Why am I not getting hot???

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Original poster
Aug 18, 2007
I bought the Brinkmann Veritical Smoker and the other night I cured it just fine.

Today I has smoking some pork and I could not get the heat above 150 degrees, no matter what.

The one stupid question is which pan is the water and which one is the charcoal pan? According to the instructions the water pan holds a gallon of water, so that means it is the bigger one I guess.

So any ideas why it was not getting hot? I went through water like crazy, ended up finishing in the stove.

Any help is appreciated.
First of all, welcome to SMF. Glad ya found us. It would help alot if you properly introduce yourself in Roll Call. To your ?, it could be several things.

1) Wx conditions..Rainy, windy, etc
2) Was your charcoal wet or damp
3) Was the charcoal lite enough
4) Did you try opening fully all vents
5) Was there an obstruction that prevented air getting through the vents

These are just some ideas of what could have happend/caused your problem.

Hope you find the forums enjoyable as much as everyone else does.
About how many coals did you have in the pan? In this hot weather even a handful should have gotten your temps up. Did they burn well? Did they turn all gray and powdery before you put the meat in?
gallon of water is alot...... really, simply put, heat on bottom, water just above.......also make sure you get a good therm to check temps, don't just trust what came on the smoker!!!!!
Thanks for the welcome,
1) Wx conditions..Rainy, windy, etc - It was a little damp but not too bad, not wind.
2) Was your charcoal wet or damp - Nope
3) Was the charcoal lite enough - The charcoal was white.
4) Did you try opening fully all vents - All four fully open.
5) Was there an obstruction that prevented air getting through the vents - Nope.

Today I went back out for a dry run, I lit my charcoal and left the door open until they were white hot, closed the door and let the system get up to 300+.

I then placed my water pan in the smoker 3/4 full and within a half hour I was back at 150 degree at the most.

I just do not see what I am doing worng.

Did they burn well? Did they turn all gray and powdery before you put the meat in?

You are correct, the charcoal is getting gray and powdery quickly. What is this a sign of
I am using Kingsford charoal.

I will have to remember the tank top for my wife.

Thanks for the help guys.
I agree with Terry...he's got the solution to all your smoking woes!

Are you using the themo on the door as a gauge, or a termo inside, say on a rack? You will surely get a higher reading from one inside the box.
Don't put so much water in your pan. A few cups at a time is enough and make it hot water cold water sucks the heat out. You can add more when you add fuel if you need to.

They charcoal should be gray when you put the meat in - just like a grill it means it's hot.
Thanks, that is what I got out of what I did today. I am going to try again next weekend.

I am using the gauge on the door, however I placed a gauge inside and they were within 10 degrees on each other.
Let me ask you this baero.. in your charcoal pan are there any holes to let air circulate through the coals to help maintain temps? It sounds like the coals are smothering in their own ash and dying down on you.

You may need to put some holes (maybe 3/4 inch) in the pan to let air in and ash out... Does that sound like a possiblity to anyone else??? I'm not very familiar with the Brinkman vertical myself.
There were no holes in the pan, however I have drilled holes to allow air to move through the coals better.

Can you describe the vents on this smoker? How many vents and where are they located? I haven't found any clear pictures to show what you are working with.
Sure, there are four vents. All of them are on the sides, two at the height of the charcoal pan and two at the top.
That I did try and 150 is where it stays.

I think I am going to try the lower amount of water and maybe try lump charcoal for more heat.
Baero have you tried using a grate or basket yet to put your charcoal in? It just sounds like you aren't getting the air you need to keep your coals hot. Leave the top vents full open. You want the smoke to kiss the meat and loft out the vents. Once you have your coals getting hot use the bottom vents to control your temps.

I may be wrong, but I feel if you don't have air in your fire you aren't going to have a hot fire. It has to be in that area. See if you have something to use for a grate to hold the coal up a bit. Let us know if that doesn't do it for ya.. we'll keep digging.
I will try to rig something up, and give it shot next weekend. Thanks for the ideas guys.
Well after three nights of failure, I finally got it.

First I tried going to wood charcoal and less water in the pan. This resulted in a temp around 190. So I gave up.

Next night I figured it was not getting enough air, so I placed a variable speed fan at the bottom vent and pumped in steady air. This resulted in 200 degrees. So I gave up.

Tonight knowing that it was not the fuel or air, I looked at the set up. I took the bigger pan and turned it into the charcoal pan and drilled holes into that also. Since I had swiss cheesed the other pan it was not good for water, so I went and bought a new pan and moved 3 inches farther away from the heat source.

Success!!! I giggled as I saw the temp steadily rise to over 300 degrees, I then started adjusting the vents to get the smoker to balance out to 250 degrees and stay!!!! I am so happy.

The distance between the coals and the water pan seemed to be the issue, this would be why I was going through water like crazy and no heat. In the last 2 hours the water has barely dropped.

So tomorrow I am getting out the grinder ond moving the shelf supports to allow for the setup I was using tonight. Then I will be set.

Too bad I have to change it right out of the box, but I am getting what I wanted now while learning more about how the whole system works.

Thank you all for your quick responses and help.
That's super cool... glad you got it figured out. Now lets see some Q View from smokin machine!

Keep Smokin
I wrote about this in another post earlier today.. I went to visit some inlaws and was asked to smoke some chicken quarters. I could not get the darn thing above about 175 so I just took my tongs and started placing coals down in the very bottom and it quickly started heating up.

My opinion was simply that the charcoal pan should have been the size of the water pan and vice versa.

With the addition of some holes in in the charcoal pan and using less water or even sand, it would have been a slam dunk day.

As it was the chicken turned out great once I piled more coal in the very bottom floor of the smoker and got the temps up to 250 or so.

You would think that the R & D team at Brinkmann would have noticed these discrepancies when they tried out their product and made some modifications to it right then and there
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