Taming my Brinkmann Gourmet Electric Smoker

Pomegranate BBQ Pork Tenderloin

I love meat, juicy, tender fall off the bone type of meat and a while back I decided I would like to be able to smoke meat without using my Weber Kettle grill as a make shift smoker. So in a possibly less than ideal state of mind I decided that I would like an electric smoker, really I just wanted a smoker but found and electric one on Craigslist and bought it without thinking about it enough.  I ended up with a Brinkmann Gourmet Electric Smoker. Once I got it home, I cooked up some mighty fine grub, but noticed Brinkmann really gives you no method to tame this beast.  It can cook up some wicked fish or BBQ with the risk of the fluctuating temperatures murdering a otherwise perfectly acceptable piece of meat, so I stuff it back in the corner of the garage and bought a charcoal version of the same from a friend, then a propane conversion kit for that to make impulse smokes a little more possible.

Well that was all well and good until I decided that there will come a time when I will need more than 1 smoker, or I will want to smoke something (cheese) below the conceivable temperature range of the other smoker or something delicate (fish, and I like smoked fish) and I decided I needed to tame this bright red machine from Brinkmann.  That is when I consulted the Google and was offered up a couple of options.  The first was well so painfully obvious I about smacked myself upside the head, add a thermostat!  An example of this can be found here.  The idea of the thermostat, was well simple and seemed like a good idea, you dial in the temperature and then just leave it set until your food is done or you need to add chips.  Great!

My problem was I wanted intelligent temperature control, I wanted something to control temperature and predict ahead how the element would heat the smoker and shut off the burner before we reached and blew by our target temperature.  So I was on the cyber prowl again and found an excellent tutorial of how to use a PID controller to intelligently control the temperature in a smoker.  That article can be found here.  It was to be the perfect solution at around a $100 it was far more than I had paid for my smoker initially, but it had blinky lights and a couple of temperature readouts and looked like overkill.

Well I had my options and I decided to go the PID route and ended up using the following parts:

All of that came to around $80 when all said and done, and then came assembly which was not hard but after taping up the project box with masking tape and marking out my cutouts.  I grabbed the Dremel, cutout all the holes to mount the required components, drilled some holes in the lid for the cooler to mount to over the SSR and wired the beast up.  In the end I was glad for the panel mount connector for the thermocouple, it will allow the thermocouple to be mounted to the smoker and the controller to be stored elsewhere.  I followed the directions found in this article to assemble the controller, after all I am a programmer not an electrician.  It was really quite easy and when I gave it the trial run and auto tune recommended by the manufacturer I couldn’t have been more happy.

Once the controller was dialed in it had no trouble holding the temperature +/-1°F inside of my garage, external factors may force more deviation from this such as wind or sunshine but I could easily hold temperatures as low as 140°F in my trial and right up at 225°F the temperature remained steady.  My Maverick thermometer (although a little slower than the thermocouple) confirmed the accuracy of the unit.

The only thing that remains to be done is mounting the thermocouple permanently in the smoker body, while this is an easy task, choosing a location that will not interfere with the contents of the smoker remains quite a challenge.

The complete setup

Brinkman PID Setup with Maverick Thermometer to confirm

Hopefully tomorrow I will get the chance to smoke something with this new found control over the previously untamed Brinkmann Gourmet Electric Smoker.

For all things electric smokers, be sure to check out The Electric Smoker Guy.

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17 Comments on “Taming my Brinkmann Gourmet Electric Smoker

  1. Interesting write up. I did something similar with a SmokinTex 1400. I could only achieve +/- 5F with my PID controller. This may be caused by the SmokinTex’s insulation, the temperature continued up 15-20F after the heat was shut off and was real slow to cool down. The smoker works much better when fully loaded.

    Thanks for sharing,

  2. After using this it seems that lower temperatures give a wider temperature range than when I am cooking along at a higher (200F) temperature. But it seems to stay with in +/- 2-3F.

  3. looking at your smoker with thermostat….having a hard time finding one….where did you purchase yours and does it have a brand name ?

    thinking that will be the option i need to make my smoke venison sticks..

  4. Hey,

    Loved this blog and I’ve already purchased the components needed. I just have one question, where did you finally settle on mounting your thermocouple on the smoker?

  5. I haven’t decided where to mount it. I have been using it just threaded through a chunk of hickory and sitting on one of the racks. One of these days I will punch a hole in the side between the two racks. Just haven’t gotten there yet.

  6. I can’t seem to get this going without the wood chunks bursting into flame and burning to ash very quickly. I soak the chunks over night and carefully place them around the heating element taking care to make sure they are not in contact with the element. Any tips?

  7. Tom – I have never had a problem with them bursting into flames…the only advice I could give is to wrap them in tin foil. Recently I have rack I put in over my heating element (it sits about a half inch above it) and I put the wood chunks unsoaked right on there with no issues. But I have never had the bursting into flames problem…

  8. No. But I have found that if I fire up a chunk of charcoal, and set it on a grate over the burner, then take a can with both ends cut out and stack a chunk of wood on the charcoal I get a good amount of smoke. I used the same approach without the burner if I want to smoke cheese.

  9. Thanks for all the great information. I just got a new Brinkman electric smoker (had one 20 years ago also) and was thinking about how to control the temperature. Looks like Auber Instruments offers what I will need.

  10. for those of you wantinbg to smoke cheese and other cold items: I created a cold smoker box out of a large plastic rubermaid type storage container. I took two adjustable grates from Home Depot that fit inside the rectangle box -drilled 4 small holes and used small steel rods to gold up the racks. put a 1/4 pipe nipple in the side of the box and found a lid to a small galvanized trash can that perfectly fits the top of my smoker -put a pipe nipple on top of that too, than place my clod smoker box on top of my regular BBQ but a few freezer packs in the bottom on the cold smoke box -attach the cold box to the smoker lid with a some clear plastic tubing and the smoke and very minimal heat travel up the tube in to the cold box allowing to smoke my own bacon & meats (without cooking it); cheese; and even sticks of butter for hrs with no problem and my smoker does NOT have a thermostat. The tighter lid allows very little smoke to escape unlike the stock Brinkmann lid so only need one chunk of wood to get a good smoke. I spent less than 20 bucks making this.

  11. I love your post and bought a dual channel PID, but cannot figure out how to program the darn thing what with all the values. I just want a min and max temp, maybe also with alarm below min and above max – too scientific for this PR guy!

  12. Well, I must confess I am just a simpleton with a single channel; perhaps it is time to upgrade. On the controller that I wrote about in the post, I used the auto calibrate option and it works great. Now I have another controller I built to run a 12 volt fan I am still trying to iron out the kinks on, that one I killed the built in configuration and have yet to dial it in. So all that to say I think we are in the same boat. Let me know if you get it ironed out and I will do the same!

  13. I came up with an entirely different solution. When I want to smoke at a lower temperature and not actually cook the food in my Brinkman 810 electric smoker. I take out the heating element and replace it with an old fashioned hot plate. Even turned on high the smoker never exceeds 150 degrees. I paid 8 bucks for the hot plate at a thrift store. Now I can use it both ways.

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