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***Just got a new Brinkmann Vertical Smoker. Can't figure it! Frustrated! Please help***

Discussion in 'Roll Call' started by chefmike86, Nov 28, 2010.

  1. chefmike86

    chefmike86 Newbie

    How's it going? I'm new to smoking, I just got a Brinkmann Vertical charcoal smoker. I can't get the temp high enough, and for a long period of time. I can't figure out how the vents work either. Can anyone give me some advice..... Please!

    Do you open the vents to make it hotter?  Do I adjust the top and bottom the same... different?

    Please help,


  2. richoso1

    richoso1 Legendary Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    When using an upright smoker, you usually have the top vent wide open. The bottom vents can be used to help control the heat. The more open you have the bottom vents, the hotter it should burn. Your specific smoker may vary, this is a general statement. I hope this helps you.

    BTW, I just noticed your new here, so welcome to the SMF.I moved your thread to roll call so others can welcome you. It's all good my friend.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2010
  3. meateater

    meateater Legendary Pitmaster SMF Premier Member

    Welcome to the SMF. Glad to have you here. Lots of good folks, great recipes and knowledge. Looking forward to your first qview. [​IMG]  I see Rich got you going in the right direction.
  4. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    As richoso mentioned, and I've found that the two biggest issues you'll run into with small commercially built charcoal fired smokers are:

    1) ash build-up on the charcoal which smothers the fire;

    2) too little or poorly distributed airflow into the fire pan/box;

    I haven't had the opportunity to look at your particular smoker up close and personal yet, but from my past experiences with the smaller vertical rigs, the need a few mods in the fire pan area to get things working correctly, for longer smokes especially. My Brinkmann Gourmet has additional air intakes with draft control, a raised charcoal grate (3" off the bottom), instead of just piling coals onto the vented pan and watching them snuff out from ashes, and additional venting on the lid. Yours should already have sufficient intake and ventilation with draft controls, so I would focus on being sure the fire can breathe and drop it's ashes...that's where the charcoal grate mod comes in. Should work pretty decent after that's done.

    I suggest smoking smaller items first until you have temp control issues corrected (such as chicken quarters or pieces). Then, once you know how your individual smoker likes to run and has proven that it can handle longer duration smokes (proper ash fall-out), you'll be ready to try some of the larger items.

    Welcome to the forums!

  5. raptor700

    raptor700 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Welcome to SMF, If you are using a water pan it could effect your temps!
  6. chefmike86

    chefmike86 Newbie

    Thank you for everybody that replied!  I'm glad to be on here!  I'm really excited about smoking but it's frustrating when I can't control the damn heat.  So do I have this right when using my smoker.  I'm suppose to open the top vents all the way and control the heat with the bottom vents?  Wouldn't that all the smoke out the top?  I hear people talking about the charcoal grate mod... What is that?

    Is it to much to ask to want a perfect smoke ring with a fall of bone consistency of the meat?!?!?!? haha

    forluvofsmoke:  Thank you, do you have a recipe for something smaller to smoke.  I'll start small then move to the bone-in pork butt.

    Thank you everybody again... Keep the advice coming please.  I'm a blank slate!


    Big Mike
  7. garyt

    garyt Smoking Fanatic

    It would be very helpful if you could post a couple of pictures of your smoker so we could see what we are dealing with.
  8. mrsb

    mrsb Smoking Fanatic

    My Brinkman vertical is about 5 years old but looks similar to what i see online for the name of the smoker you referred to.  I can tell you a few things. Did you replace the thermometer that the unit came with?  Nearly all commercial smokers stock thermometers are useless.  Replace it with a new one.  I did not have to do this because mine wasa hand me down smoker and the previous owner had already done that[​IMG]

    Charcoal grate.  Mine came with a round bowl exactly the same as my water pan.  Useless as it had no holes for the air to get through to the coals nor for the ash to fall out.  Initally I purchased a wok )pictured below from Home Depot for like $10 bucks.  Worked great, fit on my rack holders with no modification and lasted nearly a year.  It would have lasted longer had I taken better care of it (i.e.not letting my dogs destroy it).  I recently purchased a small sheet of steel grating from an idea on here also.  Search for $20 charcoal pan I think.  Works good, but should probably re-do it when I'm not in such a hurry.

    Coal.  I started with just Brinkman because thats what I knew for grilling.  It worked ok.  No real complaints on it.  But someone here suggested lump charcoal.  It burned hotter with less ash.  But also burned quicker.  So it took a few tries to work that out.  Look up "minion method" and try a burn like that. 

    Wow, I think thats my longest post ever!!! Hope I helped

    eta link for minion method   http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/wiki/minion-method-explained-with-tutorial

    And the link for a charcoal pan (it isn't the original one I had in mind, but the user used the same material but his was molded more into a round basket where as the one I did was square (so it just required cuts to be able to makes 4 sides to form a square

    Last edited: Nov 29, 2010
  9. raptor700

    raptor700 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I still own a Brinkman™ vertical, and MrsB is right, in the right hands it can be a nice smoker! I smoked my first brisket on mine and it did great!
  10. dougmays

    dougmays Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    exactly...i actually have a brinkman electric smoker similar to yours and i was having the same issues....i learned that filling the water pan with water isn't always the best thing because it actually can decrease the temp, which is what its used for (as well as steam cooking the food).

    Here is a trick i was taught that really works....put playground sand (bought at lowes/homedepot) in the water pan instead of water.  it'll raise the temp...i was hesitant at first but actually did this fro thanksgiving to get higher temps for my turkey and i actually got about a 20 degree increase in heat
  11. squirrel

    squirrel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Welcome aboard! Sounds like Mrs. B. has some good advice for ya!
  12. wbrian

    wbrian Smoke Blower

    Hi ChefMike!

    I think I have the exact model you have.  I just got it a week or so ago from HD.  Has 2 doors in the front and a large square charcoal pan with a little coal grate in the bottom? 

    I haven't had much problem with my temps, except when I stop paying attention...

    First, do trhe3 coalp[an mod.  Drill a bunch of holes along the sides of the coal pan to allow airflow to hit your coal.  Also, drill a bunch of largish (1/2 to 3/4 inch) holes in the bottom of the pan to allow ash to fall bown.  I placed a foil lasagna pan in the bottom of my smoker to catch this ash.  When I notice the temp dropping a b it, open the bottom door of the smoker and shake the coal pan,  knocks off the ash and allows a hotter coal burn to keep on keeping on.

    I've been told to keep the top vents open, but find that keeping one nearly closed and one open about half way works for me,.  But the wind airflow in your location will be different than that on the side of my house (unless you want to brink yours here --Virginia Beach-- but that might be inconvenient!).  I start with the bottom vents wide open until the coals get burning really well (lit outside the smoker and placed in once they start ashing pretty good).  Once my temp gets up a bit, like 220, I close them down.  One all the way and one just cracked a little.    Food goes in and the temp drops so open one or both back up to get your heat going then close them up again,   Then it's a matter of adjusting the bottom vents to raise or lower temps, and shaking the coal pan to knock down the ash, of course as needed.   I find I have to add coal/chunk wood every 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

    Keep the top door closed as much as possible.  It drops your heat a ton and you lose all that beautiful smoke!

    I also run a digital thermometer through a top vent and stick it through a potato so the end doesn't touch anything to watch my internal temp.  The one on my door is off by about 60 degrees.  Ignore it!

    OH, when you add water, use the hottest you can get into it.  Some people suggest using sand in that pan instead of water...,

    Hope this helps!

    Last edited: Nov 30, 2010
  13. papagreer

    papagreer Meat Mopper

    Hey Mike,

    Like what Brian said. I also have a Brinkmann Vertical. For me the key was the holes in the charcoal pan. I have about 40 or so holes in the pan. 

    When I start out, I fill the charcoal pan about half way with unlit coals. Then I put a full chimney of lit coals on top. That will fill your pan and the heat will come up. I leave my top left closed with my therm lead out that side. The top right I keep full open to let the smoke out. You dont want creosote build up on your meat. For the vents on the bottom, I keep them full open until i reach temp then i close them both down all the way. The unit leaks a lot of air, so I found that this is the way to go. I can hold 225-230 for 4 hours this way. When the temp starts to drop, I give the charcoal pan a good shake and the coal glow hot again. 

    This smoker takes some work and some learning to see what works for you. The outside temp makes a huge difference as well. If its in direct sunlight, it will be hard to keep the temps down. I find that in the AM hours and after the sun goes down are my most consistent temps. Hope this helps, PM me with any questions.

  14. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hey Mike,

    I've been out of pocket for a few days or I would gotten back to you sooner....

    The simplest charcoal grate modification is to use a wire grate from a charcoal grill, if you have one. If not, HD should have expanded steel in 12" x 24" sheets that will work, but you need to cut it to fit the size of your charcoal pan/fire box which requires the proper tools for the job.

    You can get a good smoke ring as long as your temps are running reasonable...225-250* for pork ribs, butts, brisket. The easy way to keep meat moist enough for fall off the bone texture is to foil at a certain point, hence the 3-2-1 method for pork spare ribs...I do ribs this way a lot since I learned the method here on the forums 2 years ago.

    For a bit smaller size item to smoke, which are pretty forgiving and not expensive, I've found chicken leg quarters to be a great treat. Just large enough to take a few hours to smoke, and, large enough to stick with a probe to check internal temps as well. Season with just about anything will be good eating, and smoke with apple or cherry. If you use mesquite, go very light and relatively short with the actual smoke time...this a commonly used smoke wood, but has a heavy flavor, so use sparingly unless with pork butts or beef brisket. Hickory is good with poultry, but needs a light dose as well, as it carries a sharper bite in the flavor. For fall apart chicken, bring it up safe temp, then foil, wrap in towels and rest for 45-60 minutes. Same treatment as you would do with a brisket or pork butt except much less time to rest. The skin won't be very good...rubbery, but the meat will almost drop right onto the platter when you slice the skin.

    I didn't see mention of this earlier, but you may want tyo check out the free 5 day ecourse which Jeff put together...it covers the smoking basics: