Sometimes you just don’t have time to make a delicious meal or you don’t have the right ingredients or sometimes you are down to the wire on time and only have a box of Generic Mac N Cheese and a jug whipping cream.  Well when combined these two yield an exceptionally fine bowl of Mac N Cheese, on the texture side, even though it is still plagued by the boxed cheese taste.

Empty Mac N Cheese pan

I will be keeping in mind the how simply the addition of Whipping Cream brought boxed Mac N Cheese from barely edible to near enjoyable.

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Today I took my first stab at smoked cheese, being that it was on sale this week at Family Fare (local supermarket) and I had just gotten a hold on the temperature control of my Brinkmann Electric Smoker.  I decided it was time to take the plunge, I dialed in 100°F on the controller, filled my smoker pan with a mix of Alder and Hickory chips, you know the really fine ones more like big saw dust, figured the might ignite a little better and let the smoker heat up while I prepared the cheese.  I took a single 8oz block of cheddar, and placed it in a foil pan which was placed inside another foil pan filled with ice which was in turn placed in another foil pan filled with ice.  Now I was the ice pan method to allow for a little bit greater heat in the smoker, while still maintaining a solid block of cheese as opposed to a giant pile of goo.

Well when I went out to place the cheese in the smoker there was a faint wisp of smoke trickling out of the smoker and so I placed the cheese in the smoker and walked away.  I came back about a half an hour later only to find that the temperature was percisely where I had left it however, the smoke was no longer happening.  It appears that the temperature controller maintains such tight control on the smoker temperature that the element is not left on for a long enough period at 100ºF for smoke to continually be made.  Noticing this I bumped the temperature up to 110ºF and again had some smoke and left it to do its magic.  Once again I returned to find no smoke, however, at this point I lowered the temperature back to 100ºF walked away and came back 1 hour later to retrieve my cheese.

And to my surprise the cheese did have a light smokey flavor, not like I had hoped for but none the less a smokey flavor.  So my attempt was not a complete failure, I have reaffirmed that the temperature controller works really well, however, I have a little smoker problem to deal with.

All in all this was a success and while I contemplate ways to make a smokey 100ºF smoker run, I will munch on my lightly smoked cheese.

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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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Today is my first time smoking with gas and so far so good, will be providing updates throughout the smoke here.

What’s smokin’: A 6ish pound pork tenderloin rubbed with Penzey’s BBQ 3000
What’s it smokin’ in: Brinkmann (El Cheapo) Charcoal with Afterburner mod (available at
What’s makin’ smoke: Apple and hickory chunks intermixed

The meat waiting for the smoker:


The smoker with meat inside.  Hank Hill would be proud.


Saucing the loin a little on the grill with a Pomegranate BBQ Sauce.

Loin on the smoker covered in BBQ sauce

All done.


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Well before we get right down to it prehaps I should mention that today was an exceptional day for smoking (bitter sarcism injected throughout that last statement), if I had not been forced, have already prepared my meat for smoking I would have just thrown in the towel for smoking today, but I had no choice, so I did what you do when you have no choice.  Upon rising at 0900 this morning it was rainy and windy, so I thought I would wait tell after noon to smoke my fatty, after all it had already been rolled.  Well noon brought around no positive change in the weather so I just did what I had to do, I got the charcoal ready.

Smokin' on a rainy day

I digress so after getting the smoker going in less than ideal smoking weather I popped the fatty on the smoker and let it smoke for 1…2…3…did I mention it was windy…4 hours until the thermometer read 165.

My Fatty on the smoker

Once it was done I pulled it off, let it rest and then dug in.

Picture of the Fatty

A sliced fatty

All said and done it was worth the effort, my tomato basil fatty has been my first fatty but certainly not my last.  It took a chunk of the day to smoke this fatty over charcoal and bits of hickory and cherry but it was worth it.  It was a culinary delight and an arterial nightmare.

Disclaimer:  While I may rave that this was in fact a delicious meal it would not be right to omit the opinion of my wife, who claims it was good but salty, it was certainly a man meal.

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