The 22.5" Weber kettle is a very versatile piece of charcoal grilling equipment. When outfitted with the hinged grate, a water pan and either the charcoal rails or baskets, it can easily be pressed into duty as a smoker. Unfortunately, even with this additional equipment the space is somewhat limited. A few racks of babyback ribs barely fit, and adding anything beyond that is difficult without placing your food over the direct heat. Adding additional fuel is a delicate science, over the course of a 6 hour smoke you need to add additional coals a few times to keep the temperature up, but adding too much can cause a temperature spike that can have catastrophic results.
Enter the Smokenator 1000- a revolutionary device that converts the Weber kettle into a virtual offset fire box smoker. Not only does it keep the temperatures under control, but it opens up an entirely new area for additional food while smoking. By putting all the fuel along a 6.2" section of the side of the kettle, the rest of the charcoal grate can be used to cook some seriously large items- a whole turkey can fit in there, or even a few more racks of ribs. With the optional hovergrill, you can even exceed the cooking area of a Weber Smokey Mountain.
By stacking unlit briquets in the fuel chamber, then adding lit coals on top, the Smokenator allows you to perform a smaller version of the Minion Method, by keeping the lower vents mostly closed you can control how quickly the coals light, allowing a cooking time of up to 6 hours at 225 degrees without adding additional fuel.
Several configurations are available for purchase. The basic kit includes the Smokenator unit, steam pan, skewer (for stirring coals within the fuel chamber) and instructions for $55.95 before shipping. For $12 more you can add the Hovergrill, which places an additional layer of food 2" above the normal cooking surface. Additionally, a Taylor 5911n thermometer to monitor the chamber temperature is available as a $9 add-on to either kit.
The instruction manual (which I have managed to misplace) is very well written, and includes instructions on how to set up the initial load of fuel as well as making sure the vents are adjusted correctly. One unexpected addition was the creator's cellphone number for tech support. You don't see many people willing to give that kind of personal support to their customers these days.
How well does it work? Would you believe exactly as advertised? I opted for the complete kit including the Hovergrill and Taylor thermometer. For the first use I followed the instructions for the initial load of 60 briquets, carefully stacking the unlit coals inside the chamber and adding the specified amount of lit ones on top. Within a few minutes the coals were ready and the ribs (3 racks of babybacks) were added as well as some applewood chunks and chips. The temperature stabilized at 225 degrees within about 15 minutes and stayed reasonably steady through the entire cooking process with only minor agitation using the supplied skewer. Water was added to the unit twice throughout the cooking process. The water not only dampened temperature spikes, but kept much needed moisture in the chamber during smoking. Next time I use it I'll try a lot more food, I never expected it to be quite as easy as it was to maintain the temperature.
For the money, I don't know if there is a better addition to the Weber 22.5" kettles for smoking, and for 2010 there is a new version for the lucky few with the 26.5" One Touch Kettle.
Give the Smokenator a try, you'll be pleased with the results. I can't wait to use mine again.