A very common topic among Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) owners is modification or mods. The most common one, is adding another grate to “cross-hatch” the charcoal grate so that coal doesn’t fall through as quickly. That mod isn’t documented here but there is a very good step-by-step here.
That charcoal grate mod was the first one I did but the ones I’m going to show here, do three things:
- Add a hinge to the lid and body
- Replace the factory thermometer
- Replace the factory water pan
Perhaps one of the most frustrating things when first using a WSM is being able to find a good spot to put down a hot lid from the smoker when loading or unloading food. The hinge modification was an easy decision, especially since I now run 2 WSMs for competition and catering. The company that makes the best quality hinge (that I can tell from my research) is Unknown BBQ. This is a very simple install and all you’ll need are the following:
- 3 drill bits: 3/36″, 3/16″ and 1/4″
- High heat black paint
- Screwdriver with Phillips head
Rather than take you through the steps manually here, the video that I followed step-by-step is here. I highly recommend this mod as you will conserve space on your deck or cooking space by having the kettle lid remain on the kettle as you load and unload food.
The Temperature Gauge
So, replacing the temperature gauge on the WSM isn’t a critical thing to do, unless you’re doing competition. Since that was a primary means for me doing this mod, let me explain why. The 4″ Temperature Gauge from River Country is able to be tuned to the temperature of your grill, not the dome. There’s a few videos on how to do this online but the gist is, use a temperature probe (from Fireboard for example), and set that on your main grill grate. As the smoker temperature settles (I wait for 250F), there is a small nut on the back of the temperature gauge that you can tune directly to the same temperature as the grill grate probe. Now your dome thermometer reads grill temp rather than dome temp, which is much more important. Also – since I’m approaching old fart age, the big gauge helps me see temps better from a distance.
The Fire Dials
The water pan that comes stock in the WSM is the subject of much debate. Some pitmasters say using water is a requirement, where others say sand. Some others even say just wrap it in tinfoil and drop it in… My experience, having done all 3 is, you’re still left with an epic mess of drippings in a very hot pan. Enter the Fire Dial.
I saw this on the same website I bought the WSM hinges from and was intrigued. I watched a few videos including the main one from lavalock (the manufacturer) and they have some pretty compelling evidence to show that the fire dial is superior to the stock water pan for a few reasons:
- Better heat retention – it’s a stamped piece of thick stainless steel
- Better fuel consumption – apparently a 15 hour burn on 3/4 of a bag of charcoal
- Easier clean-up – flip over for the next cook where the most recent drippings will face the fire!
- Convection – the configuration of the stamped holes in the fire dial create a vortex of heat and smoke
I haven’t had a chance to test this yet, but will update this post with the results. Having spoken to a rep on the phone about this, all of his staff, including himself have replaced their water pans for the fire dial in the WSM.