jaw-dropping thing you see is The Westerner from 1958 with the steer horns painted on the side. I even saw a few decorated grills, including one painted like a big, juicy hamburger with all the fixin's. Our meetings were held in a conference room that was once George Stephen's office, and it was chock-full of his mementos, photos, and memorabilia. Quite a place.

All in all, it was a great experience and I think both parties got a lot out of the meeting. I hope it's just the beginning of a continuing dialog with Weber about their smoker products. The one thing I am convinced of is that Weber is listening to your comments, compliments, and complaints on the bulletin board. Weber is paying attention, and that's a good thing.

Photos of 18-1/2" and 22-1/2" WSMs: 2008 Weber-Stephen Products Co.
Photos of Weber visit: 2008 Weber-Stephen Products Co.

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