Charcol to electric smoker - right procedure?

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by randycandy, Jun 25, 2013.

  1. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    Hello again. Smoken meat has really got my attention lately. Before I went out and spent big money on a smoker I wanted to start out small and cheap to see if I was cut out for this. In another thread I asked about modifying a small chest freezer to an electric smoker. The more I looked at it the more I thought what a pain in the a** to modify it. I broke down and bought a Brinkmann charcol smoker for $68 on Amazon. I figured this would be a lot easier to modify. I have a heating element and a good Temperature controller already. I was going to put the element on the floor of the smoker (its one of those 8" round elements from a range). Laying on the element would be my pan that holds the wood chips. The water pan above this I would leave as is. My question is, would this be ok to do it this way, will the box be able to produce enough heat with that pan over the element? Is there any other thing else I should or shouldn't do? Thanks!
  2. Without knowing what the Watts of the element. Their is now way to know without just giving it a try. I would have just bought an electric smoker if that's what you wanted.

    Happy smoken.

  3. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    Hi David. Maybe you didn't understand what I said. I want to see if I will get into and enjoy this "smoking" thing before I invest a lot of money into it. I'm willing to spend $70 but not $150 to find out. If I take to smokin and enjoy it I'll then go out and spend $300 to $500 on a good smoker. The heating element that I have is 700 watts by the way. I was planning on using a $300 Temperature Controller I have to regulate temp. Do I need 1500 watts to get enough heat? If so I'll run it at 240 volts instead of 120 volts. Would setting the wood chip panel directly on the element be ok? Do you know the answers to these questions?
  4. Randy

    OK if you would update your location on your profile. We would have a better idea> if you live in Alaska No i don't think 700 watts will do the trick. If you live in south Texas It should do fine. If you are in cold weather you can use a welding blanket for a wind block as well as for some insulation. Or plywood for a wind block.

    You can put your chip pan directly on the heating element. it may make your chips burn to fast. if so add a little space or go to larger chips or small chunks.

    If you live in the warmer area. I would go with 120v. That way you don't have to have a special plug. Once again I do not even know if you are in the states. so 240 volt may be what most of your plugs are. Any way. If you wire it 120 and need to change it later. That in not much of a problem. By then you may know if you want to keep smoking Or smoking is not for you. If you like it you may be ready to upgrade.

    Remember That nice equipment makes smoking easier in most cases. But Patience is the best ingredient in any smoke. I have a few smokers. From the cheap UDS to the Big Green Egg. To the Weber kettle. (everyone should have a kettle, In addition to what they have).

    Just my

    Happy smoken.

  5. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Since you have all the parts I would go ahead and hook it up and try it. Is it a vertical (square) or a bullet style smoker? Would you have access to 240v if needed? If it is a bullet style, Brinkmann makes a electric conversion you can get on Amazon for about $35 and it's 120v 1500w:

  6. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    Thanks Dave, that is some of the info I'm looking for. I'm in northern Ohio. I could do 240 volts if I had to but 120 would be easier as you said. I might try what I have and modify if need be. I was reading were people soak their wood chips in water, put them in aluminum foil and then put them in their smoke pan. Is this a good idea? Thanks!
  7. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    Hello. I got this vertical smoker. Most of the bad comments about it were that it didn't get hot enough using charcol. That element looks interesting, thanks for the info!

  8. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Randy, soaking wood is something that will be debated forever but from most of what I have read (and it makes logical sense to me) is that in the short soak time given the water doesn't really penetrate very deep into the wood and while heating the water has to evaporate before the wood will actually start to burn/smoke. What looks like good smoke at the start of soaked chips burning is actually steam and not smoke, the smoke comes after the wood is dry and starts to burn.

    That's a nice looking smoker except it's too clean! :biggrin: I think changing it to electric is a good idea, and since you have a temp controller it will give you a lot more flexibility with it. Also going electric will open the door to using an AMNPS in it and you won't ever have to worry about perfect smoke again.

    If you are interested in that element I have one and could measure it for you so you know if it will fit in your smoker. I am using it in a smokehouse and did my first test burn last night. It would only get to 155* but my chamber is 30"X30"X72" so it is quite a bit bigger than yours so I know it would give you all the temp you would ever need.

    Let us know how it works when you get it all hooked up, I think there's a lot of vertical charcoal owners here that might be very interested in this!
  9. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    I forgot, I have a element from a Farberware rotisserie I've had and not used in 25 years. It ohms out at 9.2 ohms. Doing the math, 120 volts divided by 9.2 ohms = approx. 13 amps. 120V X 13A = approx. 1560 watts. I'll use this element. I'll mount my Temp Controller in a Hoffman enclosure. I'll wire the element to a 25 amp relay the the TC will turn on and off. I'll position the thermocouple about six inches from the top I'm thinking. I got gasket material for the doors. I will post pics when I get this contraption finished. God bless you all!


  10. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Sounds like a really good plan! Are you going to use a solid state relay?
  11. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I recently changed the fixed 450 watt element in one of my Big Chief electric smokers to a 750 element with a controller.   A fun modification to say the least.  I only went with 750 because this smoker is used only for fish and also based upon where I live.

    If you plan it correctly, you might be able to do your mod with the ability to change it back to a charcoal smoker if the electric path did not work out.
  12. I agree withS2K9K. I doesn' t do much good to soak chips. If they are burning to fast use bigger chip or chunks. The AMNPS works great as well.

    Happy smoken.

  13. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    Yes I might. I have a crydom ss relay plus a 25 amp   2 pole relay
  14. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    What you said makes alot of sense. No soaking for me. Thanks!
  15.  700 watts won't even get you close in a non-insulated smoker like you have. That's why Brinkman uses 1500W in there el-cheapo electric.

    If you are planning on using a 240V element on 120V you will get 1/4 of the rated 240V wattage. Remember that resistance increases with temperature of most things so measuring cold resistance of an element won't tell you the current draw.

  16. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    Chuck, you are right about that wattage dropping using a 240 volt element on 120 volts. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I decided to use a 120 volt 1500 watt element instead.
  17. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    Yellow fellow smokers. Well I took the plunge and smoked me some ribs yesterday. They came out better than I hoped for. I had trouble with temp and smoke. I smoked two racks (7-1/2 lbs). I was going to use the 2-2-1 method but had to leave them in longer. (I'll get to that). The meat was tender but not falling off the bone. I used famous dave's rub on them , wrap in plastic and put in fridge over night. Next day, sat them at room temp for about a 1/2 hour before I stuck them in. After about 2 -1/2 hours, took them out of smoker, sprayed applejuice/applecider vinegar on them and wrapped in foil. Back in smoker for two hours. After that, took them out of foil, put baby ray's barbeque sauce on them , then back in the smoker for about 45 minutes.

    I modified this Brinkmann smoker like I said. The literature claimed that it was made out of "heavy duty" metal. I've used toliet paper that was thicker than the metal on this thing. Anyway

    I used a 1650 watt heating element that I had from a Faberware rot. I thought I had a hoffman encloser to use but it was too small. I wanted to use a temp controller I had so it would cycle the heat on and off. I didn't have a relay with a 120 volt coil so I had to use a transformer with a relay that had a 24 volt coil. I threw this together cause I wanted to try this. I find the parts to finish right later.

    Here are some pics I took.


    Bought wood chips at home depot. cherry and mesquite. Putting chip pan directly on the element was a bad idea.

    I had my Temp controller set for 230*. It got up to that temp in about 15 min. I put the wood chip pan in along with the filling the water pan and put the ribs in. The thing smoked like a sob,

    I put gasketing around the door. The thing smoked like crazy for 10 -15 mintues then that was it. No more smoke.


    Having the wood chip pan directly on the element was a mistake. The chips burnt up to o quickly. As I said , when I first turned the unit on with the chip pan in, it was smoking like crazy. After 15 min. It wasn't smokin anymore. I will put another grate above the heating element and keep the chip pan about an inch above the element.

    Next time put HOT water in the pan.

    I had trouble getting the temp up and maintaining 230*. I had to keep both upper and lower vents pretty much closed all the way. Is this normal?

    The temp controller worked good cycling the element on and off the times it reached temp.

    The element was rated at 1650 watt. It was glowing red. It was pulling 13.3 amps. I thought I wouldn't have any trouble as far as getting this thing up to temp.

    What positions should the vents be in? I wonder if I insulated the box on three sides if that would help?

    The last couple hours with the ribs in foil and out, the unit maintained a pretty steady temp of about 220* but the element was on constantly.

    Thats the whole reason I wanted to use a temp controller was so I could put the food in set it and walk away. I don't want to have to baby sit it the whole time its cooking.

    Will try beer can chicken this saturday and see what happens.

    Please, any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated!
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2013
  18. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    Wonder if Brinkmann's regular electric smoker has trouble maintaining temps?
  19. wjordan52

    wjordan52 Meat Mopper

    Both vents need to remain open to keep the smoke moving past the food. Since this was a charcoal unit the vents are probably larger than you need, so you'll have to experiment with them to find an ideal setting.

    Insulation is key in helping an electric unit maintain temp without having the element on constantly. On my electric UDS I use a welding blanket folded in two with a layer of Reflectix in the middle.  Inexpensive, and works like a champ. 

    Good luck, and keep us posted! 
  20. randycandy

    randycandy Fire Starter

    Hello. When I had the vents opened my temp dropped. I got two at the bottom and two at the top. I'll have to look into insulation.

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