Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 22 Smoker Review
Up until the late 1980s and into the 1990’s it was pretty rare to find truly smoked food, or classic barbecue anywhere other than the Southern United States. This was both a cultural exposure thing, as well as the fact that there simply weren’t a lot of grill manufacturers who willing to provide a retail level smoker.
As the years have gone by, and food culture has broadened throughout the United States the demand for smoked meat has increased. This especially includes the ability to smoke meat in the comfort of your own backyard!
Weber helps answer this demand with their Smokey Mountain Cooker series. The largest and most versatile amongst them is the 22-inch . It features two sets of grill grates that are staged overtop of a water pan. Below that is the fire bowl which is capable of holding a large number of charcoal briquettes along with accent smoking woods.
The top and bottom dampers allow you to carefully control the airflow into the fire bowl, as well as the smoke and heat that is allowed to escape out the top. The lid has a specially contoured lip that allows it to seat firmly onto the body. Just keep an eye out for soot buildup on the lip that might develop after a dozen or so uses, which could affect heat retention.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker also has a special silicone port built into the sidewall. It allows you to insert the lead from a probe thermometer in the meat being cooked. When coupled with the built-in thermometer in the lid you can get a better understanding of the relationship between the heat of the smoke and the heat of the meat.
The bowl also includes an access door. It allows you to add fresh charcoal, wood chips, or wood chunks for a, particularly long smoking session. However, the water pan can sometimes get in the way.
Construction & Ease of Assembly
Weber typically prides itself on using quality materials for all their grills. If there’s one knock on quality it’s the somewhat flimsy feel and basic unpainted look of the side access door. The seal on it can get a little weak over time.
The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker can produce competition level barbecue. There are even people who laud their accomplishments in barbecue competitions. That being said, there are a few things you will want to understand to maximize your own results.
The water pan is a nice feature. It acts as a heat deflector that prevents direct heat from burning or searing the exterior of the meat. At the same time, it also introduces steam into the equation, for increased meat moisture.
Now, this might not seem like a big deal if you are making a sweaty, fat piece of meat like a pork shoulder. Yet for thin and lean cuts of meat, it can make a huge difference!
take for example a trimmed down rack of pork spare ribs. On a fully dry smoking session, with a type of strong smoky wood, you might start to get an acrid flavor and thinner parts of the meat might dry out. A similar issue might occur if you are smoking a spatchcocked, or butterflied chicken.
Size might also be a factor when it comes to choosing a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker. The 22-inch might be a little on the large side if you just want to smoke meat for a family of three on the weekend. It’s really meant more for doing multiple racks of ribs, a bevy of pork butts, or a full load of chicken. A brisket or three wouldn’t go amiss with it’s two 22-inch stacked grill grates.
One thing that makes the 22-inch appealing is the fact that it uses the same grill grates that you find in the 22-inch classic kettle grill. This means if you are a fan of the Weber line you can reuse other grill grates. If you are really industrious, you could smoke something like chicken leg quarters on the 22-inch Smokey Mountain. Then when they are tender, fire up a 22-inch Weber kettle off to the side. Lift the smoker grate up with some welding gloves or thick oven mitts and place it directly onto the grill fire for marking and crisping the skin.
Each of the 22-inch diameter grates provides you with 380 square inches of cooking space. This is enough to handle four large pork shoulders, at least two flat briskets, or an enormous number of racks of ribs.
The silicone side port with its small slit designed to accommodate the lead from a probe thermometer isn’t something that should go overlooked. Being able to read the internal temperature of the meat without having to lift the top helps with consistent temperature control. At the same time poking a piece of meat over-and-over again with an instant-read probe thermometer tends to let out juices.
The included water pan is also a nice feature, as it allows you to introduce steam. Some smokers sold at the retail level don’t include a water pan, leaving you to improvise one for yourself. If you were in a pinch and you wanted to use the Weber Smokey Mountain as a grill, you could leave the water pan out and it will handle most of the basic grilling you want to have, you’ll just have to reach down in to flip your hamburgers awkwardly.
Ease to Clean
Charcoal smokers are always more work to clean up than gas smokers and even charcoal grills. This holds true with the Smokey Mountain. While some ash and spent coals can be taken out through the bottom, you will most likely have to scoop some out of the side access door.
The grill grates can be scraped with a wire brush. Double check the lip of the lid every so often for soot. Every dozen or so uses, you might want to gently scrape the lid down to release any potentially loose sooty material.
The Weber Smokey Mountain comes with a nicely supportive multi-tier limited warranty. This includes 5 years, no rust through/burn through for the cook box and lid assembly, as well as a 2-year warranty on paint excluding fading or discoloration. All remaining parts carry a 2 year warranty from the date of sale.
If you want to be able to produce large amounts of competition level barbecue in your own backyard, then you should give the Weber Smokey Mountain a good hard look. It’s hard to beat the Weber name and the thoughtful, yet simple design that goes into it.
- Capable of producing competition grade barbecue
- Two grates
- Included water pan
- Side access door for convenient reloading
- Silicone side port for probe thermometer leads
- A little tricky to clean
- Sometimes water pan gets in the way reloading
- 22-inch might be too big