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Increasing Cooking Capacity

Originally posted: 03/01/2001
Last updated: 02/21/2014

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No matter how big your cooker, there are always times when you could use just a little bit more cooking space. This dilemma has motivated some creative folks to develop the ingenious methods for increasing WSM cooking capacity shown here.

You will have to purchase additional cooking grates for most of these methods. The 17-1/2" top grate can be purchased at most home centers and barbecue storesóit will be labeled as a replacement grate for the Weber 18-1/2" charcoal grill. The 17" lower grate must be ordered directly from Weber at 800-446-1071.

Remember that when you increase the capacity of your Weber Bullet, you also change the performance characteristics of the cooker. It will take longer to come up to 225-250°F when you first add cold meat to the cooker. It will also take longer to cook the meat than you're used to, and your cooker will use more fuel and smoke wood.

As always...click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.


Stacking Grates

Flipped top cooking grate
Photo 1
Steam rack
Photo 2
Pizza stone rack
Photo 3
BGE grid extender
Photo 4
BGE grid extender installed below WSM top grate
Photo 5
Temporary grate spacers
Photo 6
Two connected grates
Photo 7
Three connected grates
Photo 8
Bottom grate spacers
Photo 9
Bottom grate spacers closeup
Photo 10

For thin items like chicken pieces or ribs, an additional top cooking grate can be turned 90° and placed upside down over the existing top cooking grate (Photo 1). Thanks to Brad Perkins for this suggestion.

A steam rack with collapsible legs can be used to support an additional cooking grate (Photo 2) . Available in a variety of sizes, steam racks can be purchased from restaurant supply stores for around $12.

A pizza stone rack can be flipped upside down and used to support an additional cooking grate (Photo 3). Thanks to Jim Kelley for this suggestion.

The Big Green Egg grid extender is a 15-1/2" cooking grate with legs that attach to the WSM grate (Photos 4). The grid extender swings up on both sides to access the grate below. The distance between the grid extender and the WSM grate is 3-3/4". If you fasten down the swing-up portions with wire, you can hang the grid extender from the top WSM cooking grate (Photo 5). The grid extender costs about $20 plus shipping and can be ordered from The Big Green Egg at 770-934-5300.

Empty soup cans can be used to hold another grate above the standard grate (Photo 6). You can also use pieces of fireplace brick.

Two grates can be fastened together using electrical conduit, bolts, and washers (Photo 7). Cut three spacers of equal length from electrical conduit. Choose three bolts that are about 1/2" longer than the length of the spacers, three matching nuts, and six matching washers large enough to prevent the bolts and nuts from passing through the grate. Place a washer on a bolt and pass it through the top side of the top grate. Slide a spacer over the bolt from below, then pass the bolt through the bottom grate. Fasten with a washer and a nut on the bottom side of the bottom grate. Repeat this process for the remaining spacers. Thanks to Hi-Tech Smokers of Blue Springs, MO for sharing this idea.

Three grates can be fastened together using threaded rods, washers and nuts (Photo 8). This modification comes from Rob B. of Winter Haven, FL. Rob used four 12" threaded rods, 24 fender washers, and 24 nuts to connect a generic cooking grate between the standard WSM top and bottom grates. "When it's time to baste, rotate, etc. it's a quick and easy process. Just grab the top grate handles and the rest follows."

Spacers can be attached to the bottom cooking grate (Photos 9-10). Fasten four 4" x 5/16" bolts with nuts and washers to the bottom grate and place a second cooking grate on top of the bolt heads. This modification comes from Ken Johnson of Topeka, KS.

There are several things to consider when attempting any of these grate stacking methods:

  • When stacking a grate on the top grate, use a smaller diameter grate and short spacers. A grate that's too large or tall may hit the inside of the lid.
  • Consider the thickness of the meat you will be putting on the grates when choosing the height of spacers. Thick cuts like pork butt will require taller spacers than a brisket flat or butterflied chicken.

Removable Middle Grate

Mid-mounted cooking grate
Photo 11
View of support rod entry point
Photo 12
View of support rod exit point
Photo 13
   

You can increase cooking capacity by mounting a removable grate halfway between the top and bottom grates.

Dan Cannon of the Coyote Road Kill Barbecue Team created the modification shown in Photos 11-13. This mod requires that you drill holes in the middle cooking section of the cooker. Determine the halfway point between the top and bottom grates and make four equally spaced marks around the perimeter of the cooking section. Drill a small hole at each of the four marks, then fashion two support rods that pass through each pair of holes, as shown in Photos 12-13. Place a 17" cooking grate on the support rods when you want a middle grate, or remove the grate and rods when not in use.

Dan says not to worry about smoke leakage or heat loss from the tiny holesóthey don't affect the performance of the cooker in any significant way.

Measuring center point between top and bottom grate position
Photo 14
Drilling counter sunk holes in grill straps
Photo 15
Screw inserted through back side of grill strap
Photo 16
Shelf support brackets
Photo 17
Removing support bracket pin with pliers
Photo 18
Second top cooking grate on new support brackets
Photo 19
Detail of bracket mount
Photo 20
     

Jonas Klint from Kansas City, MO modified the grill straps inside the middle cooking section to hold a third grate. Remove the 4 grill straps and drill a counter-sunk hole in the back side of each strap halfway between where the top and bottom grates rest, making the hole large enough to accommodate a 5mm machine screw (Photos 14-16). Remove the pins from 4 shelf support brackets by using 2 pairs of pliers to grasp the pin and bracket and twisting gently until the pin comes out (Photos 17-18). Insert a machine screw through the counter sunk hole, place a shelf support bracket over the screw, and fasten with a nut. Make sure the screw and nut are positioned below the shelf bracket. Repeat with the remaining grill straps and then reinstall them into the middle cooking section.

Photo 19 shows how Jonas uses a second top cooking grate on the new support brackets. In order to have enough clearance for this grate to fit, he used a hacksaw to cut the screws flush to the nuts at the top of each grill strapóclick on Photo 20 to see this detail. Using a second bottom cooking grate (not available in stores but ordered direct from Weber) eliminates the need to trim the top screws.

Stacking Middle Cooking Sections

Stacked WSM
Photo 21
Close-up of stacked WSM foil gasket
Photo 22
     

By stacking two middle cooking sections, your WSM can have four cooking grates, or you can try hanging ribs, whole fish, and other meats vertically.

Take a 2-1/2' length of heavy duty aluminum foil and cut it in half lengthwise. Gather each piece of foil loosely across its width to form a gasket. Place the two pieces end-to-end around the top edge of the middle cooking section, then insert the second middle section into the gasket. Crumple the foil into the void between the two sections to achieve a good seal.

To hang meat from the top grate in the top cooking section, buy meat hooks from suppliers like Allied Kenco, or fashion hooks from stainless steel nails or rods. Perhaps a better setup is to remove two opposite support flange screws from the top cooking section and run a sturdy rod between the two screw holes. Hang the meat from the rod, similar to what's shown in Photo 25 in the following section.

Rob B. from Winter Haven, FL sent in these photos of his stacked WSM in action. Photo 22 shows a close-up of how Rob fashioned the foil gasket. Using this configuration with the Minion Method and sand in the water pan, Rob cooked 3 slabs of spareribs on the top two grates, two chickens on the third grate, and a beef roast on the fourth grate. On another occasion, he cooked nine chickens. Rob says the cooker runs just fine at 240°F, it just takes a little bit longer to come up to temperature.

Monster WSMs

WSM and Magnum side-by-side
Photo 23
Port for Polder remote probe
Photo 24
Hooks for hanging meat
Photo 25
WSM and Magnum side-by-side
Photo 26
 

I've included these pictures sent in by Jerry Fear to show you the lengths to which some people will go to increase the capacity of their WSM! Jerry combined the charcoal bowl from a WSM and the lid from a Weber kettle with a middle cooking section fashioned from a 55-gallon barrel. These pictures show his project at various stages in the construction process.

For most of us, it would be easier to just buy a second WSM...but if you've got the time, money, skill, tools, and inclination, this might be the project for you!

Photo of pizza stone rack: 2010 by Pampered Chef.
Photo of three connected cooking grates: 2003 by Rob B.
Photos of bottom grate spacers: 2004 by Ken Johnson.
Photos of grill strap mod: 2010 by Jonas Klint.
Photos of stacked WSM: 2003 by Rob B.
Photos of Monster WSM: 2000 by Jerry Fear.

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