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Brinkmann Gourmet Smoker Reviewed - Not a standard ECB!
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wasilvers
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Joined: 04 Jun 2007
Posts: 32
Location: Sussex - WI

PostPosted: Sun Jun 17 07 2:47 am    Post subject: Brinkmann Gourmet Smoker Reviewed - Not a standard ECB! Reply with quote

I must start by saying this website is one of the best resources I have found for bbq knowledge. I tried some venison (same recipe as brisket) and it was far too tender to slice!

I had been cooking on my $5 clearance grill from Wal-Mart for a few years now. It’s great for grilling and I found that a fire on one side and smoking on the other worked ok, but I had to sit there and watch the thing all day long.



Since it is fathers day weekend, and my birthday as well, I convinced my wife that I needed something new. I’d heard such bad things about the ECB smokers, I had to see what one looked like. I found a Brinkmann Gourmet Charcoal Smoker at Menards clearance priced at $34. I had a coupon for $10 off, so for $24 – I didn’t feel I could pass up the opportunity to mod my way to a decent smoker. The deciding factor for me was the design feature that lets you access the fire by simply lifting off the upper portion of the cooker.

Here is my official/unofficial review of the product.

Assembly…



This is what it looks like completely assembled. Assembly took a couple of hours as parts didn’t fit just perfectly. The worst most pronounced problem was the shape of the body of the smoker. It must have been stored/shipped on it’s side as it was completely oval at one end. The salesman actually told me it was supposed to be that way! I adjusted it until it was almost fully round again by fitting it to the lower portion and adjusting till it fit nicely.



The best fit was the door hinge; the worst fit was the handle holes being about 1 inch too far off the holes. A little friendly persuasion helped all the holes match up. I noticed when tightening the middle grate supports, the tend to bend outwards and will have to be bent inward to fully support the water bowl (something you really want to do!) Because the grate supports are held on by one screw, but have two arms, I twisted them to level after tightening.

Modifications…(the best part)

Note: Reading on this website, I found these ideas from others. These are not my own ideas, just how I implemented them.

The lower air supply is one hole in the middle of the lower section.



As there is no cover for this vent to adjust the air supply, I fashioned my own from a jar lid and leftover screws from the grill itself . I read here that this grill gets too much air in it’s default setup and the flow has to be restricted. So I didn’t add any additional vents to the lower section.








The charcoal bowl has some ventilation in the lower section, but not much room for ash to fall. If I plan to cook for more than 1 hour, I needed to raise the coals a bit. I had a small grate on hand so I cut one of the bars and bent it down to form feet. This should raise the charcoal up to allow for additional airflow.



After assembly, the access door was sitting ajar by almost ½ inch. A quick bend to the latch to pull the door in closer is easily made with pliers. I also attempted to bend the door to more closely fit the shape of the cooker. I came close but couldn’t make it meet perfectly…



[img]http://www.silversstars.com/images/BBQ1/MID_10Thermometer_installed_under_top_grate.jpg
[/img]

I installed a real thermometer to fit just under the upper grill. The lid thermometer has three ranges, “WARM, IDEAL, HOT”. The low end of ideal is 230 ish, 350 is in the middle of ‘IDEAL’. This is not very useful unless you just want hot for burgers.



Finally I set up my fully adjustable stand (hehe) to give me some room to adjust the lower air vent. I would go up a little higher next time as I did burn my arm a couple of times.

Usage...


My toys were ready for their first trial – for which I picked up a chicken and a couple of turkey legs. I started some briquettes in a chimney and loaded up the charcoal pan. I placed some mesquite in a soda can in the middle of the charcoal pan to smoke for a while, and also tossed some chips in with the charcoal. I spread the hot charcoal evenly over the unlit portion and put the grill all together.





Before long I was smoking away. The temps rose up fairly fast, and I set the lower air regulator to ¼ flow when the grill hit 225. I closed the lower supply when the temp was 260 but the grill continued to rise till about 290. I then realized that too much air was flowing from where the lid and body meet. This is by design as there is no other upper air vent. I stuffed some foil around the lid to limit air supply which is a fine temporary fix



Before long I had the temp back down to my goal of 250



Every time I opened the lid, temp went down to 215 or so, then up to 280 – I assume because of the fresh air – and the time it took to get the foil replaced around the lid. I did open the access door a few times to throw some chips on the coals – I like a lot of smoke. When the side access was opened, temps would drop to 230 or so, then rise up to 270 before returning to 250.
To keep the grill at 250, I had to go about 1/3 to 1/4 open on the lower air supply, and keep the top fairly blocked off.

I even had a visitor while I was grilling. He didn’t seem the least bit afraid of me.



Because I ran some high temps while figuring out the lid issue, my chicken was done a little early. Which was nice because the family was hungry anyway. It was a big hit with the wife!





Planned Mods…

The foil plan for the lid is not going to happen for long. It takes too much time to seal it all up and temps rise out of control. So the next step is to seal the top lid somehow. Some Stove Rope around the lid is coming to mind right now. I’ll put my own air vent in the upper section so air-flow can be controllable. I want to get this corrected before the next time I cook. Also I think the charcoal pan doesn’t allow all of it to burn evenly. I may tinker with some additional holes as time permits

As soon as I get good control of the temps, I’m going to make my first brisket!

Conclusions after one use…

This machine has some potential. It isn’t yet a set it and leave it, but I am getting there. I held 245-250 for about 1.5 hours – until I went and messed with it because I just HAD to touch it. I truly think with a sealed lid and fully adjustable air supply, I can get this to make just about anything. For the cost, the grill was $24 retail, and a charcoal grate was about $3. A little stove rope will be about $15 and a replacement air vent for the top will be about $10(?). Total cost just over $50 is hard to beat!

If you read all the way to the end, you deserve a reward!
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BBQMAN
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Joined: 13 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17 07 3:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the ring!

Great job, and that chicken looks awesome! Very Happy

What kind of a reward are you offering?! Laughing

Seeing as the rest of the family is already enjoying your new cooker, maybe Santa will bring you a WSM for Christmas! Very Happy Nothing beats them for longer cooks, with overnight set-it-and-forget-it capabilty!

Have a great weekend, and smoke on!
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smokemaster
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17 07 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congrats on joining the Smoke ring!

Great first post. Nice mods on the Gourmet.

Quote:
Finally I set up my fully adjustable stand (hehe) to give me some room to adjust the lower air vent. I would go up a little higher next time as I did burn my arm a couple of times.

Make sure you're wearing gloves. Welders gloves are great. Maybe you can add a handle to your lower air vent for easier adjusting.

Once again, Welcome!
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stevenr
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Joined: 13 May 2007
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17 07 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

looks good, and goes to show you dont have to spend big money to get good food.........i have an electric brinkmann that i will do chickens on from time to time, and it does them excellent !! hard to beat it for set and forget it cooking of those small items.........
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wasilvers
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Joined: 04 Jun 2007
Posts: 32
Location: Sussex - WI

PostPosted: Sun Jun 17 07 6:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the commments. From what I read, the WSM is the next step. With other circumstances this year (3 months of FMLA and no checks), the funds are inflexible so far. I like adjusting things anyway, so this smoker will be enjoyed.

Smile
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USDA Monkey
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Joined: 18 Jun 2007
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Location: St. Louis

PostPosted: Mon Jun 18 07 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congrats to you brother. I got one of those for my B-Day about 3 years ago and used it 2-3 times and didn't care for my results (I blamed the smoker but I realize it was my own fault, I think I used instant light charcoal once). I now use it to place my chimneys on while the coals burn for my other grills. I might have to get her back up an running.
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wasilvers
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Location: Sussex - WI

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19 07 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks fellow smokers, Not one person 'yelled' at me for trying out a product that didn't cost an arm and a leg. Not like some other forums I've been on.

I made additional modifications yesterday to the smoker - sealing the lid with fiberglass rope (made for indoor fireplaces/stoves - it specifially mentioned cooking on the package) - and installing controllable vents in the lid that will hopefully direct the smoke over the food a bit better. I may still do a little more to the charcoal box - depending on time. After the fire was smothered I noticed a lot of unburned charcoal on one side. I know that not all the charcoal will burn unless my timing is perfect. Cool But I thought it should at least be burned a little.

I hope to try another chicken this weekend as I work to get the temps controllable. If the mods work out, I'll post them up here (fewer pics this time)
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Duane
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19 07 9:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Check out the felt gasket that Big Green Egg sells. Search here for link or online.
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Cactus
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Joined: 09 Jun 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19 07 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am new here too, I dont think you can have to many pics when it comes to the mods. Very Happy
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Sax
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Joined: 06 Feb 2007
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Location: Spartanburg, SC

PostPosted: Tue Jun 19 07 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi wasilvers.

This is a prime example of why I love this forum. Hearing how other folks approach the art of Q'ing is really interesting to me.

I have the exact same smoker. All I did to mine was put a 1 inch grate in the charcoal pan and bore four 3/8 in holes around the outside of the bottom....all the way through both the green base and the charcoal pan. Using the Minion method, I can fire it up and it will chugg along for 7 hours without falling below 200*. One more chimney of coal will finish off a couple of butts to 205*.

Ribs are a little trickier...I usually go with smaller amounts of coal...replenishing about every 2 hrs. I've done turkeys, chicken, ribs, butts on this cheap little smoker...all with excellent results.

I hope to build my own offset one day, but for now, for $40, I LOVE this little ECB! Laughing Laughing
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pistolpete



Joined: 12 Nov 2006
Posts: 16
Location: Texas

PostPosted: Thu Jun 21 07 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wasilvers, I have been using the Gourmet smoker for probably over 10 years now and don't feel like you are minor league with this smoker as mine has been turning out some pretty good que for years. A little trick that I found out to help with air flow is to take the shiny charcoal pan out of the black bottom pan that contains it. Take the black bottom pan and turn it over so that the 3 little legs are sticking up and set your charcoal pan on it. Place the barrel on the charcoal pan and proceed as normal. I would line some of the airholes of the charcoal pan with foil if needed on windy days. This really seemed to help and I found that no other vent holes in the lid were needed. The gap between the lid and barrel was enough for good air circulation using this method. I use mine on a concrete driveway and have never had any problems with loose sparks but it may require a little diligence on another surface such as a wood deck. I have used the all night cook methods on brisket that the WSM crowd have used and it works great with the Gourmet. I also use the AFTERBURNER gas pan with mine when I have time to watch it and that has really worked well also.
http://gassmoker.com/v-burner.htm

About the only mod I made to mine is drilling a new hole in the lid to place a new thermometer. The one that comes with the Gourmet is a piece of junk but for about $30 it is hard to complain. For some reason, these smokers tend to be overlooked but I think they put out some great que and mine has held up well.
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wasilvers
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Location: Sussex - WI

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24 07 9:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, more mods, and the grill is 'DONE'

Well, it was a good weekend after all. I found time to make some additional modifications to the smoker this week and really felt the need to test them out. This smoker will hold temperatures relativly steady for hours on end!

First the mods...

I broke down and purchased a charcoal grate for a weber 18" grill - (it actually measures 13 1/2). This I placed right over the smaller one I had used in the first cook. It holds the charcoal about an inch off the bottom of the pan.



I also installed two vents in the top. A little drill work and some metal cutting (note - I play around with woodwork, this is my first time with any metal cutting Smile ) - Here is a picture of one side.



I also bought fiberglass rope gasket made for indoor stoves and fireplaces. It came in a package with mounting silicone (which is red - so I had to try and be carefull where I spread it). I mounted it just under the ridge on the bottom of the lid. The idea is that the rope will form a nice gasket around the lid and help control airflow better.





I also purchased a steel drainer which I put charcoal in to test out another method of holding the charcoal. This can be seen in the background above photo.

And the Results...

GREAT!!! When I use the steel drainer, the temperature holds right at 215 with all vents wide open, fluctuating only about 5 degrees (as the wind blows). Provided I keep my hands off, it will hold at this temperature for about 3 hours, till the charcoal starts to die out.

When I use just the grate to hold the charcoal, temperature holds at 250 with vents 1/2 open. Full open vent and a full charcoal load can get the temps upwards of 350+. I held it for over 2 hours at 300 with lump charcoal and no touches from me.

I cooked 1/2 the brisket yesterday and found one unique thing with this cooker. Since I put my vents at the top of the grill, the top of the meat doesn't get as dark as the bottom. For brisket, I'll have to start it on one side and flip it. The brisket still had a smoke ring..., just didn't get really dark on the top. The brisket was great - my wife said the best she has had. I wanted it more tender, but I didn't let it get hot enough, long enough - I was too hungry Laughing

I am looking forward to my next cook. I had time to finish a lot of projects around the house yesterday, and had brisket for dinner - I love Qing!!
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i like it
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Joined: 30 Apr 2007
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Location: West Susseex, England

PostPosted: Sun Jun 24 07 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wasilvers
Great mods. I have tthe same model so will watch with interest. I have left mine bog standard at present but was thinking of carrying out some kinda mod in the near future
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Boomer
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25 07 9:34 am    Post subject: Brinkmann Gourmet Smoker Reviewed - Not a standard ECB! Reply with quote

That is what this Ring is all about tinkering with something till you get it where you want it, and getting feedback on what you did negative or positive from the pro's.

You know your next step don't you.
The building bug will bite you or maybe it has already.

Great job

Boomer
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ProBBQ
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26 07 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post!

It's not just about cooking great tasting food, but how you get there.
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Harry Nutczak
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27 07 7:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am glad to see another cheesehead in here!

Smoking is smoking if you do it with a cardboard box over some coals, A brinkman, or the big-ole rigs like some have.

I did not know we had chipunks that far south?? They are almost trainable, it is not uncommon to be able to hand feed them after an hour.
We get them in the house once in a while, I usualy find them eating the dogs food. And then the dog (a 110 pound german shepard) chases them around, catches them, and swalows them whole.

This is only the first step to your new addiction, you are aware of that right?
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dei3jr



Joined: 04 Jun 2007
Posts: 24
Location: St. Cloud, MN

PostPosted: Wed Jun 27 07 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harry Nutczak

How far up north WI are you? I grew up in Duluth MN and spent many of weekends up in norther Wisconsin fishing Lake Superior. There's some squirls up there that might chase off your dog. Very Happy Laughing Very Happy
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Sir Ashine
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27 07 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your mods look and Sound great.
I've Wanting to Buy one of these and I'll have try out some of your mods

Just one question Im not worried about using the bottom vent for air control and I don't own nor have a drill so do U think there is a way I can cover it in a different way. Only thing I can think of is some kind of glue and jar cover but I don't think It will stand up to good with the hot charocoals over it Laughing
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Phil S
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27 07 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dei3jr wrote:
Harry Nutczak

How far up north WI are you? I grew up in Duluth MN and spent many of weekends up in norther Wisconsin fishing Lake Superior. There's some squirls up there that might chase off your dog. Very Happy Laughing Very Happy


The mesquitos will CARRY the dof off though!! Shocked Very Happy
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wasilvers
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Location: Sussex - WI

PostPosted: Thu Jun 28 07 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the encouragement - I'm seeing that the weekend planning for the BBQ is starting before midweek. So I'll have to admit that this is becoming my new favorite hobby. At this time, my family doesn't complain because it is beneficial to them as well. I also like the fact that it doesn't come from my budgeted "fun money" yet, but from the food budget!



Harry Nutczak - The chipmunk seems to have no fear. I have a two year old, and they just stand around watching each other. The chipmunk let my son get about 3 feet from him without even flinching. WI is nice this time of year, but I'm wondering what I'm going to do this winter. BBQ and snow don't sound like a good mix. Very Happy

Sir Ashine - I don't know how to attach two movable pieces of metal together without drilling a hole. Some of our local stores sell inexpensive drills. I have found that even the cheap tools do the basics of the job. It's when you start requiring additional features or hard service that upgrades are necessary. This coming from the guy who used to always buy top of the line equipment Surprised

Will
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