It’s been a long hard winter and I haven’t cooked outdoors for months.  About the time the withdrawal shakes set in real good, I determined it was time to go outside and light a fire.  My smoking tool of choice for this 2011 inaugural bbq will be my new-to-me Weber Smokey Mountain.

My big trailer-mounted smoker (Lang 84 Deluxe) has served me well the past 7 years I’ve owned it. However, due to the fact I have to store it across town and the fact it’s really just too farkin’ big to whip out just for a couple chickens and two slabs of ribs… I finally broke down and purchased a lightly used 22½” Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) off of Craig’s List a couple weeks ago.

This past weekend was a balmy 33º with a steady NW wind at 15 knots with spitting snow and freezing drizzle, so I figured what better time than now to give the ol’ WSM a true Trumpy-style break-in. Besides, I wanted to learn the cooker’s temperament in adverse conditions.


I started off with two 3½ lb. chickens. First, I removed the neck and innards from the body cavity and rinsed them off real good. Then, using my kitchen shears, I spatchcocked them by doing the following:

  • Removed the tail.
  • Removed the backbone by cutting right along both sides with the shears.
  • Clipped the “Y” bone in the neck on both sides so the front of the bird would also lay flat.
  • Finally, I clipped the wing tips off. I don’t eat them and they usually burn any way, so who needs them…

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial Note:  I did not go into much detail about how to spatchcock (or butterfly) a chicken because much has already been written on this subject on the web.  Check out this great tutorial by the Naked Whiz for further instructions:  Dead Simple Spatchcocked Chicken
Then I applied some rub liberally to both sides. Usually, I would apply a coating of olive oil to the entire bird before the rub, but I was pressed for time and kinda’ wanted to see what would happen if I skipped the oil. So, I skipped the oil. Next time, I won’t skip the oil.

I also picked up a double-pack of pork spare ribs from the local grocery store since they were running a $1.99 per pound sale on them. I gave them the usual St. Louis trim special along with a light coating of yellow mustard and rub to both sides.

 

 

 

WSM was preheated to 250º Minion-style using a eclectic mixture of Roya Oak lump, Wally-world briquettes and Best Choice 100% Hardwood briquettes, with a generous helping of fist sized chunks of hickory sprinkled throughout. Water pan went “Commando” with no water and only a single layer of foil lining.

The chickens went on the top grill and the ribs both fit on the bottom grill. I placed a digital remote probe thermo between the ribs on the bottom grate and compared it’s readings vs. the stock thermo in the lid periodically throughout the cook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final thoughts on the cook…

  • The new-to-me 22½” WSM did great. It held temps like a champ for a little more than 8 hours on one load of charcoal.
  • The wind and cold seemed to have little effect on it. Once I got the vents dialed in, it would hold 250º-255º with no problem.
  • Recovery time was great. I tested it several times and average time between “lid-on” and temp re-stabilization was a mere 2.25 minutes.
  • There is about a 25º temperate difference between the bottom grate and the stock thermo located in the lid. This is to be expected and in no way seen as a negative.
  • No water in the water pan worked just fine. Next time, I think I will use some sand, though. I think my ribs got a little too crispy on the bottom for my liking.
  • Chickens turned out great. Had great flavor and were very tender and juicy. As I alluded to earlier, I should have oiled the skin down before applying the rub (which I usually always do). And I should have given the rub a tad bit more time to dissolve on and into the meat. I always recommend at least 30 to even 45 minutes of rest time once the rub is applied before putting the meat on the grill. I was pressed for time this time around and the rub didn’t quite setup like it usually does.
  • The ribs tasted great, but I overcooked them about 45 minutes too long. The temps also got away from me one time, reaching up-wards of 300º for probably a half hour or more when I forgot to come back out and check on the temps after making a minor vent adjustment. This is one drawback to the WSM in my opinion. When cooking on the bottom grate, it’s difficult to test doneness without completely dismantling the entire thing.
  • But by a huge margin, I am very happy with how this first cook turned out and I’m looking forward to firing it up again an again. Given the temps and wind, it should only get better from here.
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