Temp control tips for an unvented Brinkmann Sportsman Smoker

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Smoke Blower
Original poster
Aug 16, 2009
Chicago area
Hi folks,

I'm pretty enthusiastic about smoking so I didn't hesitate to offer to help a friend who wanted to get some use out of their smoker. It turns out that they have what appears to be an older Brinkmann Sportsman Smoker that has a single grate, open bottom and no vents in the cover. The bottom section does not have a door either. It looks like air flow is controlled by the space between the charcoal bowl and the housing. (NB, I'm used to a WSM with top and bottom vents...)

I have two concerns: 1) measuring temp and 2) controlling temp. Ordinarily I use a Maverick remote reading thermometer to monitor smoker and meat temperature. The lid on this BSS looks pretty tight and I'm concerned about damaging the thermometer leads. Can I wrap them with foil to provide some protection? Can I use some extra foil to block the opening that will result from the probes?

Regarding temperature control, how do I do it? It seems like I have the choice of how much charcoal to start with and that's about it. Can I shove some foil into the annular gap between bowl and shell to reduce air flow (and that's assuming I need to reduce temperature.) The directions are quite clear about not needing to worry about overcooking food. Are my fears unwarranted? Charcoal sitting in a bowl and a non-vented lid hint that overtemp may not be a problem. I'm accustomed to closing up my WSM and making a few adjustments for a 6 or 8 hour smoke.

BTW, we're planning on smoking a 5 lb pork shoulder (for pulled pork) and a slab of baby back ribs. My expectation is that we'll at the least be opening the smoker to remove the ribs after several hours.

Tips and suggestions are most welcome!


Maybe a few mods are in order.  Sounds like the only differences between my first smoker (Brinkman) and this one is a) mine has 2 grates and b) mine has a door for servicing coals. 

Temp probes can be added by drilling a couple of small holes in the side of the smoker -- one for the meat probe lead and one for the smoker temp probe (which should be at grate level). 

I assume this unit has a water bowl; if so, start with warm/hot water to keep temps stable.  If not, figure out how to get one situated in there between the fire and the meat.

Is there any convenient way to set up the coal bowl in such a way that you can just lift the smoker off of the bowl to service it?  that way you can maintain smoker temps while adding coals and chips.  I also prefer to punch a few more holes in the bottom of the coal pan for better air flow. 

Others on this site recommend cannibalizing another bbq/smoker and adding an adjustable vent to the lid for easier temp control.

Good luck, and cheers!
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