Temperature Control on Brinkmann Trailmaster

Discussion in 'Side Fire Box' started by okbookguy, Jul 16, 2015.

  1. okbookguy

    okbookguy Newbie

    Hi all.  I'm sure I'm doing something really obviously wrong but I can't figure it out nor can I think of what to try next.

    Here's my current problem:  I have a new Brinkmann Trailmaster and I have performed the seasoning procedure and also have tried a couple of trial "dry" runs (i.e. without food).

    I read this common sense suggestion to do some dry runs to get the hang of temperature control.

    From all the videos I've seen on Youtube everybody seems to start out with a full "chimney" (charcoal starter) of charcoal and then later add wood.  

    They seem to have an easy time of getting the temp up to 250 and can then seem to keep it there fairly easily.

    WELL when I start with a full chimney of white hot charcoal my temp gauge (I've tested it in boiling water and it seems to work) SHOOTS up between 450 and 500 in no time.  

    It takes forever for it to get back down between 350 and 400.  

    It takes the coals almost going out to get it down around 250 BUT THEN that lasts for like 15 minutes.  If  I add a chunk of wood, it ignites and the temp goes back up around 400.

    I'm keeping the chimney vent wide open and the air intake damper valve (on the fire box) between 1/2 and 1/4 of the way open.

    QUESTION:  What could I be doing wrong and what should I try????

  2. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    I just did a seasoning on my trailmaster today, I've got an exh extension, 1/2" above grate level, and a homemade convection plate. Mine is also sealed top to bottom with fireblock from 3m. Just noting there may be some differences between our units.
    In a 12x12x7 1/2" basket, 1/3rd full of lump then 1/2 a chimney of Kingsford, I did all I could to hold 260 degs at grate level! Everything was shut down, my target was 210-220 and I started shutting things down at 180.
    Also, even with my mods I was still 20-30, depending on temps, off from grate level to the gauge in the lid.
    IF you weren't checking at grate level, there's no idea where your temps really are, you are going to need a temp reading from there, then side, middle and other side, to even better understand where you are. For instance mine at 260 had 12deg side to side, but in the higher spectrum I was 348 to 384degs side to side! Had I just gone off the lower reading, which I was quite happy with, imagine the amount of meat I could have screwed up!
    I hope I'm helping, not confusing you more, but until you get to grate level, it's hard to say what you really have!
  3. okbookguy

    okbookguy Newbie

    Yes very helpful input.  You're right all I was going on was the thermometer in the lid.  Okay so I want to get grate level side to side.

    So are you saying that I need to arrange to get consistent temps up near the lid, the grate, side to side?  i.e. all the interior needs to be close to the same temp??
  4. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    It depends on what you want. I want things pretty close, but I'm about slow and low, like I said, 210-220, I only went higher to season it. If you don't mind cooking things at different temps, say higher heat on the brisket, as I've seen on TV at 275, and ribs at like 225, then you will be fine.
    Remember, these are low end units and we get to pay for the savings in mods or uneven cooking temps! There's a thread with tons of mods you can do around here somewhere, and I'm planning on doing a thread on my build soon. Lots of things I liked, some things I'd do differently if I did it again, but this is how we learn!
    Like I say. Get to grate level, see how much difference you have side to side, look at the different ways of cooking things, try some, figure out what you do and don't like, and why, then adjust your cooking or mod your smoker to get there.
    They guy across the street from me owns a Hog wild franchise, so he's been a great resource for me and I had a pretty good idea what I wanted from the start!
  5. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    I'm tired and not feeling well tonight, sorry!
    I forgot to add check the firebox for air leaks!!! These things are atrocious for leaking air! Even with a heavy head of fireblock I could still see daylight in the corners where the halves meet. On the short ends where the halves meet I had to tap the gaps closed with a hammer, even with a heavy bead, again. The ash pan on mine needed a lot of work as well, the back ash deflector was bent up and I had to bend up the rails that the pan itself slides on to seal it up.
    Anywhere you get air in that you can't control, is that much less control you have from the start. I'm very sorry I failed to mention this eariyer! Check for daylight in the firebox and check things at grate level, I think these two things will help you a lot!
  6. okbookguy

    okbookguy Newbie

    Thank you so much for your help!!  Okay I did indeed find daylight between the two halves of the fire box.  I went all over town looking for high temp caulking and found none.  I have some on order from Amazon.  Plus I have ordered sealer adhesive strips (looks like weather stripping) especially made for sealing BBQ pits.  Its Nomex (if I recall correctly) .  So I'll use the strips on the lids and will go crazy going over it with the RTV High Temp caulk.  

    I have replaced the main lid thermometer with one branded (although it looked generic to me) "Old Country" which I thought was a reliable brand.  I also got a titanium bit and drilled 3/8" holes low down by the grate and installed similar thermometers at grate level.   Got these at Academy.

    There was like 100degrees difference between the two ends.

    I know I need some kind of baffle in the main chamber and some form of tuning plates.  As an experiment I placed some heat deflectors from an old Char-Broil unit on the lower grate and hiked one up at an angle to block the opening of the fire box.  I also used a rather large pan of water that was 15" across and so I figured this would help as a proof of concept for the need of tuning plates.

    I seemed to get lower temps and was a little more able to control the heat.  But still no way am I ready to begin actually using this thing.  So instead of 450 to 500 at the start of the burn, I'm now seeing more like 375.  I does get down to 250 but that is only bc its on its way down and out.  so when I place a couple more wood chunks on the fire. . .it shoots back up into the high 300's.

    So what is your opinion of tuning plates for the Brinkmann LE??
  7. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    You are most welcome! Until you get the air leaks sealed you are going to have a fight keeping temps steady. I used 3m's Fire block, available at Lowes, to seal mine up.
    Check out YouTube, there are some great ideas and help for setting up tuning plates on there, most seem to have good luck with them. Buying all that steel was out of my budget right now so I got a 12x24" 16ga plate that I bent up 4 1/2"s at 7"s long. Along the bent section it starts at 17" wide then tapers to 14 1/2"s wide and the rest is 14 1/2"s wide. ( I hope this is makes good sense!) At 260deg I was 14deg end to end but at 380 I had a spread over 30degs! I'm hoping lava rock will help?
    I found this baffle plate, http://www.bbqsmokermods.com/mobile/Product.aspx?id=37574 but can't find a review one on it? Horizon also makes one, but I can't find it and all the links I find on this site to it are dead, but those that have them seem to like them.
    Hopefully this will steer you to something that works for you.
  8. okbookguy

    okbookguy Newbie

    Thank you sir!  That looks like a great idea.  I asked a couple of guys what they thought about it and got posiitive responses.  I dunno though brother.  I got this Trailmaster bc I wanted to smoke BBQ meats.  I've had it 3 weeks now and have only either used it as a grill (is that bad?) or just done dry runs trying to get the hang of it.

    I've already begun to wonder if I made a mistake purchasing the Trailmaster and am wondering if I should've just simply purchased a Masterbilt upright electric smoke house. . .you know?

    My main problem is when I put in a "chimney" of coals the temp shoots up to over 400 and stays there.  Then it "hits" 250 on its way down and out.  I add back more wood and ZOOM bak up past 400 :'(
  9. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    I hear you, these are cheap and take a lot of mods to get right!, or even something close to it.
    I've sealed mine, lowered the exh., built the heat plate and a charcoal basket. I was able to hold mine around 260 with everything shut down, not my target of 210, but it is what it is.
    I thought long and hard about the electric route as well, but I have access to tons of red and post oak, and I really like a fire, so I've opted to stay with it and make the most of it I can!
    okbookguy likes this.
  10. okbookguy

    okbookguy Newbie

    Well I'm so thrilled to say I have gotten a handle on the crazy temp swings I was previously getting.  Here's what I"ve done and my Brink is quite reliable now.

    1.  Sealed the places where two bolted surfaces mate with RTV high temp caulk.

    2.  Applied BBQ Smoker Mod's gasket set for the two lids.

    3.  Purchased and bolted into place BBQ Smoker Mod's heat deflector baffle and tuning plates (two piece) made for the Brink.

    4.  replaced the stock 3" thermometer and added two grate-level thermometers (Old Country) so I can really tell if I've helped my problem.

    Well sir now there is almost NO temp difference between the two ends.  And that is great.  BUT what I am REALLY EXCITED about is my temp doesn't get much above 325F with 250F being now VERY easy to achieve and MAINTAIN for hours.  Woo Hoo!!!!

    I'm telling you for sure the tuned baffle has made my Brink perform like a smoker costing hundreds more.  It is so reliable I now am just really enjoying the whole experience.

    This mod has made it possible for me to stop worrying about temp control and now allows me to learn how to really cook good food.

    I had my Brink for 4 WEEKS before I was ever able to smoke my first meat (this last weekend).  Up until yesterday I had only been running dry runs trying to learn how in the wide world of sports to control the CRAZY TEMPERATURES I was getting on the Brink.

    I honestly do hope this experience helps someone because I was so frustrated with my purchase I was beginning to regard the Brink as a piece of patio furniture.
  11. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    Great news! Glad to hear the BBQ mods plate works that well, I may pony up the money for one someday. It was hard for me to justify the cost without hearing much about it.
    Enjoy your smoking time now.
  12. gonavy

    gonavy Smoke Blower

    Good to hear, I also had some problems with high temp from Oklahoma Joe smoker, did like you did and got a convection plate plate, helped enormously. I also made a coal basket, which helped a lot, found out to use only half a chimney of lit coals and add it to the unlit in the basket, but to add it to the smoker box side of the basket, not the air vent side.  Starting with lit coals on the vent side resulted in coals burning to fast and hot.  Since I started adding lit coals to the smoker side of the basket, my temps stabilize much better, last longer and don't burn near as hot, and my smoker get upto temp much faster.
  13. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    I have to ask, what was the shipping cost on the baffle plate, I'm not ready to go through the whole process, giving my email and phone no, to get a shipping cost.
  14. gonavy

    gonavy Smoke Blower

    Zero...BBQsmokerMods has free shipping.  Plate was $89.95 no shipping no tax total price.  Looks like the baffle plate for the Brinkman is the same price and free ship


    Note to Mods: I hope I am not violating any rules here by posting this link, but he asked, if I am ...Sorry please don't punish me...lol

    edit:  Just wanted to add, I didn't bolt my in, it just sits in there, doesn't move at all, I can take it out to clean under it that way, works just as well.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2015
  15. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck Meat Mopper

    Way cool, thanks!
  16. pdm163

    pdm163 Newbie

    I too have the trailmaster. The mods I have made are sealing the chamber door, dryer vent to grate level for exhaust, bent cookie sheet as a baffle and I have extended the "baffle" by wrapping the bottom grate with foil and poking holes in it. I used to use the minion method, but my last few smokes I have been using straight oak and I have had my best smokes ever. The key for me was creating a good base of hot coals and keeping logs hot so they run blue smoke. I have smoke coming out of my firebox, but if the fire goes up I shut the vent in the fire box and move my logs away from the chamber. It's more work, but when I smoke I am playing with my young boys or working in the garage. I do keep my temps higher than most 250 ish, but my brisket and turkeys this week were so moist and happy I am sticking with it.
  17. pdm163

    pdm163 Newbie

    This was last Sunday cooking with straight oak for about 10 hours at 250-275
  18. greenhja

    greenhja Newbie

    Do you have a picture of the mods you did?  I'm able to keep my Brinkmann trailmaster at the front grate at 225-250.  I have the clamps on the front of cooking chamber, along with high temp seal.  I get alittle smoke that comes out between the fb and cooking chamber.  
  19. ralph mast

    ralph mast Newbie

    Hey, everybody. I'm brand new here.  I have a Brinkmann Trailmaster as well and faced some of the same temp control challenges.  I've done the following mods, and am enjoying some success:

    1.  Tuning plate from bbqsmokermods.

    2.  Gaskets for the firebox and cook chamber (same place).

    3.  Clamps for the lid.

    And the one that made the most difference, IMO, is a layer of heavy duty foil over the ash tray opening in the bottom of the firebox.  Before that, I had no control over temps.  I usually start with about a half chimney of lit charcoal, then add a log for smoke.  My problem now is getting the timing right when the log starts dying out, getting the log properly caught without letting it get too hot.  My question for everybody is, does anyone make a blower I could use to get the log caught and burning, then cut off to maintain control?

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