If you’re tempted to try smoking a brisket on your WSM but aren’t sure where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. This ultimate guide will tell you everything you need to know about this amazing piece of equipment and the effect it may have on your next cookout.
Smoke a Brisket On a WSM 18
The Weber Smoky Mountain offers a number of handy features that make it a great choice for smoking beef brisket. The 18-inch model is a nice middle-of-the-road option, but the cooking grate might be a tad small to accommodate a large whole packer. Fortunately, there are ways around this issue.
About the WSM 18
Assuming you already own a WSM, you probably know that it stands for “Weber Smoky Mountain.” This is a smoker that has been around for over 40 years, during which time it’s cultivated a fine reputation in the barbecue community.
Like most Weber models, the WSM is available in three sizes. The smallest has a cooking surface that measures 14.5 inches in diameter, while the largest measures 22.5 inches. The one we’ve chosen to focus on is the medium-sized one, with its 18.5-inch cooking grid.
It’s important to note that this is a charcoal-fired smoker, not a grill. A grill is designed primarily for direct-heat cooking applications, although it’s possible to create indirect cooking zones if you build the fire properly.
Smokers like the WSM, meanwhile, are equipped to deliver indirect heat throughout the cook. With its built-in water pan and wood chip pan, the WSM aims to create a stable temperature with just the right degree of moisture for a successful smoking experience.
The Water Pan
Experts continue to debate the necessity of the water pan for smoked brisket and other meats. Although it does help the smoker maintain the correct temperature, it can make the environment too humid, which may inhibit bark development.
The water pan in the WSM is positioned to prevent excess drippings from falling onto the fire below. This can be a good thing, since it prevents flare-ups and keeps the moisture from dampening the coals. Bear in mind, though, that this setup makes it impossible to salvage those drippings afterward.
Although the water pan is a standard feature of the WSM, it’s still an optional one. You don’t have to fill it with water at all. If you prefer the no-water method, try wrapping the pan in foil and using it as a drip tray instead.
Will a Brisket Fit On a WSM 18?
As we’ve determined, the “18” in the grill’s name refers to the diameter of the cooking grate, which actually measures 18.5 inches across. Is this sufficient to accommodate an entire brisket?
If you’re smoking the flat or the point alone, there’s no need to worry. These cuts usually weigh between 4 to 9 pounds apiece, with the point coming in at the lower end of the spectrum. The 18.5-inch cooking grid should provide more than enough space.
Whole packers might present more of an issue. You should be able to find one of these in the 12-14 pound range, but they can weigh as much as 20 pounds. A brisket this size may have a hard time fitting on the smoker without a little bit of help from the operator.
If it looks like your brisket is too big for the smoker, try folding the point under itself until it fits on the grate. Alternatively, you can manipulate the brisket so that it curves in the middle. It might look a bit strange at first, but remember that the meat will shrink down as it cooks.
As a last resort, you can divide the point and the flat and smoke them side by side. We prefer to keep the whole packer together whenever possible, as this makes for a more succulent and juicy end result. On the other hand, cutting the brisket in half this way will reduce your total cooking time.
What Cooking Temperature Should I Use?
Our go-to recommendation for smoked brisket is 225 degrees Fahrenheit. When we want to smoke a brisket on the WSM 18, however, we like to set the temp a little higher.
Aim for a smoker temperature between 250 and 275 degrees. It’s easier for a charcoal smoker to maintain these temps, and it will speed the process along.
If the temp holds steady in the 250-degree range, the brisket should cook at a rate of 1 to 1.5 hours per pound. Smokers that can hold the 275-degree temperature will provide a more rapid cooking experience–about 30 to 45 minutes per pound.
How To Smoke a Brisket on a WSM 18
To begin, lay your selected wood on the bottom of the fire basket. Oak and pecan are both good choices, but feel free to mix in some hickory if desired. You can also try adding a bit of mesquite, but be careful, as this can impart a bitter flavor to the brisket.
Start with 6 or 7 chunks of wood. This should buy you about 12 hours of cooking time before you need to replenish the supply. For smaller flat or point cuts, use 2 to 3 chunks of wood–these should last for 7 to 8 hours.
Fill the rest of the fire basket with lump charcoal. This type of charcoal burns hotter and cleaner than briquettes, and it won’t leave trace amounts of chemicals on your brisket.
Note that if you’re planning on a cooking time of 8 hours or less, you only need to add enough charcoal to reach the fire ring. Most of the time, a brisket will need to cook for longer than this, but if you’re using a higher temp and smoking the point or flat separately, the cooking time might fall into this range.
Push the coals around the edges of the fire basket to create an indentation in the center. Then light the coals in the center. The fire will slowly work its way to the outside, providing a solid 10 to 15 hours of steady heat.
Replace the cooking grids and wait for the smoker temperature to climb between 250 and 275 degrees. When it’s hot enough, set your prepared brisket on the top grate and close the lid. We recommend using the top rack, as the temperature will be higher on the bottom.
Smoke the brisket until the internal temp reaches 150-160 degrees. At this point, you may remove the meat from the smoker and wrap it in butcher paper or foil for the next stage of the smoke. This step is optional. Either way, you should continue to smoke the brisket until it achieves the internal temperature of 195-200 degrees.
Let the meat rest for 30 to 60 minutes before carving. As an alternative, wrap it in foil and hold it in a faux Cambro for up to 4 hours. If you opt to hold the brisket, be sure to let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
Carve the flat into slices, as thick or thin as desired. Shred the meat from the point. Serve the sliced and shredded brisket with barbecue sauce on the side, if desired.
The Bottom Line
The WSM 18 has a compact design and a stellar reputation among barbecue enthusiasts. You should have no problem smoking your brisket to perfection when you use this model.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!