1. Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.

New To Smoking, Please Offer Advice/Tips (Brinkmann Split-Door Smoker) (Charcoal)

Discussion in 'Roll Call' started by vbot, Jan 15, 2011.

  1. vbot

    vbot Newbie

    Hello everyone, I'm totally new to smoking meat and would like some tips and or advice with smoking brisket.  I bought a Brinkmann Split-Door Smoker at Wal-Mart for $69.00 (Clearance) along with some Mesquite chunks.  I read about modifying the coal pan with holes, which I plan on doing tomorrow morning before I cure my smoker.  I bought a small brisket (7lbs) to start and just need to pick up some charcoal and lighter fluid.  I bought a bag of pre treated charcoal, but the instructions don't recommend using it.  I have also read about the thermometers being faulty, should I replace it before even using it or wait and see?  What rubs do you guys like?  I just want a traditional kind.  I'll experiment later.  I am originally from Houston, TX, but live in Idaho.  Not much Bar-B-Que here.  Not very good, anyway.  There's a Famous Dave's, but I've had better.  So please send me some replies.  And thanks in advance, I'll be reading the forums tomorrow to get educated on this art.  Here's to playoffs tomorrow!!!
  2. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Welcome to SMF!

    I have a few suggestions for you in general, for the smoker and the brisket:

    Mesquite is a heavy, earthy smoke, so I'd use it sparingly even with the stronger flavor of the beef brisket. Chunks are best for charcoal smokers, but I have used chips with good results as well...I just have to add smoke wood more often and use tactics which reduce the heat/air getting to the smoke wood so it doesn't catch fire and burn up right away.

    I would stay away from pre-treated (matchlight), charcoal and lighter fluids all together. Try to find yourself a charcoal chimney instead. Lighter fluid can leave you with a nasty taste in your food, as it may not always burn off completely before you start cooking over it.

    The door thermometer will need to be verified, and if possible, calibrated. I would suggest buying an oven rack thermometer at the very least, and placing it on the grate a few inches from the front of the grate to compare readings. Bear in mind that oven rack therms have a very slow response, so they need about 10-15 minutes for the reading stabilize.

    A digital probe meat thermometer would be a great addition for larger cuts as well. I don't spent alot on the one's I've had ($22.50 Acurite) and they worked fine...my trouble has been that I occassionally damage them from moving things around while the probe is plugged into the head, either dropping the head and breaking the plug-in port or otherwise breaking it. Oh, and keep the head dry...got one wet from dripping rain and it's toast.

    I've used quite a few of my own recipes over the past couple years, but if you really want to start with the basics, I'd suggect just garlic, cracked black pepper and a bit of salt...I've found that in many cases, less is more especially with seasonings.

    Oh, I think the 10lb should fit into the split-door just fine, but you may have to lay it on the grate diagonally to keep from getting too close to the cabinet (hot areas).

    Trim the brisket it up a bit leaving some of the fat cap on, score the cap, rub and smoke fat cap up for self basting, or fat cap down if temp spikes are a worry as the fat will then protect the meat from scorching...it's a coin toss, but, fat cap up for me most of the time. 190* for slicing and over 200* for pulled beef (in case you didn't know how that's done). If temps don't want to come up for you, there's always foil to get it the rest of the way after hitting the 160* mark. Of course, if bark is your thing, then foiling too early will soften the bark.

    Be sure you have a good plan on how to keep that smoker running on this smoke, 'cause it will likely take 12-15 hours. The ash build-up in these smaller smokers tends to be a problem on long runs. I have a Brinkmann Gourmet which has been heavily modded, and I can run for upwards of 18 hours now if need be without ash being a problem.

    Oh, when adding fuel, I like to add pre-heated charcoal just to stay away from the coal smoke...it can give off a pretty heavy taste. This is another reason for getting a charcoal chimney. And, I use a propane gas burner to start my coals. Don't start a smoke without at least a 20lb bag on hand, and having mor ethan that for a long smoke would be a good idea, as you may find yourself adding a 1/2 chimney every couple hours, which is about 2lbs.

    Adding fuel or smoke wood, be carefull not to agitate the existing coal-bed to much, as the resulting airborn ashes will find their way to your meat.

    Last edited: Jan 14, 2011
  3. vbot

    vbot Newbie

    Thank you and thanks for that info.  I only bought one bag of charcoal, need to have another on hand.  I did buy a meat thermometer, but it's not digital.  As for the charcoal pan, should I drill several 1/2" holes?  I'm just wondering about the ash drop off.  I did look at the charcoal chimney, but didn't know how handy it would be.  I will have to get one as well or make one at work.  I work in a metal fabrication shop.  I need to make a good sized pit.  I'm about to start the curing process in a few minutes.  I hope smoking in cold temps doesn't affect the meat, etc.  I know I won't create the "Brisket Of The Year" on the first try, but I'm gonna try my best to produce a quality piece.  My father-in-law has a smoker and as far as I know has only used it a couple of times.  I don't think he ever read up on using one.  I plan on getting as much info as I can.  Like I stated before, there isn't any real Bar-B-Que here in Idaho.  Me, my favorite is brisket.  Ribs are okay, but brisket is king for me.  As for grilled meats, I like fajitas and rib eye.  Here's to some good smoking.   
  4. les3176

    les3176 Master of the Pit

    Eric gave you some awesome advice and i agree with him i would lose the lighter fluid it can leave a nasty taste.
  5. vbot

    vbot Newbie

    Curing process halted for a few minutes, gotta go get that charcoal chimney
  6. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    First off Welcome Vbot to SMF. I would listen to what Eric has to say for he is a very good source of infomation. Then don't worry about a chimmey there only about 8-9 bucks. You'll like it here for there are alot of really good folks here that would just love to help you with just about anything to do with smoking. Now there are alot of proven recipes for some amazing things here too. So if you need sign up for the E-Course it's free and it will give you the basics of smoking and some good methods to use also. So the next big thing for you to do is go out and get you something to smoke and if you happen to have any questions just post it here and we will be happy to answer them for you.

    Welcome To Your New Addiction        
  7. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    If your analog thermometer can handle the temps of the smoker as a "leave in" thermometer, it would just mean that you would have to position the therm so you could see it with the door just cracked open enough to see inside. You don't want to open the door much once you start smoking, or all that precious heat and smoke is lost, and recovery times for smaller charcoal fired rigs is pretty long. Figure on an extra 10 minutes cooking time for every 30 seconds or less of opened door time.

    I wish I'd ahd a chance to open one of these up at walmart when they stil lhad 'em in the store. I tried looking on wally-worlds site and on brinkmann's site and neither on shows any internal views. I will say that if you had the room to place a raise grate into the charcoal pan, you will be in smoke heaven compared to fighting with ash laden coals in the pan itself. I have raised fire grate in my gourmet, and that alone made a huge difference on the long-term performance, as I can start the smoker with anywhere from 2lbs to 6lbs or more of charcoal on the grate, keep it running for 12-15 hours by adding a pound or two of hot coals at a time and never have ashes under the grate get anywhere near the coal-bed. It makes a huge difference if the coals are on a grate so th eashes can drop off. The pans will work for short smokes of maybe up to 4 hours depending on the temps you need, etc. but as you add more coals, you close off even more of the air flow if the ashes can't drop off. Next thing you know, you have 10 lbs of coals in the fire pan and not enough fire to cook over...been there, done that...the disappoint ment soon had me dreaming up ways to make the gourmet into a real all-weather long-run smoker. It needs tending, sure, but it can get the job done for me and that's what counts. I've fired this up on more than one all-nighter and it kept me busy with hourly checks, which helped keep me awake so I wouldn't have a ruined dinner the next night.

    But yeah, if you can add a grate over the fire pan itself, it may get the fire pretty close to the water pan which causes more steaming and addition of water at faster intervals. Also, a good thing to remember is that the more water there is in the pan, the lower the smoker temps will be. The faster the boil-off rate, the lower the smoker temps. If you run with a dry pan you use less fuel and can get a hotter smoker. The downside of a dry pan is th e meat drippings hitting the pan and sizzling up, which is something we try to avoid because of the cxarcinogenics it can produce along with more of a grilled taste on the meat, but it's kind of a last resort to raise temps by running the pan dry.


    Edit: don't stab the thermometer into the meat until after it's in the smoker for several hours to heat up the outside of the meat first ...a food safety issue.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2011
  8. SmokinAl

    SmokinAl SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    You got great advice from Eric. If you do what he says I'm sure your brisket will turn out great. Good luck.
  9. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Jeeze, while I'm on a roll here, I may as well tell you:

    If you are fighting to get temps up with a charcoal fired smoker, don't add cold water to the pan, add hot instead, and if high temps are the problem and you need more water, adding cold will pull the heat down for 20-30 minues depending on how much you add.

    And again, regarding the dry water pan, if you just can't get temps up and you have intakes wide open, tons of charcoal on the fire, and th etop vents opened quite a bit to allow good air flow, dumping the water out or letting it steam itself dry will bring temps up.

    Temps should be controlled by opening or closing the intakes, while the upper vents should be used only to control the amount of air flow through the smoke chamber. The less air flow, the slower the meat will cook. Also, if the upper vents are too far closed, the smoke can become stagnant and give and acrid, bitter taste. In extreme cases, it can cause your lips/tongue to go numb...you don't want this.

    The smoke from the smoke wood will be heavy and white when it first starts smoking...this is normal, and will happen every time you adde more smoke wood as well. It should drop off to a thin blue smoke...you want this. And if you can't see smoke coming out the vent, but can smell it or it stings your eyes if you get too close, you're still smoking. I don't soak the smoke wood in water, either...it just slows the onset of smoke until the water has evaporated from the wood.

    Gotta run to work here in a couple hours, but if I think of anything else to help you get started I'll be back on. I think all the basic issues you could run into right first smoke with a new vertical charcoaler are covered though.

    Oh, don't fear the dreaded plateau of internal temps (stall)...it will come to greet you anywhere from the lower 140* range to the lower 160* range. The onset of the stall temp will usually be detrmined by the smoke chamber temp...lower chamber temp = lower stall temp and vice-versa. The stall is where the connective tissues in the meat are beginning to absorbe the thermal energy from the suface of the meat, and they begin to soften and melt to some rextent...this is part of the tenderization process of the low & slow cooking. Temps may also drop when the stall starts, or could drop after the stall has already started for an hour or more. Every piece of meat is different. Just let the stall do it's thing, don't second guess your thermometers, and don't try increasing chamber temps over what your target temp is...just let the stall ride out and when it's over it's over.

    Fire away with any more questions you may have, also.

    Good luck, and have a great brisket smoke!

    Last edited: Jan 14, 2011
  10. vbot

    vbot Newbie

    Wow, thank all of you guys.   Yeah, it's going to take some trial and hopefully not much error.  I'm now back home from the last store trip.  Time to cure this baby and then it's off to smoking.  Off topic: Anyone here football fans?  Who's winning this weekend? 

    I'm going with Pittsburgh, Chicago, Green Bay (That's a tough call, Atlanta is great at home) and New England, of course.  So let's do this. 

    Update:  So far after over an hour or more, the curing temp is just over 200 I got it up to 250, but closed the vents a little to see if I could get it back to a steady 200.Can't wait to get the brisket in.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2011
  11. vbot

    vbot Newbie

    Okay, this morning (Sunday) I put the brisket on.  Been on since a little after 8AM.  I really need to put more holes in the coal pan and eventually get a wok.  Need more air flow, the ashes do build up quick.  At this point it's at about 225 degrees.  I've had it in bottom (Fat side) up.  Been giving it more fuel (wood chunks) when I think it needs.  Should I leave it on the lowest rack?  Does anyone flip it over?  I did check it once and it seemed pretty flimsy.  Hope that's a good thing.  I figure in a while, I'll double wrap it in foil and keep it on for a few more hours. 
  12. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Glad it's working out at least to a reasonably managable extent. Yeah, the mods will come as you need, once you figure out what you want it do for you. A long smoke for th efirst run is actually th ebest way to find out whrtr to start with mods.

    I just got off work a bit ago, but saw your post on my blackberry a several hours back...I can't reply to threads on the forum with it, so I had to wait. Hope I caught you in time, but be sure to check internal temp on the brisket. You can take it to 185-190* before foiling (takes longer though) and then wrap with towels and rest for a few hours before slicing. Otherwise, most folks go to 160* or a bit higher, foil, take to 190* for slicing, the towel wrap and rest.

    I hope your not using smoke wood for fuel, could get spendy, and aweful smoky. I never flip my meats when I smoke...well, haven't yet that I can remember anyway. As for rack positions, the lowest will likely have higher humidity, especially if it's close to the water pan, while the higher rack should be a bit lower humidity and higher temp. Also, if the grate is close to the water pan, ir won't let much smoke get to the emat. My gourmet is the same way...low-temp steam only on the lower grate, and smoke with higher temp on the upper grate.

    Hope all's well!

  13. vbot

    vbot Newbie


    Here's a pic, sorry I didn't re-size.  I'll still do some more mods on the pan and get the wok.  I thought about a way to maybe punch larger holes in a plate at work, then breaking (Bending) it or just sticking with getting the wok.  I'll have to see how much of a change it makes.  This is after I wrapped it.  I put it in a baking pan to bring it inside.  I need a cutting board. 
  14. vbot

    vbot Newbie

    Sorry, I meant to say, charcoal is my main fuel.  I was just adding chunks as the smoke dissipated.  I still need to someday make my own rub. 
  15. SmokinAl

    SmokinAl SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Looks like everything turned out good. That's a fine looking brisket.
  16. vbot

    vbot Newbie

    Thanks everyone and yes it is pretty tasty.