11 Common Weber Smokey Mountain Operating Errors

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I’ll be completely honest with you. When I initially began smoking on my Weber Smokey Mountain, I made a lot of these blunders.

While I still believe it is an excellent smoker for beginners, there is a learning curve. Especially if you have never grilled before and need to learn how to manage the temperature and generate the proper kind of smoke.

We’ve developed a list of the most frequent errors individuals make while using a Weber Smokey Mountain grill. We’ll also teach you how to prevent them. This tutorial was inspired by the gentlemen over at The Virtual Weber Bullet.



1) Accidentally dropping the cooking grate into the water pan or charcoal bowl

11 Common operating mistakes with the Weber Smokey Mountain

A loose top frying grate may cause chaos if it slides and falls.

Not only would whatever meat you have on the grate be wet, charred, or both, but you also risk significant harm.

The resulting rush of steam from the water flowing over the hot embers might scorch your arms and face.

To prevent this, make sure your top grill grates fit snugly before firing up your Weber Smokey Mountain.

Also, keep in mind that your grill grate is not the best place to cook your meat. Sliding, jiggling, chopping, and otherwise tampering with the meat on the grill grate may cause it to slip out of position, resulting in the grate and its contents tumbling into the smoker.


2) Cooking with a dirty water pan

11 Common operating mistakes with the Weber Smokey Mountain

We constantly harping on the importance of keeping your cooktop clean. However, if you do not keep your cooker clean and properly maintained, the flavor of your meal and the safety of others surrounding while you cook are seriously jeopardized.

Cooking with a filthy water pan increases your chances of starting a grease fire. Especially if you’re using an empty water bowl and cooking at high heats.

Grease fires are very dangerous. Flames may soar several feet into the air, putting your stove, any nearby trees, and perhaps your property at danger. Not to mention the possible injuries.

To prevent this, keep your water bowl clean by removing any oil or residue after each use.


3. Sitting the water pan directly on the charcoal chamber

When reading internet guidelines, it might be difficult to visualize what we are discussing. So, to be clear, when we say that the charcoal chamber and the water pan are located underneath the cooking grate, we do not imply that they are directly on top of each other.

Your charcoals will not burn properly if you place your water pan immediately on top of them and fire them. The water pan will suffocate them, and your stove will struggle to reach temperatures beyond 200°F.

To be sure, reading directions about where to put the water pan might be perplexing. The water pan is positioned over the coals, although it is frequently clipped to the bottom grate, so it floats above the embers without touching them.


4. Bumping or moving the cooker during use

Because it is made of metal, the outside of your Weber Smokey Mountain will get quite hot during cooking. Bumping, moving, or brushing up against the incredibly hot cooker while it is in operation will almost certainly result in burns.

Not only should you avoid touching the unit while it is in operation, but you should also ensure that no activities are going place near the device that might result in damage. If there are children around, make sure they play far away from your Weber Smokey Mountain, and keep a careful check on them when they approach the smoker.

When it comes to bumping the unit, scorched arms, legs, faces, and garments aren’t the only thing to worry about.

As previously stated, a bump might cause the cooking grate to fall into the water pan or the charcoal bowl.

If your access door is not properly fastened, a little bump might result in the door sliding off. Because of the sudden input of oxygen, the temperature inside the cooker will soar. Depending on how long it takes you to find the missing door, your meat might be cooked to a crisp before you realize what has occurred.

A grease fire is another possibility if you hit your cooker, but we’ll cover that in more detail in part 6 of this piece.


5. Failing to close the vents after cooking

When you’re through cooking, remember to reinstall the lid and close all the vents.

This reduces airflow to the coals, causing them to burn out. Your coals will burn fiercely if you leave everything uncovered. If there is water in the pan, it will boil and may smell foul. In the worst-case situation, the extreme heat might ignite a grease fire.

When you close the vents to expel the coals, you may utilize any residual coals that were not completely burned.


It is worth noting, however, that Weber does not advocate the re-use of coals since coals left in the smoker might cause rust. Weber recommends that you use the appropriate number of coals for each meal.

While this is fine in principle, acquiring the right number of coals may be difficult, particularly when starting off. So, if there are a few coals left behind at the conclusion of the cook, don’t be too disheartened.

If you are worried about corrosion, wait until the leftover coals have cooled before removing them from the stove and storing them in a dry place until they are ready to use again.


6. Starting a grease fire

This has already been mentioned many times in this thread. Starting a grease fire is probably towards the top of the list of the most dangerous things that may happen while smoking.

Let’s go through the most prevalent causes of a grease fire:

  • Putting too much water in the pan Fat floats on the water’s surface. If you have overfilled your water pan, the first item to overflow over the coals will be fat when fat falls off the meat into the water (as it certainly will). A grease fire is a sure thing.
  • Moving or knocking on the smoker while it is in use Even if you haven’t overfilled your water pan, a good bump of the smoker will cause the water to spray onto the coals. Again, the fat on the surface of the water is likely to catch fire when it comes into contact with the incredibly hot coals.
  • Using a filthy water pan to cook If your water pan is oily and unclean, especially if you haven’t filled it with water, it has a significant possibility of starting a fire.
  • Failure to close the vents and return the lid after cooking If the airflow to the coals is not reduced, they will continue to burn hotter and hotter. If there are enough coals left behind, if left unattended, this might result in a fire.


7. Adding hot coals without the charcoal chamber in

Make sure the charcoal chamber is in place before lighting the coals and placing them in your smoker for your own sanity.

Setting up the charcoal chamber is not something that can be done after the coals have been fired.

It’s almost hard to fit that item over red hot coals resting on the charcoal grate. Taking up the task of adding it after the coals have been fired and in position invites tragedy in the shape of arm and hand burns.


8. Placing the hot lid directly on your deck

This is a technique to avoid unless you want a Weber Smokey Mountain lid-sized scorch mark on your deck.

Granted, finding a spot to drop the stove lid might be an afterthought while you’re in the thick of a meal, so it’s simple to understand how this occurs. Especially when anything within the stove need attention.

As a result, it is wise to be prepared. Weber Smokey Mountain fans have discovered that an automotive oil drop pan works well. Take the biggest drip pan you can locate. That way, you can set it beneath the Weber Smokey Mountain while cooking to collect any stray drips, and you’ll have enough of room left over to place the lid when you need someplace to rest it.

The pan itself is quite simple to clean. Soap and water will suffice. Much less difficult than re-sanding the deck.


9. Removing the lid to reduce the cooking temperature

If the temperature in your cooker begins to rise, you may begin to worry and believe that you must remove the lid and allow fresh air to enter to cool everything down. In fact, you must go against all of your instincts in this case. Taking off the lid causes the temperature to rise even higher.

Go to this post to learn more about controlling the temperature on any charcoal stove, not just the Weber Smokey Mountain.

In summary, since oxygen is a component of the combustion process, more oxygen equals a larger, hotter fire. As you would expect, removing the lid allows a lot of air to enter, causing the coals to burn very hot.

Close the bottom vents if you need to lower the temperature. You may have to wait a while before you notice a dip in temperature. If closing the bottom vents does not reduce the temperature enough, you may also shut the top vents.


10. Not wearing heat resistant gloves

This may be both a novice error and a sin committed by an experienced player. Remember that anything on your Weber Smokey Mountain will get heated while in use. Wear gloves whenever you open or close vents, remove the lid, or feed coals into the cooker from the chimney starter.

If you’re new to the Weber Smokey Mountain, keep in mind that portions of the cooker you don’t anticipate to be hot are likely to be. Wear gloves if you need to touch the cooker or any equipment or accessories that have come into contact with heat.

To be prepared, get a pair of heat-resistant gloves before your first cook and keep them near your stove.

While we do not recommend that you do not use gloves, if you are unable to do so, you may adjust the vents using tongs. However, this is far from ideal. As you would expect, a set of tongs isn’t quite as dexterous as your hands.

Another suggestion is to wear closed-toed shoes while using your smoker. We understand how attractive it is to smoke in your flip flops on a warm summer evening. But not if you step on a red-hot lid, a lump of coal, or a piping-hot chimney starter.


11. Relying on the built in dome thermometer

Despite being a well-known and well-liked smoker, the built-in dome thermometer on your Weber Smokey Mountain cannot be relied on.

There are two main reasons this is the case.

  1. Even high-quality smokers often feature low-quality built-in thermometers. It’s all about saving money.
  2. The temperature in the dome is much higher than the temperature of your meal. It will be colder up there due to heat dissipation in the dome’s metal. As in up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

As you may imagine, a low quality thermometer placed in an area of your cooker that is significantly colder than where your food really rests will repeatedly result in dry, overdone food.

Buy a dependable, high-quality thermometer to save headaches and the need to throw away inedible, overdone meat.


Wrapping it up

We hope you liked our list of the most frequent blunders made by Weber Smokey Mountain cooks.

While we like cooking with these smokers, they are not without flaws. However, most of the usual errors made by Weber Smokey Mountains users are readily corrected. With this information, you’ll be able to prepare delicious meals while avoiding mishaps.

We also have another post that discusses frequent smoking errors in general, but this one is exclusive to folks who cook with a Weber Smokey Mountain.

Do you have any more topics that you believe we overlooked? Do you have any additional questions you’d want answered? Please share them in the comments area below. And, if you found this information useful, please share it!


Should I use water pan in Weber Smokey Mountain?

The water pan is used for the majority of the grilling in the Weber smoker. When using the indirect approach, utilize the water pan regardless of how hot the cooker is or what you put or do not put in the water pan. When using the direct technique over hot coals, do not utilize the water pan.

Should the top vent of a Weber Smokey Mountain be open or closed?

Throughout the cooking period, keep the top vent completely open. Close all of the bottom vents to help bring the temperature down to 225-250°F.

Why is my Weber Smokey Mountain not coming up to temp?

Most Weber charcoal grills feature three dampers on the bowl’s bottom and one on the lid’s top. It is critical that all dampers be completely open when preheating the grill. This delivers the most oxygen to the coals, ensuring that they burn hot enough to bring the grill up to temperature.

How long will a Weber Smokey Mountain last?

Most people utilize the Weber Smokey Mountain 18′′ outdoor grilling gadget while cooking in their backyard. A complete chamber of Kingsford may be filled all the way to the top depending on the style of cooking (up to 18 hours of 225F cooking has been documented).

Do you put fat cap up or down on Weber Smokey Mountain?

I propose directing the fat cap in the direction of the major source of heat. This means fat cap down on a smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain or a pellet grill. Because the heat will be coming from above on a well-insulated offset smoker, you should cook fat side up.

Should I use wood chips or chunks for Weber Smokey Mountain?

Either will suffice. The primary distinction is that chips burn quicker than chunks. If you’re just going to use a handful or two of chips for a light smoke for around 20 minutes, the burn rate won’t be a problem. However, if you want to smoke your meal for an hour or more, chunks may be more convenient.

Does closing top vent make grill hotter?

Whatever vent you fiddle with, keep in mind that open vents indicate hotter, faster-burning charcoal. Closed vents result in less oxygen, which leads to less heat and slower-burning charcoal.

What does the top vent do on Weber Smokey Mountain?

The open vents will suck smoke from the charcoal and wood underneath, allowing it to properly swirl over your meal and out the top, providing the finest ventilation and cleanest smoke. If the fire becomes too hot, shut the top vent nearly completely.

Should bottom vent be open when grilling?

Most charcoal grills feature bottom vents. When you open the vents wide, you get more air and a hotter fire. Close the vents partially to obtain less air and a cooler fire. When lighting the charcoal and preparing the grill, make sure the vents are open.

How much charcoal do I put in my Weber Smokey Mountain?

On a warm day, 20 briquettes should be plenty to start your fire. On a colder day, consider burning 20-40 briquettes; on a cold day, you may need to light up to 60 briquettes. If you’re just burning a few briquettes, turn your chimney upside down and ignite them at the smaller end.

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