Usage Tips For The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker
Last updated: 09/26/2014
Bullet is one of the best values in barbecue cookers on the market today. It is very easy to use and you can get great results right away with a
little knowledge and a little practice. Follow the tips listed below and you'll be a
Weber Bullet expert in no time!
Make sure you have
everything on hand that you'll need for cooking—meat, rub, charcoal, smoke wood,
utensils, and so on.
cooking log to record
your entire preparation and cooking process. This information can help you
duplicate your successes and avoid your past failures. You can
a copy of the cooking log I use.
Prep your meat
in advance of cooking. You'll have enough to do getting the cooker up and running without
having to hassle with trimming briskets or cutting up whole chickens. Remove meat
from the refrigerator about an hour before cooking to take the chill off.
either the night before or just before putting your meat on the cooker.
Prep your smoke
wood. Most people use wood chunks
for their smoke source, while others use small split logs, chips, or
pellets. Some people remove the bark from their smoke wood, believing it contains
substances that affect taste, while most just throw it in the cooker
I use 3-6 fist-sized chunks of smoke wood, usually all oak or cherry, or
sometimes oak with a single chunk of hickory. You can soak your
smoke wood in water prior to putting it in the cooker, which causes it
to smolder and give off more smoke, or just throw dry chunks on the hot
coals as they begin cooking. Experiment with the type, amount, and
soaking method of your smoke wood to find out what you like best. If you soak your smoke wood, do it for at least an hour prior to
cooking. Overnight is OK, too.
Start with a clean
unit. Empty any ashes, clean the water pan, and brush any loose
material from the
inside of the lid and middle cooking section. Brush the cooking
grates with a brass bristle brush or crumpled aluminum foil, or wash
with warm, soapy water if needed.
people like to line their water pan with wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil for easy clean-up after
cooking, especially when cooking with an empty water pan as called for
in some recipes. Be aware that this may cause marks or
discolorations to appear on the water pan surface which cannot be
removed through cleaning. This condition occurs especially after
long cooking sessions when perforations develop in the foil and
liquid gets trapped between the foil and pan surface.
With all due respect to the
fine folks at Weber, my first piece of advice is to ignore the "Getting
Started" instructions in the Owner's Manual. I've found that the
following method works best for most people. See Firing
Up Your Weber Bullet for pictures of this process and for alternate
methods of lighting up your cooker.
Set up the bottom section
of the cooker with the charcoal grate in place and the charcoal chamber
aside the middle cooking section and the lid.
Place a charcoal chimney
on the grate and fire-up a batch of coals. Fill the chimney all the way to the top
with charcoal. When the coals are going well, place the charcoal chamber on the
grate and dump the hot coals inside the chamber. Don't forget to replace the
chamber before dumping in the coals! Believe me, it can be really hard to
corral all those red-hot coals if you forget the chamber.
Spread the hot coals
evenly on the grate, then add more unlit charcoal to the chamber. Unlike the Weber instructions, our goal is to start with enough fuel to
complete the entire cooking session without having to add more
fuel later on. You can fill the chamber all the way to the top for
extended cooking (up to 18 hours of 225°F cooking have been reported
using a full chamber of Kingsford), or add less if you require less
cooking time. The amount you add depends on how long you want to
cook and how hot and consistent your brand of charcoal burns. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Regardless of how much charcoal you add, wait patiently until all the coals have caught and are gray.
When the charcoal is
ready, place the water pan and lower cooking grate in the middle section and place the
middle section on the bottom section. Pour a gallon of cool tap water through the
cooking grate into the water pan. This helps to bring the cooker's
temperature down a bit, since the cooker tends to run hot when first
all the bottom vents. Place the lid on the cooker, leaving the top
vent open. Wait for the cooker temperature to drop to 300-315°F.
Now go ahead and load your
meat into the cooker. Place items on the bottom grate first, then put the top grate
in place and load it up. Note that the top grate cooks hotter than
the bottom grate by 10-20°F. Put items you want cooked
hotter/faster on the top grate, and items you want cooked cooler/slower
on the bottom grate. If you're cooking two big pieces of meat, put the larger one on top
and the smaller one on the bottom.
Replace the lid on the
cooker. The temperature will
drop quickly with the addition of the meat. Keep the top vent fully
open throughout the entire cooking process. Keep all the bottom
vents closed to help bring the temperature down to a target of
Open the access door and
carefully place your wood chunks on the hot coals. I find that a single application
of 3-6 chunks is enough for the entire cooking session. Too much
smoke is not a good thing...as long as you've got good smoke wood in the
cooker burning cleanly, you'll have good flavor, even if you don't see
smoke billowing from your cooker.
In the beginning, check
the temperature every 15 minutes. I try to maintain a temperature of
all meats, but being up or down a few degrees at any given moment is OK.
Open or close the bottom vents as needed to achieve and maintain your
target temperature. You may find
that one bottom vent open 50% will hold 225°F for a while, but a few hours later you need
two vents open, one open 100% and the other 50%. If you're using a
hot-burning brand of charcoal, you may find that you go for several
hours with all the bottom vents closed—that's OK, too.
Since the Weber Bullet runs hotter or colder
depending on the outdoor temperature, and hotter in the direct sun and cooler in the shade
or wind, you will have to make vent adjustments due to weather conditions.
Don't be afraid to experiment with adjustments—remember, you're just trying to maintain a
steady 225-250°F range. Once the cooker settles in, I check
the temperature every 30 minutes or so. Here's where you begin to
enjoy one of the greatest features of the Weber Bullet—the way it hold
temperature so consistently for such long periods of time!
Replenish the water pan
every 1-1/2 to 2 hours. I use hot tap water so I don't bring the temperature down too much
from that magic 225-250°F. Be careful to not spill water on the coals...that stirs up
lots of ash that gets all over your meat. Yuck!
Remove the cooker lid only
when turning or removing meat. I try to follow the common approach of turning meat
"at the halftimes". For example, if cooking for eight hours, I turn at the
four hour mark, then again at the six hour mark, and finally at the seven hour
mark. In other words, divide the remaining cooking time in half and turn at that point.
I like to turn meat over and end-for-end, meaning that the side facing up is placed facing
down, and the ends of the meat are reversed on the grate. This helps promote even
cooking in the event you have a hot spot in your cooker.
You may want to baste your
meat when turning it. Many folks simply use apple juice applied with a spray bottle,
while others use mops. You can learn more about bastes and mops in better barbecue
books like those listed on the BBQ Shopping
To sauce or not to
sauce...that is the question. Do it if you like, but not until the last
30-45 minutes of cooking to prevent burning the sauce.
A full charcoal chamber
should give you plenty of cooking time for meats that require extended
cooking like brisket or pork shoulder. If after six to ten hours it seems like you're running out of
heat, try stirring the coals to dislodge the accumulated ash
around the coals—this may get your temp up again. However, if
you've just flat run out of fuel, start another batch in your chimney and add them through the access door using
tongs and heat-resistant gloves. Make sure you anticipate needing
more fuel, as it will take 20-30 minutes to fire-up a batch in your
should always be your first concern!
Keep an eye on your Weber Bullet
throughout the entire cooking process.
Do not operate your cooker near
Keep a fire extinguisher on-hand in case
Operate your cooker outdoors with plenty
Use heat-resistant gloves or mitts when
handling cooker components while they're hot.
Follow all the standard
recommendations for safe food handling, refrigeration, internal meat temperatures,
personal hygiene, sanitary work surfaces and tools, etc.
note about disposing of ashes safely...
Ashes that seem cold on the surface may still be hot deep
inside, even after sitting for two days, so take care when handling and
disposing of them.
absolute safest way to dispose of ashes, regardless of whether they're
red-hot or seemingly stone-cold, is to put them in a small, galvanized
metal trash can that is dedicated to the purpose of ash storage. Keep
the can away from any flammable materials, including your house, wood
pile, dry grass, or weeds. Let the ashes sit for a good, long time until
there is absolutely no doubt they are fully extinguished, then dispose
of them in your regular household garbage.
dedicated ash bin is not an option, stir through the ashes to make sure
they are absolutely cold before dumping them in the garbage.
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