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First time smoker! In need of help.

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hello. I'm in quite the situation here.. I've been wanting to get into smoking meats for awhile but never had the time.. Went to the store a couple days ago to finally pick up a smoker.. There was a cheap little brinkman I should have bought, but instead went with the more expensive vertical charcoal one..


Holy cow what a disaster it has been. I wass excited I went and bought a bunch of different kind of wood charcoal. Smoking chips and about 100 dollars worth of meat.

Got home and started grilling 2 days ago. First try was a pork butt. Acording to the instructions I was suppossed to use charcoal, then add chips to the "tray" that sits above the charcoal.. I got it up 200 and put my meat in.. But, every time I have to add wood-charcoal it takes a good 25 seconds as I have to slide the charcoal trey out as the "wood chip" tray sits right ontop of it..

Then, by the time it's closed again it's down to 150 and takes 15-20 minutes to heat back up.. And it only has enough space for a few pieces so needless to say I'm not spending a whole lot of time cooking at 200..

After 5 hours of doing this (the time it should have taken to smoke it) I pulled it out and went to check the temp and, well, let's just say it was raw about an 1inch into it.. I put it back in for 3 more hours and finally gave up and went to bed as the temp was still only 150 after 8-9 hours of smoking..

Today I tried again but this time removed the chip tray and decided to just soak my chips and toss them right onto the charcaol.. It seemed to work pretty well.. Until after about 6 hours I went to check it and it was raw again..PDT_Armataz_01_19.gif

I'm dying here.. Is this just a piece of junk that I bought? any help would be greatly appreciated..
post #2 of 18
Sorry I'm an electric guy.

Let's bump up and see if we can get you more help.

From what I understand it probably has to do with airflow.

Don't forget to check into roll call.

post #3 of 18
Sorry to hear that you're having so much trouble. I also am an electric smoker user, but the basics of grilling apply no matter what type is used.

First I would say - take a deep breath and step back from the smoker for a minute to figure it out. Food will be ok in the fridge for another day or in the freezer for later.

Sounds like maybe you jumped in too fast, but then again ya gotta learn to do it sometime and this is all a learning process for everyone. Some items you need are a couple thermometers, especially a remote style so you can check the internal temp of the meat without pulling it out of the smoker. Another is for the smoker itself as most gauges that come on smokers are way out of wack and give false numbers.

Have you taken Jeff's e-course yet? Make sure you do that. How are you getting the coals up to temp? Search for the minion method.

Others will get on here to help that have way more info on your specific style of smoker, but just take a break for a day and read thru some posts on here - trust me it will help!!!!
post #4 of 18
I'm a novice myself and this may seem like a stupid question, but have you tried adjusting the baffles on the back of your smoker? The more air you let circulate- the hotter the temps.

My first mistake when I was trying to season my grill was that I thought it would get hotter if you kept the box closed up.
post #5 of 18
You want your temp closer to 240°. 225° to 250° is the reccomended range. I shoot for 240ish and I say "ish" because it's pretty damn hard to regulate right on a given temp. So if my smoker wanders between 230° and 265° I don't worry about it. It's a lot more relaxing that way.

Is there room in the tray for chunks? Chunks will last a little longer than chips. If you can smell smoke your smoking. You don't have to add wood right when the smoke stops.

Get a reliable thermometer that you can use to read the grate temp of the smoker. Most stock thermos are junk and are way off.

post #6 of 18


Welcome to smf, be sure to check out Jeffs free 5 day course, it's full of great helpful tips
post #7 of 18
I have the smallest GOSM LPG vertical which I converted to charcoal just for giggles. I found that adding hot charcoal to the fire helps if I'm dealing with low temp issues.

Be sure your smoker is well protected from the wind...wind and cookers are enemies. Cold outdoor temps don't effect a cooker nearly as much as the wind does...it zaps the heat right out of them.

Anther thing to watch out for is ash build up. If the charcoal pan doesn't have holes in the bottom to allow the ashes to fall out, you will be in dire straights, as the fire can't breath to burn properly. You fire pan appears to have slotted holes in the sides of the pan, and probably is a solid plate on the bottom.

I also noticed that your smoke box has a drop-style support rack, which, in it's pictured position, leaves much more space between the smoke box and water pan than is needed. I would flip the smoke box support rack over to raise the smoke box higher and see if the smoke box still fits under the water pan. If it does, this will allow much more space between the smoke box and the fire pan. The possible drawback from this is it may slow down the generation of smoke. Heck, I don't even use a smoke box in mine, so remove it if you like and just use a small tin can (burned out well to get rid of any nasties) to put your smoke wood in, and place it directly on the hot coals.

If the additional space can be attained, you could place a small charcoal grate on top of the fire pan, thus using the pan as an ash catcher. Ideally, you should have raised sides on the coal grate so spillage of coals isn't an issue.

Also, as mentioned above, ventilation must be adequate. With my GOSM, I start with fully opened intake/exhaust vents and slowly close them to get the temps under control after it heats up.

There are modifications being done to the majority of smokers every day, as none of them seem to be perfect. A good mod for yours would be the addition of a charcoal basket so you could put in larger amounts of fuel and be able to leave it closed up for much longer periods. I can get nearly 4 hours of burn time from mine if I'm doing everything right and the weather isn't too windy.

Hope this helps you understand your situation better and give you some ideas how to get more desirable results from your smoker. Just remember, you're not alone here with the issues your fighting, and getting your rig to work well sometimes takes a bit of patience.

Don't give up brother, 'cause you're so close!!!

post #8 of 18
I quit using wood chips a long time ago and switched to chunks. chips burn up way too fast (no need to soak in water). A good lump charcoal like royal ok will help with getting the temp hotter and more consistant. lump has very little ash to "drown" the coals. Good luck and keep at it you wont regret it. This an awesome place to learn. We love pictures so post away.
post #9 of 18

mods for your smoker

i have a brinkman that is simular to yours but mine is a 2 door

ok these are suggestions
remove the smoker box and buy a grill wok
lowes has them for 10 bucks
use the grill wok for your coal or lump
i use a little mix of kingsford and lump from gfs
then u could use the coal tray for ash
throw chunks on the coals when smoking not chips

i can run steady 250 with the wok for 3 to 4 hours

option 2
drill 3/8 holes throughout the bottom of the coal pan
but youll have to elevate it sum how to allow ash to fall
and most importantly air flow

best wishes
smokin leotongue.gif
post #10 of 18
Do you want to be frustrated for a couple of years or spend your time enjoying the smoke experience and the Q you cook?

Take it back, clean it up best you can, and take it back, demand your money back!

I don't know who makes that smoker, but on Amazon it has exactly 1 review.

If you want charcoal then the WSM Weber Smokey Mountain 18.5" for $250
If that is too much for your budget the MES 30" Mastetbuilt Electric Smokehouse for $180 and you can find them on sale for less.

Finally you can make your own out of 50 gal drum "UDS".

There are other charcoal and electric units. But WSM and MES owners are very happy here at SMF and there are a lot of both.
post #11 of 18
Well patience on the pork butt .Butts are a very easy piece of meat to cook but take time.The lower temps we smoke at 225-250+ make it harder to predict when exactly will be done.A turkey in the oven is 20 min.a pound @ 325 or so and there is no reason to open the door until its done.I have had and I'm sure many others too butts that take in excess of 12 hrs.The last one was 16 hrs and I don't have a clue why. (well a small one) get the thermo and you'll hear the expression "It's done when it's done" go read up on pork butts here and you'll hear the stories on the amazing butt.Best of luck and you'll do just fine ..really points.gif for not giving up .Bill
post #12 of 18
I have the same Brinkman as Smokin' Leo and I also had the same exact frustration as you did last year when I first got it. I tried to skmoke some split chicken breasts. I started late morning and didn't pull them out till 1800. Checked them with an instant read thermo and it said they were done. Well little did I know, the thermo was broken and when our guests cut into the chicken it was raw still and I threw them out. Ordered pizza and was razzled the rest of the night. This happened a few times (w/o guests) but I feel I am getting the hang of what I need to do.

I have tried both of these mods. I started with drilling the holes and it didn't do much in terms of helping it get to temp, let alone keeping it there but I didn't get a riser either.

The 1 st mod mentioned is the latest one I tried (I just did this mod last weekend) I went to Home depot and picked up the Chamglow Grilling Wok for 12 bucks. It fits perfectly in the rack. I also used the Oven gasket (OGSD I think??) around the doors to help seal it a bit better. It definitely gets up to heat and holds it properly now.

I can really understand your frustrationthough. hang in there. it is a learning curve. I am still figuring it out buit now I have these peeps to help. As soon as I find my cam I will post some pics on the wok and the doors.

But I do plan on saving and getting a new smoker. Although this is good for learning and trying things. I can't imagine a 12 -16 smoke. I add lump coal every 2-3 hours using the minion method as it is.
post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice everyone.. I took the original posters advice and took a few days off.. I had gotten so frustrated!

I then read more and more on this site and made a few adjustments..

1.) I took out the smoking "tray".. I just used the mignon method to start the coals, then added hickory "chunks" straight to the coals.... I also added apple "chips" that I soaked. Not sure if it was necessary but I had a whole bag and didn't want to waste them..lol

2.) I removed the charcoal "pan" that holds the rack you put your charcoal on. The sides of the pan completely block the air flow of the two small vents near the bottom.. Instead of setting the rack in the pan, I placed two bricks in their and layed HEAVY DUTY Aluminum foil on the Bottom of the Grill..

3.) I cooked it at 250 instead of the recommended 215..

Now I'm not sure if it was really 250, or if the gauge is just off, but cooking it at "250" had it done in the exact same amount of time I was told cooking it at 215 would take..

Anyways, it turned out really good.. Not nearly as good as I hope to learn to make it, but I give it a solid B. I'll keep reading and hopefully will pick up some more tricks to improve it.

P.S. It's really annoying that these things are sold to the public when they so obviously are not able to work right without serious renovation!
post #14 of 18

Wood Chunks Probably the answer

DDave has it right, i think. I had similar trouble with my first vertical smoker. Wood chunks solved the problem as they burn hotter. I used to start with a hot bed of coals and then add wood chunks. Also, the grill-level thermometer will put your mind at ease until you gain more experience. Cheers! And don't give up!


"When my life insurance agent asked if I was a smoker, I'm pretty sure he was thinking tobacco....silly agent!"
post #15 of 18
Hang in there man when I did my first butt it was like the night of your first born. Just ask caveman he and a couple others carried me right along and everything was ok...you are at the right place these guys are GREAT !!!!!
post #16 of 18
I've got to add my Kudos to all that visit/use and make this site an incredible asset to anyone wanting to learn the art of smoking.
I too, was have troubles with my first smoke (Ribs) and these guys were A+ in helping me through the panic moments!!
The advice of sit back, relax and think it through really helped me in figuring out some of my initial mistakes.
There is a TON of information on this forum to help anyone along. The sheer volume of new information makes it quite easy (along with our enthusiasm) to overlook something that seems unimportant at the time.
I am really impressed with the genuine willingness, of those with the experience and past failings, to help out those who are very new to this fine art.
Again, Kudos and many thanx for those who take the time to help out (without judgemental jabs) us noobs.
Thanx to all
post #17 of 18
Hang in there.... sounds like you are starging to get a feel for how your smoker runs. One thing you absolutely must do is get some good thermometers. Maybe drill a hole at each rack level and install a therm - or one towards the bottom and one towards the top. Most factory therms are off by at least 50°, some can be off by 75°+. And like several others mentioned - airflow is important, no air = no fire, drill holes or do whatever you need to make sure the ash drops down out of your fire, and make sure your vents aren't blocked.

I would suggest making a few basic mods (as mentioned leo), then try running the smoker without any meat in it. This will give you a feel for how to adjust vents and what not. Once you have a good feel and can maintain a 225-250° chamber temp., then start with something small and fast like chicken.

Keep asking questions, and don't give up. There are a lot of folks on this site with some great knowledge and info that will give you some good advice! PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif
post #18 of 18
As others have said, a good dual-probe therm is your best friend. Many of us here use the ET-73 and are quite happy with it.
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