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Neighbor got a Brinkman Trailbalzer for Xmas...not going so well..advice?

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 

Oops its a trailmaster!  This is all my fault cause I got his family addicted to my BBQ.  Anyway he did his maiden voyage with 2-8lb butts which he put on a 7am.  He has been running at 275 degrees all day & right now they are only at 155 after 10 hours.  Of course he has a bunch of people coming over in an hour & a half.  I done most of my stuff on the crappiest $39 brinkman barrel smoker & I can get 2 8-lbers done at 225 in 10 hours.  Does this rig need to be cooking at a higher heat?  The rub/mustard/more rub isn't even looking right.  It still has its original color & just looks dry.  Any ideas?

Edited by HoTnSpicy - 1/13/13 at 3:45pm
post #2 of 40

What is he using for a thermometer? Is the one he using accurate?

post #3 of 40
Thread Starter 

He bought a couple like mine that are basically thermocouples on a line that goes to the display unit.  I tested them in ice water & boiling water & they were spot on.  Even without a thermometer I can just tell by looking at them that they weren't anywhere close.  We pulled one off & stuck it in the oven which we got up to 200.  They are eating now....just didn't have time to rest the butt.  Oh he has bought Jeff's recipes too.  I need to get him on the forums!

post #4 of 40

I got the same rig and a couple of butts I did took forever (again I had people over and finished them in the oven due to time). The biggest issue I found is the firebox - tried a couple of difeerent set ups now but the original jsut doesn;t drop enough ash from the coals so they won't push the temp high enough. you have to empty the ash box frequently on the origianl set up.

I build a charcoal basket and gave it a test drive at the weekend and the difference is incredible - plenty of heat and I cooked a pork loin roast much quicker and easier than the butts - mostly due to the airflow around the coals..

tell him to give it a try.

post #5 of 40
Thread Starter 

Mike that is some good intel.  Here are my thoughts after looking at the grill & what happened.  The smoker's thermometer showed proper temp but I suspect the temp at the grate was lower.  I read a few comments elsewhere about it & people have lowered the chimney to grate level.  I know this guy doesn't want me chopping at his brand new metal so I suggested to him that we put an elbow on the chimney, inside the chamber, that reached to the grate level.  Other folks have put a baffle off the firebox to divert heat down instead of up.  I think I have a piece of 3/16 plate to make it with.  Not sure when we will finish the mods or when the next smoke will be but I will surely let you know the results.  He is gonna have to put a couple extra thermos at grate level.

Edited by HoTnSpicy - 2/10/13 at 6:42pm
post #6 of 40

I bought the trailmaster this past week and set mine up this weekend and did a couple test runs...I noticed the stock thermo on top is nearly 100 degrees off the two I drilled through at grate level.  Hopefully my plates will be done today and I will be able to get a more even and consistant temp across the grates, mine was runnig at about 15 degrees difference from box to exhaust.  Of course it was about 24 degrees outside with I was seasoning her up.


Couple other words to note, check the mods section...highly recommend sealing it with Rutlands and getting a gasket for the fire box and smoke chamber doors, both mine leak like sieves.  Best of luck...happy smoking!

post #7 of 40

I’ve also done a couple of other mods:

Got a 90 degree vent pipe elbow and have that inside on the chimney – the opening in the chimney is oblong not round so its not a perfect fit but I took a hammer to the chimney end of the elbow and it’s a pretty good fit. I could do a better job there though.

Sealing it – get him to do this! I sealed the chimney fitting, the doors (apart from the bottom of the main one – still got to do that) and between the firebox and the main chamber. Runs with very little smoke coming out anywhere apart from the chimney (and a couple of areas that I didn’t do a good job in).

Deflector – I don’t have one. The lower grate in the main chamber is positioned so it is half way across the entrance from the firebox. I got a large foil tin that have an angle to the side and positioned it right across the entrance, then filled it with water. There is a small gap of less than ½ inch at the top. This then acts as a deflector and temp regulator (obviously refilling the water as required – although I may switch it out for sand at some point). I also have another couple of foil tins positioned on the lower grate below where I put the food. This helps (I think) in dispersing the smoke more evenly. I also added four bricks covered in foil evenly along the bottom to help with temp regulation.

The temp gauge in the lid is great. Once you have worked out how far out it is from the Temp at grate level you can use it as a rough guide. Mine runs about 35 above the grate temp so if it drops below 250 at the top I need more fuel or air..

All of this was good but the best upgrade was the charcoal basket. I need a couple more tweeks but I’m now confident in running a consistent long burn.

All of the above mods can be done without cutting into any bits of metal (although I’d be interested in how the deflector works as I could update that..

post #8 of 40
Can you guys post pictures of the mods. Be interesting to see for us dummies.
Thank you in advance.
post #9 of 40
I just saw this string. I got mine for Christmas and can say sealing all the cracks is real important. I used a tube of clear Rutland in any gaps and anywhere the parts are bolting together, yes even the legs. The only place mine leaks smoke is around the doors, which I did do a "Rutland Gasket" using wax paper to get it set in, but it really made just a minor difference. No smoke leaks is just not attainable. I added the dryer vent tube to the grate level, which I varied a tad from some others I have seen on this forum, it it may not really be that big a deal. I also made the coal basket, which is the single best thing I did. It makes clean up a 3 minute thing, reloading coal and getting air moving around it a no brainier. I added 2 thermos, at greatest level at as far opposite ends as an could, then I actually installed 2 on the grates themselves. I happened to have 2 extra's and they just happened to fit. Do not skimp on the thermo's if you are going to add extras. I made the mistake of having already drilled the holes and mounting a set, which I had tested, only to find out that any pressure to tighten the nut caused them to not read above 150 degree, while the smoker was at 300. I've made 2 racks of ribs, a pork but and 2 whole chickens so far, the first were the ribs and butt, which tasted good, but were over cooked. The chicken was absolutely perfect and we ate every bite. My biggest frustration was the thermo's on the grill once I dialed in the 225 to 250, I could walk away and get outdoor projects done while I smelled the smoke. I will put up some pictures next.
post #10 of 40

In this one you can see I used a flexible dryer vent so I could tuck it in the back corner instead of straight out taking up grate space. You can also see the 2 other thermos and if you look real close you can see where I place my cheapo tin chaffing pans bought by the dozen at Costco. I use 4 on the charcoal grates with one all the way up agains the heat chamber, usually with water, or apple juice. This set up acts like a tuning plate and heat deflector, with the added bonus of catching all the drippings and then thrown away.
post #11 of 40

Charcoal basket, took about 45 minutes to make once I got the right sheers to cut the metal. I already had the nuts, bolts and washers. It holds 8 lbs of unlit, 8 lbs of lit Kingsford charcoal, and 2 handfuls of wood. Originally I had it taller, but I cut it down a bit so I could fit the grill grate over it in case I wanted to cook hot dogs for the kids while I was smoking. I sit it on the bottom grate that comes with it to keep air under it and good circulation.
post #12 of 40

I also received the TLE for Xmas, and after afew cooks, have done the following mods:  1. Charcoal basket a must, especially if using Lump.... 2. Baffle plates, which made the biggest improvement of all.  Taking some 22ga sheet steel stock, bend a 45 deg for the firebox, and then it will all sit on what the charcoal grates use to sit on.  Added 2 more sheets of 6" wide plate for tuning the temps.  I got 3 oven temp gauges, cheap ones and set them at 3 equal locations on the cooking grate.  After getting a fire going and doing my tuning, with the original gauge up at the top of the lid saying 275 degs, all 3 of those down on the grate now read 275 degs +/- 5 degs....  close enough for me...  This weekend I will be cooking 4 Pork spareribs and 2 Beef rib slabs for a family function.. this should be a good test...

post #13 of 40

I don"t know how much one of those units cost, but it seems to me that the sellers bait the buyers into buying them because they look like an offset smoker that is commonly used on the competition circuit, after all the comments and reviews of this unit on this and other blogs, the cost of having to make mods to a new unit to make it work!, would you not be better off just buying the Weber smokey mountain 18.5 inch smoker?? I have competed with teams that use this unit and all of the reviews are tops!! Right out of the box and yes the thermometer actually works, I do not work for or receive cud dos for endorsing this product, I just know that I have seen the product it produces and I am actually going to buy the 22" wsm myself for extra cook space when I do comps, I cook on a trailer mounted off set 4ftX 2ft wood smoker but at times i need the extra space and the Weber smokey mountain will be my go to choice, I'm just say"n   Tony/ Panther Mountain BBQ Comp Team, North Little Rock, Arkansas

post #14 of 40

I know that I had a Chagriller Smokin Pro before I got my MES and about every couple of hours I would go out and shake the charcoal basket and it helped keep the temp up.

post #15 of 40

Just saw this thread and I made the same mods these other guys suggested.  I found the advice on this site in a past thread when i noticed the TMLE would not hold temp & burn too fast.  Here are some photos





The coal basket is a must to solve the ash problem





a flexible dryer hose to move the draw of the stack down lower. Cut the hose so it has tabs on the end, feed it thru the hole then bend the tabs out and install the stack to hold it in place.







a broiler pan attached to a piece of steel at about a 30 degree angle to act as a deflector plate.  The Right side sits on top of a bolt and nut passed thru a hold drilled from in the firebox.


Other thoughts not pictured....


1- Heat sealant on every crack and hole is a must.  Without it the TMLE draws way too much air in the firebox and losses way too much heat everywhere else.



2 - Also not pictured are 2 additional Thermos installed at grill level - one on the far right and one on the far left. The stock thermo is way too high in the cooking chamber to be any use except as a reference to measure against past efforts.  Typically mine runs 30-50 degree  difference between far right and left...which is fine by me and probably the best I think I can do with this machine.


3 - Also not pictured is a bed of those gas grill fake bricks I used to layer the entire bottom to help evenly disperse heat and for heat retention when the door is opened.  Someone else mentioned a big tin pan of water and I have done that too....right on top of the bricks and it also is great for evening out the heat distribution and with heat retention.




Had to fiddle with it a fair bit and yes it COULD HAVE been made better but after all is said and done it cooks great, came at a fair price and offers lots of cooking space.  AND......


Fits 3 big king salmon!IMG_1003.JPG

(That Thermo is in there pre-install of the extra two at grill level.)  


Good Luck with yours!

post #16 of 40

So what does the real cost of the unit end up being after all the mods?  And if a person is looking at buying this model they should just assume on doing the modifcations to have it cook correct.

post #17 of 40

I don't know the costs of the mods but it wasn't very much. The broiler pan was in my house same with the nuts, bolts, firebox mats and gas grill bricks.  Had to buy the heat sealant, two thermos and the piece of dryer vent.   Abouit $10 for Rutland sealant, $15 a piece for river country thermos and a few dollars for the venting?  And yes that is correct, if you are going to buy the TMLE the mods are a must for even distribution of heat and maintained temps.  Some of the other posts I have seen include a oven gasket installed around the cooking chamber door opening which I did not do but sounds like it would help further with heat retention and distribution. I just looked it up on amazon and it looks like an rutland 7 foot kit is about $10... Sounds like a plan when the weather warms up!

post #18 of 40

Why is the basket in the firebox used? What are the advantages for using on instead of just the grates?

post #19 of 40

Some of us don't have the skills and tools to do all of these mods that seem to be necessary to turn out a good product.  So my question is, what type of horizontal charcoal/wood smoker can one buy out ot the box that will do the job without all the modifications?  I have a 30" MES that sometimes is a little too small for when the whole family shows up or i'm cooking for a church function.  I love the MES but I want a bigger smoker and need some recommendations.

post #20 of 40
Originally Posted by James Parker View Post

Some of us don't have the skills and tools to do all of these mods that seem to be necessary to turn out a good product.  So my question is, what type of horizontal charcoal/wood smoker can one buy out ot the box that will do the job without all the modifications?  I have a 30" MES that sometimes is a little too small for when the whole family shows up or i'm cooking for a church function.  I love the MES but I want a bigger smoker and need some recommendations.


You want a 22.5" Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM). I started with a cheap horizontal offset (Chargriller), and after heavily moddifying it, and still having to tend it every hour or so I finally saw the light and bought my 22.5" WSM. It holds as much or more than my Chargriller, it works right out of the box with absolutely no mods, and it is soooo easy to use you almost feal like your cheating.


I start pork butts and briskets at midnight now, meat goes on, I get it all settled in, and I go to bed for 6 or 7 hours. Without rib racks I can fit 6 racks of St. Lois ribs total, or with rib racks I can fit 12 racks! The WSM is considered by many to be the best charcoal & wood smoker you can buy for under $400..... plus it's backed by Weber's really great customer service.

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