Impossible to smoke

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by coryb, Sep 4, 2009.

  1. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    I've found since owning this Brinkmann Gourmet charcoal smoker the impossibility of finding a workable middle ground. When i first got it, it was nearly impossible to keep the charcoal burning. I drilled holes in the charcoal pan and added 4 stainless steel bolts perpendicular from each other to hold up a 13" Weber grill grate that my charcoal sits on. Now i can smoke chickens and other poultry with absolutely no complaint. my heat maintains about 275-300 and is pretty stable.
    Problem is, now i'm up at 5am this morning starting a fire to what i'd hoped to be the start of a 7am smoke of a 7.24lb bone in pork butt. I can't get my heat below 300 degrees though. So basically i'm waiting now for my charcoal to burn down to a managable 240 at MOST actually get to cooking.
    I dumped about 2 small chimney starters of charcoal into the box unlit then poured on about 1/2 a chimney starter of well burnt down coals in attempt to burn minion style for a few hours. no go. Thoughts? Ideas? Slap in the face??? I'll take whatever i can get.
  2. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    That happened to me after moding my 30 + year old ECB. Less charcoal was the answer. Instead of 3/4 of a pan, now a 1/4 of a pan did the trick. Also took less to get it started, so 4 or 5 lit coals did that well.
  3. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    that's what i figured. got the heat down pretty managably at this point and the meat is on. I've also got a temp gauge on the rack with the meat as well as the one i placed in the lid to better monitor temps. we'll see how everything goes at the end of the day when i start pulling pork i guess.

  4. bigsteve

    bigsteve Master of the Pit

    I have a gourmet. As posted above, it seems like 99% of temperature control is based on how many lit coals you start with. I also found what gave me a beautiful stable temperature in April, was blast furnace hot in the summer. You have to adapt.

    One thing I did was close off the bottom intake hole. I then drilled a bunch of 3/8 inch holes in the SIDE of the outer pan, and fashioned a sliding piece of metal to make for an adjustable damper. It worked too good. It gave me variable temperature control, but it would only get just hot enough to cook. I've meant to do the same thing around the other side of the pan, but never got around to it. I assumed it should be getting just a little more air than it was getting off the single side intake. I started using a different charcoal smoker, and put a propane burner in the Gourmet, so never put the second one in. The mods are cheap, and easy enough. But I fix things for a living, and I grew tired of modding it very quickly.

    I sealed off the bottom on the gourmet because if I put some type of arm down there to control a damper on the bottom of the pan, I wouldn't be able to use it as a waist high grill. If you don't care about grilling, installing some type of moveable metal to partially seal your bottom intake will go a long-long way in being able to adjust your temps.

    By the way........ The gourmet body has to fit flush on the coal pan inside the lip around the edge of the coal pan. It's very easy to accidently plop the body down with the edge over the lip, instead of inside the lip. If you do that, the temperature runs away because the coals have unrestricted access to oxygen.
  5. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    agreed, sometimes its a dance getting the body back on the charcoal pan, but its on there flush this morning.

    I'll have to try adding an adjustable cover to that hole on the bottom. I've used this guy for a grill a couple times, but just went back to my gas grill at some point.

    Holding about 235 degrees currently. Hopefully, i've got this reigned in.

    You're right, using a charcoal smoker is something you have to be flexible with. Outside temperatures, wind, amt of unlit and lit charcoal, air flow...lots to deal with, but if this butt turns out as good as my chickens to then its all worth it.
  6. dutch

    dutch Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yep the ol' learning curve. I too have the Brinkmann Gourmet and whenever I get a chance to use it (it now lives at my daughter's house) I have to pull out the notebook to refresh my memory of the ECB's likes and dislikes. When the new Lang arrives later this month, it will be note taking time once again.
  7. bman62526

    bman62526 Smoking Fanatic

    My old Brinkmann Cimarron offset had a similar problem. I think the best answer to your problem has been identified - air intake (along with # of lit coals you start with, too I guess)

    My smoker had too many leaks so I couldn't really do the minion method very well. About an hour after the smoke started, the coals would ALL be lit and I'd end up removing some of the perfectly good coals just to avoid torching my meat.

    First step - seal the smoker up as best you can, then 2nd - start with a few less burning coals.
  8. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    temp started to drop below 200 so i tossed in about 1/2 dozen more unlit lumps of unlit Seven Oaks charcoal and just about 30mins later i'm back to 240. No wonder a full charcoal pan was WAY too much!
  9. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    yeah, that becomes the problem if any. Running out of coals due to starting with less. Still it is nice to not have to use 10 lbs or more of coals to smoke a meal.

    Here is my old ECB. I removed the legs and just set the fire pan down on the triangle cinder blocks. I get alot of air flow this way and can hit a heat of 450º is this smoker. Shocked the heck out of me.
  10. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    that's right, i'm not using lbs and lbs to do this. Takes some pretty constant monitoring, but I'd rather be doing this than sitting at work any day.

    butt's up to 150 degrees. I'm concerned that my temps have still been too hot at times and i've charred this piece of meat or at the very least cooked out too much moisture already. been mopping it with a 3to1 of apple juice and spiced rum about every 45mins to an hour to try and keep it moist (and add to the bark). I guess we'll see.

    Plan to take it off at 165, wrap it and probably dump it in the oven at 250 so i don't have to keep jacking with loading charcoal rest of the day. We'll see what my attitude is at 165 degrees i guess.
  11. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I wonder if you could attach 3 or 4 ball valves on the side of the ECB like a UDS? That would give you easy air intake adjustments, and would be easy to install.

    I don't own one of these, but just a thought. [​IMG]
  12. gnubee

    gnubee Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I tried putting my briquettes on an oven type rack but found they burned out too quickly, One of those BBQ woks with all the holes in them did the trick. It let in enough air for the coals but not too much. The whole trick in getting the temps right is learning how many coals you need for a particular temp. The Wok gave me more leeway for error than the rack did. Having said that, I know that every smoker is different , your milage may vary.
  13. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    At what temps do these bone-in pork butts usually plateau at? I think i hung on 150 degrees for a LONG time, but wasn't really paying attention to be that sure.

    I'm waiting for 165 on the smoker then i'm going to have to double foil this guy and toss him in the oven at 250 to finish him off due to timing this evening. Just wondering if i may hit multiple plateaus with these or you generally just hit one? I would assume that with one as small as 7lbs one plateau would be it. i guess we'll see.
  14. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Your platue sounds fairly normal.... usually happens around 150-160'ish, but each piece of meat is differant. It has to do with how much fat, gristle, ect. is in the piece of meat. The platue is breaking all that down and making it edible [​IMG].

    There are lots of times I have pulled a butt or shoulder at 165 and foiled and put in oven to finish. Still tastes great!
  15. coryb

    coryb Fire Starter

    I'm guessing it probably happens quite a bit. ..finishing in the oven that is. This one was on smoke (Oak and couple pieces of Apple) from about 6:45am until it hit 165 right almost exactly at 4pm.

    double foil wrapped and in the oven at 250 since about 4:10pm. Just checked and it had just touched over 170 degrees.

    I was apprehensive at first about using too high of heat in the beginning, but I'm growing confident that this is going to be one moist, tasty piece of meat! Can't wait to pull it and start sampling later.

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