Brinkmann Vertical Smoker

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Original poster
Jun 7, 2007
This was posted on the roll call forum but I think I need to open it up to everyone. This may seem basic but I an new.

I am new to smoking and I just got a Brinkmann vertical smoker with fire and water bowl. I read the 5 day email course on smoking meat and jumped in by trying to smoke some pork steaks. This was my experience.

I filled the water pan and I allowed the charcoal to get grey all over before putting it in the smoker. I had a pretty hot fire. I had a bag of hickory chips and I took a large handful and wrapped it in foil as directed. Because of the layout of the smoker, there is not much space between the fire pan and the water pan, so I was forced to place the pouch of wood chips directly on the charcoal. The hickory smoked and then burned up in the pouch after about a half hour. With the water pan in the smoker never really got over 150 degrees and was slightly less than that most of the time. There seemed to be more smoke coming out the door than the chimney. I do not think I got the meat cooked enough and will finish it on the grill today.

My questions for anyone familiar with this type of smoker are:

1. Where do I put the hickory chips? Directly on the coals or try to get them away from direct contact? How long should they last?

2. Should I soak the hickory chips and if so for how long?

3. Is the water pan really necessary? If so how do I get the temp up?

I had expected to make a few mistakes and want to do better the next time. Any feedback or suggestions is truely appreciated. Thanks in advance

Pinto in Michigan
Pinto, I'm not sure what the problems you are having are stemmed from as I have a stickburner, but an sure someone will be of assistance shortly.
You can save time by heating the water before putting it in the smoker.

If you can use chunks of wood ... that is best!
If you need to use chips, wrap in foil, but poke small holes not big ones ... should last longer.

Hope that is of some help!
Pinto,the info about using chunks of wood is good advise,the chips will burn up fast just like they did.I always soak the chunks for at least i/2 hour before using but you can let them soak all day and they will last longer.When I used that type of smoker I always used the water pan either wet or dry because you dont want direct heat on what your smoking.Put as much good quality charcole in the fire pan as you can.If your depending on the themometer on the smoker Ill tell you that they are not accurate.If you follow these hints and smoke your meat 1 hour per pound based on the largest chunk of meat you will do fine.You can even let it go longer if you want.Check the internal temp of the meat which is the sure way to make sure its done.Good luck,David
Suggestion: get a couple of digital thermometers so you can monitor meat temperatures and even cooker interior temperature. Get the ones with a 3 foot cable.

Ditto on boiling the water before adding it to your smoker.
I have that same smoker & like it; however I fill the water pan with sand; I think it is better than water at heating up & holding the heat evenly; plus I don't have to worry about adding water.

As stated above you need to soak the wood. I have used both chips in foil & chunks on top of a charcoal base & gotten a really good hickory flavor.

Don't give up.

ETA; try lump charcoal.
Sand is fine for heat control I suppose, but the idea behind water is moisture retention and heat regulation, as we all know water boils at 212ºF or 100ºC
Doesn't the sand get a bit funky from the drippings?
Thank you for all the comments. I have a much better idea how to improve my process.

Pinto -
I am assuming you have an "ECB". (I know, NEVER assume) If not, this won't have much relevance.

Go to this link -

It will tell you how to modify your ECB to make it work better and be more user friendly. Also has some tips on using it and cooking on it. There are 5 mods and then the tips, follow it all the way through. It is not the final word or "be all" for the ECB, but gives you some good info. Some of the mods pictured are crude, could be done a lot nicer, guess it depends on your skill level. I do not care for the "all thread" rod for fire pan legs, not real stable.
I always round up the charcoal (natural lump charcoal, not briquettes) in the fire pan (mine is an old one, has about a 1" hole in the center of the bottom of the fire pan to get air) and start it with an electric starter (WalMart), it lights in about 10 min. I use chunks of smoking wood, 2-3. You can use chips but you have to replace them more often as they burn up. A pair of long tongs is pretty much a necessity. Get the fire going then put the water pan in place. You can line the water pan with heavy duty aluminum foil and save some messy cleanup.
An ECB is not a "start it and forget it" smoker. It takes some attention. It will amaze you with what it will produce though!
You must have the water pan in place when smoking. It's purpose: it serves as a buffer between the really hot fire and your objects being smoked. Otherwise it would not cook "low and slow" and you would be grilling over direct heat. As far as keeping things moist, I don't think it does much in that area. If you use water in the pan, which is all I ever use, fill the pan with the hottest water you can get from the tap, sort of a "head start" so the fire does not have to heat the water as long. Never tried sand in the pan, but I think it is an alternative. When an ECB is up to speed it will generally run around the 225 deg. F range. Ambient temp. and wind both cause fluctuations in smoker temp.
Buy a couple digital remote meat thermometers. Refer to DeeJayDebi's temperature chart posted here on the forums for cooking temp. info. on about anything you want to cook. Do not depend on the "thermometer" in the lid of your smoker.
Keep at it, it will come together and surprise you!
Hey Peculiarmike,

I want to mod my ECB this weekend. You mentioned that you don't like the threaded rod fire pan legs and I have to agree.

Any alternative suggestions for fire pan leg solutions? Anybody?

I hope this response is not too late. I have since retired my ECB but after the mods I made, it worked great and turned out some great Q. These are incredibly easy, but I will answer any questions you may have.
First, do as the tutorial suggests and mount the legs on the OUTSIDE of the barrel rather than the inside.
Second, go to the store and buy a Weber Little Smokey for somewhere near the $25 mark and some Weber charcoal rails for around $7 IIRC.
Use the Little Smokey as your fire pit and the ECB will fit perfectly over the Lil Smokey. This is great because it allows you to lift the whole ECB up to tend the fire rather than trying to do it through that little door. Also since the Lil Smokey has an air inlet from the bottom your coals will burn hotter creating the much needed heat you seek.
I took mine one step farther, I mounted the air exhaust from the lid of the Lil Smokey to the Lid of the ECB so that I could vent smoke straight out and not have stale smoke accumulate in the lid.
One other thing I found worked well was to grab a couple of red bricks and set the legs of the ECB on them so as to elevate the ECB a little more above the Lil Smokey allowing better air flow.
With this setup I use charcoal and wood splits. I never use chunks or chips but mostly wood after I used charcoal to get the process started.

Hope this helps and I hope it is not too late!!
I always used a wire deepfryer basket ($2 at the dollar store) for the coals in my ECB and the only mods I ever did was to drill about 10 or 12 tiny 1/8" holes all around the top edge of the lid. I'd start with about 10 coals get em gray then pile them on top of some new coals, and lay about three wood chucks near the edge of the basket. Never had any trouble.

You might want to consider using a Smoke Pistol, this cuts down on the amount of times you need to add chips, and you don't have to open up the smoker to add wood for flavoring.

I've used one for about 6 times now and I find it a lot easier than hassling with the addition of wood chips on a bullet type smoker. This is a link that might help you.

Good Luck, and keep on smokin'.
Just noticed this post and while I don't own one of the brinkmann verticals.. I have used one twice at my sister-in-laws house.

I had the same problem with getting no heat and got myself a tad bit aggravated... (I think I was more heated than the smoker)

Anyway, I finally made another batch of lump charcoal and placed it in the very bottom floor of the smoker in addition to what was in the charcoal pan.

I also used hot water in the water pan but only filled it to about 1/2 inch or so.

With this setup, it kicked in and did some chicken quarters at around 260 degrees for several hours and they turned out delicious in the end.

This smoker could use a larger charcoal pan in my opinion.

Smokers of this sort do leak a lot of smoke through the door and such but I have never had a problem getting enough smoke flavor into the meat. I just keep a pouch made up with half wet and half dry chips and lay it right on top of the charcoal.
pinto, you need to try the piedmont water pan method. I have the same smoker as you. You can do it two ways, one with two water pans screwed together using spacers to create an air barrier between the two. I do it the cheap way by using heavy duty foil over my water pan, leaving an air gap. It's worked great and has made things so much easier, plus no messy water to dispose of. This has helped me by requiring much less fuel and generating much more heat.

You also should drill some holes in your charcoal pan to generate some airflow and add some sort of grate to keep the coals off the bottom of the coal pan.

If you can spare that bottom rack which sits about 1" above the top of the water pan move our water pan up to that slot. It gives the coal a little more room to breathe and generates more heat.

It took me some serious experimentation to get my smoker in tune with my soul, but I think I've got it now.

For wood, I recommend the large chunks. I put one in the hot coals and leave one or two on the periphery of the fire so it will smolder rather than flame up. I haven't soaked it in a year or so, but that may not be the worst idea ever. If you don't have a source for wood, there's an Alabama smoke wood site that sells some great variety for cheap.

Good luck!
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