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Frequently Asked Questions

Originally posted: 07/25/1999
Last updated: 09/24/2014

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General Questions

Cooker Operation

Measuring & Controlling Temperature

Troubleshooting

Cleanup & Maintenance

Security

Trivia


General Questions

Q: Where can the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker be purchased?

A: Amazon.com makes buying the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker fast and easy, and purchasing from Amazon.com helps defray the cost of bringing you this website.

The WSM is also available from other online sources. Availability and pricing varies throughout the barbecue season.

You won't find the WSM sold in most stores since it's not a big seller compared to other Weber products. Check large national or regional barbecue chain stores, better home and garden centers, high-end pool and patio specialty stores, and local hardware stores for availability.

You can call Weber at 800-446-1071 or visit Weber.com to locate a dealer in your area. Most Weber dealers will place a special order if they don't carry the Weber Bullet.


Q: How much does the WSM cost?

A: For the 18-1/2" WSM: List price is $349, but may be purchased online for about $299. For the 22-1/2" WSM: List price is $499, but may be purchased online for about $399.

Both of these cookers cost several times more than competitive models, but as they say, "Buy the best, and only cry once."


Q: How is the WSM constructed?

A: The Weber Bullet has the same quality construction and materials as the Weber kettle charcoal grill. It has the same black porcelain finish as other Weber products. Here's the full rundown on the construction of the cooker:

  • Heavy-gauge steel construction
  • Porcelain enamel finish inside and out
  • Porcelain-on-steel water pan
  • Nickel-plated cooking grates
  • Rust-resistant aluminum access door
  • Rust-resistant aluminum dampers and legs
  • Nylon plastic lid handle
  • Premium grade vinyl cover

Q: Where is the WSM manufactured?

A: The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker is designed and engineered by Weber-Stephen Products LLC in Palatine, Illinois, USA and assembled in America using parts made in the USA and other countries.


Q: What are the dimensions and weight of the WSM?

A: The 18-1/2" WSM measures 41" H x 19" W. The shipping weight is 49 pounds and the assembled weight is 37 pounds.

The 22-1/2" WSM measures 48-1/2" H x 23" W. The shipping weight is 68 pounds and the assembled weight is 52 pounds.


Q: How large are the cooking grates?

A: In the 18-1/2" WSM, the top grate is 17-1/2" in diameter and is the same one used in all Weber 18-1/2" charcoal grills. The bottom grate is 17" in diameter. The combined surface area of the two cooking grates is about 468 square inches.

In the 22-1/2" WSM, the top grate is 21-1/2" in diameter and is the same one used in all Weber 22-1/2" charcoal grills. The bottom grate is 20-3/4" in diameter. The combined surface area of the two cooking grates is about 701 square inches.


Q: How long is the warranty, and what's covered?

A: The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker comes with the following warranty (current as of October, 2011):

  • Cooking grates/charcoal grate: 2 years
  • Bowl and lid against rust/burn-through: 10 years
  • Nylon handle: 10 years
  • All remaining parts: 2 years

Cooker Operation

Q: Does a new WSM need to be seasoned before use?

A: No. Some smokers must be seasoned before use to prevent the formation of rust, but due to its porcelain enamel finish, the Weber Bullet does not need to be seasoned. You may choose to wipe down the cooker with a damp cloth, or wash it using hot, soapy water to remove any dust that accumulates during the manufacturing and shipping process, but this is purely optional.

For more information, read the Seasoning A New Weber Bullet article.


Q: What are the best methods for firing up the WSM?

A: The most popular methods for lighting the WSM are documented on the Firing Up Your Weber Bullet page. Ignore the firing method described in the Owner's Manual and instead use the methods described in the above referenced page.


Q: Can the WSM be fired using wood chunks or logs instead of charcoal?

A: Yes, but with considerable effort and inconvenience. Wood must be burned down to hot coals in a separate container, then shoveled into the WSM, and this process must be repeated several times during the course of cooking. Most people who try this once don't try it again.


Q: How much smoke wood should be used in the WSM?

A: Many people use too much smoke wood in the WSM. For most cooks, no more than 2-6 fist-sized chunks of dry smoke wood are required. See All About Smoke Woods for more details.


Q: Does using a flavorful liquid instead of water in the water pan make a difference?

A: Most people report that using apple juice, beer, or other flavorful liquids in the water pan instead of water does not result in any detectable flavor being added to the meat.


Q: Does wind affect the performance of the WSM?

A: Yes. Wind is the biggest problem in terms of WSM temperature control. Using the cooker in a sheltered location or creating a simple wind break is all that's needed. See Cooking In The Wind, Rain & Cold for more details.


Q: Does rain affect the performance of the WSM?

A: No, not under most conditions. See Cooking In The Wind, Rain & Cold for more details.

If you own an older WSM with a wooden lid handle, see How can the wooden lid handle be protected during rain?


Q: Does the WSM need to be insulated during use in the winter?

A: No, insulation is not necessary. Wind—not cold temperatures—is the biggest problem with WSM temperature control, regardless of the season. See Cooking In The Wind, Rain & Cold for more details.


Q: How can the cooking capacity of the WSM be increased?

A: Rib racks allow you to increase cooking capacity for ribs. Also, ribs can be rolled into circles, tied or skewered together, and stood up on edge to increase capacity.

See Increasing Cooking Capacity for modifications you can make to increase the capacity of the WSM.


Q: Can handles be mounted on the cooking section so it and the lid can be removed together during cooking?

A: See Adding Handles To The Cooking Section for several approaches.


Q: Can the WSM be converted to electric or propane gas?

A: See Gas/Electric Conversions.


Q: Can the WSM be used as a charcoal grill?

A: While not as proficient as the venerable Weber kettle grill, the WSM can be configured as a charcoal grill and does a reasonably good job. See Grilling On The Weber Bullet for details.


Measuring & Controlling Temperature

Q: Does the WSM run hot when brand new?

A: According to Weber, a Smokey Mountain Cooker may run up to 50°F hotter when new. The shiny interior surfaces reflect heat back into the cooker, resulting in higher than normal cooking temperatures. After 2-3 uses, a layer of smoke and grease builds up on the interior. As a result, it becomes less reflective and absorbs more heat, which radiates out of the cooker and results in lower cooking temperatures.

However, it should be noted that not all new WSM owners notice this 50°F difference. Besides, 50°F is just not that big a deal. If your new Weber Bullet is running 275°F instead of 225°F, you're still operating at a good barbecuing temperature. Anything in the range of 225-275°F, or even as high as 300°F, is fine, especially during the first 2-3 runs with your new cooker.


Q: What are the options for measuring temperature in the WSM?

A: Starting with the 2009 model year, all WSMs come with a built-in lid thermometer as standard equipment.

If you have a 2008 or earlier WSM, your cooker did not come with a thermometer. There are three ways you can measure temperature in the cooker: through the lid; through the middle cooking section; and at the cooking surface. See Measuring Temperature In The WSM for details.


Q: What is a Polder Thermometer, and how is one inserted into the WSM?

A: Polder is a brand of thermometer that measures internal meat or cooker temperature by using a metal probe connected by wire to a display unit outside the cooker. The probe wire can run under the edge of the cooker lid or through the lid vent. See Measuring Temperature In The WSM for details.


Q: The WSM runs too hot. Even with all the bottom vents closed, the temperature won't go below 250°F.

A: There are many conditions that cause the WSM to run too hot—or make it appear to run too hot. See Temperature Control Troubleshooting for details.


Q: The WSM runs too cool. Even with all the bottom vents open and a full charcoal chamber, the temperature won't go over 200°F.

A: There are a small number of conditions that cause the WSM to run too cool. See Temperature Control Troubleshooting for details.


Q: What is the difference in temperature measured through the lid versus at each cooking grate?

A: My "experiments" show the lid temperature averages 12-15°F higher than the top grate temperature and the top grate averages 4-10°F higher than the bottom grate. See Measuring Temperature In The WSM for details.


Troubleshooting

Q: What is that rust-colored residue inside the lid? Is the metal rusting?

Lid with rust-colored residue before washing
Photo 1
Lid after washing
Photo 2
     

A: The cooker has a porcelain enamel finish that will not rust. The rust-colored residue is smoke-laden moisture that deposits inside the lid and dries. It can be washed or brushed it off as part of your normal cleaning routine. Photos 1-2 show the lid before and after cleaning with a stiff bristle brush and water from the garden hose.


Q: What is that black material peeling off inside the cooker? Is the finish coming off?

A: The black material is carbonized grease that builds up over time and flakes off from the inside walls of the cooker. Any loose material can be brushed off as part of your normal cleaning process.


Q: What is that black, oily substance dripping from the bottom vents of the charcoal bowl or seeping out around the access door knob?

A: The black, oily substance is a mixture of grease and smoke that runs down the inside walls of the cooker and finds its way out at these locations. This typically happens when the Weber Bullet is brand new and usually stops once a layer of burned-on grease coats the inside surfaces of the cooker.


Q: How can I protect my deck or patio from that black, oily substance that drips off the cooker?

A: See Protecting Patios & Wooden Decks for several methods of protection.


Q: How can I protect my wooden deck from the heat radiating from the charcoal bowl?

A: As of 2009, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker comes with a heat shield that helps protect the surface beneath the cooker. For older Weber Bullets, see Protecting Patios & Wooden Decks for several methods of protection.


Q: Why does the lid sometimes become stuck to the cooking section?

A: Under certain conditions, a mixture of grease and smoke collects on the lip of the cooking section where the lid rests. As the WSM cools down after a cooking session, this mixture solidifies and causes the lid to stick.

To un-stick the lid, apply white vinegar or Simple Green spray cleaner or hot soap and water to loosen the gunk, then rinse and dry.

To prevent this from happening again, wipe off the edge of the lid and the lip of the cooking section with a paper towel at the end of a cooking session while the cooker is still warm.


Q: Is it normal for smoke to escape from around the lid and access door?

A: The WSM is not meant to be completely airtight, and it is normal for some smoke to escape from these areas, especially at the beginning of a cooking session as the smoke wood starts to burn.

If there are exceptionally large gaps between the access door and the middle cooking section, the door can be gently reshaped by hand for a better fit. See Parts Troubleshooting for details.

Some folks have applied gaskets around the edge of the access door in an attempt to provide a better seal, but this is not necessary.


Q: Why does water collect in the bottom of the cooker, even when the vinyl cover is in place? Why doesn't the lid overlap the middle cooking section like other Weber grills?

Seam sealer
Photo 3
       

A: Despite what you would think, the vinyl cover is not waterproof. Water leaks in through the seams in the cover and runs down the lid, entering the cooker where the lid meets the cooking section. Once inside, the water collects in the charcoal bowl.

The underlying cause of water infiltration has to do with the cooker design itself. Unlike other Weber grills where the lid fits over the charcoal bowl, the WSM lid fits inside the middle cooking section, which allows water to enter the cooker when it rains. However, there is a method to Weber's madness in designing things this way. That's because the water pan generates a lot of moisture, which condenses inside the lid, mixes with smoke and grease, and runs down the inside of the lid. If the lid overlapped the outside of the middle cooking section, that greasy concoction would drip outside the WSM and all over your deck or patio. With the lid positioned inside the middle cooking section, that stuff stays inside the cooker.

There are several ways to deal with this problem. In my opinion, the best solution is to prevent water from getting though the vinyl cover in the first place. Move the cooker to a sheltered location, if you can, or place a large plastic garbage bag or tarp over the vinyl cover. WSM owner Jake McCready suggests applying seam sealer, a product sold at camping supply stores, to the vinyl cover (Photo 3). "I've used this for decades on many tents and had great success with it," says Jake. "One application lasts for years."

Another approach is to store the cooker with the middle cooking section turned upside down. Any water that hits the lid now runs outside the cooker. Thanks to Brian Lanius for this tip.

Finally, if you like power tools, you can drill a small weep hole in the bottom of the charcoal bowl...not so large as to affect temperature control, but big enough to allow any accumulated water to escape.


Q: How do I loosen a sticky vent damper?

A: The lid damper can become sticky and difficult to turn with use. If so, apply a spray degreaser or white vinegar to loosen it, then rinse.


Q: How do I fix a bent vent damper?

A: See Parts Troubleshooting for instructions on how to replace a bent vent damper.


Cleanup & Maintenance

Q: Can hot coals be extinguished by dousing them with water?

A: Weber does not recommend this practice, as you risk damage to the porcelain finish of the charcoal bowl. Hot coals can be extinguished by closing all the dampers and allowing the cooker to sit overnight. If you need to extinguish the coals quickly, dump them out of the cooker and then apply water, or dispose of hot coals in a dedicated metal ash bin.

Remember—ashes that seem to be cold can actually be hot inside, so take care when handling ashes at any time.


Q: Any tips for cleaning the cooking grates?

A: See Cleanup, Maintenance & Storage for tips on cooking grate cleaning.


Q: Any tips for cleaning the water pan?

A: See Cleanup, Maintenance & Storage for tips on cooking grate cleaning.


Q: When rust develops on the cooking grates, at what point should they be replaced?

A: As the nickel-plated finish on the cooking grates begins to wear off through normal use, rust will begin to set in. The grates don't have to be replaced as long as the rust hasn't reached the top surface, where it would come in contact with food. Once rust has invaded the top surface, however, it's time to toss those grates and get shiny, new ones.

For the 18-1/2" WSM, the 17-1/2" top grate can be purchased at most home centers and barbecue stores—it is labeled as a replacement grate for the 18-1/2" Weber charcoal kettle. The 17" bottom grate must be ordered directly from Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071.

For the 22-1/2" WSM, the 21-1/2" top grate can be purchases at most home centers and barbecue stores—it is labeled as a replacement grate for the 22-1/2" Weber charcoal kettle. The 20-3/4" bottom grate must be ordered directly from Weber Customer Service at 800-446-1071.


Q: Can the bottom of the charcoal bowl be lined with foil for easy cleanup?

A: This is not recommended by Weber, as it can block airflow necessary for combustion in the charcoal bowl.


Q: How can I remove ashes that have solidified like concrete in the bottom of the charcoal bowl?

A: If ashes are left in the cooker and exposed to moisture or humidity over several weeks, the ashes may solidify into a concrete-like mass and can be very difficult to remove. WSM owner Tom Raveret writes, "All I had to do was take the charcoal bowl and drop it from about 2 feet upside down a couple of times (on the grass, NOT cement) and that took care of it."


Q: How can the wooden lid handle be protected during rain?

Wooden lid handle covered with sandwich bag
Photo 4
       

A: Weber Bullets produced before 2000 came with a stained wooden lid handle. These handles tend to weather and crack with age, especially if exposed to the elements. To keep rain off the handle while cooking, slip a plastic sandwich bag over the handle, fold down any excess material, and fasten with a rubber band. When the cooker is not in use, make sure to keep the unit covered with the vinyl cover provided by Weber.


Security

Q: How can I mark my WSM for identification purposes?

A: Sadly, some folks have had their WSM stolen right out of their backyards. If you're concerned about losing your cooker, it's a good idea to mark it so you can identify it in the event it is recovered.

One idea is to unscrew the lid handle and write your name or driver's license number inside. This is a hidden location that only you know about.

Larry D. suggests marking the WSM in a visible, but inconspicuous, way so that you can identify it from a distance. For example, drill a small hole in the end of the handle, or through one of the tabs on the lid vent damper.


Trivia

Q: What is the meaning of the 1 or 2 letters stamped into each vent damper?

A: See Determining The Age Of Your WSM.


Q: Why is there a small hole in the edge of the water pan?

A: The water pan is hung by this hole during the porcelain enamel finishing process.

Back to Operating Tips & Modifications

 
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