Dang near cheating!
Hi all. My name is Steve and I am now a meat smoking addict. After 25 years of grilling, I finally made the jump into smoking meat and cannot get enough. Born and raised in southern Tx, i recently moved to Wi. I currently live in an apartment (after the move) where flame based cookers are not allowed. Being one that cannot live w/o cooking outside, I bought a Brinkman elec smoker/grill (BES) to get me through and have become quite proficient. With some wood chips/chunks, you would never know it was electric.
Now to the point....
I have made two mods (non invasive) to my BES. The first was to add a Weber snap-in thermometer, located between the two racks, to see what my temps really were. After realizing that the temps were too high for proper smoking (275F), I added the second mod - the temperature controller. Since the first one is a no-brainer, I will focus on the second.
This controller is wired into a 10Ga GFCI extension chord of about 5' in length. It uses an Omega lab grade electronic temp control unit to turn a solid state relay (2500W) on/off to hold the temperature (Green temp [225.0] is the target and Red [227.1] is the current temp). The switch controls the power with three settings ON, OFF or AUTO. OFF is well... off, duh. ON is full power w/o interruption if needed. AUTO lets the controller do its thing. The green plug/wire is the thermistor and I locate the tip inside the smoker right next to the meat. The OUTPUT light only lights up when the unit is passing power through - you can watch it pulse while it's holding temp.
NOTE: This controller has/can be used to control the temp in all kinds of things. I have used it in a foam hot-box for warming wood and stain before application in a cold basement - a tiny personal heater/fan was the heat source. Flood lights are also good sources of heat. The controller can also be programmed to cool something by switching a small A/C unit on/off.
The results are better than I could have imagined. On a calm day it can hold temp at +/- 0.5F. The temp varies since the top and bottom of the BES do not form a great seal. Some fireplace rope around the joints will remedy that. Basically, it is now a smoke pumping electric oven. Just set it and forget it. It does take some of the fun out it, but with two small kids and a picky significant other its perfect for now.