So today I decided I was going to try a new rub on some chicken breasts and smoke them up over some apple and hickory wood.  And that is when it happened, I got cocky and ruined a today’s smoke.  I decided I didn’t need the rack over the water pan, I didn’t want to have to clean another rack, one is enough. I was going to have some delicious chicken breasts for dinner, but ended up with Subway.

Here is how it happened, the chicken was cooking along and I had basted it with some bbq sauce and honey.  I then allowed it to come up to temperature and was ready to remove it and that is when it happened.  I pulled the lid off and somehow the rack swung around and dumped my delicious looking chicken in the water pan.  Which was disgusting, so I threw it away, but not without trying it first.  It was incredible, so look for that in the next couple of weeks I have a special rub I made for it that is tasty.

So with all of that aside I did take lots of pictures along that way and thought this would be an excellent opportunity for a smoking primer using the tools and methods I use. I am working with a Brinkmann Gourmet (Charcoal), I also have the electric version of the same but opted to go with the charcoal one today.  I didn’t use the charcoal portion of it I used my propane after burner.  Smoking with propane is easy, this was a worth while mod for easy smokes, almost so easy it takes away some of the challenge; light it and find the temperature and away you go.

Well its not that easy so here is the easy to get going guide, I am sure I will adopt my process as I get more experienced in smoking but until then here is how I do it.

Getting fire started and the smoke rolling

Getting the fire started is easy turn on the gas and light it up.  Getting the smoke started with this set up is almost as easy.  I have an old large tomato juice can I set over the flame on the rest built into the after burner.  Once the can is in place I add my wood chips or chunks, depending on what I have on hand.  I do not soak my wood.  I don not add all the wood for my smoke at once but I add it throughout the smoke.

The burner and the smoke can

Regulate the temperature

I start by putting the rest of the smoker on the burner and then adding the water pan and water to the water pan.  I like to boil my water on the stove prior to adding it to the watering pan.  It helps to bring the temperature up quicker.  I add enough water to fill the pan up to about 1 inch from the top of the water pan.  For short smokes, less than 4 (at 225°F) hours this is usually plenty of water.  For longer smokes keep an eye on the water pan.

The full water pan in the smoker

Once the water pan is full, I start out with the burner on its lowest setting and work my way up to the sweet spot for most hot smoking, 225°F.  It is important to keep on eye on the temperature during the smoke since things such as ambient temperature, sun and wind can directly impact the temperature of the smoker with the same burner setting.

The Smoking Sweet Spot

Adding the meat

Now for the best part, add the meat.  Well not so fast, first I oil up my rack with canola or olive oil to make sure the meat doesn’t stick and to make clean up much easier.  Then its on with the meat and throw the rack in the smoker.  Now is an opportune time to insert an electric remote thermometer if you are using one.  Replace the lid and get smoking!

Meat on the Smoker

Final notes

Once you temperature has evened out and settled where you want it and the smoke is rolling nicely, you job is not done.  Check back frequently, make sure the smoke is still flowing, the water pan has plenty of water or at least is not dry and the temperature is right where you want it.  Smoking is not a fire and forget task, it requires frequent attention to deliver a consistently fantastic result.

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Well I have officially smoked my first turkey breast and I am not sure if there is any better way to cook a turkey.  A couple weeks ago my father had smoked up a turkey breast and it was tasty, with our Thanksgiving potluck coming up tomorrow at work I decided I shall bring a smoked turkey breast and thus what started my journey.

Thankfully and as is typical the week of Thanksgiving turkey breast was on sale at my local supermarket.  I picked up a fairly sized 7 lb turkey breast and began to thaw it Sunday morning.  Once thawed I brewed up a brine to soak the meat in.  The recipe is as follows:

7  c water (cold, filtered, non-chlorinated)
3 tbsp salt
3tbsp dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp cajun spice (I used Penzey’s Cajun Spice)
3/4 tsp celery seed
Fresh sage, Basil, Cayenne to taste

Mix until all salt and sugar has dissolved.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

From there I washed my turkey breast and and placed it in a 1 gallon zip lock freezer bag.  Once the brine had properly cooled and had a chance to mature a bit in the fridge I poured it all in the zip lock with the turkey breast and put it back in the fridge to brine over night and while I was at work the next day (about 18 hours).  Just in case the structural integrity of the zip lock was compromised I placed the zip lock in a large bowl and placed the large bowl in a pie plate, to contain the spillage should the worst occur.

Upon arriving home this evening I got the smoker fired up (used the Afterburner on the Charcoal unit, I had cheese to smoke too!), and prepared the solution to sit in the water pan consisting of a bit of apple juice, a small bit of white wine and water to fill the pan about an inch from the top, I also had a similar solution to fill the pan as needed throughout the duration of the smoke.

With the smoker heating up, I washed the meat and patted it dry with some paper towel, I then brushed it with Olive Oil and rubbed it sparingly with Penzey’s Cajun Seasoning (this is some good stuff).  Once the smoker was heated to 275ºF (I was in a hurry)  in went the turkey breast and a chunk of hickory wood and a handful of cherry chips.  I did add an additional chunk of hickory during this nearly 4 hour smoke.  Once the temperature of the thickest part of the breast reached 165ºF, I pulled it and set it to rest, covered with aluminum foil and a thick towel quadrupled over for about 10 minutes.

Smoked Turkey BreastNext came the best part, slicing this masterpiece up and taste testing it.  While slicing it I knew it would be good, almost too good to let go.   It looked incredible and tasted about the same, the cajun spice gave the skin a nice kick while the inside had a hint of smoke and was almost dripping wet it was so juicy, it was tasty.  The wife agreed, although she did not care for the cajun seasoning, said it was too spicy.

Sliced smoked turkey breastSmoking this was really pretty easy with the propane maintaining the heat and the flavor, texture and moisture were spot on.  If it weren’t for stuffing I am not sure why anyone would ever do a turkey in the oven again, I know I wouldn’t.  After this I am excited to do my next turkey, whole.

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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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