How To Build A “Mini” Weber Smokey Mountain

So a couple weeks ago my friend Mike helped me build my first Mini WSM (aptly named “Lil Gator”).  A Mini WSM is a converted Weber Smokey Joe to a miniature Weber Smokey Mountain (“WSM”).  There a few a reasons why I wanted to build one.  1)  They’re ultra portable so it will be easy to pack up and take on beach trips, camping trips or tailgating parties.  2)  They are SUPER fuel efficient b/c of their small size, so you can easily make it through an entire butt or picnic cook with 1/2 a bag of charcoal.  3)  They are fairly cheap to make, especially if you can find the Smokey Joe on sale somewhere (total cost is roughly $80 – $90 depending on the cost of your Smokey Joe and your parts).  4)  I want to be cool like all the other guys that have one 🙂

I’ve provided a ton of pics below that will walk you through the entire process, but before we get to the steps, I wanted to point out a couple things.  1)  Not all 32 qt pots fit well for this project.  Feel free to do a little research online to see which pot other people are using, but the two pots that seem to fit the best are either the IMUSA 32-qt tamale/seafood steamer or the Vasconia 32-qt steamer.  2)  For this project, you definitely want to use the Smokey Joe Gold versus the Smokey Joe Silver.  Here’s why:  the Silver has a bottom damper which can EASILY get clogged, so a lot of guys drill holes in a small, stainless steel bowl (like a pet food bowl or something similar) then mount it over the bottom damper to protect it from all the inevitable ash build up.  The better alternative is to go with the Gold model that has a damper on each side and does not have one on the bottom.  It saves a lot of headache and makes it easier to dial in your temp since you have a damper on each side of the smoker.  3)  Spend a few extra dollars and get all stainless steel hardware.  You’ll be cooking in this bad boy a lot so you don’t want to go low budget and save a couple dollars and have junk hardware securing your grates, heat diffuser and pit thermometer.  OK, now for the pics.  I’ve put a brief description above each one to let you know what’s going on in each pic.  Feel free to hit me up in the Comments section if you have any questions.  I also have a couple videos at the very bottom of this post.  One shows an overview of the Mini and the other is a video of me cooking baby back ribs and beef back ribs on it for the first time.

Parts list

Weber Smokey Joe Gold
1 Tel-Tru BQ300 Barbecue Thermometer, 3″ black dial with 2 .5″ stem  (there are different colors and also a 4″ stem model, but for this project, get one with the 2.5″ stem)
32 qt IMUSA tamale/seafood steamer
1 can of black high heat black auto enamel paint
1 can of orange auto enamel paint (this is option…you can just put on 2-3 coats of the black high heat paint…)
12″ terracotta base
1/4″, 3″ long stainless steel bolts (3)
1/4″, 3/4″ long stainless steel bolts (3)
1/4″, stainless steel lock washers (8)
1/4″, stainless steel nuts (11)
1/4″, stainless steel lock nut (4)
1/4″, 5″-6″ carriage bolt (doesn’t matter if stainless or not, just find the longest you can up to 6″ for the handle)
Masking tape
1 extra 14″ Weber cooking grate (if you want a 2nd cooking level)

Please note:  One of the steps I failed to take a picture of below is when we drilled all of the holes for the heat diffuser, the rack and the pit thermometer.  Do this before you paint so you don’t mess up your paint job.

Here is everything set out just before we got started.  There’s really not a whole lot to this.

Mini WSM

Installing a 1/4″ x 5″ carriage bolt.  That’s a small piece of a broom handle on the end that we cut.  This provides a quick and east solution for adjusting the top damper without having to put a glove on.

Mini WSM

Drilling the holes.  We used a 1/4″ bit, but if you have a 1/2″ bit, or better yet, a step bit, you can drill bigger holes so you won’t have to drill as many as we did.

Mini WSM

Still drilling.  I’ve seen some guys that use ultra precision when drilling the holes out.  We just eyeballed it and drilled them all over the place.  I mean really, all I care about is air flow, not looks.  No one’s ever gonna see the bottom anyways…so who cares right?

Mini WSM

Yep, still drilling.  Be sure to clean up all the little metal shards when you’re done b/c if you have young kids like I do they can be quite a hazard if just left lying around…

Update 12/4/12 – A lot of guys end up cutting the bottom out of the pot (leaving only a 3/4″ – 1″ lip around the edge) to allow for better airflow.  I’ve had a lot of people contact me telling me they have issues consistently keeping the temp up so they end up just cutting the bottom out.  I’ve had a few cooks were this was an issue, but I’ve learned to just take the middle and top sections off for a sec and stir the coals around to allow the ash that’s choking the fire out to fall down below the charcoal grate.  As long as you do this and keep the lid on as much as possible, you shouldn’t have a problem keeping it nice and hot.  I’ve chosen not to cut the bottom out of mine yet b/c on really hot days it can get too hot if you don’t watch the vents closely and that’s not ideal.

Mini WSM

OK, I live in Gator Nation and bleed orange and blue.  Was I going to make a Mini WSM without a Florida logo of some sorts?  Of course not.  All I did was print out the Florida Gators “F”, carefully cut the F out, then taped the template down with cheap ol’ masking tape.  The trick here is to make sure you have at least 2-3 layers of tape over your logo.  You want a thick layer so it’s easy to cut out with a razor blade and also so when you paint over it there’s no way the paint will bleed through.

Mini WSM

Cutting the “F” out with a razor blade.

Mini WSM

This is what the “F” looked like when we were done.  Hopefully you get the idea by now…

Mini WSM

Now we’re taping the lip of the tamale pot.  We’ll be attaching plastic grocery bags to the tape to protect the inside of the pot during the painting process.

Mini WSM

All you really need to do is tear off some long pieces of your masking tape and attach it to the outside, bottom edge of the lip.

Mini WSM

 Adjust the tape so it’s sticking up and slightly angled in towards the inside of the pot.  If you look closely, you can also see where we taped the handles.  This is totally up to you, but I wanted to the handles to remain a nice shiny silver color to match well with the silver “F” on the final product…

Mini WSM

Take some plastic grocery bags and attached them to the tape.

Mini WSM

 Spraying the first coat of the high heat black auto paint.  The trick here is to spray from about 1′-1 1/2′ away so it goes on nice and even.  If you get to close and too much paint hits the pot in one area there’s a chance the paint will run and you do NOT want that happen.  Just spray it on nice and light from a good distance and it will go on perfectly.

Mini WSM

Here’s the first coat drying.  It should go without saying, but pick and nice and warm/hot day (no rain…) to paint.  On this day it was like 90° so the various coats of paint were drying in only 10 min or so.

Mini WSM

After 2 or 3 coats of the high heat paint (I think I did 3…), it was time for orange auto enamel paint.  Here’s is a shot of the first coat drying.

Mini WSM

This is right after we removed the tape over the “F” and were in the process of removing the tape from the lip and the handles.

Mini WSM

To mount the grill rack, we used stainless steel 1/4″ x 3/4″ hex bolts, stainless steel hex nuts, stainless steel lock washers and stainless steel lock (acorn) nuts.  The lock nut goes on the outside then washer and hex nut are on the inside.  You can see in the pic how the grill rack will sit on the head of the nuts.  (This pic shows 1 1/2″ bolts we tried first, but they were too long and made it impossible to fit the bottom grate past them, so I switched them out a couple weeks later for 3/4″ ones instead…)

Mini WSM

For the terracotta pan (that will be used as a heat diffuser) rack, we used 1/4″ x 3″ hex bolts, stainless steel hex nuts, stainless steel lock washers.

Update 12/4/12 – At this point, now that I’ve been cooking on my Mini for about 7 months, there are couple tweaks to this original build I would suggest.  First, don’t use a terracotta pan.  They’re too heavy and started to cause the hex bolts to sag on mine, warping the sides of the pot.  I’m not the only one b/c several people have told me the same thing.  I switched over to a lightweight pizza pan and it really hasn’t been an issue since.  All I do is just cover the pizza pan in aluminum foil to catch the drippings.  One of my blog readers that built a Mini mentioned that he ended up running some all thread across the bottom and through the pot to allow for additional support of heat diffuser/deflector (check that out here).

Mini WSM

Here is the rack from the Smokey Joe  setting nicely on the 1 1/2″ bolts.

Mini WSM

And here’s the finished Mini WSM with the 3″ black dial Tel-Tru BQ300 thermometer that was installed a few weeks after I built this.

Florida Gator Mini WSM!

Here’s a video of me slow smoking ribs on “Lil Gator” for the first time.

Here’s a video of me slow smoking a Boston butt on my Mini.



91 Responses to How To Build A “Mini” Weber Smokey Mountain

  1. patrick alkema June 14, 2012 at 4:58 am #

    Hi nice work

    Good dokumentation, i am going to try this.

    thx for the info

    Greetings from the Netherlands

    • Steve June 14, 2012 at 6:52 am #

      Thx Patrick!

      Send me a picture of yours when it’s done!


      • Fred July 31, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

        Watched the vid about making the mini, that is super.. I was watching the video of you with the ribs too, I missed the make of the rub that you said you liked. Would you let me know what brand it is. I have use the BGE pecan rub, I liked it really good

        Thanks for sharing


  2. tom June 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    just by reading, could you put water in the diffuser and have a water in the mini like the wsm

    • Steve June 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

      You definitely can, but the problem is the little bit of water you have in there is going to evaporate quick. One option is if you are only using the top rack, then you could put a much deeper water pan on the bottom rack and that would prob last most/all of the cook. But as for the terracotta diffuser I’m using, it’s only like 1″ deep, so the water wouldn’t last long and then you’d have to refill it which would be a pain…

      • James September 9, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

        Have you considered using a terracotta bowl instead of a saucer? This will give the best of both worlds provided the bowl is the right shape.

        • Steve September 10, 2012 at 8:13 am #

          No, I haven’t, but that’s not a bad idea. I’ll have to look into that. Do you have a mini? Is that how you’ve got yours set up?

  3. tom June 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    also, you can take the middle out and still use as a grill

    • Steve June 15, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

      Yes, without a doubt. I’m just lazy and don’t want to mess with that so I just bought another Smokey Joe… 🙂

  4. Patrick June 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Really enjoyed looking at your videos while preparing a Boston Butt this Sunday. Then I saw how you built this smoker and was really intrested in making one. I don’t have one yet. However, I do have a Weber charcoal grill. I’m wondering if I could use it to make a smoker out of. It is about 18 inches across, not sure if I could get a steamer pot that big. What is the diameter of your mini?


    • Steve June 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

      Hey Patrick, sorry I’m just now responding, been a busy week.

      Honestly man, you can just smoke on your 18″ kettle. I have the monster size Weber kettle (the 26.75″) which is better for smoking on b/c of it’s size, but you can w/o a doubt smoke on the 18″ one too, you just won’t be able to cook as much food obviously.

      I have never seen someone convert one of the standard sized kettles (18″ and up) into a Weber Smokey Mountain style smoker like I did with this Mini WSM project. I’m pretty sure they don’t make a pot that would fit that…but I could be wrong.

      If I were you, I’d keep your kettle the way it is and smoke and grill on it, but then make a Mini b/c it’s super portable and you’ll use it a lot on trips, tailgates, etc…

      Have fun with it!

      • Peter October 9, 2013 at 12:43 am #

        To make a Kettle into a WSM just use a steel drum instead of a pot.

  5. Brian July 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Dumb question, when you are putting in the wood and unlit charcoal, you are putting all that on the charcoal grate that came with the Smokey Joe….right?

    • Steve July 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

      not a dumb question at all, but yep, that’s all ya have to do and she’s ready to cook!

  6. Jeff in Minnesota July 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. I have been wanted a WSM all summer, but the 3 hundred has been holding me back. My family/kids aren’t really fans of ribs and such. So it’s hard to justify it when I wasn’t sure they would like it.

    I kept telling them it’s all different if they are cooked right – just hard to find a place in Minnesota doing it right. Sorry “Famous D’s chain” thats not it?

    But I have messing around with a Weber Gas grill trying to smoke, and have managed a couple good batches. Now they love it. As long as I cook it low & long.

    So I have been trying to figure out what to buy and I found your web page.

    I found all the parts locally last night, put it together this morning. Burning some coals through it now – so far – 4 hours at 250 exactly.

    Tomorrow will be the real test.

    • Steve July 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

      Nice! I’m stoked you built one. You found a therm locally too? What kind did you get? One thing I’ll mention now that I’ve cooked on mine a few times is that it’s a bit tricky at times to get it up to temp and hold the temp I’m looking for. My buddy ended up cutting the whole bottom out of his to allow for more heat flow and I may end up doing the same. Good luck on your first cook!

      • Jeff in Minnesota July 18, 2012 at 9:59 am #

        I found the Gold Smokey Joe at a hardware store and Target had one IMUSA pot.
        And put the thermometer from my gas Weber in it for now.

        I cut 3 2 1/8″ holes with a door knob hole saw. I sat the pot on some scrap wood and drilled the hole saw down into the inside of the pot. The hole saw made it hard to hold the pot steady so after 3 I switched to the largest metal bit I had 5/8″ I think to cover the rest with holes.

        It held temps really well, adjusted the vents at 1 1/2 hours and 2 hours opened them all the way after 3. 5 hours it was still at 250 but then I left for the night so not sure what happened after that. There was still decent amount of coals but no food in it, just testing it.

        If it doesn’t rain too hard today I’ll be testing it for real

        • Jeff in Minnesota July 18, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

          Yesterday was a fluke

          Today new bag of charcoal. – Taking forever to get hot and stay there.

          Oh well learn as I go – LOL

  7. hank July 23, 2012 at 11:05 am #


    Are you still using the clay pot? Have read (several places), that it kinda limits the max temp. so as to make it difficult to ‘finish’ things like chicken… Just being courious..
    Like what ya did with the place 🙂 .

    • Steve July 23, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      Yeah, still using it, but may try the steamer pan out per your suggestion and see how that goes. Downside of using a heat deflector with holes in it though is that all the juices from the meat will drip pretty easily down into your charcoal pile…

      • hank July 25, 2012 at 2:03 am #

        Steve, Howdy;

        Most of those fellas are placeing a foiled 9″ pie pan on top of the steamer plate.
        Reckon that keeps a majority of drippin’s outta the coals…
        The puzzle continues…….


  8. Mark July 26, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Looks cool. I was going to buy the big Weber for $300, then I found yours for about $100. Can you cook a Turkey in this?

    • Steve July 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      With the top rack out, you can easily cook a huge one.

  9. jvo July 27, 2012 at 12:08 am #

    how many grate are installed in your rig? is it just 1 grate in the middle or multiple?

    • Steve July 27, 2012 at 7:10 am #

      2. one on the bottom that sits on the terracotta tray heat deflector and one about 4-5 inches from the top. i’ve got a video at the bottom of the post that shows you that. check it out.

  10. Trevor July 30, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

    Just ordered all my parts Steve, I can’t wait to post pictures of the process.

    • Steve July 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Just send em’ to me via email and i’ll post em’ on my blog. my Facebook page is locked out so people can’t post things (too many spammers out there…). Have fun with it! Are you going to do a stencil, or is that a surprise? 🙂

  11. patrick August 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    Hey, I finished mine today, I got the thermo in today and I wasnt expecting that large of a back. What did you bore through your pot with to size that hole to fit the thermo?


    • Steve August 12, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

      A step bit. I believe it was either a 1/2″ or 3/4″ and my buddy and I drilled just a little at a time until it fit.

  12. Joe October 6, 2012 at 10:14 am #


    I am starting my mini WSM today and wanted to know how your paint job is holding up. Are you seeing any issues after a few cooks? Great website!!!

    • Steve October 6, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      The orange paint at the bottom of pot is burning off. I’ve had a few other people email me to say that even with multiple coats like I did, they’re experiencing the same thing. It isn’t really that bad though, so don’t let it keep ya from what you’re planning on doing. It really only fades / burns off down at the bottom near the charcoal pile.

      Send me a pic when you’re done to

      Good luck and have fun!!

  13. Mark Gardner October 23, 2012 at 2:45 am #

    My boss got a new WSM and then found your site to make the mini. He now has both! I just finished my mini tonight and im cooking some sausages for a test. so far its working great! Thank you for providing this very useful information for everyone! Im looking forward to many well cooked meals from my new “toy”! Keep up the great work!
    Thank you again for your incredible site!

    • Steve December 4, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

      Mark, how has your mini been treating you? Did you paint yours? If you have pics that you want to share for my blog, let me know.

      Did you drill holes in the bottom or cut a big hole out? Just curious.

  14. Dave November 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Any input or new tests on using the steamer vs the terracotta? I am planning on building 3 in the spring (two as gifts for neighbors).

    • Steve December 4, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

      Dave, as of now, I ditched the terracotta pan and only use a lightweight aluminum pizza pan now b/c the terracotta pan’s weight was causing the hex bolts to sag and bend/warp the sides of the pot where they bolts are attached. I still have the steamer to test out, just haven’t got around to it. I basically just take the middle and top sections out of my temp is starting to drop (even with vents wide open) and just stir the coals around in order to knock the ash down below the charcoal grate. That’s my current setup and it’s working well.

      Have you built one yet? I’d love for you to take pics and document your process and I’ll feature your build on my blog if you’re interested.

      Take care-

  15. Chris December 8, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    I think I’m going to make one of these. Thank you for posting instructions.

    It looks like you had trouble getting above 200 degrees in your ribs video. Do you think a stainless pot would work better than aluminum? Stainless doesn’t lose as much heat as aluminum. Of course, a stainless pot would be more expensive and there’s no guarantees it will fit.

    Do you recommend cutting the bottom of the pot off? That might help the temperature, but it might also use more charcoal during the cook.

    Anyway, I hope to hear some suggestions. Thanks again.

    • Steve December 8, 2012 at 9:15 am #

      Hey Chris. If you look at a couple of my comments above, you’ll see where I’m referring to stirring the coals up to knock the ash down during my Mini WSM cooks. This, with wide open vents, typically gets me the temp I’m looking for. I still haven’t cut the bottom out, but there are a lot of guys that do that. I have an updated comment under the picture of me drilling the holes out about that…

      I wouldn’t worry about dropping extra $$$ for a stainless pot either.

  16. Chris December 8, 2012 at 2:55 am #

    Also, do you know of any other thermometers that I could use besides the BQ300? It looks nice, but that’s literally half the project cost, right there. Are cheaper thermometers THAT far off to justify the high price?

    • Steve December 8, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      I don’t really know of any examples to give you b/c all I’ve ever really used are Tel-Tru’s….but…there are plenty of much cheaper ones out there that will work just fine. Look around on Amazon. For the mini, just make sure it’s a 2 1/2″ stem. A buddy of mine got some off-brand model off eBay for like $10 and he’s checked it against his digital pit therm and it’s right on. So, they’re out there, just gotta look around.

      • Mikee November 14, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

        Taylor has a near exact match “Weekend Warrior” item for $13.95 on Amazon.

  17. Brenton January 27, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Has anyone considered using lava rocks as a heat diffuser? I realize that easy clean up would be sacrificed.

    • Steve January 28, 2013 at 8:53 am #

      Personally I haven’t ever heard of people using lava rocks, but people use fire bricks all the time for indirect setups, so I’m thinking lava rocks would probably work well too. If you try it out, let me know how it goes.

  18. D Jones/ California February 18, 2013 at 1:32 am #

    I saw your video and wanted to give it a shot, I’m using a Silver because I found one at a flea market $12 new in the box, $15 tamale pot in the next isle, $3 deep fryer thermometer, and approx $10 on bolts and a pan was donated to the cause and is currently in place of the terracotta dish you used, I also used a hole saw and made six holes on the bottom of the tamale pot instead of a lot of small ones like yours, the first run was without the pan and with a thermometer that only went to 220 degrees and the sample ribs would have been good if I wrapped them in foil earlier, but I dig this idea and wanted to thank you for posting it I think with the next run things will be better if I can figure out the venting and keep the temp around 225-250ish, I used that bolt adjuster on the bottom vent too that was a pain to adjust while cooking (one reason the gold would’ve been better is the venting on the side instead of the bottom I think you got that part spot on), I’ll post some pics later

    • Steve March 25, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

      How are things going w/ your mini? I had meant to tell you that w/ a buddy of mine also built one w/ a Silver and he solved the air flow issue (bottom vent getting clogged up w/ ash…) by using a small stainless steel bowl as a filter. Check it out:

  19. Mike March 19, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Just saw your review of the Weber Jumbo Joe, I’m sure this could be incorporated for that as well. I want to make one of these but seeing that the Weber Jumbo Joe is available now I’m considering getting one of those instead of the Smokey Joe and converting it. However, I think finding a stockpot to fit the Weber Jumbo Joe would be little more difficult. Any thoughts?

  20. widde March 25, 2013 at 5:40 pm #


    Greettings from Germany! I stumbled today upon this little jewell and was right on fire for it! After spending a few hours scouting the Web for the needed parts, my temperature has gone down quite a bit… To get a cheap Smokey Joe isn’t the problem here… But to find a Pot which would fit and could easily be converted is a pain in the a** in germany! Nearly all the Pots that i could find had the wrong diamter or a heavy (sandwich) Bottom for keeping the heat longer, which is fine for normal cooking, but terrible if you want to drill through it. Thats like an Armor Plate! It seems to me there are no more Steampots made in Europe… The only “Steampots” of that type i could find are very old ones on Ebay from nearly around WW2 :-> This will be tricky… Has anyone a Tip? Shipping a fitting Steampot from the US to Europe nearly doubles the Price…

    • Steve March 25, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

      Hi there. I wish I could help, but I honestly have no clue what you could use in place of the steam pots we can get on here in the U.S. Neither the IMUSA or Vasconia pots are available online anywhere over there in Europe?? The only thing I could suggest is posting your question on a popular forum like Let me know if you figure something out and good luck!

      • widde March 26, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

        Okay, after a lot more googling and some research in german bbq boards i have finaly found a great aluminium pot for this mod…

        pro tip: if any germans stumble over the same problem, just search for “36 cm alu topf” or “Max Fuchs Kochtopf 36 cm”

        happy grilling!

        • Steve March 26, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

          Good news! Could you provide the link here so people can see it? Thx and good luck with your first Mini build!!

    • Nilo April 15, 2015 at 3:09 am #

      Dit you actually make it, and how does i work with the german steamer. I’m from Denmark, and can´t find a pot..

  21. Sean V April 4, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    Hey Steve, Sean here over in Bronco Nation, the west blue and orange. (BSU)

    I got everything received in the mail, but my IMUSA pot seems to fit a bit loose at the bottom where it fits on the smokey joe. The top fits perfect. ( I also noticed the grate in my smokey joe fit loose inside of it normally as well..) I was wondering if there was any type of thin seal I could fit around the edge of smokey joe where the pot would sit. also when you say pizza pan as the diffuser, what do you mean? like a small deep dish pizza pan? Thanks again for you help, this has been really cool.

    • Sean V April 4, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

      Oh! one more thing!

      I agree with the person above. the thermometer is a bit spendy. are there any alternatives to this? If not I guess I’ll bite the bullet. Thanks!

    • Steve April 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

      No worries on the loost fit at the bottom. That’s just how it is and it won’t effect your cooks one bit. Not sure about any seals b/c I’ve never really looked around for something like that.

      For the diffuser, I would just use a small, cheapo aluminum pizza pan. I used to use a terracotta tray but it was too heavy and started bending/warping the pot where the bolts were attached.

      And yeah, you can def get some cheap therms on eBay. You can get them as cheap as like $10. They’re prob just not the quality or as accurate as a Tel Tru…but I could be wrong… Here’s one example:

      • Sean V April 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

        Awesome, thanks for the help! I am doing my first cook on it today!

        • Sean V April 10, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

          aaand I pushed enter before finishing my message… oops. So it looks great! but I am worried, because I can’t seem to get the temperature above 200. It lingers right there. I am doing a sort of Minion method. I piled in charcoal, then scoot it away from a corner, and then dumped in about 15 hot charcoals in that spot. I drilled out the bottom like you, accept used a hole saw bit and put tons of holes in it. I am using a clay saucer in foil to catch drippings, but when I did my test smoke the other day, I didn’t use the saucer and still couldn’t get it above 200. any ideas? thanks.

  22. TheDarker00 May 14, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Hi, I recently sent you a message on youtube, however I have one last question. I have seen some videos that they put water in the pan, however, I have seen some of your videos that you don’t put water on it. Do you recommend me to put water or not?

    • Steve May 14, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      With the Mini WSM, I typically don’t have a water pan simply b/c there’s not enough room. If I’m just cooking something on the top rack, I’ll add a water-filled pan on the bottom rack to help add moisture, but I almost always have both racks packed full of food 🙂 No worries though man, the Mini cooks like a champ and the food always comes out super tender/moist anyways, so I wouldn’t worry about it.


  23. Big Mike June 8, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Hey man thanks for the tips. I just finished my mini wsm and fired it up for its maiden voyage. After about 10 minutes she’s up to 200. Want to try and get it around 275 to 300. That’s the temp I like to cook ribs at. My imusu tamale steamer fit like a glove. The lid is perfectly snug. Zero leaks. I’ll keep you updated.

  24. Big Mike June 8, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    I got this thing dialed in at 280. What I love most about it is the fact that a slight damper change causes immediate temp results. I went inside and came out like 15 minutes later with the ribs and the temp jumped to 400. A slight bottom damper adjustment and I watched the temp lower to 300 in seconds. I got it settled in at 275-280 and its stayed for so far. Got some babybacks going with apple and cherry wood. Using Stubbs briquettes for fuel.

    • Big Mike June 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      Ok so after some initial tinkering I’ve been steady at 275 for over 2 hours. My ribs are currently wrapped for another 30 minutes before I sauce them. This has been a super fun cook so far. Sorry for the number of posts but I’m stoked about this little smoker.

      • Steve June 9, 2013 at 10:17 am #

        Heck yeah man! sounds like a successful first cook!! Did you do a custom paint job on it?

  25. ron June 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    awesome post man. saw it thru your youtube channel. after watching videos of your build and other ppls build’s i made my own (pic below). havent cooked anything on it yet, but i’ll be doing a pork butt this weekend. will let you know how it goes.

    • Steve July 18, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

      Ron, that’s sweet lookin man!! Do you have pics throughout the build, or just that final one? If you have several pics and want to write up a description of how your build went then contact me on my Contact page and I’ll get w/ ya and get it posted on my site!

  26. Russell Mc July 18, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    I have a large Trailer Model Reverse Flow Smoker. And I use this thermometer. Its very cost friendly. And it’s adjustable so you can calibrate it. I’m going to build a Mini WSM…and it will get one too.

  27. humcuckr September 19, 2013 at 2:20 am #

    I’ve been searching so long for an affordable smoker. Thanks for the videos and info. Ordered my gold and the steamer pot last night and looking forward to the build.

    Two questions remain:
    1. Are there good but cheaper thermometers out there instead of the True Tell?

    2. Debating how much of the bottom to cut out. Leaning towards cutting out most of the bottom in order to hit 225 easily.

    Will post pics of the UO Ducks mini WSM. design at

    • Steve September 19, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Awesome, stoked to hear you’re building a Mini. You’ll love it.

      1. Yeah man, just look around online or at local hardware stores. Tel-Tru’s are really good and probably hold up longer than the cheaper ones, but you can def get one for like $10. Keep in mine also that cheaper models may degrade a lot quicker and give you false readings. But Google it or post on the forums and see what other people say.

      2. To this day, I still have not completely cut out the bottom like a lot of guys have and have never really had an issue. Only time is when the ambient temp is really cold, but I’m in Florida, so that’s not an issue. If you’re in a really cold area, then yeah, might want to do that.

      When you’re all done, contact me on my contact page so I can get your email and I’ll reply so you can send me your pics. Make sure to send me a brief write-up too of your build (like, things you did differently, paint/stencils you used, etc…) and I’ll feature it on the blog.


  28. Jacob June 27, 2014 at 4:26 pm #


    Awesome tutorial, dude! I’ve got all of the parts and pretty much have everything down except for one thing. How far from the bottom did you drill the holes for the terracotta disc?

    Thanks in advance,

    • Steve June 27, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

      You should be able to see the holes in the pics. WIth the pot I used, the holes are just below the dip in the pot and just slightly above the bottom of the pot. As long as it’s near the bottom of whatever pot you’re using, you’ll be all set.

      • Jacob July 1, 2014 at 10:50 am #

        Thanks a lot, Steve. I actually made the smoker on Saturday and used it on Sunday.

        I used the instructions above, but instead of the terracotta at the bottom, I used a 12″ pizza pan I picked up off of Amazon for a few bucks.

        I have to say that I’m amazed by how efficient this thing is. I may have used 3/4 chimney of coals to smoke ribs for 5 hours. That’s a lot better than my 22.5″ smokey mountain does… I burn through 20# bags of kingsford with that big guy.

        Thanks for all of the help!

  29. RadioYaz July 22, 2014 at 1:11 am #

    Thanks for posting the Youtube video and this blog on making one of these. I made one this last weekend and it rocks!!

    Made a video of the build and first use.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Steve August 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

      Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing the video! Great build!

  30. Pat March 9, 2015 at 6:04 pm #


    So i went with the Vasconia 32 qt and smokey joe silver. The pot does not sit well and tips sideways easily(very fixable). The main problem i have is the the grates will not fit inside the pot. The grates are 1/4″ too big. Did I miss something? Anyone else with this issue?

  31. Steve March 13, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    Did you use a straight edge while cutting the ‘F’ out on the pot? No way I could get that clean of a cut freehand.

    • Steve April 20, 2015 at 12:27 pm #


  32. Claudio April 20, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    Good Job….

    Thanks for the tip, looking forward to build one soon….

    I checked other posts but yours is simple, less expensive and easy to do…

    Keep the good work…

  33. Steffen Hansen April 22, 2015 at 5:04 am #

    Great guide. On my way to pick up to 30l pots now – Co-worker decided he wants to build one as well. One thing though – with the screws bending the sides on the pot due to the weight of the terracotta pan. Instead of having the standoff for the pan through the sides, why not get some on the correct lenght, and put 3 through the bottom?

    BR, and thanks!

  34. coop September 9, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

    I built one, and it works great so far after dialing in temp control. unfortunately, I need to store it outside. anyone had any luck with a good way to keep it protected from the sun and rain?

  35. Sean Garcia December 28, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    In the parts list the grate for the inside of the smoker is not listed. Was that a simple oversite or am I missing something in the directions ? The grate that oms with he Smokey Joe is what the 32qt steamer pot rests on so another grate(or 2) would be needed for the inside for the meat to cook on.
    Thanks so much,
    Sean Garcia

    • Steve March 16, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

      The pot is directly resting on the base of the Smokey Joe, not the grate. If you look closely in the video you should be able to see that. But yes, you’re right, I had forgot to include a 2nd cooking grate in the parts list, so I just added that. Thanks for the head’s up.

  36. Radley March 5, 2016 at 12:32 am #

    Great work. I bought all the stuff to make one but my Smokey Joe Gold lid didn’t fit the tamale pot properly. Not sure where to go from here as I can’t bend the lid out (tried already and all I managed to do was put nasty chips in the paint).

    • Steve March 16, 2016 at 6:02 pm #

      People have complained before about it not fitting super snug (it has a tiny bit of wiggle room), but it should definitely fit and seal up enough to keep most of the smoke in. Did you watch the video? Does yours not fit like that?

  37. Mike April 17, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

    I need a pot that will fit my Smokey Joe Premium. Imusa has changed their dimensions and Vasconia is not available. Any other 32 quart pots that would work?

    • Steve April 24, 2016 at 9:03 am #

      I honestly don’t know man. Sorry. I’m assuming you bought one and tried it and it just didn’t fit? Did it not fit at all, or was it just not a super snug fit? I’ve heard a lot of reports about people complaining about it not being a snug fit, but even mine moved around a bit but it wasn’t a big issue.

  38. Randy April 28, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    Hi Steve,
    Just finished getting all the materials (as suggested by your parts list). I found what may be a problem. When I fitted the IMUSA pot to the grille, I noticed the Smokey Joe lid sits on top of the the lip of the steamer pot, just missing the lid from sitting flat on the pot rim. Nothing looks out of round. Although there are no real gaps, I am concerned about heat loss. Is this something to be concerned with being that the lid is vented? How does your lib fit to the pot?



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