I’m pretty brand agnostic when it comes to brands of smokers, which is why, when it came time for me to buy a smoker that was legal to use for these competitions, I choose the 22.5” Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) based mostly on affordability.
The problem was, the WSM didn’t arrive in time for the Big Ed’s contest. Fortunately, my trusty 6-year-old Masterbuilt electric smokehouse was OK’d for use in this contest, so I used it instead, and you really have no idea how much I really like using it.
At the Big Ed’s contest, I got to know Dennis Correa of Smoke Daddy Inc., who showed up with his sizable BBQcrew that he calls the “Voodoo BBQ team”. Dennis of course, cooks on his own line of Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro Competition smokers, which really caught my eye since they look a lot like beefier versions of the popular Traeger Pellet Smokers that I’ve seen around at a few competitions.
Dennis got to talking to me about his Pellet Pro Competition smoker, and how it works in great detail, and he said that he not only sells the line smokers but that he also sells the complete pellet hopper assembly unit. My techy brain logged that little piece of information for future use… Overall it was not a bad weekend, I ended up taking third place in the contest with the Masterbuilt, and I had made a new friend.
My beautiful new WSM arrived the following week, and right away I started cooking with it. And despite all the tweaks and mods from the Virtual Bullet forum, and plenty of advice from some of my local WSM friends that I know around here. I started to feel that I just wasn’t able to achieve and recreate the same level of tenderness with that perfect relaxed texture that I get from my trusty Masterbuilt.
I entered Bad 2 Da Bone BBQ in the KCBS Kenosha Grill Games in August.
I was still toying with the WSM quite a bit, but with the Grill Games contest looming right around the corner, I finally decided on using the minion method of fire control with Coshell coconut shell briquettes (since they gave off a lighter smoke and longer lasting fire than lump or Kingsford), a clay pot base filled with sand in the water pan, and a PartyQ by BBQ Guru to keep my temperatures stable, and help make my fuel consumption more efficient.
From a BBQ perspective; The Kenosha Grill Games outing was a disaster!
None of the BBQ cooked on the WSM got a call (although we did have a call in another category), but we finished a paltry 28thout of 41 teams. There were two big errors that really hurt; the late lighting of one of the two WSM’s (by almost 2 hours) which meant that the stink of the initial charcoal lighting was still strong, and the temperature had not fully stabilized when I wanted to load in the Brisket and Pork.
The second key mistake was the inadvertent mistake of leaving the lid slightly ajar during the night on the second WSM. Which meant, that we had a really hot smoker on our hands to deal with in the morning by about +50°. And as many of you know, bringing down the temp in a WSM is brutal if not impossible! It also didn’t help that the both electric fan monitors crapped out, so we had to go old school and just use vent control.
To say I was disappointed in the WSMs performance that weekend might be a bit of an understatement.
After I got home that night, I started thinking about the Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro. Mentally debating if maybe I had bought the wrong kind of smoker for my style of cooking. And the more I thought about it, the more my techie’s brain started trying to solve the problems with the WSM’s. So instead, I got an idea. To some; an awful idea. But I knew I’d had a wonderful, *awful* idea”.
That week I drove down to Smoke Daddy Inc. in Waukegan and spoke to Dennis about retrofitting the Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro hopper assembly onto my WSM. He looked at me kind of funny at first, but after hearing out the whole idea, he quickly said “sure, I think we can give it a try”.
The hopper stands about a foot off the ground, and for the purpose of making a prototype, we bought a Cajun Bandit BBQ Stacker to cut up and modify for the Pellet Pro hopper assembly to fit into. Dennis’ lead fabrication guy Gary really did a bang up job of cutting, mounting and fitting the hopper into Stacker ring for the WSM. And within a day we had a working prototype to test cook on, check out the pictures.
After several cooks with the Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro hopper assembly mounted into the Cajun Bandit Stacker, I can tell you that I am already seeing big benefits, such as; complete hands-off fire monitoring, steady temps that are +/- 10 degrees of target set point, pure wood smoke without that acrid charcoal first light stench. Very efficient use of the pellets; the WSM is really tight and is only going through about ¾ lbs of pellets an hour. The food is more “relaxed and moist” and I’m getting predictable results that are very close to what my electric cabinet smoker does effortlessly. The temps from removing and replacing the lid recover to target temp in less than 3-5 minutes. And achieving set target temp from a cold start has been taking about 15 minutes on average.
I think with just a few minor tweaks, such as permanently mounting the probes above the stacker ring, maybe filling the water pan with water instead of using sand and the claypan, and possibly sealing/beefing up that flimsy stock door it will be perfect.
I honestly can’t wait to take this to a few competitions next year and see how it fares against the other teams, I know that I’m really happy with the results so far, and at this point, I think it’s safe to say, that the kind of errors that hurt me in Kenosha, shouldn’t ever hurt me again in the future.
If you’re interested in upgrading your WSM to be a pellet smoker like pictured, please contact Dennis at Smoke Daddy, Inc. for help and guidance, and to buy the Smoke Daddy Pellet Pro hopper assembly as well! He says that if he sees enough demand or interest for it, that he would like to offer this as a WSM retrofit kit for either the 22.5” or the original 18” WSMs.