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Here is an easy modification to improve the access door of pre-2009 Weber Smokey Mountain Cookers, plus why you might want to try using an upside down access door to increase cooker temperature.
As always...click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.
Editor's Note: In 2009, Weber started using a new access door knob and latching mechanism that makes it very easy to tell when the door is latched properly. This modification applies only to Weber Bullets made prior to 2009.
Have you ever latched the access door and walked away from the cooker, only to come back later to find the door on the ground and the cooker at 450°F? You latched the door, didn't you? At least you thought you did...
Sometimes it's hard to know when the door is latched properly because there is no visual indication on the knob of the fully latched position.
To solve this problem, remove the door from the cooker and turn the knob so the latch on the inside is pointing straight up in the 12 o'clock position (Photo 1). Next, mark the knob in the 12 o'clock position using one of the following:
There are a number of WSM owners who insist on using the access door upside down, with the knob on the bottom.
The first person I ever met who did this was Rob Kelso (Photo 3), shown here at a cook-off in Nile, CA in 1999. Rob said that the upside down door was his "secret weapon" in barbecue competitions. His reasoning: Less smoke escapes around the door when upside down, and if necessary he can place something under the door to prop it open to increase air intake into the cooker.
I'm a little dubious
about less smoke escaping being a competitive advantage, but it's true
that you can easily prop open an upside down door to increase air
flowing and therefore increase the cooker temperature. Photo 4 shows a
time when I did this while cooking a turkey and wanted to boost the
temp. A pair of tongs wedged under the knob held the door ajar. I've
also heard of people using a stick or a short length of broom handle to
prop open the door.
If tongs or sticks aren't for you, here's a simple modification you can make to the access door so that it stays propped open by itself. Here's what you'll need:
Put the access door on the cooker upside down. Scribe a mark on the inside of the door where it meets the bottom of the opening in the middle cooking section (Photo 6). Measure in 1" from each side of the door and mark at the scribe line (Photo 7).
Hit the two spots to be drilled with a center punch (Photo 8). Place on a block of wood and slowly drill each hole. (Photo 9).
Insert screws from the outside of the door and fasten with the nuts (Photo 10). Put the access door on the cooker upside down, using the screw threads to hold the door open at any position up to 1.5" (Photos 11 and 12).
Thanks to Lonnie Mac for sharing this modification on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board.
Editor's Note: This is an issue with the 22-1/2" WSM only.
Sometime in 2010, Weber changed the shape of the access opening on the 22-1/2" WSM, making the top corners round instead of square (Photo 13). You cannot place the access door upside down with this round opening.
If you've come here looking for information on how to adjust the fit of the access door, see the Parts Troubleshooting page.
If you want to upgrade your stock access door, Cajun Bandit makes high-quality, 18-gauge stainless steel replacement doors for the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.
Photos of access door modification: 2008 by Lonnie Mac.