My First Post! How to Maintain Temperature??

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boulder buff

Original poster
Jan 4, 2011
Hi all,

This is my first post and I am really excited to start smoking some meats!

I recently purchased the Brinkmann Professional Smoker and have done all the necesarry preparations to start smoking food (i.e., curing the smoker, purchased wood, lump coal, temperature gauge etc...).

I am going to be smoking my first brisket next weekend ( I think I found a nice recipe in "Backyard BBQ, The Art of Smokology").

The main question I have being that this is my first time smoking something is how do you maintain that temperature of 200-225 with lump coal without having to constantly check the smoker??

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, I am looking forward to someday contributing to this website with recipes and pictures of the meats!
i would do a few smokes with a lower time frame to help "learn" what your smoker is like. there are a few peeps on here that could probably give you some helpful tips on your style smoker.  good luck and have fun!
The best thing you can do is practice with the smoker  to figure out  how it runs and work  on bringing the temps up and down a bit to get the hang of maintaining temps.  There should be air intakes which you will adjust to give it more or less air flow. Opening the vent will give it more air and cause your temps to rise and closing the vents will restrict the air and cause your temps to fall. You should also have a exhaust which will be open all the way to allow the air to flow out of your smoker. I would definitely fire that baby up before you try doing a brisket for the first time. You don't want to be fighting with your temps and trying to experiment when you have a nice cut of meat in the smoker.
Thanks for the tips. Would you recommend just putting in straight coal and playing around with the dampers with no meat to learn how to control the temp?
Would you recommend just putting in straight coal and playing around with the dampers with no meat to learn how to control the temp?
Not really.  Having a smoker loaded with meat changes the dynamics of temp control, as do many other factors such as wind, ambient temperature, sunlight/shade.  I started off with a brisket for my first smoke.  It's not the easiest piece of meat to work with, especially right out of the gate.  Personally, I would put it in the freezer and get a little experience under your belt with a more forgiving cut like a pork butt or even just hamburgers.  
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I agree, a brisket is not the easiest cut of meat to smoke. Especially since you haven't mastered temp control. There is no way you will be able to leave the smoker alone for very long. Most briskets take 10- 18 hours of smoking to become tender. Unless you are willing to hang out with the smoker for that length of time I would suggest any one of the things that Ross suggested. Good luck & let us know how you do, with Q-view of course.
Appreciate the input and the tips guys!

Since I have not bought the brisket yet, I think I am going to start with chicken and burgers, sounds like an easier process for a beginner. Will post with pictures when I am done (I am looking to do it next Saturday). Thanks again!
Also if you have not done so already do a search for "charcoal basket" and either buy or make one of the many, many types you will find on this site - usually can buy/mod/make one for under $20. Having a charcoal basket lets you use the minion method and that lets you do the low and slow for a much longer period of time. Keep in mind that wind is your worst enemy, it coulde be 65° and sunny, but if you have a 20 mph wind blowing it will really play havoc with your temp. controll.

Good luck and holler with any questions!
ok, are you in the boulder area?

I am in the south denver burbs.

The winds have been tough lately.  Read the sticky on brisket, it's good info.

Get one or two wireless probe thermometers.  Stick one in a kickstand of jalapeno or potatoe or whatever to keep the probe off the metal grates.  The other one. not as necessary, goes in the meat.  If you only have one thermometer, when you pull the meat in and foil it and drop it in the oven, if you are so inclined, the probe goes in the meat and you can pretty much rely on the oven temp to be what you set it to.  I think, never checked actually.

I would suggest buying a fireproof water heater blanket and cutting and taping it with foil duct tape on the edges, then you can mount that onto the main chamber with small bolts, fender washers, and lock washers with nuts.  Cut it a little shy on the side of the firebox, you dont need to tempt fate any more than you already do.  Dont use machine screws, you will end up scratching the bejeezus out of yourself from the inside.

You can buy the rectangular pieces of expanded metal from the home depot.  Get two of them, lay them in a cross fashion against each other and you can see how if you bend them up you can make a cube.  I used a couple of smalll brackets with bolts and nuts to connect them together.  Mark your lines and find a good edge to bend them against, hammer the bend down to get a nice edge. 

Look to see if you can make a lower level inside the smoke chamber that you can fill with soapstone.  I went over to the stone shop and picked up some odds and ends for free.  Soapstone has very good thermal properties and will help you maintain an even temp as it wont get knocked down so easily. The bigger flat pieces go on the firebox side to get the heat to flow underneath and even out the whole hot side cold side deal. 

Also, while you are at home depot you can get the rope oven seal stuff, I had to buy mine at Ace, but I think I saw it at home depot once I knew what it was.  You can run that along the edge of the lid to seal the chamber better.  This is great to do when the smoker is new, as it wont want to stick so well once there has been several delicious layers of smoke and grease film on it. 

Consider buying a small burner to put in the bottom of the smoke chamber, I used one of those turkey fryer burner you can pick up for $30 or so.  This will allow you to preheat the smoker quickly.  Have to have the firebox door open or it wont stay lit.  Dont try to run it at the same time as you are burning in the firebox, the firebox fire will eat all the oxygen and it wont stay lit. Potential bomb there!  But with all the stone in the chamber you can preheat to 300 in about 25 minutes or so, and the soapstone will soak up all that heat and disspate it nicely.  Lava rock will not do that, it will release the heat immediately.  You turn off the burner and your heat will dissapear.

Measure the inside diameter of the smokestack and buy yourself a tall boy beer of matching size and drill out the bottom or some metal tube of some sort ( some folks use dryer vent tube) to drop the height of the smokestack down to a lower level so the heat doesnt rush out but you still have good flow. Somebody here wrote to get the flexible metal sheeting you can get to put on the bottom of oven and you can roll that up into a nice tube but I have never found it. 

Almost all of these ideas came from other people on this website, I am no supergenius, but have found the wealth of knowledge here a regular treasure trove. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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