Whether you’re new to smoking or you want to add a charcoal smoker to your collection of pellet and electric smokers, the Weber Smokey Mountain 18-Inch Smoker tops most lists of the best smokers on the market. And no wonder: The setup is logical, cleanup is simple, and the temperature regulation is easy to understand. Plus, the product gets bonus points for the tall, slim design that gives it a smaller footprint for storage while still offering enough smoking space to feed guests. We put the popular smoker to the test to see if it held up to its reputation.
Performance: Keeps temperature fluctuations under control
When it comes to smoking, maintaining temperature is extremely important, both for proper cooking and for producing sufficient smoke. Like most grills and smokers, the Weber Smokey Mountain has vents that control the airflow and in turn the temperature, but it also has a very sneaky trick up its sleeve for maintaining heat levels: a large water pan that sits directly above the coals. The water acts as a heat sink, absorbing heat and releasing it slowly, keeping the temperature stable.
The lid has an adjustable vent, an integrated thermometer, and a handle that stays cool. The middle section of the smoker holds the water bowl and two cooking grates and has a door for adding charcoal, wood, or water, and for checking food on the lower grate. The base has three adjustable vents and three legs for stability—and it holds the fire grate and ring. The three sections don’t lock together, so you simply stack them. When we needed to move the smoker, we carried each section separately and appreciated the reasonable weight of each section.
The included smoker cover was a nice touch, and we found it fit snugly enough on the smoker that it didn’t fly away. A single hook-and-loop fastener strap lets you tie the cover to one of the smoker legs for extra security, though it seemed unlikely that we’d need this.
Since this smoker is tall rather than wide, you won’t be using it for a whole pig, but the height lets you cook a beer-can style turkey vertically with no problem. A rack of ribs or side of salmon will fit easily across the center of the grates. When we made ribs, we cut the rib racks in half for easier handling and for even smoking while using grates on both levels. When we were ready to sauce them, they all fit onto the top grate.
Setup Process: Easy to do, but diagrams weren’t completely clear
This smoker required minimal assembly, just attaching the legs, brackets, and the plastic shroud for the lid handle. The instructions were simple diagrams, and the two types of washers looked identical, so we had to visit the manufacturer’s website for clarification. Short answer: Fiber washers go against the outer shell of the smoker to protect the paint surface from chips or cracks.
Smoking Setup: Almost as easy as a charcoal grill
For smoke, you need fire. Charcoal briquettes are recommended, but many users prefer lump charcoal or a mix. To start the fire, we tried a chimney starter as well as wax fire starters. One chimney’s worth of charcoal wasn’t enough, so we dumped that onto the grate, then added more charcoal and waited for that to get ash-coated. With wax starters, we added all the charcoal we wanted in a generous pyramid and used the starters to light the fire.
Once the coals were ready, we added dry chunks of smoking wood, then put the center section of the smoker in place along with the empty water bowl. We added water and then the grates and lid. When the smoker reached a stable temperature, we were ready to cook. Weber recommends checking the smoker every 15 minutes, which is a good idea when you’re adjusting the vents to get the right temperature. While the integrated thermometer is fine when you’re near the grill, we suggest using a remote thermometer so you can monitor it from a distance during long smoking sessions.