Refueling and Maintaining Termperatures

Discussion in 'Charcoal Smokers' started by barkerb, Aug 18, 2014.

  1. I have a Brinkmann Trailmaster Limited Edition that I am trying to work the kinks out on longer smokes.  I have done many modifications including building a charcoal basket, placing steel plates in to act as tuning plates and a damper, and sealing all the gaps with high temp caulk.  I typically start with a basket of charcoal, take a bunch of briquettes out of the center, light them in the chiminey and them dump them back in.  I am able to maintain temperatures very well with this basket for about 3-4 hours but then my temps take a dive when the fuel gets low.

    My question is how do you go about refuelling? Is it as simple as being proactive and adding more charcoal along the way?  I have had to embarrasingly finish up my pork butts and briskets in the oven due to not being able to get the temps back up after the initial basket dies out.
  2. FWIW, I have the BTLE and had to play with it to get satisfactory results. Like everyone else, when I assembled it I calked all places that were recommended.  I then made tuning plates from 3/16 steel and also a baffle plate that I made 14-1/2" and I used an angle grinder to shape the baffle plate to fit the cc side of the FB at a 45*angle. I used high temp sealer on the FB door and the seam between the fb and cc. I then use a red ATV that was rated for temps up to 700* if I recall. I eventually put some fire place door gasket around the cc door. the bottom of the door gasket came loose and I haven't replaced it as yet but the doors should have adequate seals. I had no real complaints about the the temps other than I had to really stoke the thing to get the temps to where I wanted them! Then it was a battle to maintain but it was much better than my little char broil smoker. I ended up removing the tuning plates because I had too much heat at the chimney end and couldn't get temps even across the grates. I even removed the baffle plate for a couple of smokes and still have more heat the exhaust end of the cc. I put in the ceramic lava rock and did a couple of smokes and then added the baffle plate back in and I started to gain some ground.  So for the initial start up I use royal oak briquettes with the hickory pieces in it and get my smoker to temps I want and add my wood of choice such as apple ,cherry etc. I add my choice of wood for a period that I determine I will wrap in foil, such as ribs the 3-2-1 method or poultry up to a temp of 140* and maybe a little more. I will add maybe half a chimney of charcoal and will add a larger chunk of wood to keep the heat that I can regulate with the vent on the FB. Since I have lost the gasket on the bottom of my cc door, I find no difference when it was on as to when it came off where regulating is concerned. 

     I see smoke seeping out around the door with fresh wood or re-fueling but it subsides and goes directly to the chimney once it is burning. It seems that the smoke is more dense than the heat its self, I have not worried about smoke leakage as much as keeping the temps, keeping in mind that where smoke escapes I believe the heat is going also. Once I get that thin blue smoke. I start to have more stable even temps. So my advice is to keep sealing where you think it leaking smoke excessively and get those sealed and then work on the tuning plates but keep the charcoal basket thru al your trials, it is a must in my opinion. Like everyone else, I did  the mods to my specific smoker that others have done to the same model with different results.  I think I went backwards by not trying a smoke without all the out of the box mods that some have done. In my case I think the mods I did that mirrored the other BTLE users should have been done after a trial smoke or 2, I'm back down to nearly out of the box setup but still tweaking, Heck I'm a guy, I have to tweak to the point of having to go back and start  again! I feel your pain about not being able to keep temps but charcoal smokers are not set and forget smokers. Your oven or electric will do that for you. Keep tweaking for best results for your smoker, Our forefathers didn't have all the thermometers and gadgets we have today to smoke. Good luck!      
  3. Based on my experience with the TMLE, I am of the opinion that the firebox is sized slightly small for the internal volume of the cook chamber. As such, charcoal just isn't going to do it with these. I have been starting my minion fires with Kingsford Blue mixed with large chunk wood and, after that, it is mainly wood. I add small handfuls of Ozark Oak lump to keep the coal bed mass up while I've got the FB open for the wood additions. Frankly, the lump charcoal is really there just to get the wood lit quickly.

    My main source of heat throughout the smoke though is going to be wood. I'm am switching to splits (10" x 3") instead of chunk now that I know how to manage the temperature swings. These TMLEs really want to be a stick burner.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2014
  4. This is all great advice.  Pellet, I feel you on the "over-modifying" before the first smoke. I did the same, hoping to avoid some of the issues others with the TMLE have encountered, but I think in the end it actually hurt me by not knowing what specific item causes any certain issue. Also, Remmy, I'll give it a shot with the splits. This may be the only way to keep this bad boy consistent for long periods of time.  Just hope my landlord doesn't mind the wood pile!
  5. I'd actually start with large chunks first so you get an idea of the heat generating factors vs charcoal. When you get comfortable managing a wood-based fire, then you can move up to splits to save $$$.
  6. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Barkerb , hello. I'm not familiar with your Smoker , however (IMHO) I'd take a day to play with it and learn how it wants to cook. Each smoker is different and it takes a bit of a learning curve to get understand the way it heats .

    I've offered this solution to others , and to keep it from not being a waste of time and fuel , use Hot Dogs to play with , cheap , kids love them and they're good too [​IMG]

    You'll discover how to fuel on the fly. I'm a stick burner and all I need do is open my FB door and place a stick in , let it catch fire before closing the door and watching the smoke.

    Hope you figure it out soon .

    Have fun and . . .
    barkerb likes this.

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