The 18.5” Weber 721001 Smokey Mountain Cooker is the mid-size and original version of their successful charcoal smoker. It doesn’t take much time to get them mastered, and the experts have plenty of tricks they use to grill up some delicious food.
Cooking for an hour or more on a Smokey Mountain and the temperature remains quite steady, and by having the vents opened or closed will this small model’s temperature lower or raise.
WSMs have a beautiful finish and a solid construction. The coatings in these grills are chrome and porcelain, and Weber has ensured they’re long lasting. An aluminum, bowl-shaped heat shield attaches to the grill’s sturdy set of legs.
The lid features a built-in bi-metal thermometer, which is inaccurate. Although, a soft grommet was added in 2014 to the right side of the grill to easily insert your digital thermometer.
What you might not want to hear
Adding wood, coal, and water is done through the side door, although it’s tricky adding lit coals and water through it. The door isn’t bulletproof. Oxygen lets in and smoke will leak, making it not so easy getting the oxygen supply shut down and the coals killed. I wouldn’t be surprised hearing others slightly bending theirs to fit it better, and ponder how Weber could allow the door be so poorly crafted when the other parts were crafted so well.
I also would have liked to see a wider lid in the WSM. The lid allows melting snow and rain to get in (sectioned in the center of the lip’s interior where it rests).
I’d prefer for the center section to be overlapped by the lid, just as you’d see with the Weber Kettle fitted lid.
If you’ve narrowed it down to deciding between the 22.5” 731001 Smokey Mountain and the 18.5”, be aware that:
-the smaller unit won’t be fitting a slab full of ribs on its grates without some slight of hand
-and if the sides are too close to the meat they’ll be subject to getting scorched by the heat coming up from the perimeter of the water pan. Yet it’s hard to get the 22.5 inch below a 275F temp.
WSM 731001 (vs 721001 18.5″)
The 22.5” Weber Smokey Mountain is the largest and newest version of their in-demand charcoal smoker.
Like the 18.5” original WSM, this heavier set smoker cooks at a temperature that’s strikingly steady for hours, and lowering or raising the temp isn’t too difficult by closing and opening the vents. Here’s the problem– it’s difficult getting it lower than 275°F. 225-250F is a good range in temp for smoking. Anything at or above 275F can turn the meat too tough.
Tricks are out there you can try to get a knack for it, but it’s not so simple. If I had to award it a metal, it’d be silver. The smaller 18.5” does really well at a 225F temp, and that’s where our gold would be handed to.
22.5” Model’s Advantage
The big one is its capacity. The grates measure 21 inches across unlike the smaller WSM’s 15.5 inches. Actually, with the grates you can get a few rib slabs to be comfortably laid out on (they don’t need to be cut in half or bent around). You shouldn’t have a problem fitting a couple quads of pork butts (five pounds each) at the most, and the room left should be plenty for it to circulate smoke.
What its got going for it?
Solid construction. Finish is a beaut. Weber sure has a way of making chrome and porcelain coatings last long. The legs? Nothing less than sturdy and on them is attached an aluminum bowl-shaped heat shield. If you’re using a wooden deck to grill on, I recommend getting a grill mat to set your smoker on.
As with the 18.5″ mentioned above, the lid’s built-in bi-metal thermometer is inaccurate, but a soft grommet was added last year to the grill’s right side for your digital thermometer to be easily inserted. A side door is there for water, coal, and wood to be added, although there’s some trickery getting lit coals and water added through the door. Because of the door, oxygen is let in, and it causes smoke to leak. This doesn’t make it easy to subdue the coals and the oxygen supply shut down. You might even get the urge to slightly bend yours so it’s better fit, which makes me wonder- how could Weber manufacture a door quite poorly crafted while the rest of the grill was crafted so well?
The smoker’s water pan is a goliath, and more water will need to be added than you’d anticipate it needing because the surface area is more. And, it’s sooo not small enough for a standard sink to fit it (flat) so it can be cleaned up, and it can’t be easily lined with foil because even the width of foil of consumer grade (the largest you can get) isn’t as wide as the smoker’s. There’s hope some guy soon will get a pan liner that’s disposable put on the market.
What you’re getting for the price on a WSM
With a more intuitive, larger handle on the front door, the thermometer mounted on the lid, and the heat shield found on the bottom make the Weber 721001 a superior WSM for the same sub-$400 listing price. Amazon.com only has so many WSMs in stock at one time, so I would keep an eye on there day to day.
- Featured image by woodleywonderworks of Flickr
- Image by John of Flickr
- Both under CC BY 2.0 license.