The first thing you notice about the Smokenator is that it is compact and rests on the side of the kettle. The Smokenator 1000 is only 6” wide freeing up space within the cavity of the kettle. Placement of the Smokenator 1000 or Smokenator 2600 lets a 25-pound turkey sit comfortably in the Weber, without worrying about getting ash on the turkey when one stirs the coals. The Smokenator partition blocks the majority of direct radiation while turning the kettle into a highly moisturized cooking environment. This is true BBQ - low and slow.
The placement of the Smokenator on the side of the kettle turns the kettle into a self-contained offset smoker. The 22" kettle has volume above the coal supporting grill of about 2.5 cubic feet and depth above the same grill of 13". With some ingenuity a person can easily increase the capacity of the grilling surface.
We have personally used three levels in the Weber to smoke food, one grill above and one grill surface below the Weber’s food support grill. One does have to rotate the food (as you have to in any big smoker), but it’s easy to get over 700 square inches of surface area out of this arrangement. This is simply exploiting the volume that is in the kettle. The Weber Smoky Mountain has a capacity, using the two grills provided, of about 537 square inches. We have the 17.75" Hovergrill that has 247 square inches of surface that rests 3.5" above the food support grill. This gives the 22" Weber about 550 square inches of surface on which to put your ribs or split chicken halves.
The Smokenator is able to efficiently hold fuel. The cavity of the Smokenator can be loaded up with charcoal briquettes and wood chunks. With the upper and lower vents set properly, the charcoal will last up to 6 hours with an average food support grill temperature of 220 °F and the charcoal support grill at just under 200 °F. The Smokenator 1000 will hold 60 Kingsford Briquettes.
The third form or type of efficiency is heat exchange. The design of the Smokenator allows the placement of a pan into the actual firebox of the Smokenator, this placement of the pan right against the coals is the most effective and efficient placement for water used to dampen temperature and increase moisture in the Weber Kettle. Heat transfers quickly into the water, dampening the temperature of the kettle.
Why is this important? You will find that without water the vents in the Weber Kettle are very touchy, the kettle’s upper vents have to be closed way down to around 0.2 to 0.3 square inch venting surface area to get into the range of about 230 °F. Any small mistake, such, as accidentally, not placing the top kettle cover back on properly will cause the water temperature to skyrocket over 100 °F in about 10 minutes. Thirdly, the kettle cools off very slowly; only by removing coals can you get the temperature to move down rapidly.
Having the water pan in the firebox is simply the most efficient means of transferring heat to the water and keeping temperature lower. This allows the user to control temperature using the upper kettle vents with more range. The kettle actually burns charcoal at a faster rate; this is ok, since there is adequate air for the wood chunks to burn to blue smoke, which is the best. In actual standardized tests, with no sacrificial water to absorb heat, a pan of 1500 milliliters of water lost 33% of its volume in a three hour time period. The same test using water in the Smokenator pan, showed a loss of only 15 percent. This difference is caused by the increase in moisture in the kettle due to the coals heating the water to produce steam. This steam also carries heat away through the upper vent.