As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to cook meat. You can fry up a steak in a skillet, sizzle some burgers on a grill, or sear salmon in a pan. But for the most tender, flavorful, mouthwatering meat money can buy, you’ll want to use a smoker. Imbuing every cut of meat with the hearty flavor of charcoal and applewood, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker changed the game for smoking meats, making it simple for anyone to make high-quality smoked meats in the backyard, or out on a wilderness adventure.
The amount of information floating around about smokers can be overwhelming, so we’ve created a guide to give you the lowdown on the essentials of Weber Smokers. We’ll go over the history of the smoker, the advantages and disadvantages of each different size, and reasons that Weber beats the competition, ensuring you have all the info you need for your next smoker purchase.
What Is a Weber Smoker?
Nicknamed the Weber Bullet, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker was first introduced in 1981. Its debut made a splash in the world of pitmasters for offering high quality smoking at an affordable price. Over the years, the design has seen several improvements, including upgrades in sizes, the addition of a built-in thermometer, and other cosmetic changes that have led to the current models. Already a stunner out of the gate, the Weber Smoker has only increased its reputation as time has gone on, and there’s never been a better time than now to make the investment.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is a vertical water smoker, packing a huge amount of punch into a relatively compact body. Its vertical profile means it doesn’t take up much floor space, making it easy to fit next to other grills. On the inside is a three-tiered compartment.
The first section is the firebox, comprised of charcoal and wood on the bottom to generate smoke. Above it is a cooking section containing the water pan, an access door, and two cooking grates. The water bowl is essential, helping maintain a stable smoking temperature and adding humidity to the smoke chamber.
At the top is the Weber domed lid, giving the smoker its Weber bullet nickname. The simple, three-tiered design ensures that even a total beginner can get great results with the Weber smoker, making it a favorite for novices and experts alike.
How to Use It
Weber Smokers are made to be straightforward and intuitive, so there are only a few easy steps to take your meat from raw to perfectly smoked. First, you pile lit charcoal in the ring at the bottom of the smoker’s chamber. Next, you fill the water bowl with water, or other liquids if you want to experiment. Apple juice is a popular choice for a touch of sweetness, and you can also use beer if you’re in the mood.
Next, place your prepared meats on the racks above the water bowl. You’ll then add wood chips to the coal and adjust the vents to get the temperature just right: 225 degrees. And that’s it. You’ll want to check the temperature every hour or so using the built-in thermometer, and once the meat has reached your desired level of smokiness, you’re good to go.
Which Weber Smoker Should You Buy?
Determine Your Needs
Since 2014, Weber Smokers have come in three different sizes, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. You’ll first want to consider what types (and sizes) of meats you’ll be using the smoker for. Generally, you’ll want to buy for the biggest meat you plan on smoking. The next factor is what location you want to use it in. If you have other grills taking up room in your backyard, and if you plan on taking it on the go, you may want the smaller model.
But if you plan to use your Weber Smoker as your home base and size isn’t an issue, you should consider the larger models. The final factor is price. The 14″ model starts at MSRP $219 and they go up by about $100 for each size. Though the larger models do cost more, it’s worth considering that you are getting more bang for your buck, with the . The three sizes (based on the grate measurements) are 14″, 18″, and 22″, and we’ll go into more detail on each below.
The 14″ Weber Smoker
The smallest of the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker family, the 14″ is a great choice for first-time backyard smokers and those with limited space or budget. It’s the least expensive, and also the most portable of the bunch, so if you frequent the wilderness, the 14″ model is easy to take on the go. The small size is both the 14″‘s greatest strength and greatest weakness. If you are a big-time smoker and find yourself unable to squeeze in that extra large brisket, you may end up wishing you’d gone with one of the larger models. Here are the pros and cons of the 14″ Weber Smoker in brief:
The 18″ Weber Smoker
The middle child of Weber Smokers, the 18″ model offers the best of both worlds. It’s large enough for most meats you could want (although some have claimed it can’t fit a full brisket or rack of spare ribs flat) and still remains portable if you need it to be. At the middle ground in both size and price, the 18″ is a great choice for anyone from beginners who are planning ahead, or advanced smokers who don’t need the extra four inches of the 22″ model. Unless you know you’ll be cooking a lot of large briskets and ribs, the 18″ should get the job done on nearly anything you can throw at it.
The 22″ Weber Smoker
Why Should You Use a Weber Smoker
Smoking the Competition
With an average rating of 4.8/5 stars on Amazon and entire fan sites devoted to them, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker is the most popular choice among smokers, so a comparison almost seems redundant. But if you’re thinking of looking at other comparable smokers, there are a few reasons that the Webers win every time.
The first is price. You may have your eye on the Big Green Egg, another similar smoker, which offers some advantages over the Weber in terms of air control, insulation, and fuel efficiency. But the advantages come at a cost–the cheapest Big Green Egg (13 inches) retails for MSRP $600, more expensive than the largest Weber Smoker.
Another competitor is the Offset Smoker, a horizontal alternative to the Weber Smoker. Again, the Weber Smoker is a much better value. Though the offset smoker typically offers a larger capacity, they burn much more fuel, require more fire management, and can cost upwards of $1000. For most situations, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker delivers better results at a lower price.
The other benefit to Weber’s trusted name is the warranty that each smoker includes free of charge. The bowl, lid, and center ring have 10-year warrantees (with the exception of rust through/burn through). The plastic components have a 5-year warranty (excluding fading or discoloration), and everything else is has a 2-year warranty. Rugged and built to last, your Weber Smoker is guaranteed to last a long, long time.
When it comes to smokers, you need look no further than the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. Whether it’s the 14″, the 18″, or the 22″ model, you’re setting yourself up for rich and robust meats for years to come. We hope this article has helped guide you towards the Weber Smoker that’s right for you. Happy smoking.