Mr. Weber, Meet Mr. Brinkmann

Since April of 2001, when I moved into my current house, I’ve been the proud owner of a Weber gas grill. It’s served me faithfully and I expect to be using it for years to come. But as good as a gas grill is in terms of convenience, it just doesn’t replicate the flavor of charcoal.

I’ve always wanted to do real, hardwood coal smoked barbecue at home, but never had the guts to try it. Oh sure, I have a huge appreciation for the art, I’ve eaten it in its native lands, I’ve attended seminars on it, I’ve talked to a good number of pros on their techniques and such, but Its always been a “someday when I get the chance” sort of thing. I experimented with it a little bit last year on the gas grill and with wood chips, and granted, the results were pretty decent, but no substitute for the real thing.

So last weekend, I took the plunge. I saw a Brinkmann box smoker onsale for $60 at Home Depot, spending another $15 on charcoal and lighter fluid, and dragged it home.

The Brinkmann box smoker in its element.

We’re finally going to have some real ‘Q at home. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Here’s a full profile shot of the Brinkmann. Its a rather simplistic device, essentially a metal box with two main compartments. One for the meat, and one to hold a water basin and a charcoal bowl.

The Brinkmann uses side vents, 4 in total, that can be adjusted for airflow in order to maintain proper smoking temperature, which is 200-225 degrees. The Brinkmann seems to run fairly consistently at just above 200.

The bottom compartment with the charcoal bowl, which holds about 5lbs at a time. Soaked wood chips or hardwood is used to provide the smoke flavor. For our first round of smoking we used Hickory, but we also have Apple, Cherry and Oak. I had to make a minor modification to the bowl because it was “choking” the airflow, so we had the hardware store drill a bunch of holes in it and now use a small baking sheet at the bottom to catch the ashes that fall through.

The first items we smoked were a simple spice rubbed chicken, some Turkey sausage, and some brined and seasoned chicken breasts.

After four hours of cooking at 200 degrees, we got this. I have to admit this is going to be my preferred way of cooking a chicken from now on, the results were amazing.

Nice and juicy.

Breast meat never tasted so good.

Smoky sausages! These were great sliced up with wraps for the week.

These are low-carb wraps with “confetti” cole slaw, smoked chicken and turkey sausage.

The week afterwards, I decided to get more ambitious — RIBS. These are St. Louis cut ribs Rachel picked up at COSTCO.

Spice rub liberally on both sides.

Put in a plastic bag to marinate overnight.

Smoke for four hours, continuously adding small amount of wood chips and new charcoal as needed to maintain the fire and smoke.

Finish off on the grill for a few minutes.

Ribs, the way they are supposed to be cooked.

BBQ ribs with cole slaw and kale.

50 Responses to Mr. Weber, Meet Mr. Brinkmann

  1. MJP says:

    That looks freaking amazing. I always thought that when I get a Real House with a Real Deck (as opposed to a one-bedroom in Nutley with little else but a fire escape) I’d get a Kamado, which cooks in gas, electric, or smoke-only (or as an oven, a rotisserie, etc.) but that smoker’s going on my list for the future. Looks very easy-to-use and those ribs looked AMAZING.

  2. Daniel says:

    LONG LIVE THE SMOKER! I may raid the fridge and get to work immediately. The presentation of your photos is also brilliant. Man, am I hungry now or what? Thanks. (And my cardiologist thanks you for the ribs, too.)

  3. Crikey that chicken looks good!

  4. eas says:

    That looks nice. I’d been smoking on a big charcoal grill and I was pretty happy with the results, but it was a pain having to open it to stoke the fire every hour or so. Plus, opening it dropped the temp, which stretched out the cooking time, and it was hard to close up the flow of fresh air down enough to keep the temperature right.

    Last Christmas, my wife got family to go in on a really nice electric smoker for me. So much easier! 10-15 minutes to set up, and then nothing to do until everything is done, or until I wrap the brisket to keep it from drying out too much. If only I could eat more smoked delicious pork and beef.

  5. […] Mr. Weber, Meet Mr. Brinkmann « Off The Broiler Brinkmann box smoker […]

  6. paulski says:

    Why in the world would you not get a Smoky Mountian Cooker (“The Bullet”) from Weber? Were you on drugs?

    And rumormonger recommended an electric smoker? GAG!

  7. bford says:

    That looks delicious!

  8. Paulski: It was a spur of the moment purchase. I’m actually considering a Bullet if I outgrow the Brinkmann this summer.

    • Aaron L says:

      I bought the exact same smoker, the square vertical Brinkmann “woodstove” from Home Depot after reading this blog. I must say, thank you for the idea–I went to my local Home Depot and walah, they actually had the same one. I purposely did not want a bullet, heard negative things. The square woodstove style one is perfect, easy to use and oh so tasty. (I had to spend $70, but still a fraction of the gas/elec ones) I completely agree with your decision to drill holes in the charcoal bowl–a much needed mod.

      Smoke on…

  9. sanders says:

    arrived via kottke, and this is a bit of a weird read for me… i’m english, and just tonight i cooked a sinlge chicken breast over charcoal on a little charcoal bbq (one of these infact for myself, and that’s pretty normal here. is it really that big a deal to use charcoal in the US? you obviously cooked a lot more food than i did, but even so most people here would just get a bigger charcoal barbecue rather than use gas. I wonder why that is? Just seems odd that only ‘pros’ would use charcoal, though maybe that’s just a turn of phrase :)

  10. Tabitha says:

    Delicious, yes, but four hours! Who has that kind of time to wait let alone having to tweak the thing?

  11. You got that for $70.00? Nice bargain! I have the low budget Brinkman Smoker and am looking to move up to something bigger. Looks like you got some great results!

  12. paulski says:

    Well, I own the Bullet (obviously), and it is well worth the extra $$$. It’s heat rentention is superb, and you spend very little time regulating the temperature; I can usually (assuming decent wind conditions) smoke 2-3 Boston Butts (Pork Shoulders) for 17-22 hours, with only very minor tweaking of the vents 2-3 times.

    Enjoy your smoking…

    • Aaron L says:

      I heard the charcoal door is too small on the bullets. I own the vertical box Brinkmann same as the author, and it is great, plus only $70. Then again some guys like a full size truck, some a small truck, some a car. As long as the meat is good nothing else matters, right?
      Smoke on….

  13. great pics, great post.

  14. 7-how-7 says:

    wow – looks amazing. Perfect timing for the upcoming holiday.

  15. […] Mr. Weber, Meet Mr. Brinkmann « Off The Broiler (tags: food) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)links for 2008-05-07My daily readings 07/02/2008 […]

  16. Belgand says:

    Nice photography, but it makes it rather hard to see the smoke ring on those ribs. Quite frankly, it doesn’t look like there really is much of one, but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and just blame it on the angle. That said four hours doesn’t sound like much time at all. Of course, I grew up in Kansas City so barbecue is something I’ve been around for a long time… that is, until moving to San Francisco and being almost completely unable to get any sort of decent barbecue and when I can get something close never any decent sauce.

  17. Belgrand:

    I can assure you they had an INTENSE smoky flavor and the entire slab of meat was totally penetrated by the smoke. Hickory is a very aggressive flavored smoking wood.

    Four hours is a VERY long time to smoke ribs. In reality you should only do it for about 3, because you want the cooking temperature to be around 220-225. I was cooking at around 200, which is lower than what you optimally want. This weekend I am going to be doing baby backs using lump charcoal and in larger amounts to get the temperature up higher, and baby backs you want to cook at a maximum of 3 hours because they are less fatty than KC or St. Louis cut ribs. Smoking ribs for longer than 4 hours results in a very overwhelming smoky flavor which isn’t desirable. In KC, you are largely doing briskets, which are much larger pieces of meat, and need to be cooked for 12-14 hours depending on the cut, whether it is plate brisket or deckle. KC cut ribs should be smoked at 225 for 3 or 4 hours tops.

    • Aaron L says:

      I smoked ribs on my Brinkmann at about 225-250 for 5 hrs (per the directions for the recipe I was using) I use apple wood–IMO way better than hickory–the baby backs were approx 2 1/4 lbs each, I did 3 racks cut in half, and after 5 hrs they were barely done, but edible, could’ve used another hour.

      I wonder how you do them for 3-4 hrs??

      (Incidentally, best tasting ribs i have EVER had, try this recipe: )
      Award winner from 1996.

      Smoke on…

  18. Gus Musselmann says:

    Looks like you managed pretty well with a low-end smoker. I can’t imagine the heat retention is too good for that thing though, is it? How often did you have to add charcoal?

  19. carrie says:

    I started smoking a couple of years ago, and it took a few tries to get the hang of it. I am quite envious of those little morsels you got after your 1st try. Anyhoo, my newest addiction is smoking a whole chicken, stuffed with smoked sausage and cornbread, omg!! tag your it! :)

  20. tracey says:

    Lighter Fluid??? Am I the only one that caught that?
    Jason get a chimney starter, you hit a piece of newspaper with a spritz of Pam or something and stuff it in the bottom… charcoal on top and light the paper.
    In 10 min you are good to go no extra petrochemicals, and you never run out of old newspapers.

    Its a long weekend get yourself a brisket


  21. I used the lighter fluid on the first weekend and then used a chimney on the second. I’m not using the lighter fluid anymore. I’m also moving to hardwood charcoals this weekend as opposed to the Kingsfords.

    I’m doing baby backs this weekend. I don’t have the patience to do briskets yet. I think if I do briskets I’ll probably want a Bullet. I need to perfect the ribs first.

  22. […] the ‘Q technique Like any Barbecue enthusiast, I’ve been trying to improve my technique and the end-results of the actual product by making […]

  23. fitz says:

    I was gifted a big green egg for x-mas. This has changed my neighborhood life for ever. Everyone is a fan. No water required. Temperatures are maintained at a constant heat and sho all moisture is kept within the smoker. I realize not everyone can afford one, but they are versatile can cook slow for 15 hours or sear at 700 degrees.

  24. Eric says:

    “Four hours is a VERY long time to smoke ribs….”

    Not at all. We smoke ribs 2-3 times a month (in KC btw :)) and have discovered that ~6 hours at 225 is perfect for baby backs. The first four hours we keep them uncovered in a rib rack and apply smoke three or four times, each time lasting 20-30 minutes. Then we pull them, wrap in foil, and stick them back in the smoker for another 1.5-2 hours. The foil creates a ‘steaming’ effect and puts a lot of moisture back into the meat. They come out perfect. Firm and not even close to falling off the bone, but the meat pulls clean away in one easy movement. One main difference, though, is that we use an offset smoker rather than a vertical. That could definitely affect the timing. I guess in the end its all about finding the right timing for your smoker and your taste.

    Regardless of all that, those look amazing, and I’m sure they tasted great. Also, good buy on the Brinkmann, I love my cimarron!

  25. Hadacol says:

    Jason, next time Rachel goes to Costco, tell her to pick up a big, honking package of “Picnic Style” rib meat. The stuff is dirt cheap, and an incredible value. Plus, they’re delicious. Wha’ mo da ya want?

  26. alvaro marquez p says:

    hola soy de México y por lo que veo todo esta delicioso. feliciades

  27. Jason says:

    Great post! How is the Brinkmann holding up? I was at Home Depot today and considered buying this smoker. Your pictures look great too, what kind of camera do you use?

  28. Doug says:

    Great pictures and very good discription of all you did, I have had great success in a almost identicle setting, I used a brinkman horizontal smoker with indirect heat, which gave me more control , and then finished like you did on my weber gas grill, I found by using 75% charcoal and 25% wood it gave me very good flavor, I also found that hickory has a very strong flavor, and for that reason I would use it very sparingly with more cherry wood for a very good flavor and the smoke ring that was mentioned. Don’t be intimidated by the big Brisket, it is not that difficult, Happy smoking.

  29. Peter B. Wolf, CEC says:

    Jason, The pictures posted of the Brinkman are totally different from any Brinkman to be found on the WEB. Even used your Brinkmann 810-5000-0 All-In-One Outdoor Cooker, Black description. Can’s find this square looking box.
    Thanks, for help, in advance

  30. J Kiernan says:

    Just bought same Brinkman, could not get temp over 175, windy day, air temp 52, use charcoal & wood.3 hours & still not above 175 even after adding more hot coals.Do you think the pan needs to drilled out? coals do seem to not be burning completely. Not a novice smoker, just new to this model. Thanks

  31. Brian D says:

    I just bought the very same smoker. I could not get the smoker hot enough. The coal pan was full. I added a higher percentage of wood as suggested in the manual. I changed vent positions after each hour to get more heat. The smoker never got above 130 degrees. I quit after 5 hours. The units metal is very thin. The first unit I purchased was damaged in the box. The rear bottom side seam was seperated and dented-in about 2 inches. This is not my first smoker but it will be my last brinkman.

  32. Fred B. says:

    I have been using a Brinkman vertical water smoker for about 15 years. I found that ambient temperature and especially windy conditions affect the cooking temperature dramatically. I get around that by wrapping the smoker with fiberglass insulation. I also lay a piece on top.

    Last year I started to use the electric conversion element instead of charcoal. Much easier and results is about the same. I cannot tell the difference. I place the wood chunks right on top of the heating element.

    I monitor the meat temperature with an original Polder digital meat thermometer. It takes the guess work out of the equation and eliminates the need to keep checking w/ an instant read thermometer.

  33. chas says:

    If your meals are as half as good as your photography, well done. Get the brinkman pit master. You will not be dissappointed with it. I love mine. One piece of advice, loose the charcoal fluid and buy a chimney starter.

  34. Tony C says:

    Vertical water smokers are the cooker of choice for many backyard barbeque chefs. The Weber Smokey Mountain comes to mind as probably the most popular. I recently wrote a post on my blog about cabinet style, insulated cookers which are a step up from the Brinkman and the WSM. The insulated variety are super performers in bad weather which is a weaknest of cookers like the Brinkman.

  35. Phil V says:

    I just joined you all in smoking. A friend has the ECB (El-Cheapo-Brinkman) and I followed suit. I did the reverse legs and drilled coal pan for better flow, will followup with thermometer and ash grate mods.

    I am 3 hours into grilling 12 lbs of brisket, marinated for 2 days with 1 bottle Mango salad dressing, 1 bottle pineapple vinegar and 1 bottle Walkerswood Jamaican jerk. Stuffed with whole Jalapenos in 1 half, and cleaned jalapenos halves in the other half.

  36. Carol Greeb says:

    How many holes are drilled in the charcoal bowl? What is the width of the holes? Will a hardware store drill these holes for me or can I use a home drill?

  37. mike german says:

    Had same problem with airflow so went to Loew’s and found a “BBQ wok basket” that I put charcoal in and happens to fit perfectily on racks in Brinkman Smoker. Origially tried holes in pan but like this better as holds more coals for more variety in temps and sits down lower and away from water pan for even better air flow. Then use an aluminum pan in bottem to catch ashes. Smoked a pork shoulder this weekend and it came out wonderful.

  38. I can’t wait for barbecue weekend! – family get together, the kids having fun, lots of sausages and hotdogs, and mmmm BBQ ribs! I want the meat to be tender and juicy, nicely done like the ones in your pics. Great post!

  39. For the price Brinkmann can’t be beat. I started out with one a long time ago. Nowadays it is all about the weber smokey mountain and my Bradley electric.

  40. Tim says:

    How are you getting 225 – 250 degrees. I’m struggling to get the thing to stay between 175 and 200. Doesn’t seem to matter how I vent it or how much charcoal/wood I use. It hovers at 175.

  41. Keith from Hampshire says:

    For those who have trouble getting temp on this system, I’ve been down that road. Jason is on the right track, but there is one more step I’d suggest.

    Using this exact model, I replaced the charcoal pan with a square stainless steel pan, full of holes, purchased at Home Depot. Do a google search for ‘grill wok’ and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The handles are the perfect width to span this smoker and hook directly to the standard rails. I light the charcoal with a chimney on my Weber grill first, then when the coals are hot I use a pliers to slide the pan into the smoker. Add a few sticks or chunks for smoke and you’re good to go.

    Using this pan, I close the vents completely and get a 2-3 hour burn from a full load of lump charcoal without reloading… just enough time to boil off a full pan of water. It cooks between 210 and 225, just right, and lets me do a 12-14 hour pulled pork cook with just 3 reloads. In my experience his fire pan completely transforms this smoker.

    In cold weather, wrap a length of pink fiberlas insulation around the smoker, holding both ends under a rock on top, and you’ll be able to retain similar temps in spite of wind or Chicago winter temps. It has a decided trailer-park-trash look but the food is great. We keep our freezer full of smoked meat year round.

    Only issue with this rig is that it’s too small to do a full brisket. I’m working on a project to move past this smoker, as nice as it has been to me.

  42. keith dillon says:

    great grill. can’t wait to show this to my brother who is fond of grilling everything. the food is mouthwatering. it’s a meat lover’s delight.

  43. Nadia says:

    I want to buy a smoker (that’s how I came across your site). I want to experiment with salmon, trout and other fish. Also, I live in NJ, and I have to tell ya, that I am not diggin’ putting some insulation around the grill so that I can use it in colder weather. Do you still recommend I pick up the Brinkman at Home Depot? BTW your food (and plating, too) looks killer! Nice job!

  44. Eric says:

    Thank you so much for your review. I too picked up the above Brinkmann vertical smoker at Home Depot on sale. I liked the design of this one rather than the standard bullet smoker that my father used.
    I took your advise and the advise of other’s and drilled out the charcoal pan from the get go.
    This was my first adventure into smoking so I did a lot of reading before. One thing I picked up was a wireless remote thermometer on Amazon. This one has two probes one that you set in the meat while to other measures the air temp inside the smoker.
    Here are the things I noticed
    1, My stock smoker door thermometer was 100 degrees off
    2. After the mod on the charcoal pan my smoker was keeping a temp of 240 with ease.
    3. I found that you can start small when first lighting your smoker, I used two pounds rather than the 4-5 lbs that Brinkmann suggests in the manual. I used 4 lbs in the test run and hit 400 Degrees, I’m glad the bird was not in there.
    4. I used hardwood briquettes which held a higher temp for longer and took up less room than standard “lump’ coal.

    I brined my 12 pound bird for 24 hours the day before using sea salt, sage, herbs and half a cup of apple juice. Cook time was a little long because I was getting used to only adding small amounts of charcoal. I had about 7 reloads over the entire course of cooking which I think was to many (so I’ll work on that). Average temp was about 240 I think.
    The bird took 7 hours and I pulled it out when the meat hit 167, let it cool for 30 mins and served it.
    I had to add water to the pan 4 times total and it produced one hell of a macking gravy.
    We had 4 adults total for dinner, the next morning only one small bag of leftovers remained. This was the most amazingly juicy, intense flavor I have ever had in bird and the guest agreed. So thank you for your review and all the tips and tricks with the Brinkmann, I would say the smoker is well worth the money.

  45. Greg says:

    I’ve got one of these Brinkmans too. Cheap but… I noticed HD isn’t carrying these anymore – or they were out of them. First time I used it I was disappointed – no way to get 225-250. Yeah, it was winter but … I just went and bought a wok basket and BIG difference. I also picked up a water heater blanket – foil on both sides – cut it to wrap the back and sides and taped over top. Also a big difference for winter Q’ing. No problem keeping 225-250 now. I got two chuck roasts smoking right now – for some Superbowl munchin’!! I would also recommend some nice fireplace gloves as a smoker accessory. With these I can easily pull the charcoal pan out, etc – just don’t hang on too long!
    I have to laugh at the ‘that sounds like a lot of time/work’ comment! Isn’t that the point? It’s why I’m a charcoal fanatic- time and the challenge. Kind of like a real fireplace vs a gas one! There’s just no comparison – gotta have the real deal. Yeah, it takes time .. and lots of barley pop!… but that is the fun of it all.

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